Popped up to the allotment to water between shifts today (I’m currently working loooong hours at the weekend, so thank goodness for an excuse to get my eyes temporarily out of the house and away from the screen, my eyes feel soooo tired). Everything is already looking parched and dry
When I was pregnant with Boy Lacer and facing the prospect of being a stay at home mum for quite some time (not that there is absolutely anything wrong with that, even now, even with pretty much full time hours with the main part time job, I still consider myself, in a way to be a SAHM because I work from home during my child free hours), I needed some money, so I joined a couple of agencies and started working as a freelance private tutor and I’ve effectively been doing that ever since. Some years were good, lots of clients and good money considering I was only working when Mr. Lacer was around to look after the kids, so I didn’t have childcare costs to worry about. Other years were pretty bad with virtually no clients sometimes. The academic year of 2010-11 was particularly good however and for the first time in a long time I was actually earning enough money to be able to splash out on a few things, no more trying to eek out a wardrobe which consisted largely of clothes I bought before I fell pregnant with Girl Lacer. And although it wasn’t loads of money, again no childcare costs, so it felt like more. However I, now I’m tempted to write the word hated here, but that’d be too strong, did not like doing it, at all. Not so much the actual tuition sessions but the large amount of preparation for each lesson (as of course each student was studying a different syllabus) and the fact that after a day of doing x, y and z of stay-at-home-mummy stuff (particularly when both kids were smaller and still home for most of the day), it was exhausting at the end of the day to have to go and grab my bag, head out in the dark, wet, cold and traipse somewhere in south west London to see the client. It didn’t help not being able to drive, so I was dependent on buses and that meant that unless I left for work ridiculously early, I was guaranteed to be late, as I could never, ever depend on the buses turning up on time. And of course sometimes the buses did turn up on time, so I’d get to the client’s address way too early but unfortunately being a private tutor is not one of those jobs where if you’re early for work you can just head into the office and make a cup of tea, I had to be at the client’s front door not a minute late and not a minute early either. So that meant when I was early I was reduced to having to prowl around the neighbourhood of the client’s house desperately trying not to look like a burglar casing out possible jobs, as there was never anywhere to go and wait (except for one client, the year I was pregnant, who lived happily close to a Krispy Kreme). So of all the jobs I’ve done in my working life; private tutor was fairly low down on the list of jobs I liked doing. So at the start of the 2010-11 academic year, when amongst the large amount of clients I picked up, I picked up M, a client who I unusually committed to for 2 years, instead of the normal 1, I vowed or should I say hoped, that by the time those two years were up, I wouldn’t have to pick anymore clients up because I’d be doing something else.
And, as I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog, I managed to get a ‘proper’ (as in actually being an employee with actual job advancement prospects and everything) job last July, a year earlier than I had hoped for. So when academic year 2011-12 started, I didn’t pick up anymore tuition clients but I still had M, well M’s exams start in a few days, he doesn’t need me anymore, so good luck M and yay me, as of tonight, no more traipsing out in the cold, wet and dark (please no one remind me I still have to do that for ballet lessons, I’m living in dreamland right now), no more of the dreaded prepping and just one job, one’s enough*.
So, I am of course grateful that due to earlier career decisions that at the time didn’t seem to work out to well, they enabled me as I became a mother to be in a position to do this work for the last 6 years, as it enabled me to continue to be a stay at home mum, something that for me personally was important and for the family practically, specially when Boy Lacer was younger, was vitally important (as I still can not see how I could have juggled an ASD preschooler with a normal job and childcare). But I sincerely hope that I never have to do that type of work again, as I love my main, now only, part time job and can see a long term career in it. But if necessary the tuition will still be there to fall back on.
So although no more traipsing out in the cold and dark (I know, I keep mentioning that part, bet you can’t guess which part I really hated the most), I am still working evenings, as it’s the nature of the job I do now (and early mornings) but I count my lucky stars that I’m still working a job where I can still fit in work and be there for all the childcare, at least during the week days anyway.
So, what to do with all ‘this’ time (she laughs), actually with only one client this academic year, the main part time job has taken the vast lion’s share of my time for some time, so not much difference (and the shift pattern for my job is already altering so I can work a longer shift on Thursday nights, the night I used to see my client). But no more prepping or marking will be a big change, although I won’t miss it, I will miss my last link with my past science career (up until my current job, all my jobs as an adult have been science related). But no prepping time does mean that if I want to find the time to sit down and write it won’t have to be about ionic equations or soy sauce manufacture, so maybe writing of other forms may come back, no pressure.
*you know my Etsy shop may just start having a bit more stock in it …. eventually.
PS Above picture is my May embroidery journal piece (my own design, it did look better when I initially drew it on my iPad, but I use the Paper app, that makes everything look good). I thought it appropriate for someone finally quitting^ teaching (hopefully) for good.
^ There will be a good chance, *ahem* that I’ll be teaching a series of embroidery classes in June, so ummm, not really quitting.
(Oh I am such a Fight Club fan, I can’t see any phrase ending in club without wanting to insert it into some Flight Club lines, right I will control myself).
I’ve joined the sketch club at work (they’ve let me in wielding needle and thread). Every week we all contribute three words and then one of those sets of three words get chosen and we all sketch (or *ahem* embroider) something to do with those words. I’m not going to say what the three words were this week, but the above was the first thing that popped into my head (although I will say that London 2012 are selling some really cute (probably plastic) ducks at the moment). I think a better message on the duck’s billboard would be ‘Everyone take public transport to the Olympics’ but I couldn’t fit it in because can you imagine everyone cycling? Nope. Me and the kids will be going and it won’t be by bike, put it that way
On a side note, this was my first bit of embroidery done with pearl cotton, I ordered some on a ‘I really must get round to trying some new embroidery materials’ whim when I was forced to go online the other day to get myself some black embroidery floss as I can not buy it anywhere at the moment in the real world (so I bought 24 skeins on line, a lot lot cheaper than buying in a shop and ooh it should last me a few months at least). And the beauty of ordering online is that floss etc can be very very cheap if you buy in bulk *ahem*.
As pretty as it is I will need to find a better place to store it as it’s going to get dusty plus it’s one of my two main mixing bowls.
And my opinion on pearl cotton? It’s thicker obviously, a feature I liked when fill stitching the handle of the billboard and when working the black lettering, I don’t think it’s very subtle though, so it will get lots of use (just racking my brains to think of the last piece of ‘subtle’ embroidery I did) but I’m not about to abandon floss any time soon, I think I will use it in more brighter, bolder abstract(ish) pieces. I think it also might be interesting using in cross stitch, it would give a thicker more chunky feel. And as someone who suffers from ‘my floss is about to run out 2/3 of the way through the piece’ anxiety, I do appreciate the greater quantity of the stuff. And heck, just looking at the balls is pretty.
And going back to the duck, my opinion on that? It was my own pattern and I’m not happy at all with the eyes and beak of the duck but I did say didn’t I that I wanted to do more of my own designs, so it looks like sketch club will be a good place to try some of that out and I do quite like quick and dirty stitching, I did most of this whilst waiting for my shift at work to start today, whereas some of the other pieces I’m working on at the moment, taking forever.
And it’s Highlights time of the year again . . .
Probably our first ever proper family holiday in Disneyland Paris in May (which was brilliant), alongside Boy and Girl Lacer continuing to do so brilliantly at school.
Getting a ‘proper’ job! That was in July but actually this year all round has been good for work because I was very busy with tutoring to but I was never a big fan of my tutoring work and all the time whilst I was doing it this year I was repeating my own personal mantra that all I had to do was do it for two more years (as I had committed to teaching one particular student for two years) and then fingers crossed, by the time the two years was up I had hoped I would have some form of better employment. So I was really pleased that I landed the perfect job for me a year early, I still have to continue to tutor, that student I committed to two years for, but other than him I’m not taking any more students on and I’ll be doing cartwheels down the street when I finish with that student in May (not that that particular student is horrible to work with or anything, he’s actually probably one of the nicest students I’ve ever worked with, it’s just tutoring, not me, at least science tutoring isn’t me, I’d still like to run some embroidery workshops one day). But back to the ‘proper’ job, I’ve been doing it for 5 months now and I still love it, I had been beginning to despair that the ideal part time job for me didn’t actually exist, as so many part time jobs had flexible hours (i.e. working Mondays and Wednesdays one week, Tuesdays and Thursdays the next) making booking childcare a nightmare. And then there was the fact that I was still not completely comfortable putting Boy Lacer into childcare at all . . . So to find a job where my hours of work are controlled by me, so I work during the school day, in the evening and at the weekends has been a dream come true. All that and something I enjoy doing to has been amazing. And even better it’s in an industry where I can happily see myself progressing up a career ladder as the kids get older (it’s also a lovely job in that due to the flexibility and part time nature of the work, so many people I work with do something else to, just as I embroider, I work with artists, musicians and writers, it’s lovely to find such a like minded company where I can control my time so I can earn money doing something I enjoy and in my time off continue to work on my embroidery in a way that if I had a 9 to 5 job, I couldn’t).
Nerdy book stats time again; in 2011 I read (or listened to) 34 books (which is a shocking 8 books down from last year, it would have been even less if I hadn’t managed to get lots of reading in this December). Out of those 34; 25 were adult fiction (+3 from last year), 7 were children / YA fiction (a terrible -9 from last year) and 2 were non-fiction / memoir (-1 from last year) and I note that I didn’t read any short story collections this year either.
My adult fiction favourite
I’ve read some great books this year, highlights for me included Never Let Me Go, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Ours Are The Streets, A Discovery of Witches and City of Ghosts but my absolute favourite has to be Joe Hill’s Horns, which I thought was hauntingly fantastic.
My children’s fiction favourite
It has to be The Fear, may Charlie Higson go hurry up and write more
Cook book highlight
I think it has to be Hugh FWs Veg: Everyday, for being a vegetarian cookbook that isn’t really a vegetarian cookbook (but still definitely has no meat).
Craft book highlight
Only a relatively recent purchase but I’m pretty sure I’m going to use it again and again because the two things I have made from it turned out so well, it has to be Sew La Tea Do.
Film / DVD highlight
Hmmm, I think I managed to watch even less films this year, but off the top of my head I really liked Monsters.
It feels like a lot of my favourite shows have ended over the last few years and there’s been nothing really to replace it, Doctor Who has continued to be good this year whereas Torchwood was awful (a prime example of when you take a British show and try and stretch it to American length). I think my favourite TV shows this year though was the cruelly cancelled Outcasts, may the Beeb continue to make sci-fi like that please.
I think my most listened to albums on my iPod this year were the entire back catalogue of Linkin Park, Eliza Doolittle, the Jack Johnson back catalogue, the Newton Faulkner back catalogue and The Defamation of Strickland Banks (my music tastes are nothing but a bit schizophrenic).
I write this with almost an intrepidation, as when I sat down to write this earlier this afternoon my laptop went into major melt down, claiming all of a sudden that hard drive, what hard drive? But there are advantages to being married to a (and I’m going to use the polite term for nerd) geek (sorry you know I’m teasing husband) and he fixed it for me, whilst giving me a telling off for not backing up properly. It is working now but he was giving dire pronouncements about the internals of my laptop, so I’m not particularly trusting that it’s going to continue to work (and guess what, I’ve backed up).
Anyway, I have had a good week, three lots of parties over two nights, the first two (which were on the same night) being parent-teacher class parties at luckily two relatively close local pubs. I had helped organise the first party (for the mums from Boy Lacer’s class) but had to / wanted to dash off to at least show my face at the party for Girl Lacer’s class.
The next night I had my work party, Girl Lacer goes “What, a teaching party?” thinking of the remaining student I still tutor (ooh that would have been a fun party, just me), no, it was for my main part time job and it was near their offices in Central London. I turned up expecting it to be just a table booked in a pub, nope, it was in a pub but the whole pub was booked out for the party, free bar to, which was a little embarrassing when I tried to pay for my beer. I should point out (and this is something I’ve only really sort of realised this week) that all my previous adult jobs have been in the public sector and you’ll be pleased to know Christmas parties in at least the bits of the public sector I used to work in, were nowhere near that generous. Mr. Lacer reminded me that even in the private sector Christmas parties aren’t always that generous either. So I had a lovely three course meal and I finally got to meet so many of the people I work with, as the problem with working from home is that although I ‘speak’ to my colleagues all the time through e-mail, msn, Skype, I often don’t know what they look like and as a lot of the company I work for also work from home, the whole party was full of “Hi! Who are you?”‘s.
The next day was Boy Lacer’s and Girl Lacer’s Christmas concerts, the first concerts in the new school hall. Boy Lacer was in the KS1 concert and Girl Lacer in the KS2 concert. For Boy Lacer it was the first time he had been placed somewhere on a stage that was not within easy grabbing distance by a member of staff, so it was lovely to see that they thought they could trust him more and he did behave beautifully, singing with real gusto. For Girl Lacer it was our first experience of a KS2 concert and it was so much more grown up and although I think I will remember the songs they sing in KS1 each Christmas as well as both my kids will as they grow up, it was also nice to hear some more traditional Christmas carols (see, there’s a traditionalist in me buried somewhere).
Also on that day (and luckily between the two concerts, so I didn’t miss the delivery man), I got an absolutely lovely parcel from Nicole (we’ve been swapping books), she gave me Arlington Park and Kraken (can’t wait to read both) and she gave me an absolutely lovely drawstring bag, filled with chocolate and sewing goodies (including a needle book, which I so needed, as poor Mr. Lacer would attest to – ouch). The drawstring bag has proved particularly useful and Nicole must have read my mind because I had been thinking of making something very similar, as I often take my embroidery out and about with me but have been using plastic carrier bags or too big for the purpose eco shoppers, so to have the bag, which isn’t plastic nor the wrong size has been fantastic. In fact since receiving it I’ve been permanently keeping my work-in-progress in it.
Floss organisation – chaotic
On Friday (after hearing the day before that the shoes I’d ordered from Amazon were actually out of stock), I decided to try a real life shoe shop instead. I was after, specifically, some more DMs and ended up having a lovely chat with a grey haired shop assistant in one of my local department stores about how wonderful DMs are. There was so much chose to choose from (I’m so glad that DMs are back in fashion) and I could have easily bought more than one pair but in the end (upon the suggestion of the shop assistant, as they weren’t out on display), I bought these beauties.
When I’m not wearing a skirt or leggings (in which case I wear these - still going strong and still getting compliments after a year) I had been wearing my trusty blue converses which had been wearing thin and my feet were quite frankly getting freezing. Mr. Lacer suggested “some of those furry boot things”, “what?” I go “you mean Uggs? No way, everyone wears those round here,” yes sorry Ugg wearers, I was being pretentious. But as what is beginning to become the way, when Mr. Lacer ends up making a rare wardrobe suggestion, I actually end up following it, despite my initial disagreement, but my feet felt so warm and comfortable as soon as I slipped my feet into those completely lined shoes, I couldn’t say no.
Also on Friday I got another lovely surprise in the post or should I say couriered to me again (two surprises through my door in a week? never). I opened the box completely confused and what was inside but a lovely box of extremely posh chocolate, from work (as in main part time job, not tutoring part time job), it was such a lovely and unexpected (and delicious) surprise. I think the whole company must have been working in a high cocoa content glow that day (and I discovered I really like salted caramels).
On Saturday we went to Ikea, now me and Mr. Lacer do have a bit of a shared marital passion for furniture, which is unfortunate then considering we live in a tiny flat and need no more furniture. However the sofa we bought when we moved into the first flat we actually owned, 12 years ago, had got so bad recently that when you sat on it you could feel the springs, so we thought it was about time we got a new one. So me and Mr. Lacer were as giddy as a couple of school kids and we’ve also been hatching plans for getting rid of some toy storage and buying a sideboard and ooh some more shelves to.
Anyway, I won’t post a picture of the old sofa, it’s been soon on this blog often enough or at least bits of it because it’s next to the natural day light lamp, so it has the only (reasonably) decent light in the flat. But here’s the new one, which arrived today (we have to always get sofas from Ikea because I absolutely could not handle ordering a sofa and then waiting six weeks, ugh).
As you can see, it’s messy already, actually I wanted to take an in use shot, me and Girl Lacer had been making a Christmas present for her teacher and Boy Lacer had been making elaborate patterns with blocks (under the felt). The new sofa is quite a bit larger than our old one and not needing to pad it with extra cushions to make it remotely comfortable, it’s been lovely to have the whole family spread out. The toy storage you see on the left will be moved and the table currently in front of it, put in it’s place, the smaller table in front of the sofa goes with the slightly larger table, as a pair of nesting tables (bought last summer (I think) from John Lewis, a brilliant investment buy, that have been so useful). So we still have some organisation to do (and the perfect sideboard to find, although we’re pretty loyal in our furniture shopping (and on a budget), it’ll be from Ikea). but really pleased with the new sofa, may that last us 12 years to
PS Note the considerably less cushions on the sofa in the photo, I’ve had a major cull (although the kids are refusing to let go of the two grotty floor cushions that used to live on our old sofa). I’ve sadly retired a lot of my embroidered cushions because they now look just too grey (despite washing) and/or bobbly (a lesson there in colour and material choice in the future I think, no more white aida and no more cheap white fabric to embroider on). And although the sofa does need less cushions, it does need more than what it’s currently got, ooh fun, finally an excuse to make more cushions!
I had a hospital appointment today but it was one of those sort of times where there wasn’t really much point me going home between dropping the kids off at school and then going to the appointment, as I’d only be home for a few minutes but if I walked straight to the hospital I’d be there way too early. So I walked the long way round instead through the park, with, of course, my camera.
In other news
- We have new windows in our living room, bathroom, the kids’ bedroom and kitchen plus a new back door. They were installed on Monday and Tuesday this week and they are lovely. Despite the bad light in this flat I’ve tried not to take photos of things on my window sills in the past (although there are a few photos knocking around this blog) because our old windows were awful. Most of them were original to this flat (so over 70 years old) and they were literally falling apart and we didn’t have the money to restore them properly, so new windows needed doing. And although I miss the lovely twinkly old glass and the metal window fittings, I so love not having any more draughts (at least from the windows) and no more mould (at least from the windows), everything just looks so clean and bright, it’s lovely. I am especially in love with my back door, if that’s possible, now the old back door and the window next to it weren’t original but it was still quite old (I’d guess 70s) and one of the panes in the kitchen window started to crack pretty much as soon as we moved in (*ahem* 7 years ago) and the back door let in very little light to our dingy kitchen. That’s all changed now and it’s like having a new kitchen (if I stand relatively close to the back door with the rest of my horrible kitchen behind me) and the light in it, although still not brilliant, is a lot lot better.
- The kids are back in school (not before being trapped in the flat with me for two days whilst the windows were fitted mind you). Girl Lacer is now in the Junior side of the school, with a slightly different uniform and different timetable and a really cool teacher. Boy Lacer is now in Year 1 and is in Girl Lacer’s old Year 1 class, so it’s lovely seeing the teaching staff in there again and as all the rest of the staff in that school are, they’re being brilliant with him. Boy Lacer has come home (after a bit of an initial wobble going into school on the first day back) announcing that his new class is the “best” and that you have to read every day and that he still gets to do cooking (which he loves).
- Girl Lacer will hopefully be doing drama this year on top of her dance, choir and now also swimming, I’m really pleased though as it’ll be with the school, she had been after drama lessons with her dance school but school is cheaper and even better, if I remember the name of the drama teacher correctly, the drama teacher the school has brought in is the same drama teacher as the dance school, result!
- I am still mostly really enjoying my main part time job, although it has its stressful moments. I’m currently working six days a week, with days ranging from just an hour’s work to other days when I’m working six hours (and often more with overtime which I often get on my long day). One of my school gate friends is now also working for the same company, which is really nice considering I work remotely (although even working remotely I still get to keep in touch with my colleagues far more than I would have imagined I would in a work from home job). So being so busy with my main part time job I had to keep reminding myself that my other part time job started back yesterday (ironically my one day off on the main part time job). I have only one student now with my teaching and I intend to keep it that way and I won’t be taking any more on after my student finishes his exams in the summer (hooray!)
I have a rule when I go up the allotment weeding, I’m not allowed to go home again until I have filled my weeding bucket (one of those little plastic tubs with handles), three times. Now if I’ve been good and have kept on top of my weeds, it can take quite a long time to fill three buckets worth because the weeds I pull are quite small but if I’ve been bad and oh I have, filling three buckets can take next to no time, as the weeds are quite big. I think this little rule of mine (I think it’s more like a game actually) may be why I’m subconsciously not weeding as much as I should be, as I prefer pulling big weeds over little ones but we’ll stop the psychoanalysing of my gardening habits here. Anyway, today the weeds were so big I thought I’d better stretch it to four buckets and I managed to get rid of the big weeds round the wild flower bed (removing the dying flowers as I went to, to make room for the new ones still springing up), the lavender bed, the herb bed, the aubergine bed (aubergines have flowered but are now resolutely doing nothing, I’m beginning to loose hope on that particular vegetable), the courgette bed and the cucumber bed (where to my surprise I did find some baby cucumbers, that bed had been particularly bad with weeds and I had been looking earlier for baby cucumbers and hadn’t found any). I am left now with the two salad beds and the fruit bed, the fruit bed is the worse, possibly because until I cleared it earlier this year, it had been part of the overgrown raspberry patch where just about anything and everything had been growing underneath, so there’s still a lot of weed root and weed seeds in the soil there. But even when I’ve got all the big weeds removed, it’s going to be difficult to get it perfect, the whole place needs digging over again to remove the smaller weeds but that’s a bit difficult when there’s still crops growing there, although I may be able to dig over a few bits here and there where the crop has gone. So there’s a lesson to be learnt for next year, don’t even stop for a minute with the weeding once the crops are in the ground because if you let it get too bad, there’s nothing you can really do to get rid of them short of digging over again, although in my defence I did stop weeding at the time because of my knee, which was (to make it worse) a gardening related injury in the first place.
It is only a few weeks away from my allotment’s first birthday and it was beginning to look almost as bad as when I first inherited it, the only difference being at least this time there are crops growing there (and not – with the possible exception of the aubergines) being too affected by the weeds. But it is not what I had dreamt of it looking like after a year of ownership.
And because no allotment blog post is complete without photos, two bees who obviously think my allotment is just fine enough as it is.
PS My new job is so far going well, if being a little quiet. I absolutely love working from home, in my last proper job (once I had graduated out of the labs), my workplace was relaxed enough to allow a little personalisation of your desk but it was nothing like the pleasure of being able to come to my work area at home (which so far is remaining lovely and organised, possibly because now I have to use my desk, I know it can’t be used as a dumping ground, which had been a big problem previously), as my work area is so ‘me’. I’m sitting at my desk now typing on my laptop writing this (whereas previously because of the whole desk as dumping ground situation I would have sat with my laptop (or iPad) on my bed) and from my seat (bearing the patchwork cushion I made the other day) I can see my sewing machine tucked neatly at the back of the desk, my two new pretty magazine racks, one holding patterns and other important craft stuff whilst the other holds my work stuff. I have two framed prints sitting on the desk at my side and my big tin of embroidery floss, which heck, even when I’m not using it just looks pretty. And to my side (on a separate smaller table) is my big light box, which is big enough and at a sloping angle that makes it just perfect for me to open the folders and the notebooks I need when I’m working. So even when I’m working the day job (although it’s not a day job, most of my hours are currently in the evenings or weekends) and I’m not being crafty me, crafty me is still there, in a way that if I went to say working back in my old job, it wouldn’t be, which is nice. And of course my odd day job hours means plenty of time to be crafty / (possibly writer-y – I haven’t given up on that) / garden-y / mummy me when I’m not working, I am lucky to have found this job.