Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mothering Sunday

I love Mothering Sunday. My family make me feel valued nearly every day, but there is something special about having an actual day to celebrate Mothers. We always go to church first thing which I love, especially the bit where the children pass out the daffodil bouquets to all the ladies in the church. It is good doing that, whether people are mothers or not. You never know whether someone perhaps just wanted desperately to be a mother and was never able to, or if someone has lost a child. How painful it would be to be left out. I remember the Mothering Sunday before my son was born, we went to a special restaurant with our dear friends Barbara and Noel Wild (who are also my cousins, but that is another story!). Anyway, both Barbara and I were given lovely plants - even though I protested I was not a mother. The waiter insisted that I might be one day - and it was not long after that I fell pregnant with my son!

Of course Mothering Sunday has always seemed different for me coming as I do from Canada. Even though I have been here nearly twenty years, I still think of Mother's Day as being in May. I feel strangely piqued when people in England insist that having a Mother's Day is somehow incorrect. First of all they never mention the fact that North American Mother's Day is in May, not March. I do not even know if many of them realise that and it takes great restraint for me not to mention it. Does it really matter when or how mothers are celebrated, provided that they are indeed celebrated? The English tradition is indeed a beautiful one, stemming as it does from the old tradition of attending your Mother Church (the first church you attended, or the church your church was planted from) the fourth Sunday in Lent. However as most folks in North America were immigrants, attending their Mother Church was clearly not an option! So Mother's Day in May grew out of what many may have remembered from their homeland but were simply unable to do. Yes, it has become commercial, but to be fair Mothering Sunday is just as commercial here. I also fail to understand the upset caused by calling Mothering Sunday Mother's Day. Both are on a Sunday - is it really such a worry? As for me, I always almost forget Mothering Sunday, and then am pleasantly surprised by it, falling as it usually does just after our Wedding Anniversary. Just when I think the celebrations are over, they begin again. G and A always make it such a lovely day for me.

I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers on Saturday night, and then Sunday morning I had two gorgeous cards. A addressed his envelope "To a Beautiful and Talented Mother". I was so touched. A also gave me chocolates and G had found a beautiful handbag holder. This was made all the more special by the fact we had seen a lady using one in Paris the weekend before (I had never seen one before) and G had managed to procure one in less than a week! It was lovely not to have to put my Louis Vuitton handbag on the floor when we went out for dinner in the evening . The holder simply hooks over the edge of the table and will hold up to thirty pounds in weight. Well, even I don't fill my handbags that full! The holder itself is gold with a beautiful crystal embedded in the top, so it looks pretty as it holds the handbag on the edge of the table.

We had a fabulous meal at The Spread Eagle in Rolleston-on-Dove, a pub we have gone to for well over ten years and that always feels like home to us. After all our gourmet meals in Paris last weekend, pub grub was very appealing in homely kind of way. Having said that, it was hardly pub grub - I had a beautiful fillet steak with sauted potatoes and delicious vegetables in a light sauce. We came home and sat by the fire in the lounge, drinking coffee and brandy and eating the chocolates A had bought for me. It was quite idyllic and I felt very blessed. What a brilliant day!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The 21st Century Housewife© Goes to Paris

Paris is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. As a family, we often visit this wonderful city. As this weekend was my husband's birthday G's and our 16th wedding anniversary we decided a break was in order, and so we treated ourselves to another visit to the City of Lights.

I first visited Paris on a school trip when I was 14. At the time, I was growing up in Canada, so a visit to Paris was a pretty huge thing. I fell in love with the city at first sight, and remember being so sad when we had to leave a week later. As I sat on the bus, I prayed that I would get to see Paris just one more time. Now, some 20 years later, I've been back to Paris so many times, I can't even tell you how many visits I've made. God more than answered my prayer and every time I go back to Paris I remember and feel a lovely sense of gratitude.

Sadly, this visit started out less than auspiciously. The BA Connect handover to Flybe caused chaos, and the plane that was brought into Birmingham for our 1.15pm flight would only hold 50 people. As there were 90 of us, this was rather a big problem. So they tried to find another plane. When there wasn't one available in the fleet, they hired one. Yes, rent a plane! The rental arrived from Manchester after rather a long wait, pure white and totally unbadged. This did not inspire confidence. Nor did it help when we were told that this rent a plane had developed a fault in flight. Lots of engineer labour later, we finally took off at 5.30pm. Not so good when you have an 8.30pm reservation at restaurant that books up weeks in advance - especially bearing in mind that Paris is an hour in front of Birmingham!

We arrived in Paris at 7.45pm local time. G had called the restaurant and told them of our predicament and they had been incredibly understanding. They moved our reservation to 9.30pm and told us not to worry. We found a very nice taxi driver who agreed to push the envelope as much as he could in terms of speed, although he was limited by the fact that the route from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris is littered with speed cameras. He took great delight in pointing this out to us, emphasising that he knew the British invented speed cameras and we had only ourselves to blame! The only worrying thing was that the car's break pad warning light kept coming up on the dashboard. We were compressed so tightly into the back of the cab that it was impossible to do up our seat belts, but I managed to get our son A's done up. The thought of Princess Diana haunted me vaguely but I tried not to think about it. Thankfully, we arrived outside the wonderfully luxurious Art Deco style Holiday Inn Opera completely intact and only slightly frazzled. However, it was now 8.45pm and the restaurant was a good 15 minute cab ride away.

After checking in faster than we ever thought possible, we threw our bags in our son's room without even going upstairs to our own and raced out to try to make our booking, now less than half an hour later. The hotel offered to call a taxi but said it would take ten minutes to arrive so we decided to take our chances. G raced up the rue de l'Echiquier with A and I following as quickly as we could behind him. By the time we had caught up he had a taxi for us. We made it to Chez Georges in the rue du Mail virtually on the dot of 9.30pm. The owner greeted us very warmly and we were soon seated and perusing the fantastic menu.

G used to go to Chez Georges regularly as a child when he was living in Paris with his family and later when he was there at university and he said it had not changed a bit. It is traditionally French, with long rows of tables against walls lined with elaborate gold framed mirrors. The staff could not have been friendlier and the meal we had was one of the best I have ever eaten in my life. The starter - salad lardons avec oeuf - a frisse salad served with hot lardons of bacon and topped with a poached egg - was incredible. Even A, who is notorious for leaving his salad, loved it. You have to taste it to believe it. It's ambrosia. Our main courses ranged from steak (A) to duck (G) to Coquilles St Jacques (me!) and they were all wonderful. Although we had little room for dessert, the tempting dishes being taken past us encouraged us to indulge. It was profiteroles for A and I, and Tarte Tatin for G. I've eaten a lot of profiteroles in my time (more than I'd care to admit) and these were the best ever. Beautiful choux pastries were filled with vanilla ice cream that actually contained vanilla beans and then topped with a delightfully decadent hot chocolate sauce. At this point, the owner very kindly gave us all a complimentary glass of beautiful dessert wine to accompany these lovely dishes. It was an incredibly relaxing and memorable evening. We left around midnight amid exhortations to not leave our next visit another 20 years - and returned our assurances that we would be back as soon as we possibly could arrange it! As we eased ourselves into the taxi that had been arranged for us, we were all wrapped in the delicious sense of wellbeing that comes from a truly incredible meal, and the promise of the 24 wonderful hours to follow in such a beautiful city as Paris.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Amazing Women and New Beginnings

My husband, G, and I attended An Evening with Honor Blackman last Friday night. What an incredible lady Honor Blackman is. She performed a fabulous show, kind of a combination of an evening of anecdotes from her life, along with some of the bits from her one woman show. (Her Marlene Dietrich was quite fantastic, and very funny.) She was also incredibly genuine. After the show she signed everyone's programmes for them and even asked each person's name. I also have to say that she is gorgeous. She has a lovely figure and her skin is absolutely fantastic - and I don't mean fantastic for her age, I mean fantastic period - even close up. I'd love to know how she does it! I don't know how much truth there is in it, but I hear that she is a fan of Pilates. All the more encouragement to go to class!

We've had two lovely spring days in a row and it is such an encouragement this time of year. It gives me a real sense of new beginnings and hope, even when everything is not exactly as we would wish it to be. The lighter evenings are encouraging too. I feel that there is a real wind of change blowing - and it is not entirely uncomfortable. For someone who has always resisted change I really do cope awfully well with it, and I love rising to a challenge. I feel like something good might just be about to happen, and that is a brilliant feeling.

Whilst I'm waiting I'll keep counting my blessings. Most of us really are so blessed in our modern society - we have roofs over our head, enough to eat, and more besides. I do find it ironic that so many folks are so very unhappy when we have so much. (Obviously some people do have very good reason to be unhappy if they are ill etc, I do not mean to belittle that.)

I was pleased to see that I've been quoted in someone else's blog - that was quite a nice surprise - especially as the person doesn't agree with my point of view that housewifery is not only a valid lifestyle choice but a very fulfilling one at that. Still, we can't all feel the same way about everything and I'm happy to keep on working to change society's perception of housewives, but even more than that, our perception of ourselves.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I am the 21st Century Housewife©

My name is the April Harris and I am the 21st Century Housewife©.

Having just done a bit of surfing, I feel I need to clarify that I copyrighted the title The 21st Century Housewife© over 6 years ago. I also own and operate the website www.21stcenturyhousewife.com and have done so for some years. I assert my moral and legal right to be identified as the creator of this concept. Anyone using the title The 21st Century Housewife does so is in violation of international copyright law. Of course there are many 21st century housewives out there and there is no harm in referring to oneself as "a 21st century housewife" but I am The 21st Century Housewife, creator of that concept and author of a book by the same title.

Where has the 21st Century Housewife© been?

2nd March 2007

The 21st Century Housewife’s blog has been rather sadly neglected of late as you can see. It is of course my usual excuse of having been away in Canada several times, along with the very busy life we lead (just like everyone else these days!). Of course, Christmas came in between as well, and that is always a busy time for any Professional Housewife.

I have to admit, it is hard helping your parents to move forward through the difficult process of ageing, especially when they are ill. Daily life often becomes a real battle for them and takes them to a place somewhere quite beyond frustration. It is wonderful when you can help and support them on various levels, but of course this is made more difficult by the fact that no matter how old and experienced you actually are, they will still see you as the gawky 12 year old who really had no idea where she was going in life. It is hard to accept advice from a 12 year old (even if she is really much older than that and the label on her moisturiser can prove it!). I have to admit that at times the idea of accepting advice from my son makes me feel very uncomfortable. Having said that, even though he is only 14, my son is very mature and at times does give incredibly good advice, particularly in times of upset and stress.

Having just returned from Canada again (my husband and I went for a long weekend – Friday to Tuesday) I am devastated to see that my parents’ twilight years are not what they had hoped and planned for. It seems terribly unfair that after having worked so hard for so many years a huge proportion of their savings will be spent on a retirement home instead of the travelling they had hoped to do. I am glad that there are such lovely retirement homes in Canada though. The one they have chosen puts me in mind of a hotel it is so beautiful. The suites are spacious and beautifully decorated to your specifications. The menu has six choices at every meal and although I have yet to eat there the smells issuing from the kitchen have been utterly mouth watering. Gourmet evenings and entertainment from award winning performers are on the menu too, along with your own covered parking space and complete freedom to do whatever you choose – or sadly, whatever you can. The staff are kind and accommodating and so far, nothing has been too much trouble, although neither of my parents has actually moved in yet!

It does put me in mind of the old Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) saying though. At times, as a family, we stretch ourselves in terms of time, and sometimes even in terms of finances, to do things we want to do and go places we want to go. I find it hard to regret any of that in the current climate of my parents’ lives. It makes me ever more determined to create a life full of experiences, much more so than a life full of things. This is not to imply that my parents ever created a life full of things. As children of the war years, they were incredibly frugal, but always utterly generous with anyone who needed help of any kind. They often put their dreams on hold though and I wish they had not done that. I do feel a sense of the need to do things now whilst I am fit and well, rather than to wait for the life in the glossy pictures promised me in the advertisements for retirement investments. Now is all any of us really have, and we really do need to seize the day. Although I urge everyone to provide adequately for their retirement, especially if you want to spend it somewhere nice!

I do not mean that in a depressing way, but more in a kind of victorious throw back your shoulders and stand in the wind way. No matter where we are in our lives, no matter what is happening, we truly need to make the most of every moment, even every second. We have to step outside our comfort zone and reject any delay of our dreams, embracing the now whilst facing ourselves firmly in the direction of a positive future. The past is gone, and we cannot waste time lamenting it nor praising ourselves for it. Every moment is a new beginning and it is never over until the fat lady sings. Seize the day and never surrender, that should be every 21st Century Housewife’s mantra!