I have discovered how to be grateful.

I am joining in with Maxabella Love’s weekly blog hop about gratitude. Check out http://kympiez.blogspot.com/ for other grateful posts as she is hosting this week.

1. I am grateful for my husband. I know that is a bit cheesey coming from me who is normally so sarky. However, this week I wrote a blog post about him for his children. It made me remember why I love him so much. When someone commented that he sounded like a fabulous guy, I had a wake-up moment where I realised that yes he is and I take him for granted way too often. Shhhh! This is top secret and not to be shared with the man himself.

2. I am grateful for the house I live in and our wonderful land with its crop of apples, greengages, pears and plums. I have taken these for granted recently until they were threatened. I think the threat has gone but I resolve here and now to appreciate living the dream.

3. I am grateful that the X Factor is back. I am yet to be convinced by the new judging panel (with the exception of Gary Barlow) and miss Danni Minogue, Cheryl Cole and Simon Cowell. However, it provides my Saturday fix in the chillier months and heralds the countdown to my birthday and Christmas.

With love from the Striking Mum x

I had planned in the week that marks 2 years since my Mum passed away to post up the eulogy that I wrote for her. When she died, I set up a memorial site to her. On her anniversary, they sent me a message which led me to revisit and read the kind words left by family and friends along with the eulogy itself.

However, having read the school memories over at The Alexander Residence blog who came up with the Little Legacies idea in the first place, I am going with that theme.

I remember Mum taking me to nursery where we actually really did have a teacher with a bun in her hair called Miss Bun. On the way back, we would stop and feed horses. We would call at Halfords which was the local newsagent and I imagine I was bought sweets. One embarrassing incident was when Mum would not stop chatting to Mrs Halford and I was going “Mum, Mum, MUM!” all to no avail. I peed all over the shop’s floor. Mum was a great talker. She would talk to everyone and anyone. She was never phased by striking up a conversation whereas I still find that really difficult to do. Often I would be embarrassed and think “Mum, they really don’t want you talking to them”. Mind you, she had lots of friends and I don’t which says a lot in itself.

I remember my Mum at the school gates and she was the same age as most of the Grandmas it seemed. She was an “older mum” having adopted me at the age of 42. I am 42 now so how she found the energy I do not know having already brought up two boys. The good side of this situation was that Mum knew a lot of family secrets about the people I was at school with. She had style though again not like me. I remember a male friend saying I must be lying when I said just how old she was. Old at 42!

Later I went on the school bus. One day, I was punched in the stomach. Mum was fiercely protective so this one incident led to her persuading Dad to move house so I could walk to school. She was one for extreme reactions. I guess I am like her in that.

When a teacher sussed that I had a bit of a brain, she told my Mum that I had a very high IQ. (Yes, dear readers, I know nobody would guess that now). Mum had no idea what an IQ was so said something like “That’s nice Mrs Plachinski” and scurried off. Mum was not stupid, she just had not had the education or life to know about these things.

When official jobs came up like attending parents’ evenings or becoming a Governor, Mum would let Dad take the lead probably through a lack of self-belief. It winds me up that even though I have the education and life experiences that she did not, I find myself doing the same thing sometimes, writing myself off unecessarily.

So Mum largely avoided coming into secondary school. Maybe this was because she had once worked as a dinner lady there. I don’t know really. One time, she did come in as she had lost her house key so wanted mine. I had started my period but had bottled telling her. We had this coded conversation where she had clearly worked it out and was asking me and I was saying yes with a look on my face that said “If you embarrass me by saying anything, I will kill you”.

The sequel to this story is that she insisted on sending my Dad to buy a cake to celebrate the day “your daughter became a woman”. I was all of 13 years of age. After she died, my Auntie told me that the same day Mum phoned the entire family to announce my first period. My Auntie laughed saying Mum was always like that, always announcing every little milestone and achievement as if I was the first child to ever reach them.

Some women do that and struggle to tell the person themselves. I never felt that I measured up well enough for my Mum. As I get older, I realise that I probably did but she just did not always have the words to tell me.

Oh well, there are my memories of Mum and school.

Mummuddlingthrough

Joining in with the Friday Carnival over at the Notes from Home blog.

My husband has seven children in total. He has 3 from his first marriage, 3 with me and also has a little girl who was adopted into a new family as a baby. What would I like them to know?

Here are some father facts for you.

1. Your father loves all his children deeply. When I met him, he told me adamantly that if I could not accept his children, then there was no potential for us to be together. “They come as part of me” was how he put it at the time. We all know that your Dad is not the greatest at expressing his feelings but the love is there. I think (but can’t know) that he copes better with parenthood second time around. He does realise that he made mistakes in the past. He cries more than you know. He is also fiercely proud of all of you, each and everyone. One day, he will wake up and tell you so.

2. Your father is a really hard worker. He helps other people every day whether in paid or voluntary work and always goes the extra mile to give a good service to them. It is one of the things that first attracted me to him.

3. Your father lives with almost constant pain these days. He gets very little help from the medics and when he does, it does not seem to alleviate his condition. Sometimes he is grumpy and although it gets on my nerves and yours, I am sure I would handle pain less well than he does. When scales fall from his body and you or I make remarks about it, it really hurts his feelings. We need to do better on that one.

4. Your father will always leap in to help others when he sees them in need. Sometimes I think he should just put his underpants over his trousers and redefine himself as Superman because not only is he keen to help but he also has the intelligence and skills to sort most things out.

5. Your father put me back together again when my heart was broken and I saw no reason to live. He held my hand, he told me I was worthwhile (brilliant in fact) and made me laugh. I thank God that my heart was broken so that I could meet your Dad and have our lives together.

With love from the Striking Mum x

In my series of interviews speaking to inspirational business women, I was delighted to talk to the founder of Pudding Fairy who provides patisserie for special events.

patisserie for special events

 

Describe your childhood

I grew up in a small village not far from Lyon in France, in the Beaujolais countryside. The eldest of 4 girls, I spend most of my free time horse riding for hours with my best friend, around hills and vineyards. My grand parents on my dad’s side lived in the same village and I spend a lot of time with them after school. They were both amazing: My grand mother was a great family cook and host. She had a cupboard full of “aperitif” nibbles, always ready for someone to come in spontaneously for a drink or two. My grand dad was an amazing gardener. He had a big allotment at the bottom of the village and grew enough fruits and vegetables for them, us and my cousins family who also lived nearby.

What was your first career and why did you choose it?

I didn’t! I was more of a fan of “follow life where it takes you”. Even now, although I have started planning a little since having children. I travelled to Seattle for a few months whilst at Uni, came back, then enrolled into a 1 year living and studying in Dalian, northern China. Back in France, my first job (an office admin role) didn’t work for me. So I went back to training Polo ponies in Paris for a season. From there I moved to London, first with a sales assistant job at Maison Blanc in the French area of London, then for various high end restaurants and outside catering companies. This was an exciting time. I got to organise fantastic events like a masquerade Christmas Ball at the V&A, a dinner at Saint James Palace, PR nights at the London Aquarium….Life took another turn and I found a job as a marketing assistant for a local business in West Sussex. Marketing then web experience became my life for the next 15 years …

What did you gain from your first career?

Besides the obvious marketing and web skills, I’d say 2 principles:

Listen and learn – I have learnt to listen to people I work with (and close friends, family, and my husband!) . Really take on board their feedback and ideas. I can be quite defensive (it’s my French Latin side!!) so it’s not always easy. But it’s helped me to become better at my job on many occasions and still does. I think you live and learn everyday. Sometimes the impact is immediately obvious, sometimes it resurfaces months or even years later, and you think…..oh yes, they might have been right here! Lol

Make it happen – I was very lucky to work as part of a small team for an exciting start up in my last role. We were given a lot of independence in our jobs; at the same time every dollar invested in the project counted so we were also very accountable (and being 4 or 5 in the team to start, things are very transparent). I learnt how to create a bigger impact on my goals, to make things happen. Thinking about new ideas for your business is great (I constantly have 30 tabs open in my head!); in the end to reach success you’ve got to action them. I use this discipline a lot now, even more since I am my own boss. And once a month, I look back to tick what I achieved and set up a new list of priorities to get done in the next 30 days. Oh and this works with non work stuff too, like home projects….

What made you want to change your life?

I came to a real crossroad moment in 2013:

I needed to adjust my work/family life balance. I was away a lot, and it was taking its toll at home.

I also wanted to practice what I preached more – I often tell our kids that you’ve got one life and should try to find what you really love and if you can, make it your job. It’s so much more fulfilling. I had been talking about becoming a cake maker for quite a while, and thought “you can’t just keep talking about it. Just…do it”.

I spotted a gap in the market for a new type of event patisserie

Patisserie for special events

Pudding Fairy is all about patisserie for special events. I marry delicious French inspired recipes and techniques, with creative designs inspired by the British lifestyle and the gorgeous Sussex countryside, where I live. I describe myself as a “franglaise”, French born and English “adopted”. My cakes and sweet treats are like me, franglais and a little quirky. I design bepoke cakes for weddings, celebrations and corporate events; I also run private cake decorating classes and team building events like mini Bake Off challenges, buttercream piping and glitter (a great way to relax after an intense conference for example)…share delicious happiness!

What life lessons would you like your kids to take from you?

Have a plan (a bit of a plan at least) but be prepared to be flexible with it and adapt your course. I am a great believer in saying yes to new opportunities, even if they appear a little challenging or daunting. I have actually written about this in my blog, The Patisserie Diary. (http://www.puddingfairy.com/the-patisserie-diary). Beyond that, remember to smile and have fun, and be kind. To you, to people around you. Carpe Diem! (my life motto).

Who supported you in moving forwards positively?

My family and friends are all absolutely amazing at supporting me and Pudding Fairy. The kids are incredible ambassadors, telling everyone and anyone about it. My husband is a very talented, successful and recognised sales coach expert working for himself. He’s fantastic at helping me grow the business commercially- not only helps me be a lot more efficient at selling but also launched his own business 4 years before me, so knows about the importance of measuring efforts versus returns to make it a success.

I have also been very lucky to gain great support from my previous employer when I started, as well as from the top marketing agency I worked with in London. Those guys gave me a real leg up. I hope I’ll be able to do this in turn for someone else in the future.

On a day to day basis, what can be challenging working for yourself is the lack of human interaction. I have joined a great support group run by Janet Murray from Soulful PR last year. It’s a brilliant virtual hang out place. Janet has got tons of energy and top level advice.

What advice would you give a woman who has a dream but lacks the confidence to pursue it?

Do your research – you’ve got to make sure your plan stacks up financially. Passion is brilliant but you can’t live on it alone.

Find your niche- you should be able to explain what makes you and your business unique in 30 seconds to anyone. Having a clear vision of what your business is about really helps with decision making and prioritising

Experiment and learn – I tried things like print advertising and pop up shops that didn’t work and cost me money. But I tried them, and learnt from those, to refocus and narrow down where to place my marketing efforts. Not everything will work but you’ve got to find out. Assign a small budget to new tests, and look back at the result with open eyes.

Network – Word of mouth is my best and biggest source of new business. Attend local or industry relevant events. Find forums of likeminded people (Twitter is brilliant for this). again be pragmatic and see what they bring to you versus the amount of time you spend on there. There are only so many hours in the day.

Just do it – there is rarely a perfect moment to start making your dream a reality. No one will do it for you. But as the great Mr Walt Disney once said “if you can dream it, you can do it”. Bonne chance.

I hope you enjoyed reading Laure’s inspirational story as much as I did. Now go and get your tastebuds tingling by checking out The Pudding Fairy cakes and patisserie for special events.

It takes a lot for the women I feature to share their stories so openly so please do hit one or more of the sharing is caring buttons below.

Pink Pear Bear

Here is the weekly round-up of cheerful things posted as part of the wonderful Reasons to be Cheerful blog hop that is guaranteed to help you make blogger mates and smile on the most challenging of weeks.

So let me show you how to be cheerful.

1. All three little darlings have gone back to school. They all seem to be settling in fine although my youngest protests every morning about having to go but that’s just him really. Battle first, winning smiles later. My daughter has moved to Junior School and is loving every minute of it having worried about going for the last year. She is flapping a lot which is always a good sign with her, little bird wings going up and down all the time with excitement. My oldest son is doing fine too, a bit of a teenager in training but happy on the whole. From my point of view, one lovely surpise is that the council now send a minibus to my front door to take my children to school. Shhhh, don’t tell Mr Cameron!

2. I have had contact via email with all 3 of my adult step-daughters this week. Four strong-willed women have not always found it easy to get on so I celebrate the new level of understanding and forgiveness of past crimes that exists these days. One I bond with on the grounds of both having 3 children so knowing how challenging that can be. One is a kindred spirit. The other gave the wonderful news that she is engaged to her girlfriend. For a girl/woman who struggled to love and be loved (and for very good reasons), I am over the mooon that she has found happiness and where she fits best.

3. With the children back at school, I am staring a New Year, New Me regime on many fronts. I have made a less than perfect start but still a start. Small steps and all that. Will be holding myself accountable for positive moves on the health department via the Mumentum blog hop.

4. I am going out with my Dad today for fish and chips. Sometimes, spending time where he enjoys has to be put above losing weight for me. It will be great to return to an old routine after many weeks where he has had to go on his own or not at all.

5. My beautiful ginger cat is recovering after coming off worst in a cat fight. Thank you to our wonderful vet.

6. My husband went away with work and I did not throw my usual fishwife mood about it. I get the most illogical insecurity sometimes and am a bit of a madam to say the least. Good to behave reasonably this time and to feel relaxed about it all. Maybe recent events with my brother have made me wake up to what and who is really important in life.

Big apologies for my cock-up on my old blog with #R2BC. Was gutted to mess it up but actually not really my fault hence my change to a WordPress blog.

Massive thanks to all those women who have come to see me here and left such lovely comments.

That’s me but there is whole lot more cheerfulness going on in the blogosphere. Check it out at http://bod-for-tea.blogspot.com/2011/09/reasons-to-be-cheerful_08.html

Love from the Striking Mum x