Friday, 30 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

Top of the Reasons to be Cheerful this week has to be the beautiful weather. Although there is possibly a slightly sinister Climate Change connotation to the unseasonal warmth, I can't help but enjoy it. It was a little odd yesterday, however, as I relaxed outside on my inflatable sofa with a coffee and a crossword - sunshine worthy of a day midsummer day and autumn leaves dropping on my head!

This morning I spent a little time in the company of my neighbours  for a MacMillan Coffee Morning. It was a nice feeling to be part of a something to raise money for a worthwhile cause.

I am also trying to give something back to the community by getting involved in the fund raising committee at my little girl's school. I am delighted with how much she is enjoying the school experience and want to be as supportive as I can. We had a meeting at a local pub and although I think it will take some time for me to find my feet and understand how everything works, I am looking forward to helping out. As a bonus, it is giving me the opportunity to meet other mums and  make new friends.

Taylor has been struggling to write her Personal Statement for University applications. She had a reasonably good draft but it was 5 lines over the limit  for the UCAS requirement. It was a moment of great euphoria today after a tweak and a rephrase when she finally trimmed it down to the length needed. I have just read through it and feel very proud of where she is in her life and how motivated she is for her future.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hallowe'ens Coming

My friend Kirk is a completely wonderful human being and undisputed Master of Bad Puns.

This morning, Kirk texted me to let me know that he was sending some Hallowe'en goodies our way and that they had been dispatched early.

A few moments later, another text arrived with the message:

Premature e-dracula-tion

Had I been drinking my tea at that moment it would have come snorting out of nose. My girls both wanted to know what was making me laugh out loud!

Even Kirk admitted that this was a good one, in fact possibly the Punnacle of his Career!

I leave you with evidence of my own Premature e-dracula-tion.

(Spider decoration from B&M Bargains £2.99)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Gallery - Week 76 - Home

I am a very home loving person. I enjoy travel and adventures more than I ever have but if there is one place I would always rather be it is within my own four walls, with my nearest and dearest.

There are so many images that spring to mind when I try and think of 'home' and what it means to me but the one that best encapsulates the feeling of warmth, safety and belonging has to be my bed.

From my first waking moments with my morning tea to last thing at night tucked up with a warm husband, my bed is my special place. I love when my little ones snuggle under the covers with me and I especially love the rarer moments when my grown up girls join us for lazy chats and together time. We somehow always find room for everyone.

The luxury zebra print cushions are evidence of my continuing Mid Life Cushion Crisis and were a  bargain at £12.99 from TK Maxx.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Paper Jamz Pro Guitar

If you find yourself stuck for inspiration for a Xmas gift and just want something that is a lot of fun, look no further than the Paper Jamz Guitar from Wowwee toys.

I first encountered these at the Xmas in July event and thought they were pretty fantastic. Since then, I have been sent one to try at home with my music loving family.

If I were to tell you that the Paper Jamz experience is as satisfying as belting out throaty power chords on an electric guitar, I'd be lying. It is actually somewhere betweeen that and unashamedly rocking out with a tennis racket in your bedroom.

They are a bit smaller than a proper guitar (or a tennis racket) but they are absolutely gorgeous with all the detail of a real instrument giving them a very authentic feel and there are different styles to choose from.

The Paper Jamz Pro comes with pre-loaded songs so you can (in their own words) Play like a pro right out of the box.  Who wouldn't want to be an "Instant Rock Star"? It is also possible to download a free app that enables you to add your own music and customize the sound.

As well as the Instant Rock Star mode, there is a Freestyle option. A simple strumming action and moving your hand up and down the neck gives you a whole range of notes and chords. You can get creative with the sound by pointing the neck up to play an octave higher, shaking the guitar head to add vibrato, muting and using the ripstrip to bend the pitch.  For those well practised with their tennis rackets and air guitars, it is also possible to use Hammer-on, Pull-off, Tap and Slide techniques to create different effects.

The real beauty of this toy is that absolutely anyone could pick it up and play it and have the pleasure of making music but there is also the potential to be creative and experimental. Whatever your musical ability, this is guaranteed to unleash the rock guitarist that lurks somewhere within us all.

Don't forget to buy your AA batteries (not included)
Recommended for ages 8+

Friday, 23 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

I can't believe that it is Friday again so soon. Where has this week gone? Although the days have whizzed by in a blur, they have still provided plenty for me to be cheerful about.

I went to visit my friend Rose at the weekend. It was lovely to see her and chat about her plans for her wedding next year, but the remarkable thing about the visit was that learner driver, Taylor, used it as an opportunity to practice her driving. It was a three hour journey and she drove the whole way with only a few moments of 'undue hesitancy' and an incident with a pheasant! It has made me very confident that she is on track to pass her test.

Ivy is heading back to Uni this weekend but her long summer (which has properly turned into autumn now) at home ended on an amazing high when she won tickets to see her favourite band in concert with a backstage meet and greet. Her feet still haven't touched the ground after what she described as The Best Night of Her Life.

Ivy meets Hard Fi

The champagne was flowing on Wednesday as we celebrated the fact the my eldest daughter is about to become a home owner with her boyfriend. They are a still a way off having the keys in their hand but their offer has been accepted and all is progressing as it should be. I have had a look around the house and it is gorgeous. I am so happy for them.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Gallery - Week 75 - Guilty Pleasures

One of my Guilty Pleasures is watching the X Factor.

I know the whole thing is the most contrived lot of nonsense ever but that does nothing to detract from the pure entertainment. I love it.

One of my daughters auditioned for the X Factor some years ago. The reality of the first round of auditions was nothing like how it was portrayed on the telly. Simon Cowell was nowhere to be seen for a start. My daughter was not bad enough or great enough to make it through to the next round. All the sitting around and waiting gave me a monumental headache so I was not unhappy that our X Factor adventure was over before it really started.

Last year, I entered a competition on Chicago Town Pizza's Facebook page. The prize was a performance in your home of one of the X Factor contestants (Danyl, if you remember him - I must admit I struggled to recall the name for the purpose of this post - how quickly they are forgotten). To enter, you had to upload  photographs of you having your own X Factor party. I am always happy to have an excuse for a party so we did. The food included Chicago Town pizza (obviously!) along with homemade 'Cheryl Cole-slaw'. We actually had a lot of fun with it all. Sadly, the photographs I uploaded never appeared on the page - lost in cyberspace forever - so I doubt our entry was ever even considered. Shame - I would have quite enjoyed being serenaded by Danyl!

I am grateful that this week's Gallery prompt has given me the excuse to revisit my old photos, reminded me of the fun we had and got me looking forward to this weekend's X Factor (which for me is even better than before because I am a little bit on love with Gary Barlow!)

Little Nibbles

Both of my little ones are great eaters and have been brought up on an entirely vegetarian diet.

I was impressed by the vegetarian range from Hipp Organic which I reviewed some months ago and was happy to receive some products from the re-packaged Little Nibbles range and some 100% Fruit Puree pouches to try.

The packaging was bright and fun, featuring cartoon animals and the products were all made using natural, organic ingredients with no added sugar, salt or artificial colours, preservatives or flavourings.

Making sure we give our children the best possible diet and instilling good eating habits for life is a huge responsibility. The Little Nibbles range seemed like an ideal solution to the problem of providing healthy yet convenient snacks.

I put my 'Taster Tots' to work to see what they thought of them.

I have to admit, I was in two minds whether or not to include this review on my blog but I felt I could not claim to "blog with integrity" if I did not. I totally respect the ethos of Hipp Organic and really don't want to say negative things about the products but the Little Nibbles range just did not work for us. I really wanted my children to love the healthy snacks but they simply didn't. If you watch the video you will see it was more than a mild dislike!

If my children had never been exposed to the delights of salt and vinegar crisps, custard creams and chocolate buttons, perhaps they would have been more accepting of the 'natural' tastes.

On a more positive note, they both loved the 100% Fruit Pouches. They are so convenient to pop in your handbag when you are out and about and you know that you are giving your children the best of organic as well as contributing towards their recommended five-a-day fruit and veg intake. There is definitely a place for these in my weekly shopping trolley - alongside the custard creams that I will try to make sure are consumed in moderation!

The Best Night of Her Life

This is Ivy - 20 year old media student and my lovely daughter.

In my blog post A Weekend of Music, I wrote about Ivy's obsession with the band Hard-Fi and in particular, their lead singer Richard Archer. Since being given the new album Killer Sounds a few weeks ago, she has listened to the track Fire in the House 469 times (correct at time of writing!)

Last weekend, she entered an online competition to be on the guest list of a Hard-Fi charity gig which included meeting the band backstage. I invite you to try and imagine her reaction when she found out that she had won.

The gig was at the Brixton Electric in London so it was something of a mission trying to organise transport from Shropshire and find someone to go with at short notice. Luckily, Ivy's godfather (who had given her the Killer Sounds album) is based in London, loves live music and was happy to be her +1. It was a weight off my mind knowing that there would be someone I trust with her to keep her from exploding with excitement!

The venue has yet to be officially opened. There were painters in the toilets and no water. I don't think this (or anything) would have bothered Ivy. They had gallery seats which afforded a fantastic view of the band.

Ivy would have been buzzing before it started from the copious amount of coffee consumed to sustain her through the journey and whilst she was waiting for godfather to finish work. She said that the gig was amazing but the real highlight of the night was the moment they were taken backstage - the moment she stood face to face (or judging by the photo, shoulder to armpit) with her idol.

Ivy meets Hard Fi

Ivy says it was the best night of her life.

In the years that follow I'm sure there will be many more contenders for the 'Best Night' title but I don't doubt that this night is one she will never forget.

[For Ivy's own account, read Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.....Boom!]

Monday, 19 September 2011

Bob the Builder Winner

The winner of my Bob the Builder Giveaway is:


Congratulations to @littleboo_21 and thank you to everyone who entered.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

My blog is one year old. It feels like only yesterday that I starting using this online medium to record my thoughts. It is lovely for me to revisit old posts, especially ones that show how much my little ones have grown over the months. It is also a huge bonus to feel part of the blogging community.

We had a bit of a Nursery wobble this week that involved Addy holding tight to my leg and shouting at the top of her voice "Not goodbye Mummy. Hello Mummy. Go away school". Although I hid out of sight and watched her tantrum turn to sweetness as she skipped about the playground with the lovely Mrs Edwards who had the task of prising her from my leg, it didn't stop me feeling like a cruel and horrible mummy.  This morning, however, she was absolutely perfect. A "Goodbye Mummy" and a kiss is a much better start to the day!

After the Bob's Big Build event in London, I met a lovely couple on the underground. Their young son loved Bob the Builder and they had been excited to see an advert for the Big Build in their newspaper. Although they were not given the wonderful VIP treatment that I was lucky enough to have had, they had clearly thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They were absolutely thrilled when I offered them a copy of The Big Dino Dig DVD and a packet of Giant Card Games that I had received in one of my goodie bags. It was priceless watching their son's face light up and it felt really good to do something nice for someone. I have another copy of the DVD and card game to giveaway if anyone has a little Bob fan who might like them. I would love to make someone else happy.
Bob the Builder Giveaway (winner drawn Monday 19th Sept)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Thursday, 15 September 2011

One Year of QWERTY Mum

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day and it's exactly a year  since I sat down, created this blog and wrote My First Blog Post.

I wrote about the first six months of my blogging journey in a Guest Post for Mummy from the Heart. A lot has changed since then. My confidence has grown and I feel completely free to take my blog in whatever direction I choose. I have had some fun product reviewing and had the opportunity to attend some blogger events but writing about my children and my life is still what I like to do most.

Some blog post highlights have been:
My husband's vasectomy operation (photo!!)
A video of myself giving birth to my son
My beautifully embellished wheelie bin
An attempt at writing a short story for a competition (I came 2nd!!)
and the post with the most number of views (and still rising steadily) My Frozen Frog

It used to be that writing my blog was something I did when I was breastfeeding my baby boy. My 'baby' boy is 14 months old now and weaned. I don't have that excuse to sit down and write any more but it has become important enough to me that I feel I don't need a excuse. It's just what I do and I love it.

I have no fancy 'Blogaversary' Giveaway to help me celebrate my One Year of QWERTY Mum (unless you want to count my Bob the Builder Giveaway), just a rather lovely cupcake that Ivy brought home from a Social Media Conference she attended yesterday that is crying out to be eaten.  However, I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all the people who have read my pages, left their kind comments and made me feel part of the blogging community.

Here's to another year!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Gallery - Week 74 - A Happy Memory

Divorce, as inevitable or ultimately for the best as it might be, is still incredibly hard on the children of the divided family.

My children, especially my oldest daughter, had been through so much with a father who seemed incapable of putting them first, even for a moment, and a paternal grandmother who actually seemed to delight in digging the knife in and twisting it viciously. I never tried to shield them from the reality of the divorce. I felt that the best I could reasonably do would be to reassure them of my love and devotion to them and try to rebuild a strong family unit. I was so impressed by the way they all pulled together and the sacrifices they were prepared to make when our financial future was so uncertain.

When I got together with the man who was destined to become my husband, I wasn't sure what it would mean to my children They were very supportive and happy to see me so happy but would they feel that they would now have to share my time and my love? Would they be resentful or were  their hearts big enough and undamaged enough to let someone else in? As he was living and working in Switzerland at this time I wasn't even sure how our relationship could work in a practical sense and whether he would be up to the challenge of being a father figure to another man's children. I was particularly sensitive to this after their own father had told them that if they could not accept and respect his girlfriend, he wouldn't bother with them.

This man was not a stranger. He was an old friend I had known at University many years before. I showed the children photos of us together. They laughed at my eighties hairstyle and how chubby I was.

They met him briefly when he brought me home from our romantic Paris break, when friendship first blossomed into love. They had some contact on MSN but the first occasion they actually got to spend any time with him was when he booked a short holiday for us all in a Bed and Breakfast in Lancing, near Brighton where his parents live. My girls had no reservations about going on holiday with a man they barely knew. I like to believe it was because they had complete trust in me but it was more likely that the promise that we would be visiting the Dr Who exhibition on Brighton Pier was enough to overcome any objections!

Right from the start it was a wonderfully relaxed holiday that felt very natural. My youngest was won over  immediately by his tireless willingness to play 'thumb wars' with her. The other girls were completely sold when they found out he had bought tickets for us all to see the Rat Pack Show at the Theatre Royal. He took them sailing. We visited his parents who were kind and lovely in the way that you would want grandparents to be.

The slightly eccentric lady running the B&B with her yappy little lapdog, Bijoux, insisted on calling him dad despite our initial attempts to correct her. She couldn't quite get her head round the idea that we were vegetarian so breakfast would consist of her bringing out a huge pan of beans and slopping them on our plates with a bit of toast. It was sitting round that breakfast table with a glorious view of the seagulls on Lancing beach and the waves beyond with our ever attentive host yielding her ladle and asking More beans for dad? that I realised, without any doubt, that we could be a family.

Add caption

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


When I was sorting my loft out, I came across a folder of short stories and various bits and pieces that I had written nearly twenty years ago. If mainstream blogging had existed then, it would  have been the sort of stuff that I would have posted. The yellowed paper and hand corrected typewriter font seem so remote from my computer and high resolution monitor but the process behind the writing is identical. I would like to share one of my ramblings from that other time and have chosen this one that still feels very relevant to me today. It is about an accident involving my one year old daughter. Even now it is hard for me to read it. As I look at my one year old son today, the memory is all too vivid.

All I did was to close the door. As simple as that. I didn't even slam it. Just closed the door.

And there she was beside me, my child, looking up at me in pain and confusion. She was only one year old. Still a baby. How could she understand.

I realised at once that I had trapped her finger. I opened the door quickly to release it. I was ready, as always, as every mother is, with a kiss and a little bit of maternal magic to make it all better.

That was when I saw the damage. The damage I had inflicted on my child.

She was screaming now and the tears that flowed freely from her eyes were the judge and jury pronouncing my guilt.

She has beautiful hands, my child. Not the cute, pudgy ones of many infants. Hers are small with long slender fingers. She can perform remarkably dextrous feats with those beautiful, expressive hands.

Thinking this made the burden of guild impossible to bear.I'm not a demonstrative person, prone to emotional outbursts, but I screamed. Her pain was my pain. We screamed together.

My husband, white faced with fear, ran to us. My hysteria disabled me. All I could do was hold my child and shake uncontrollably.

He saw the finger. The tiny finger, cruelly crushed by the ordinary, familiar door. He saw the blood, oozing thickly from the wound. He saw the tiny bone, so clean and white. He saw the end of the finger, detached, misplaced, hanging by a thin band of skin, the nail already beginning to blacken. All these details are perfectly preserved in my mind like insects in amber.

He had to be strong. Of course he did. Our older daughter sat terrified, watching in silence as the scene unfolded.

I was breathing hard, trying to regain some control. I had to do the right thing. Television hospital dramas replayed at amazing speed through my brain. How well the physical barrier of the TV screen protects us from the reality of the incidents we view from our comfy chairs; our warm, safe living rooms.

A towel. Wrap the hand in a towel.

My husband made himself responsible for getting us to Casualty and I wrapped the hand and tried to comfort my child. I felt bound to her, as though the umbilical cord had never been severed. I re-experienced the pain and elation of childbirth and all the time I was thinking, what have I done?

My other daughter was bundled off to a neighbour. She is sensitive and impressionable. I know it upset her but children are resilient.

Blood was seeping trough the towel. Why had I chosen a white one? My child was sobbing gently. I held her close to me and kept the hand still. My mind relentlessly visualised the mess within the towelling wrap.

Where do all the people go? All the people in all the cars. Are their lives tainted with tragedy and disaster? What secrets are contained within each and every vehicle?

My husband was wonderful and I love him for it. Finding his way through the traffic, we arrived a Casualty. I felt a sense of coming home. I suppose 'home' is where we feel safe and I felt safe here. Here, there were people who would know what to do. 

The doctors and nurses were wonderful and love them for it. They were calm and reassuring and I began to feel calm and reassured.

My husband had not yet allowed himself the privilege of reacting emotionally to the situation, but now that someone else was taking charge, his suffering began.

As soon as the finger was cleaned up and taped together, the damage didn't look so severe. We were told that it would heal in no time, and a dressing was applied.

My child will be fine.

But what of me?

I somehow imagined that my loved ones would be immune to injury, physical or emotional. But they are not. My love can't protect them. They are vulnerable. We all are.

All I did was to close the door.

I remember coming home from the hospital. My older daughter who would only have been 4 years old, was afraid of the huge bandage covering her baby sister's finger. She had a  knitted toy kangaroo and we bandaged its tail together to familiarise her with dressings. My little injured 1 year old used the bandage to teeth on.

The finger did heal and part of the healing involved the nail falling off. I remember finding the nail in her cot and not wanting to look at the finger. It was not terrible. Despite being warned that the finger nail may never grow back, there was already definite signs of regrowth.

Today, there is still a very clear, thin white scar that goes almost all the way round the end of the middle finger of 20 year old Ivy's left hand. The radial bridge that prevented the finger end becoming completely detached is clearly visible. The nail is thicker than normal and there is a definite kink in the tip that has become more pronounced over the years. She says her wonky finger helps her to play certain chords on the guitar!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Coat Hangers

I love getting my little boy dressed in the morning. It doesn't seem to matter what pair of trousers and top I grab, they go together and he looks great.

It isn't quite as easy with my little girl. Trying to co-ordinate the colours, patterns, designs ands styles that make up her wardrobe can be virtually impossible. Sometimes she looks likes she has fallen into a clothing bank and emerged as a mismatched fashion nightmare.

It didn't really bother me too much until she started Nursery school. I am never at my best first thing in the morning so trying to find a pair of leggings that didn't look too shocking with a particular T-shirt and then digging through the huge box of cardigans and jumpers, lovingly knitted by nana, to find one that vaguely matched was driving me to despair.

I came up with a plan. I spent a whole afternoon with every item of clothing she possessed laid out in her bedroom and put everything together in outfits. I hung the complete outfits on coat hangers and put them on her hanging rail. I actually really enjoyed doing it . It reminded me of when me and my sisters were children playing with our Action Girl, Sindy and Barbie - swapping fashions and dressing our dolls for every occasion. As well as an opportunity to reminisce, it also made me realise the importance of having key wardrobe essentials - the things that everything else will mix and match with. Next time I go clothes shopping I will have a much better idea of what I should be looking for rather than just rummaging through the sale rails for bargains that end up unworn!

It has certainly worked so far. Getting my little girl dressed in the mornings is a breeze. I grab one of the complete outfits from her rail and away we go!  I really feel as though I have created order out of chaos.

It tried to apply the same order out of chaos idea to my loft this weekend.

In this age of Reduce, ReUse and Recycle, it seems very wrong to measure the success of your day's work by how many bags of rubbish you generate to take to the dump, but that was what I did - and it was a very successful day's work.

I threw out two black sacks full of coat hangers. I am ashamed to admit that whenever I buy clothes and the cashier asks me if I'd like to keep the coat hangers, I hesitate a moment then invariably say yes. I don't know why I always say yes. I know I don't need any more coat hangers. This is how much I don't need any more coat hangers:

I sorted out the hangers, I kept a few spares in a box in the garage and the rest went to the dump. I took the photograph as a reminder of what happens when you can't say no when the cashier asks the do you want to keep the hanger question. When I go shopping for those wardrobe essentials I now know I need, I will rehearse in my head no thank you and hope that those are the words that come out of my mouth at the appropriate moment.

The ironic part is (and I really don't understand this at all) that despite this massive excess of tangled plastic and metal that I have lived with, on ironing day I can never find enough hangers for my husband's shirts.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

FurReal Friends

I was lucky enough to be sent Cookie - My Playful Pup from the FurReal Friends range by Hasbro to review as part of my Blog Christmas Countdown. Unfortunately, the parcel arrived when I was away on holiday and was taken back to the sorting office to await collection. Apparently, every time anyone walked past the large, brown paper wrapped parcel, it would bark pitifully and whine. It caused a lot of workers to double take before they got used to the sad little puppy noises. The parcel was clearly marked with the word "TOYS" so the need to call the RSPCA was never considered! When we went to collect it, I couldn't quite tell if they were glad to see the back of it or if they would actually miss the attention seeking package.

With a RRP of £75,  Cookie - My Playful Pup is certainly not cheap but it is well made, a good size and endearingly cute (providing you can get over the creepy inanimate glass eyed thing that always makes me feel slightly on edge - perhaps that's just me!).

The main selling point of this toy to justify the price tag is the interactive nature of it. If you pet it, it responds. It also has voice recognition so when you talk to it, it will turn to you, blink, move its head and bark - "just like a real puppy". I am actually of the opinion that just like a real puppy is something of an exaggeration but there is no denying that the added dimension of its interactivity places it in a different league to a simple cuddly toy.

My daughter was delighted and intrigued by the puppy.

Hasbro do suggest that this toy is suitable for ages 4+. My 1 year old son takes very little notice of such things!

The puppy brought out a soft, nurturing and protective side to my daughter. My son, however, was instantly suspicious of the furry, barking, tail wagging addition to the family. I'm sad to say, he pummelled it repeatedly over the head with Cookies' own squeaky bone toy.

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Bob the Builder Giveaway

Ever since our lovely day out at the O2 for Bob's Big Build, there has been a strong 'Bob' theme to the play at our house.

I have a copy of Bob the Builder's new feature length special The Big Dino Dig on DVD (due for release on September 19th) along with a packet of Bob the Builder Giant Card Games to give away.

For a chance to win simply follow my blog and leave a comment with a means of contacting you. For an extra chance to win tweet " #WIN Bob the Builder DVD and Giant Card Game at  @PaulaHaylock " and leave a separate comment to say that you have done so.


Good luck.

(Winner will be selected at random from all entries on Monday 19th September, UK only)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

My little girl starting Nursery school has turned out to be a very positive experience (so far!) for her and for me. She loves it and takes on a teacher role at home getting us to sit on the carpet and all join in for repeated renditions of Two Little Dickie Birds. For me, I am really enjoying the walk to and from Nursery, the three hours she is there when I can get on with some housework or spend one on one time with my little boy and I especially enjoy hearing all about her morning when I go to collect her.

In order to make the walk to and from Nursery with both my little ones a bit quicker, more fun and easier on a tired three year old not quite used to the routines yet, we have invested in a Buggy Board. It is a fantastic device, beautifully designed for the job. I impressed myself by not waiting for my husband to come home from work to fit it to the buggy. I struggled to focus on the tiny writing and diagrams that were the instructions with my ageing eyes but worked it all out eventually.

My husband and I have joined a new ballroom dancing class. I have missed dancing weekly after our last class closed due to lack of interest. It felt wonderful to be back on a dance floor again although our moves were a little rusty. It will take us a while to catch up with the other dancers, especially in the Paso Doble which we have never tried and they all seemed to be proficient at. We learned a new dance, the Viennese Waltz. It is a much faster and twirlier variation of the Waltz. As we only learned how to turn in a clockwise direction, we were fairly dizzy after eight or so spins. Next week we will hopefully get to practise the anticlockwise turn so we can make it all the way round the hall without landing in a disorientated heap on our backs.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Christmas Shopping

As much as I would like to believe that I have brought my children up to appreciate the non-commercial side of Christmas, such as spending time together as a family and celebrating the simple things, if you ask them what they like best about the festive season, they will unfailingly say: PRESENTS!!!

It can be difficult finding a happy balance between providing a Christmas day bonanza that excites and delights whilst remaining true to my values within a comfortable budget that does not leave me feeling financially over stretched. Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it very wrong.

Every year I try to be relaxed about the whole Christmas shopping experience and not fall into the trap of buying things nobody really wants with money that could be put to far better use, just for the sake of it - because it's Christmas. Every year I have an eleventh hour melt down and buy all manner of rubbish!

I can't say that this Christmas will be different but as always, I will try and starting early may be the best way of achieving my goal and avoiding 'panic buying'.

I'm still undecided about the sort of presents I will be looking to give. I am very much in the ideas gathering stage - which I think is probably my favourite part of the whole process. I am looking forward to reading (and writing) blog reviews to get me in the mood and give me inspiration.

In the next few days I will be reviewing Fur Real Cookie My Playful Pup (which first impressions have left me thinking is a little pricey) and Paper Jamz Pro Guitar (which I fully expect to release my Inner Rock Star).

Watch this space and let's begin the (long!) Xmas Countdown.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Starting Nursery School

Last night I made the worst lasagne I'd ever made. Luckily, Taylor was in charge of dessert and her Apple Pie was divine.

The fact that I was off my game when it came to food preparation, I am blaming on a growing anxiety I was experiencing about my little girl starting nursery school today.

Addy, looking radiant in her new coat and school shoes and with fluffy, bath fresh blonde hair, was very matter of fact about the whole thing this morning. I tried hard to keep my anxiety to myself. We had one little wobble when my older girls set off for their secondary school and college. Addy could not understand why she was not going with them. I explained that they were big girls going to their big school and she was a little girl going to a little school. She seemed happy enough with my explanation.

We left the baby at home with Ivy who has still has a few weeks before she returns to University and set off on foot for day one of Nursery school.

It was actually quite a long walk for a little girl but apart from a halfway quick carry, she managed very well.

She was interested in all the new sights and sounds as we waited in the playground for the nursery doors to open - but she held onto my hand.

As we joined the steady stream of mums and tots entering the building she stayed close to me but I could see her taking it all in.

We found where to hang her coat and we registered.

As it was her first day, I was entitled (but not encouraged) to stay for as long as I thought necessary. Most parents just dropped their children off and left. I walked Addy over to the carpet to sit down with the rest of the children and stood at the back of the room trying to decide what to do for the best.

Several children were screaming and crying and one little boy was clinging to his parents as though his life depended on it. Addy sat, slightly stiffly, on the carpet. She was clearly a little nervous but alert and expectant and definitely not unhappy.

I chatted to one of the nursery assistants who explained that only she and one other child were starting new today and if I wanted to stay I could but they are usually better once the parents have left. 

I decided to leave but not without first saying goodbye to Addy. There was a danger that she would panic at the thought of me leaving her there and join the ranks of wailers still providing the soundtrack to Day One at Nursery.

I hunkered down beside her on the carpet and whispered to her that I could stay if she wanted me to but if she was happy I would leave and come back and collect her just before lunch. Her attention was still firmly focussed on the assistant currently trying to amuse her charges with a bad rendition of Hickory Dickory Dock. She gave me a cursory glance and said Ok, bye with a small wave.

I left.

The lump in my throat felt huge.

My eyes stung.

I tried to take my mind off my separation anxiety with a quick whizz around the first shop I passed on my way home which happened to be B&M Bargains and happened to have some really great little stocking fillers to break the ice on my Xmas shopping.

I started to relax.

I keep trying to imagine what she is doing and how she is feeling. I hope she will have plenty of stories to tell me about her first day at Nursery when I go and collect her. I am watching the clock. I am missing her terribly. I am also so proud of my little girl taking her first steps into a big world.

The Gallery - Week 73 - Shoes

I have written several blogposts about shoes: my love of shoes, winning shoes, tiny shoes, favourite shoes, back to school shoes ...

In Show us your Shoes I included photographs of my faithful, battered DMs, my totally impractical but mouthwateringly gorgeous Italian leather killer heels, my Zombie wedding shoes that walked down the aisle and the trainers that helped me count down the kilometeres in my Race for Life.

So what to feature for this week's Gallery prompt Shoes?

After much deliberation, my contribution, synonymous with summer, is Festival Footwear (taken at V Music Festival, Weston Park):

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Changing Seasons

Although I can't help feeling a little sad that summer has come to an end, I actually love the transition between seasons. There is a great sense of ritual about packing away the outdoor summer toys and furniture and preparing for the darker days ahead. My hands feel a little raw from cleaning the hundreds of balls from the ball pool and battling in the high winds to dismantle the kid's gazebo this morning, but there is something immensely satisfying about it.

Tomorrow, the school term starts and my girls are ready with their new stationery and timetables accessed via the internet. For me it is a big day because my little girl starts nursery school, five mornings a week. We have been preparing for it all summer long and she is fond of saying that she starts school in SepTEMberrrrr!! Well now it is SepTEMberrrr and I am wondering how she will cope with the reality of it all. Grandma sent a 'Starting School' sticker book which we completed together yesterday with lots of chat  and her new coat and shoes  are neatly in her room waiting to keep a tiny body warm on the walk to school and make tiny feet look ready for a big girl's world. How quickly they grow up.

The apple trees in my garden have been laden with fruit this year and I am sure that there will be enough windfalls now to make a very fine pie. I am a bit squeamish about cutting into the less than perfect fruits. Just imagining the maggots brings back a memory with all too vivid clarity - a memory involving a morning cup of tea, an unwelcome addition to that cup of tea and a seriously unpleasant way of finding out about that addition. It will all be worth it though when that pie comes out of the oven, golden and aromatic and a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of autumn.

Autumn also means falling leaves. It is my intention this year to keep the leaf blower handy so I can regularly tackle the gathering masses of leaves on my lawn and hopefully stop too many blowing into my pond. It seems like a never ending war but one I am determined, if not to win, at least to not be totally defeated.

As I look out of my window now, I can see the trees bending in the wind and the first drops of cold rain hitting the glass. It will soon be time to turn the central heating on and look forward to long, cosy evenings  in front of my fire, probably with a glass of wine. Who needs sunshine!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

F is for Feet, Fish, Frank's and Film

With summer as good as over and my husband back at work, it seemed like the perfect time to indulge in our next alphabet date for some spirit lifting.

We went to Frank's tapas bar and ordered the Hot Tapas Platter with all the veggie options on the menu - baked camembert, goats cheese croquettes, spanish omelette and grilled halloumi with breads and a side order of potatoes in tomato sauce. We took our time over that little lot and enjoyed a pint of Barcelona Beer (sounding more like a B date!) and finally, coffee.

For the Film part of the date we saw Final Destination 5 in 3D. It's not at all what my husband would choose but he knows how much I love that sort of blood spattered gore fest nonsense. I'd been longing to see it since I saw the trailer whilst ascending a tube station escalator when we were in London for Bob's Big Build. As we showed our tickets to enter the screening, the attendant told us that we wouldn't need our brains for this one. He was right but it didn't stop me being thoroughly entertained.

The absolute highlight of the date involved Feet and Fish as we treated ourselves to a Garra Rafa Fish Pedicure. I'd seen photographs of my nephew with his feet in a huge tank of dead-skin-eating fish during his travels in Thailand. This was a much more sanitised version with comfortable seats, elegant decor and individual tanks. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. I have to say that at the end of the session my feet felt amazing - those little piscine pedicurists certainly did a good job.

A Little Beery Mishap

My dad would never phone me for a chat but he does phone me with news of the special offers that Lidl have on. This weekend, Branston beans are 87p for a pack of four. Thanks dad!

As all I have to do is walk out of my back gate and I'm in Lidl's car park, popping over to Lidl is no big deal. On my dad's recommendation and armed with a shopping bag and purse, off I went.

Sure enough, the first thing I saw as I entered the store was a huge pile of my favourite baked beans. Next to them was an equally huge pile of bottled beer.

It was my brother in law's birthday a couple of days ago and I had been meaning to buy some beer to give to him so I picked up a bottle to see if it looked interesting enough to make a good birthday present.

Lidl is a funny shop. Instead of using nice solid shelves, they stack their offer products on flimsy pieces of cardboard supported by more products below. Pile them high, sell them cheap. Had I realised that the products below had been undermined to a degree that the flimsy cardboard was actually supported by NOTHING I may have been less inclined to pick up the beer bottle for closer examination. In fact, I would have given the whole precarious construction a VERY wide berth.

I picked up my bottle and half a dozen bottles began sliding down the flap of unsupported cardboard towards the gap between the beer and the beans, destined for the hard tiled floor. I tried to grab them to prevent the impending disaster but with my purse and shopping bag impeding my intervention, I was powerless to prevent the inevitable. In fact, I set off a further avalanche of bottles.

Have you any idea how LOUD twenty or so beer bottles are as they crash to their doom in the echoey cavern of supermarket? Unfortunately, I do now!

The noise seemed to last an eternity.

As everything found its new equilibrium and settled back to an eerie silence, the beery foam spreading in an ever widening arc about my feet confirmed that the bottles had not been made out of special bouncy superglass.

Nobody ran to my assistance. Nobody even seemed to look up from their shopping to see what the commotion was. I grabbed my tins of beans and headed for the checkout where I paid and confessed my little mishap.

Luckily, the gentleman on the till was very nice and had a little joke with me about it all as well as bemoaning the shop policy that specifies the stacking method used. Apparently, breakages amongst the beer and wine are commonplace (perhaps that would be why the other shoppers did not seem concerned) As I left, a disgruntled looking shop assistant was stretching into the narrow gap to pull out broken bottles from the beery mess.

I went to Morrisons to buy my brother in law's birthday present!

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Friday, 2 September 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

Summer is definitely coming to an end but as I reflect back I can find many reasons to be cheerful.

It hasn't all been plain sailing. Depression did raise its unmistakably ugly head above the parapets of my sanity but the fact that I have put that particular episode behind me is a reason to be cheerful in itself. I am still not in possession of two fully functioning ears but the problem is improving and the silver lining to that cloud has been the understanding and empathy I now have with my deaf-in-one-ear husband.

We have worked hard on our home and garden to make improvements. It is always an ongoing process but I am now enjoying the rewards of a better organised home.

As well as working hard, we've played hard too with family outings and a lovely holiday to Wales where the 3 year old thought that caravan living was one big adventure.

My girls have been busy with their band, Not Quite, in terms of performances, songwriting and recording. As I type this post I can hear them rehearsing the harmonies on some new songs. They have been invited to 'busk' at a local Farmer's Market tomorrow and want to extend their repertoire.

Here are some of my Summer Reasons to be Cheerful in photographic form set to the music of original song, Draw Me a Picture, written and performed by my lovely girls - Not Quite.

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Baby Massage

When I first put myself forward to make a video demonstrating Baby Massage, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find a quiet moment when there was a good light, a helpful assistant to hold the video camera and a co-operative baby.

I couldn't put it off any longer so this morning I managed to prise daughter, Ivy, away from her guitar and put her media degree to good use being my camera man. The sun was shining through my bedroom window and with the three year old downstairs sharing a late breakfast with sister Charis and four teenaged friends who had spent the night camping in our garden, it was relatively quiet. The Baby Boy seemed co-operative enough to  go for it.

Both my little ones have dry skin so I do quite often massage them with lotions. It is a lovely opportunity to spend time with them and enjoy the physical and emotion contact.

The Forever Friends Baby website has lots of information about how to massage your baby, which I made use of for my Baby Massage video.

I was sent a pot of Forever Friends Naturals Nighty Night Cuddle Lotion to use. It was a lovely light lotion that made my hands glide very smoothly over the baby boy's skin and left him (and my hands) feeling very soft and moisturised.

We didn't get all the way to the end of the Full Body Massage - the temptation to crawl away when I laid him on his tummy to massage his back was too great! However, the advice from the website was very easy to follow and I did feel that both he and I benefited from the experience. I shall definitely be repeating the techniques I learned (without the watchful eye of the video camera lens) and can highly recommend the Nighty Night Cuddle Lotion to anyone with an interest.

This is my video.

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