Monday, 31 January 2011

My Top 5 Annoying Kid's TV Shows/Characters - Listography

This week's Kate Takes 5 listography topic is 'Most Annoying Kid's TV Shows/Characters'.

I find it hard to get annoyed by anything that keeps my kids quiet, no matter how bad it is. However, if I do find myself stuck in front of the telly with the remote control just out of reach, there are some shows that are harder to endure than others:

  1. Dora the Explorer Why does she have to shout all the time?
  2. Thomas the Tank Engine I hate how mean the engines are to each other.
  3. Big Barn Farm Actually, I quite like this but it is the one CBeebies show that DOES NOT hold the attention of my troublesome toddler. That is annoying.
  4. Panzee from Zingzillas Chronic over acting and such a patronising tone of voice - makes me want to punch her monkey face.
  5. Ben 10 In all honesty, I've NEVER watched this. I don't even know who Ben is or why he has a 10 after his name. However, the amount of Ben 10 merchandising alone is enough to qualify this show as one of my top five most annoying.
Why I find it hard to get annoyed by kids TV

Vegetarian Haggis - Recipe

This is the Burns Night essential in our vegetarian household.  I will list the quantities I used first time I made this but I never weigh anything anymore, just chuck in what looks roughly right! It is easy to make, nutritious and apart from the whole sheep's stomach thing, has a fairly authentic haggis feel to it. Why wait for another Burns Night?


Ingredients
4 oz onion
2oz carrot
2oz mushroom
2oz red lentils
1pt stock
1oz red kidney beans
2oz chopped nuts
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp lemon juice
1tsp thyme
1tsp rosemary
1tsp mixed spice
8oz fine oatmeal
black pepper




Method

  1. Finely chop the veg (I use my food processor) and saute in a pan for a few minutes
  2. Add lentils and stock
  3. Mash the kidney beans and add to pan with nuts, soy sauce, lemon juice and seasonings.
  4. Cook for 15 mins
  5. Add oatmeal and cook for a further 15 mins, adding more liquid if necessary.
  6. Turn into loaf tin and bake for 30 mins at 190ÂșC
Serve with neeps and tatties!


Nuby Teething Toys - Review

So far, my baby boy has cut his two bottom front teeth. Now it is the turn of the top two. One has just made an appearance but the other has yet to break through the hard, lumpy, sore gum with the inevitable discomfort that makes for a grouchy baby. I want to do whatever I can do to distract him from his grumpiness and aid the teething process so he has an easier time of it (and as a happy consequence, I have an easier time of it!). This is where teething toys have a role to play.

I have already tested, reviewed and fallen in love with the Nuby Twisty Bugz Teether. (You can read my review and enter my giveaway to win one here). I was very happy to be given the opportunity to try some of the other teething toys in the Nuby range. I chose from their website a Teether Tugz, Flip Flop Book and Ding A Lings. I really don't think that the images on the website do them justice.


All of the teether toys were produced with the attention to detail in terms of safety and thoughtful design that I have come to expect from Nuby. They were bigger than I imagined, bright and colourful, invited exploration and represented excellent value for money.

TEETHER TUGZ
This was my favourite of the three teether toys. It is a fairly simple stuffed bug but with oversized wings and so many different colours and textures for little hands and minds to discover (also available as an elephant or rabbit with oversized ears). It is a welcome addition to our toybox.

FLIP FLOP TEETHER BOOK
What better way to nurture a future love for reading than to give your child a book that crinkles, rustles and squeaks as well as providing ideal, textured teething surfaces. The actual story is not the greatest example of child literature I've ever seen (!) but it doesn't detract from this being a lovely toy. True to form, my boy was most fascinated by the small velcro strap that holds the pages together when the book is not being read.

DING A LINGS
This was my baby boy's favourite, which bodes well for his musical future.  It makes a interesting chiming noise when you shake it and the long, dangly body seems to dance about in time. We had the frog Ding A Ling. Other animal designs are available. The top part of the toy, which my boy had straight in his mouth for a good gnaw, doubles up as a link to fasten it to your car seat, buggy etc. Perfect to stop it being dropped when you are out and about.

I think the best way to showcase these products is in the hands of a baby. He can show with his actions what I cannot begin to explain with my words.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Dear So and So...

Dear So and So...

Dear Potty,

Please can you try and be a bit more inviting and desirable to my nearly 3 year old. I'm getting sick of nappies.

Sincerely,
Mum of Reluctant Potty Trainee


***
Dear Ironing Pile,

Please sort yourself out this week.

Sincerely,
Mum with Better Things to do


*** 
Dear Computer,

Please stop distracting me from getting on with the housework.

Sincerely,
Easily Distracted

***

Dear Robert Burns,

Thanks for the excuse to make veggie haggis, neeps and tatties this week.

Sincerely,
Burns Night Celebrant

PS I like the 'My love is like a red, red rose' poem that you wrote.

***

Dear Blog World,

I have no idea how I managed before I found this outlet for all the nonsense in my head.

Sincerely,
Blogging Addict

Silent Sunday - A New Trick

Saturday, 29 January 2011

This Mother's Love




This Mother's Love

No words are sweet enough
To capture the essence of your sleeping form
Nor fierce enough to know how I would give my life for you

I touch your tiny hand
Flesh more precious than the finest treasures
This world or any other could ever hope to offer

In this moment we are one
I breathe in your warm exhalation
Synchronising my breath with the rise and fall of your chest

You intoxicate me
I hold you closer knowing every perfect inch of you
The warmth of your body a gentle reflection of this mother's love


Snazaroo Face Paints - A Toyologist Review for Toys R Us

I love face painting.

I have face painted at parties, at fund raisers, for fancy dress and more recently painted a simple face on my feet for a competition entry.






I only use Snazaroo face paints.

The colours are vibrant, they cover beautifully and stay put, they clean off relatively easily. The paints are water-based, hypoallergenic and non toxic. I have never experienced any problems with skin reactions.

The range of Snazaroo products for serious face painters is amazing but you can't go far wrong with these kits from Toys R Us.


Each kit contains a palette of eight colours, a sponge, a brush and a booklet with simple step by step instructions to some fantastic faces along with some inspiring ideas. The pink kit is aimed at a girlie audience with sparkly and metallic colours whereas the blue kit lends itself to more masculine designs.


At £9.99 for the potential to paint 50 faces, I think this represents excellent value for money.

I prefer to take my time when painting faces and have a practice first. The video shows my first attempt at the butterfly face in the instruction book and a bit of freestyling fun with my ever willing assistant!

Leapster Explorer - Toyologist Review for Toys R Us

The Leapster Explorer Green Console and Penguins of Madagascar Software

The Leapster Explorer Green Console is an amazing learning experience that encourages children to discover something new every day. There are endless ways to play and learn - from games, e-books, videos and online play to customisable learning skills and more!

Leapster Explorer Penguins of Madagascar sees Skipper suspect that Private is getting soft, so he has created four training missions, each with a different plush toy to rescue. Rise to the challenge and sharpen your mathematical skills while Private hones his elite commando skills.



I would never have thought about buying the Leapster Explorer for my not-quite-three year old but  as we had it available to do a Toyologist review and she seemed very interested in it, there was nothing to lose by letting her have a go. Although recommended for children aged 4-9 years, the way she has responded to it has been nothing short of astonishing.

The Leapster Explorer is a hand held electronic educational game with touch screen technology. An attached stylus tucks neatly away into its own little slot when not in use. It is supplied with a pet game that enables you to create your own pet and a Leaplet learning application download card. A range of games is available as downloadable aps and to purchase on cartridge.

We had the cartridge game 'The Penguins of Madagascar'.

Children never cease to amaze me with their intuitive grasp of technology. My daughter needed very little help to get started. She was quickly navigating her way around and getting to grips with the controls.

I was impressed by how robust the Leapster Explorer was (it would need to be in the hands of an enthusiastic pre-schooler!). I was also impressed by the lovely big screen and clear graphics.

The games all have a strong educational content but were such fun that I doubt the child would even realise they were learning.

The 'Penguins of Madagascar' game involved a lot the gaming essentials of jumping and bashing and collecting interspersed with mini mathematical challenges. There was plenty of guidance and help available to prevent the child becoming frustrated. One of the mini challenges involves dragging different shapes across the screen with the stylus and dropping them onto the corresponding shapes forming part of a simple picture. I was amazed to hear my little girl, who is is still in the fairly early stages of language acquisition, repeating after the voice of the game "isosceles triangle'!! I was even more amazed to see her playing a more advanced level of this mini game where the shapes needed to be rotated to the correct orientation before being dropped, with some precision, in their proper place. As well as learning some basic geometry, she is developing a strong spatial awareness and hand eye co-ordination... and she only thinks she is playing!

We have barely scratched the surface of what the Leapster can do. There is the online Leapworld that children can connect to (and being a 'walled garden' can do so in complete safety). If parents don't want to be left out, they can connect online to the Leapfrog Learning Path to monitor and guide their children's learning. 

This really is a game that can grow with and support the child's developing needs.

My daughter totally loves this game and spends a good deal of time playing with it (so much so that I have already invested in some rechargeable batteries). It is brilliant for car journeys, especially when it is dark because the screen has its own illumination. It is discreet and portable so you could take it anywhere, which is exactly what I do now (restaurants, hotel rooms, visiting grandma...)


My latest use for this Godsend of a game is an incentive to encourage my 'Reluctant Potty Trainee' to sit on her potty. She will happily sit and play. Now if only the Leapster console would instruct her to do her business, we might be nappy free in no time!

I really cannot praise this game enough.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy From the Heart


ONE
Last night, I gave my two babies a bath. I can't help but delight in their perfect little unclothed bodies. To add to my delight and to definitely qualify as a reason to be cheerful, my two year old decided to run up and down the corridor, completely naked, proclaiming "I fast!" and wiggling her bottom completely unself-consiously each time she had to stop and change direction.

TWO
This week I have hosted my first blog Giveaway (enter here if you wish!) and written a guest post. Now if I could only secure a sponsor for Cybermummy that would be a reason to be ecstatic!

THREE
We bought my 14year old daughter a bass guitar for Christmas. For some, the sound of her practising to a backing track, volume cranked up, accompanied by her sister on drums, might be a reason to reach for the paracetamol. However, I love their joy and enthusiasm for making music and the needle on my cheerful meter goes off the scale when I hear them. Just need Liberty and Ivy to come over and add guitar, keyboard and vocals to the mix and my front room live music venue is properly up and running!

Four Memetastic Lies and One Truth

I was passed this award from Inside the Wendy House and Ivy in the Corner. For the rules, please refer back to one of their lovely blogs.



Four Lies and One Truth

1. I have two recurring dream themes -  one in which my teeth fall out and one about fish. They both leave me with a lingering feeling of unease.

2. I don't understand why people think 'Got to Dance' judge Ashley Banjo is hot. I admit he is incredibly big and fit but really... should what he does even be called dancing. He and his dance group Diversion just seem to mess around on stage. Give me proper Ballroom any day.

3. I am really bad with money. I spend money I don't have on things I don't need.

4. I am finding this too easy because I am something of a compulsive liar. I don't mean little white lies to spare someone's feelings or a simple withholding of the truth, I mean great big whopping lies that fill you with an amazing sense of power. Why tell the truth when you can lie?

5. I have been thinking so hard about my four lies that I can't think of a truthful thing to include (or is that a lie? I told you I was a well practised liar - but could a liar tell the truth about being a liar? My brain hurts. I need to relax by watching a hot as hell street dancer doing his thing then go and check the balance on my savings account. But I shouldn't go to sleep. That's when the bad things happen with the fish and the teeth. Or is that just another lie?)

I throw this award into Cyberspace - please feel free to catch it.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Reluctant Potty Trainee and her Smartipants (Review)

I once had a pair of socks that claimed "One Size Fits All". They didn't fit anybody.


This is definitely NOT true of Smartipants. The One Size Fits All Smartipants fit as snuggly and comfortably on my 15 kg daughter as they had on my baby son.

My daughter is a very reluctant potty trainee. For about the last six months, every box of disposable nappies I've purchased for her, I have thought will be the last. They are on my shopping list again this week.

She has so many beautiful little girl knickers waiting for the day she decides she is ready but in the meantime, we struggle on.

She was quite happy to wear the Smartipants.

Did they function as well as her usual disposable nappy? YES, in fact slightly better because her disposables tend to hang down once they are wet.

Would I use them on her again? Probably YES, although not when she is wearing her tight leggings. She did look a bit overstuffed around the bottom.

Will they help with the potty training? Almost certainly NO but that is a reflection on her stubbornness, not the Smartipants.

I imagine that the Smartipants will be very useful for night time if we ever get to the stage where she is dry during the day but unreliable at night.

Despite my misgivings about wearing Smartipants with leggings, I can honestly say that I' rather see

MORE OF THIS:

AND LESS OF THIS:





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T-Shirt Printing.net Review

We all have that moment in our lives when we need a personalised T Shirt. Maybe it's for a celebration, to show support or an affiliation, to advertise something, to identify yourself or just because it makes a great gift for the person who has everything.

I have attempted to create original design T Shirts using print-your-own iron-on transfers and fabric pens. Both methods were sources of amusement but the end results were not exactly what I would call professional!

Using Fabric Pens - fun but not very professional!
This is where TShirtPrinting.netx  can help. They can provide bespoke T Shirts using high quality silk screen printing.

They aim to offer a competitive price but obviously, this has to be calculated on individual orders depending on requirements. You can discuss requirements, get friendly advice and a no obligation quote by calling free on 0800 046 7633.

This is me, looking bit silly, modelling a T Shirt (size M) just before my Aerobics class.


The fabric is pre-shrunk, 90% cotton 10% polyester. The feel of the fabric and the strength of the seams make it a quality garment. The printed logo was bright and crisp and well applied. The T Shirt was roomy and comfortable to wear, even in the extreme conditions of a sweaty gym with an insanely fit aerobics instructor.

The real test of quality of a T Shirt, for me, is how easily it washes. The care instructions say to machine wash (warm) inside out, tumble dry (medium) and not to iron (hooray!!) I followed the instructions.

My T Shirt looked as good as new; no mis-shaping, no degradation of the printing.

Testimonials praise the speed and efficiency of the service.

If you have an occasion coming up that might warrant a personalised bespoke printed T Shirt (I'm thinking about a "QWERTY Mum's Blog" design just for the fun of it), why not give TShirtPrinting.net a call and see what they can do for you.

http://www.tshirtprinting.net/

Beautifully modelled by my baby boy who promptly dribbled on the collar

Precious Moments

After seeing Kelloggsville's entry to the Gallery this week and reading how she was treated when innocently snapping some photos of her children in a hotel swimming pool, I decided to post two of my favourite water fun pictures. How sad that photographs such as these may be sadly missing from our albums because a few sick individuals have turned us into a suspicious and over protective society.



Paedophiles will always find ways of viewing inappropriate images of children. Mothers will never find another way of capturing these precious moments in their children's lives.

Baby Boy in his Smartipants (Review)

If you have read the first part of my review of Smartipants, you will know that I am hopeful that this new evolution of reusable nappies is the solution to the enormous bulk of landfill waste that my household generates.

The Aqua Breeze shade was bright and cheerful and although it was a bit of a fiddle getting the size adjustment right first time I used it, it was a comfortable fit. Once dressed, my baby boy did have a noticibly more padded bottom than in his usual disposables but it was nothing I couldn't live with.


He seemed happy enough. He ate his lunch, he had his afternoon nap. When he woke up he was still comfortable with no sign of leakage. It was as he was sat on my lap for a cuddle that I heard the sound that indicated that the Smartipants were about to be thoroughly tested! It was explosive!!

I was dreading removing the nappy but the task was less onerous than I was expecting. The Smartipants felt heavy but not soggy and there was very little dampness on the suede cloth integral lining. Plenty of poo but it was all very manageable.

I was surprised at how easy the clean up operation was and the dirty nappy folded as discreetly as a disposable.

The instructions suggest that dirty nappies are put on a cool rinse cycle and then washed at 40 degrees. As I only had the one nappy, I gave it a quick rinse under the tap and then just popped it in with my whites wash. This did mean a bit of extra, unpleasant work for myself but would not be part of a normal established routine. There is no need to remove the absorbent insert as it should come out during the wash cycle, so popping the dirty nappy in the washing machine really is as simple as throwing a disposable nappy in the dustbin!

As I unloaded my whites wash, I coud see that the absorbent insert had indeed come free from the sleeve. Very clever! Both parts of the Smartipants had washed up beautifully. The spin cycle had removed a lot of the water so I hung them both over a radiator airer to dry. They can be tumble dried on low.

By morning, my Smartipants were ready for another day.


If I am honest, I probably won't be rushing out to buy enough Smartipants so that I can do away with disposables forever. The start up cost is quite high and I'm not sure how my already over burdened washing machine could cope with the increased loads.

However, I have been so impressed by the performance that I fully intend to continue using the Smartipants  on a regular basis in conjunction with my regular disposables. If I were only to replace one nappy change a day with Smartipants, over the course of a week that amounts to a carrier bag of landfill waste saved. In a year this would add up to a significant amount and if every mum with nappy wearing babies did the same, how amazing would that be?

Substituting just one nappy a day will be easy and I'm sure I can do better than that.

http://www.fill-your-pants.com/one-size-nappies/smartipants.html

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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Gallery - Week 43 - Children

As I prepare to celebrate my one year wedding anniversary next month, my thoughts return to my wedding day. 

On our Order of Service, I printed photographs of my husband and I as children. I liked the idea of acknowledging the children we had once been this way (and it did get a lot of "aaahs" from our guests!)

The Order of Service is visible in the background of this photo along with the original old photographs and the champagne ready to toast a year of being man and wife.






Please pop over to My First Giveaway HERE

A Contribution to Toilet Humour Inside the Wendy House

I am being cajoled into contributing to my vulgar sister's Toilet Tuesday meme.

It isn't that I am prudish - quite the opposite - I have an uncanny knack of blurting out inappropriate comments, almost like my own brand of Tourettes syndrome. Unlike Lou at Bloggomy, I peed with the hotel bathroom door open on the first date with my husband-to-be, still in full conversation. However, I didn't break wind in front of him for quite some months. Perhaps there is my story.

Inside The Wendy House

The Etiquette of Farting

I do distinctly remember the moment that I unselfconsciously let rip for the first time  and I've never looked back.

As I had already known my future husband at University, meeting up again after some twenty years was strange. On the one hand there was a familiarity to him that was comforting and made me feel totally relaxed. But on the other hand, the boy I had known so well was now a man and there was something new there that had grown from age and experience. Something exciting. Something that stirred feelings in me that I didn't know I could have for him. It was an intoxicating mix of already connected yet so fresh and unknown.

I couldn't remember for the life of me how our relationship had been before as kids with regards to farting in each others' company. It puzzled me. I wracked my brain for answers. I dredged up old memories to find a scene to hang a hypothetical flatulent episode from. I couldn't do it.

Strangely, I had no problem saying that I couldn't remember what the etiquette was regarding communal farting but I did have a problem with the gaseous act itself. I simply could not do it. It didn't seem right to just do it if we had never been through that "first fart in front of each other" shared moment.

Months went by and I never once embarrassed myself in front of him although he had begun to let out tiny, controlled little expulsions closely followed by a scarily high pitched "excuse me" for a man of his size and gruff manliness.

It didn't happen until we were  on holiday together with all my kids and Wendy's family in a remote farmhouse in Wales.

We went walking. Without a map. We got horribly lost.

It is quite easy to look back at the Lost in the Wilderness adventure and see how it made us better, stronger and "more capable in a crisis" sort of people but at the time, it seemed like an endless ordeal. I think I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be lost forever in a desolate, peopleless landscape, the last thing I wanted to be doing was controllling my digestive gases. The moment had finally arrived. I announced my intent and followed through with a noisy rectal outburst.

The world didn't end.

Since our marriage, I have overcome the final farting taboo (as defined by my personal morality). I have farted in the bath with him and taken pleasure in  the bubbles!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Smartipants (Review)

As an environmentally aware person, it horrifies me how much landfill waste I generate through nappies alone.

When my first child was a baby (over two decades ago) I used terry towelling nappies. I always loved my pile of fluffy white, freshly laundered, neatly folded nappies on their special shelf above my baby changing table. That was probably the only thing about it I loved.

I hated all the other bits that went with the nappies - the liners, the plastic pants that left sore red patches around my precious girl's thighs, the nappy pins that terrified me thinking that I was going to stab my baby, the sanitising solution in lidded buckets to keep the soiled nappies in until they were washed. They were difficult to put on too. The amount of times I thought I'd done a  good job only to find that the whole thing had gone ridiculously saggy within minutes of wearing. And they leaked. They leaked something terrible. But disposable nappies were expensive and money was tight. I persevered.

As the years went by, the price of disposable nappies dropped and our disposable income increased. Subsequent babies were not subjected to the trial of the terry. However, environmental awareness was growing and the use of the disposable nappies carried a certain amount of guilt amongst parents who cared what sort of world their offspring would inherit. I joked that I had done my time with environmentally friendly nappies and had earned the right to take the disposable option.

When in my forties, I had my fifth and sixth babies after an eleven year gap, I was faced with the prospect of more years of nappy use.

It seemed that reusable nappies had progressed since my experience twenty years previously. Now they were shaped and fastened without the need for pins and special laundry services were available  to take away the inconvenience of having to do your own washing. However, disposable nappies had also evolved. They were much more cost effective than they had ever been and there always seemed to be a supermarket special offer available. They also promised a dryness to baby's skin and leak proof measures even with the most active tots.

Despite my environmental misgivings, disposable nappies won the day. They do deliver on their promise of dryness but it is hard to ignore the full to overflowing wheelie bins I put out for my refuse collector fortnight after fortnight.

I was excited to be given the chance to try the reuseable nappy system known as Smartipants.


These seemed to offer many of the advantages of disposables but with the added bonus of being environmentally friendly.

They come in One Size Fits All with secure poppers to fit to your child's size. They are soft to the touch, neat and compact. An absorbent insert fits into an internal sleeve to absorb wetness whilst a suede cloth lining interfaces with baby's skin for optimum dryness.

The Smartipants come in a range of colours. I was given gender neutral Aqua Breeze to try with my 7 month baby boy and my Potty Training Resistant daughter.

I have already begun to use Smartipants with the baby. I am keeping a totally open mind and will post my verdict once I have used them for a few days.

Banner

My fabulously talented daughter Liberty has made me a new Banner for my blog using Photoshop. She has written a turorial about how to do this here.


I have had to make a few adjustments to my blog design to accommodate it and the perfectionist part of me can't help but notice that something is not quite right about the right hand edge*, but I absolutely love what she has done after nothing more than a quick brainstorm in the sauna last time we visited the gym and an intuitive understanding of who I am and what would please me.


I recently wrote a post about my divorce. At the time of this traumatic event in our lives, Liberty was 17 years old, trying to deal with the idea of A levels and leaving home to go to University. The last thing she needed was the turmoil that her home life had spiralled into.


I should have been supporting her but instead, she supported me. She was my rock and I will never forget how amazing she was.


We have a very close relationship and have only ever fallen out three times
  1. when I tricked her into going on Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris and she punched me
  2. when we had a face off and she threw the contents of a bag of Hula Hoops at me
  3. when the stress of moving out of the family home during the divorce became too much and she tried to run me over in her car!
Each of these incidents has made us closer and we laugh about them now. 

We never underestimate the value of laughter.

I leave you with a photograph of my lovely daughter Liberty from the time of the divorce. She is modelling a T Shirt and pants ensemble that she created herself with fabric pens, demonstrating a design flair she would later put to much better use with Photoshop and a sense of humour that helped keep me sane.

* Liberty fixed it!

My Top 5 Things I Wish I Could Do - Listography

I am the sort of person that will have a go at anything. I can't honestly say I really excel at anything in particular but I am reasonably good (or at least OK) at lots of things. However, there is always room to dream and so these are the things I Wish I Could Do:

1. A Back Flip
I know this will never happen. The video confirms it.


2. Hair
I have 5 daughters, all with gorgeous hair. I wish that I could work the same magic with straighteners, bobby pins and hairspray that the hairdressers do.

My daughter showing what it means to have a bad hair day
3. Hypnosis
The untapped power of the human mind is a fascinating thing. I would love to be able to hypnotise myself and others to harness a tiny amount of that power (and I probably wouldn't be able to resist making someone spontaneously burst into bad Elvis impersonations in the Supermarket aisle).


4. What the Waybulo Piplings do
It's not flying exactly, more like swimming in air. It looks so effortlessly serene and beautiful and useful for getting to all those just out of reach places.


5. Dressmaking
I had a go at making costumes for my daughter back when she took part in the shows put on by her dance school and again when she tried competitive dancing. It was insanely tricky and for at least the last five years, my sewing machine has been gathering dust on an inaccessible shelf. However, I would love to have the skill and flair to be able to make fabulous clothes that fit perfectly. I would make sequinned ballroom gowns in every colour imaginable .


So that's what I dream of doing -  floating around in a sparkly gown with perfect hair, controlling your minds with a back flip thrown in for good measure. What about you?

A Kate Takes 5  Listography post.

***Please check out My First Giveaway to win Nuby baby products here***


Monday, 24 January 2011

Nuby Twisty Bugz Teether Review and My First Giveaway!!

I am in absolutely no danger of being in breach of my 'Blogging with Integrity' promise when I say that I adore this Nuby teether and can see why it won the Mother and Baby Gold Award in 2009.

Nuby Twisty Bugz Teether - £4.99
It is beautifully designed, well made, colourful and brimming with features that make it interesting, practical and just plain cute.

Suitable for babies from 6 months, it is perfect for little hands to hold. My baby boy was quickly twisting and clicking and rattling, exploring the different textures and chomping down on the specially designed gel filled 'teething nubs' that form the wings of the bees. The knotted antennae on the bugz proved popular with my little one but his absolute favourite part of the toy was the crinkly petals of the flower and dare I say it, the care label situated in the same location!

This is a video of the Nuby Twisty Bugz Teether being demonstrated by my boy, aged 7 months.


Nuby have kindly supplied me with a Twisty Bugz Teether, a Sure Grip Bowl and six pack of Feeding Spoons (reviewed here) to giveaway.



If you would like the chance to win these items pictured above, please  CLOSED

  1. Follow my Blog
  2. Leave a Comment below with your Twitter ID or name of your blog so I can contact you
  3. Like Nuby UK on Facebook  and post " Giveaway at http://qwertymum.blogspot.com/2011/01/nuby-twisty-bugz-teether-review-and-my.html " on their wall, and/or
  4. Follow @NubyUK on Twitter and Tweet " I've entered @PaulaHaylock @NubyUK Giveaway at QWERTY Mum http://tinyurl.com/5twffks "

Sorry if that seems like a lot! 

Competition is open to UK residents only and closes at midnight on 21st  February, 2011. Winner will be drawn at random from all the entries.

 Good Luck

Glee Mama

I'm a Glee Mama

Every Monday night now, my poor husband is forcefully evicted from the sofa so that my two teenage daughters and myself can snuggle up and watch the latest instalment of the marvellously uplifting Glee. 

I really enjoy this time we spend together without the distraction of my two little ones and the teenagers' schoolwork/boyfriends/computers. 

I think this qualifies me as a Glee Mama and my blog will display the badge with pride (albeit somewhere near the bottom - my sidebar is getting very busy!)


Divorce

I was brought up by my mother to believe that my one goal in life should be to find a man that loves me and who will take care of me and to hold onto that man at any cost. I was never short of boyfriends but for some reason (that might be the subject of a separate post) I was not very good at relationships. I always felt inadequate when my mum compared me with my prettier friends, friends who were dating, friends who had left school at 16 and were now earning a little bit of money, friends who had steady boyfriends.

Luckily for me, I had an inspirational older sister who valued education and defied my parents by having the ambition to do well enough in her A Levels so that she could go on to do a degree.

My parents weren't bad people. Far from it. They just didn't see the point of a University education for us. How was having ideas above our station going to make us attractive to a suitable man?

I was academically gifted. Securing a place at Bristol University posed no problem. However, I lacked the ambition of my older sister who led the way. I drifted into a course which I quickly realised I had no real passion for. I loved living away from home and I made some wonderful friends but it was clear I was never going to make a great success of my course. I doggedly stuck with it and after 3 years I left with a Bachelor of Science (ordinary) degree and not the least clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

I had been in a relationship of sorts with one of my housemates. He wasn't a physically attractive man and he wasn't what many would describe as a 'nice' person but he definitely had an arrogance and a confidence that  were completely alien to me. Maybe it is true that opposites attract or maybe it was just because he was there and I was still failing to live up to my mother's life goal. It never occurred to me that our relationship would last beyond the duration of the house lease. We never discussed it.  He, on the other hand, had thought our relationship was solid and when I packed up my things and left to return to the only place I could think of to go - my parents' house - he was devastated.

Returning home was the biggest mistake of my life. I had failed to live up to my mother's expectations. I had failed to achieve anything from my three years of studying. I had no money, I couldn't drive, I had no plan. I felt completely trapped.

I have no idea how long I actually stayed at my parents' home in the thick fog of depression that my hopelessness had generated but one day a light came on. I would hitch hike back to Bristol, back to my former housemate, and see if we could make a go of it. He said he loved me, I knew he would take care of me. Perhaps mum had been right all along.

Positioning myself strategically on the slip road of he M4 motorway with my thumb prominently displayed gave me the most amazing feeling of freedom. Thinking about it now, there were so many different paths I could have chosen but at the time, for me, this was the only option.

It gave me a great sense of achievement to make it all the way to the place of work of my former housemate. I waited in the car park for him to return to his car at close of business.

It wasn't a great romantic re-union. There was never any romance in our relationship. Years later when I came to understand about high functioning Aspergers Syndrome, I strongly suspected that this was the cause of much of his behaviour. There was never an official diagnosis but everything about him screamed Aspergers. The wealth of information that the advent of the internet had made available did help me to cope with him better and feel less isolated. We were married for 20 years.

There were many times I wanted to leave him but fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of breaking up the marital home, fear of what my parents would think... so much paralysing fear... I couldn't do it.

I never actually thought that he would leave me. But that is what happened. At least that is sort of what happened.

It all started fairly innocently. My husband worked away from home, staying in hotels and coming back for the weekends. He would buy carob raisins for his 'work colleague' when he was home from our local health food shop. He started to spend more time on his own with his computer. He would disappear off for long 'work calls'. And then the 'business trips' started - weekends away to European cities. I could have happily coped with all of this were it not for the LIES and the DECEIT. What is it about men having affairs that makes them turn their guilt onto their poor wives/girlfriends, making them believe they are paranoid and untrusting and ultimately unworthy?

A Cheating Husband
I suffered. I confronted him on a few occasions but he would say she was just a friend, she was like a sister to him, everybody needs friends... WHY do we continue to give them the benefit of the doubt?

We were still sleeping together. She would text him in the night. Did he think I couldn't read the texts over his shoulder? I actually thought her texts were pathetic. It made me smile. It gave me strength - and God knows I needed all the strength I could get. I was hanging by a thread.

I hated what our marriage breakdown was doing to me, but even more what it was doing to our kids. I had a heart to heart conversation with him. I said that whatever happens we MUST put the kids first. His reply, which I will never forget was "How can we put them first?" If there had been a trap door beneath him leading to the darkest, most evil place of Hell's macabre design, that would have been the moment I pulled the handle to watch him tumble helplessly into eternal torment. HOW CAN YOU NOT PUT THE KIDS FIRST YOU SELFISH, CONCEITED, CHEATING, LYING USELESS PIECE OF ****. Well I think you get the picture. That angry outburst only happened in my head, to be unleashed later in an incident involving some sausages!

I wanted the marriage over. He still maintained that he wasn't having an affair. They 'slept' together as friends but there was no sex (oh how the guilty protest their innocence). He wanted to keep the family together and maybe in six months time or so he might be able to rediscover the love he had for me. Does a certain cliche involving having cake and eating it spring to mind?

He spent over £1000 of our money going to the Maldives with his 'friend'. There is only so much one can tolerate. I saw a solicitor who advised me that if he was not prepared to move out then we would need to demonstrate that we were 'living separate households' within the marital home before there was any possibility of petitioning for divorce. This meant that he would have to shop, cook and clean for himself.

I was worried how the 'separate households' regime would impact on the children - they were already suffering enough. I decided to explain it all to them and treat it as a game. They helped me clear cupboard and fridge space for him, set up his own room with his own wash basket. They were proud of what we had achieved.

When he returned from his exotic holiday (with his dirty laundry which he fully expected would be my pleasure to see to) I explained the situation and how I had handled it with the children and almost apologetically asked if he could play along with it. Thinking about it now, that would have been putting the children first, wouldn't it? He'd already made it clear he wouldn't/couldn't do that. I gave up trying to be reasonable and retired to my room.

It was my 14 year old daughter who hit the roof when she saw him completely disrespect me by helping himself to my sausages on my 'separate household freezer shelf' and make himself a big, greedy, overstuffed, sausage sandwich. She stormed up the stairs, burst into my room and with absolute disbelief said "Mum, he's eating your sausages!". The funny side would have been easier to see if she hadn't been so upset - they had invested in making the separate household rule work. My fury was unleashed.

The sausage sandwich remained uneaten.

He filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. He cited as grounds that I would not let him eat his sausages!

It has been most cathartic to write this. At the time it was miserable for me and damaging to the children. It is far enough behind us now to see that my life is infinitely more fulfilling and happy and the children have emerged (mostly) unscathed.

My ex husband refuses to have any contact with me but  I wish he could know that I am happy that he is living the life he wants and that the painful process that we all went through is nothing more than another step on life's journey.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Shloer Celebration (Review)

To celebrate my sister's wonderful news that she had won the role of Ambassador for a leading baby product manufacturer, I decided to throw a dinner party.

Of my ten invited guests, six were under 18, one was tee total, two were breastfeeding and one was driving. That didn't leave many takers for any alcoholic accompaniment to the meal!

I decided to serve Shloer as a "natural wine alternative".  Shloer claims to use "only the best ingredients to create a delicious non-alcoholic sparkling drink" and add that  "All varieties make a tasty grape-based alternative to wine, suitable for all the family - especially those who don’t want to indulge in alcohol." 

Perfect!

The table was set with the last of the Christmas napkins being put to good use. The Shloer was on ice, the dinner was ready to be served and the guests arrived.




We didn't waste any time pouring the Shloer.







We had two White Grape varieties of Shloer:
  • Apple and White Grape
  • White Grape and Elderflower
The elegantly curved glass bottle gives the Shloer a very "grown-up" feel which, of course, our under-18s appreciated.



I thoroughly enjoyed the clean, fresh, light taste of both flavours. For the benefit of this review I asked each of my guests what they thought of their wine alternative and these were some of the responses for the Apple and White Grape:

"it has the smell of ripe apples"


"it's like the explosion of juiciness you get with the first bite of an apple"


"no synthetic after taste like with some juice drinks"


"like the smell in Swiss villages at grape pressing time in September"


"it's yum!"


"I like the bubbles"


"I don't like apple juice, I don't like grape juice and I don't like this!"

You can't please all of the people all of the time!


The White Grape and Elderflower proved to be less popular with most of the guests. Elderflower does have a strong, flowery perfume that can be a bit off putting if you are not familiar with it.

One observation was that "it smells like bubble bath".

Apart from our one very hard to please guest who didn't like it all, most thought it was  certainly drinkable but didn't feel that the grape was able to balance the overpowering elderflower.

However, the one guest who liked Elderflower loved it. I guess that is just a matter of taste.

Despite a leaning towards the Apple and White Grape variety, both bottles were finished and did certainly add to the party atmosphere.




Shloer contains no preservatives, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavours and is available from all major supermarkets.

Silent Sunday - Male Bonding

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Making Smiles on Faces Award


I am completely delighted that my lovely blogging daughter, Liberty has seen fit to honour me with this award.

Liberty is 22 years old and lives with her boyfriend not far from me. She pops in to visit her old mum quite often, we go to the gym together two or three times a week and this evening, she and her boyfriend are treating me and my husband to a night out at the local curry restaurant. We have exactly the sort of relationship I always hoped I'd have with the chicks that fly the nest and I think her blog about reading, writing and dreaming is beautiful.

Her justification for the "Smiles" award was the videos I post of my two little ones. Baby brother and sister on video are probably much easier to handle than in real life!

Now it is my turn to pass the award to blogging friends that make me smile.

My first award is so easy and obvious, going to my little sister Inside the Wendy House.

We started our blogging adventure at about the same time. We have shared so much together throughout our lives and this sharing continues in cyberspace. I help her with the odd bit of video editing and she explains to me the difference between a sponsored post and a product review. I am a very regular visitor to her blog, always finding something that makes me smile.

My second award goes to Not Met Megan.

My sister might be a bit put out by this one because Megan is her daughter and she almost certainly would want to present her with the award herself. However, Megan knows how proud her mum is of her so I wanted to get this in first so that she might know that her Auntie is proud of her too.

I wouldn't feel right about not presenting the award to my other blogging daughter, Taylor the "not a boy". She doesn't post nearly often enough but when she does it definitely makes me smile.

I seem to have taken a rather nepotistic approach to this awarding lark thus far. To remedy this I would like to suggest that one person deserves this award above all others for her fabulous weekly meme that gets us all thinking of reasons to be cheerful. All that cheerfulness in one place is guaranteed to make you smile. Thank you so much Mummy from the Heart for making me count my blessings and making it easy to bask in the cheeriness of everyone else's. Please accept this very small token of my appreciation.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Qwerty Mum Looking for a CyberMummy Sponsor

You will see from my archives that I only started this blog in September last year but now it is hard to imagine life without it. Blogging has become very important to me. I love how it gives Stay at Home Mums like myself a voice and enables us to connect with each other.

I was lucky enough to win the "Have You Got What it Takes to be a Toyolgist?" competition from Toys R Us by submitting the video below and have thrown myself into the task of reviewing the toys sent to me with great enthusiasm.


I am seeking sponsorship to attend this year's CyberMummy conference as I believe it will give me the tools to develop my blog fully over the coming months.

I am 46 years old. I have four grown up daughters from my first marriage and a son (7 months) and a daughter (nearly 3 yrs) from my second marriage. I am a keen amateur writer and photographer and more recently have developed editing skills that enable me to create videos. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to  get creative and would work hard to promote your brand should you feel I am the sort of parent blogger that your company could benefit from a partnership with.

In exchange for the cost of the CyberMummy ticket and transport (approximately £200) I would be happy, for the duration of the sponsorship, to 
  • display any company Logos or banners on my blog
  • publish dedicated blog posts for your company or products
  • provide company link in any posts relating to CyberMummy
  • review any products on my blog, including publishing videos to my YouTube channel
  • host competitions/giveaways
  • give mentions on Facebook and Twitter
  • wear any promotional clothing etc as you see fit at the CyberMummy conference
If you feel that this Social Media exposure would be of benefit to you and would like to consider sponsoring me, I would love to hear from you.

Please contact Paula Virgo:  hayley_sparkle@hotmail.com


Nuby Review - The No-Spill Easy-Grip Cup and The Flip-It Beaker

The Nuby No-Spill Easy Grip Cup is suitable for babies from 6 months. My little man is very nearly 7 months but has never known anything other than the breast. I could see straight away that this cup would make an easy transition from a bottle but I was keen to see if it was something my son would take to readily.

I used Organic mineral water with a splash of apple in the cup - a brand new taste - it was a day of firsts for a small boy.

He was very interested in the Cup, exploring with hands and mouth. The contoured shape did seem particularly suited to little hands making it easy to manoeuvre. He needed a bit of  help to get the spout to his mouth but he had a very good go by himself before I intervened.

I recently tried to introduce a dummy to my boy because I was having a lot of trouble settling him down at night. He hated it with a passion, spitting it out and shaking his head from side to side to avoid it. There was no such issue with the silicon No-Spill Spout. I could see his little tongue investigating it thoroughly. I have to admit, he didn't actually take a lot of the drink this first time but he did have a few really good mouthfuls. He had to work quite hard for it but that is prefereable to the horrible look of panic as too much liquid rushes down the unsuspecting little throat of a baby who is trying to drink from an ordinary cup.


The other huge advantage of the No-Spill Cup, of course, is the no mess element. I could happily leave the boy with minimal supervision to get on with it without fear of him soaking himself and everything around him.

The No-Spill Spout is astonishingly good. Even when given a good shake in the inverted position (cup that is, not son!), the drink remained safely contained within.

The Cup was dropped onto the tiled kitchen floor several times during this first exploration, to no ill effect.

We also tested the No-Spill Flip-It Beaker. This is recommended for babies from 9 months.

My 2 year old is perfectly capable of drinking out of a regular cup, mug, glass, straw, bottle or can. There isn't anything she can't handle.

This was a non alcoholic, sparkling fruit juice drink!
However, for her safety, my peace of mind and the sake of my carpets and soft furnishings, I prefer her to have a lidded beaker of some description for the times when she is not sat at the table.

She loved having bottled mineral water with sports caps, the same as her older sisters, but it made me cringe when I saw her using her precious little pearly white baby teeth to pull the sports cap top into the drinking position. Not wanting to discourage her from drinking water, I gave her the Flip-It beaker instead.

The Flip-It beaker was received with enthusiasm. The bright colours are appealing, it is lovely to hold and the Flip-It mechanism fascinated her. As well as being interesting to the child, there is a very practical purpose to the Flip-It top in that it protects the straw from contamination.

I am slightly worried that my daughter is prone to chewing on the straw which will cause damage. Replacement straws  are available in that eventuality.


In my previous review I asked the question:

Did Nuby deserve its reputation as "one of the world's leading baby and infant feeding brands" ?

I can now honestly say that for the innovative designs, the attention to detail, the appeal to both parent and child and the extensive range to cover just about every need, my answer to that question is a resounding YES.


You can follow Nuby on Facebook and Twitter
Please mention http://qwertymum.blogspot.com/ 
Thank You

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

ONE
I'm very definitely back on track with my weight loss plan and feeling good

TWO
My husband tells me he loves me every day and I know he means it

THREE
Little moments like this never fail to cheer me




My Top 5 Celebrities I'd Like to Punch - Listography

When I first saw this week's Listography topic, I thought I'd probably just have a week off . 'Celebrity' is something that does not interest me much and certainly does not excite me enough to inspire punch-like behaviour. I even have a soft spot for Miley Cyrus, arguably the most punch-worthy celebrity that ever walked the red carpet.

I read a few other contributor's lists and although I could certainly see their point, I still failed to reach that point where I was agreeing whole-heartedly and rolling my sleeves up to deliver the left hook.

Then I started to think about it. Really think. And I almost wish I hadn't! A flood gate of animosity was suddenly unleashed. Teeth were bared. Hackles were raised. Well, OK, I'm possibly exaggerating a bit but here are My Top 5 Celebrities I'd Like to Punch:

1. Aled Jones
Annoying choirboy famous for his recording of Walking in the Air even though it wasn't the track used in the animated version of Raymond Brigg's "The Snowman". We thought we'd seen the last of him when his voice broke but no such luck. Annoying TV presenter, mediocre singer and stark reminder of how old we're all getting, he deserves a punch.

2. Vanessa Hudgens
Now I am a big fan of High School Musical but that is in spite of the whiny, drippy female lead, not because of her. I could have forgiven her wet performance and let her off with a tut and a head shake but the Clearasil advert elevated her to 'Top 5 celebs I'd like to punch' status. This girl does not have problem skin and not even a bucket full of clearasil is going to bestow our impressionable, pasty teenagers with her perfect, glowing complexion.

3. Minnie Driver
I have absolutely no logical reason to be moved to violence by this woman. I like to think of it as some past life altercation between she and I that has left me with this skin crawling distaste I have for her. A good punch in this current incarnation might lay past wrongs to rest.

4. Fiz Brown
Jennie McAlpine who plays Coronation Street's Fiz Brown might be a perfectly lovely woman but I'd still want to punch her because she looks so much like her  in-your-face, over-the-top, incredibly annoying  alter ego. I might get my chance. I can't quite remember the date but sometime in the not too distant future I am having afternoon tea at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester with some members of the cast of Coronation Street. This was the prize from the Typhoo OO-Along competition that required you to upload a video of yourself OO-ing the iconic theme tune. My mum and my two year old OO-ed beautifully together whilst sharing a plastic tea-set cuppa and were runners up, along with my sister who blogged about her entry here.

5. Felicity Kendal
Beloved star of seventies comedy The Good Life, Felicity Kendal was cute and blonde and funny and dainty and a bit posh and simply adorable yet had an underlying sex appeal that made her irresistible. In essence, Felicity Kendal was everything I wasn't nor could ever be. As a child trying to find out who I was, finding out who I wasn't was tough. Finding role models that I could relate to helped put my Felicity Kendal inadequacy to bed but it took a long time and the mere mention of her name makes me shudder a little bit. The rational part of me sees that she is a fine woman who is growing old gracefully and should be an inspiration. The other part of me still wants to punch her. The other part wins!
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