Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Peter Rabbit Organics Juice Drinks - review

Who doesn't love Peter Rabbit...

...and who wouldn't love these Peter Rabbit Organics Juice Drinks.

We were sent the three varieties from the range to try: a pear, a blackcurrant and apple and an apple and grape.

The small 150ml size was great for little ones who struggle to finish larger drinks.

The attached straw extended to double its length making reaching to the bottom of the carton really easy with a generous amount of straw sticking out.

As a health conscious mum I loved the fact that these drinks are made of 100% organic fruit juice diluted with water - NO added sugar, NO artificial ingredients. As a mum who wants her children to be happy, I was delighted when my little girl asked for 'rabbit drink'.

For a convenient, cute and healthy drink, the Peter Rabbit Organics range is perfect.

Away from home...
... in the car...
... on the go!

Stockists include Sainsbury's, Asda, Toys R Us, Waitrose and Ocado. For more information about Peter Rabbit Organics and the full range of products visit http://www.peterrabbitorganics.co.uk/home

Friday, 27 May 2011

Flashback Friday - A Happy Time

Flashback Friday this week has the theme A Happy Time.

I did not do 'Happy' with any great conviction for much of my childhood or my adult life.  I don't think anyone would have said that I was a miserable person. I always tried to make the best of what I had and remained outwardly cheerful but there was something missing. Becoming a mum to my four beautiful daughters from my first marriage gave me a huge amount of pleasure but my 'Happy Meter' could never make all the way up the scale because so many other things were wrong with my life.

By the time my first marriage reached critical point and I knew that there was no way to salvage anything from it, I was already having the worst year of my life. An email from an old friend I had known at University came exactly when I needed it most. He was so supportive and made me feel that I could pick myself up and start again. We went to Paris together as friends and came back as lovers.

I had never known such feelings of complete happiness.

When my dad saw me for the first time after I came back from Paris, he could see it in my face that something had happened. It surprised me because I didn't think my dad was that sensitive, nor did I think I was that obvious!

I expected words of caution - people telling me the pitfalls of rushing into a new relationship on the rebound etc. But no one did. The happiness that showed on my face silenced any potential sceptics. This was real. This was love.

My future husband was living in Switzerland and our communication was by email, msn and telephone. He asked me to send him a photograph of the new smile that now reached my eyes and came from a place of genuine happiness.

My daughter took the photo. I don't think it really succeeded in capturing any mystical soul revealing expression but it does remind me of that Happy Time. The worst and best year of my life.


Reasons to be Cheerful

I am still very much an absolute beginner when it comes to knitting but with my mum's encouragement I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting with some simple patterns for soft toys. I practised technique with a tiny fish then graduated onto a slightly larger mouse which worked out quite well. I am now trying to improve my knitting stamina with a much larger stripy snake. I have never changed wool colour on a knitting project before. It is really helping me to understand how it all works. For the first row after the colour change, it is really easy to see what happens to the stitches as you knit. For the first time EVER  I have managed to correct my mistakes when I make them rather than having to start again or rely on mum to sort my mess out.

In keeping with Michelle's 'Recommend a Blogger' theme I've found plenty of knitting inspiration on Little Cotton Rabbits.

I have been doing really well with exercise recently but signing up for the Race for Life has given me an even greater incentive. I have joined a new class at the gym called 'Bodytone' but might as well be called 'One Hour of Torture'. I'm hoping that next week it will feel a little easier - but all that sweating has got to be doing me some good, right?

My three year old daughter loves going out for bike rides with daddy, usually to the canal to feed the ducks. The baby boy is just about big enough to use the bike seat now so we have bought him his own little helmet and have invested in a Tag Along Trailer Bike for his big sister. We weren't at all sure if she would be ready to make such a big step but we had a little trial in the garden and she loved it. We are heading off to the South Coast this half term to visit the grandparents and have our very first Family Cycle Ride through Friston Forest and down to the beach. I am hoping for good weather but intend to pack the waterproofs!

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy From The Heart

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Gallery - Week 60 - My Backyard

I am really lucky to have a good back garden. It was very well stocked with plants 5 years ago when we bought the house and it seems that whatever horticultural atrocity I commit, something beautiful appears as if by magic to fill the gaps that my misjudgements created.

I had all sorts of ideas about what photograph to post for this week's Gallery prompt: nature's works of art, before and after projects, outdoor parties, some of the host of wildlife that call my garden home... In the end I decided to go with an image that 'backyard' conjures to me which is much more utilitarian than beautiful.

I always enjoy warm, blowy days that are perfect for drying washing and there is something very satisfying about rows of neatly hung laundry. That was going to be my angle. A wash day photograph.

It just so happened that it was long overdue for my three year old's comfort blanket to be given the benefit of a wash cycle and some lightly scented detergent. It gets incredibly grubby as she drags it around with her.

I could not resist choosing this wash day photo for my contribution for the gallery.

It can be very hard to be parted from the things you love most in the world.

A Giant Outdoor Play Pen!

As my mum is always reminding me, my garden is not safe for small children. I have not one but two drowning hazards (or as I like to call them, my fishponds).

There are benefits to my water features. I can teach the children to respect the dangers and how to be behave responsibly. There is an amazing amount of wildlife that is attracted and can be enjoyed. And of course,  feeding the fish is something the children love to do.

So far, the only person to have ever fallen in is my husband on a particularly memorable bonfire night as he was carrying our fireworks a safe distance from where the spectators would be, ready to set them off later. The first thing I knew about it was I saw a 6'5'' dark figure hurriedly tearing his clothes off and shivering outside the conservatory. It did neither him or the fireworks any good - but that is another story!

The simple fact is though, my mum is right. My garden is not safe for small children.

It was with this in mind that we decided to build a fully enclosed decked area with access from the conservatory so that the little ones could play in the fresh air with minimal supervision whenever they wanted to. It was quite a mission turning our plans into reality with my husband doing all the work himself (with a few willing volunteers)  to keep the cost as low as possible. 

What we ended up with was a space that can be enjoyed by all the family but is essentially a giant outdoor playpen. We added a sandpit, trampoline, inflatable sofa, various outdoor toys, the occasional large cardboard box and fairy lights so the fun could continue after the sun had set. All it needed was the active imagination of a three year old for it to become an outdoor paradise. From "jumping on a moooon!" to Human Hoopla, the adventure never ends!

This is my entry to the Tots 100 Outdoor Adventure Blog Hop.

Monday, 23 May 2011

An Artist in the Family

I was very proud when two of my academically gifted children opted to do an Art GCSE after school. Neither of them had any real artistic talent but slogged their way through the course to each achieve C grades. I think the life lesson they learned persevering with something that did not come easy was extremely valuable.

I have always enjoyed art. I loved watching "Paint Along with Nancy" in the seventies with the slightly mad Nancy Kominsky who showed us that anyone can create a masterpiece. I would have liked to do an Art qualification but I hated the Art teacher at my school which put me right off. I did a one off class in still life pencil drawing as an adult but there is only a limited amount that anybody can learn in one session. I love to draw and paint within my limitations and have a whole cupboard in my garage dedicated to art and craft materials.

I makes me so happy to see my three year old experimenting with paints, chalks, felt tips, pencils and crayons. She is starting to produce some really characterful pictures.

Unfortunately, her experimentation sometimes goes down a route that is not entirely acceptable. This is what happened in the few moments when I left her and her brother playing as I put a load of washing in the machine. She decided to colour him in.

Apologies for the standard of the photography - obviously my main concern was to clean him up and comfort him after his short but intense ordeal. I did think it worth taking the second to quickly capture the moment though!

His disgruntled little brown face was soon clean and smiling again after an emergency bath and the felt tip pens are no longer as easily accessible for the three year old.

Race for Life

I have finally done it.

After many years of thinking about it, this year I have actually signed up to do the Race for Life.

I will be running my race at Weston Park in Shropshire on 24th July with my daughter, Liberty. I know that the event is much more about woman getting together, having fun and raising money for Cancer Research but I am hoping, as well, to actually achieve something I have never done before and run the 5K. I won't completely beat myself up if I have to walk for some of the way but it is my intention not to.

I am probably in the best shape I've ever been in fitness wise but there is always room for improvement. My 5K training program starts today!

I will need some new running shoes but thanks to the Race for Life stand at the Baby Show this weekend, I already have some rather splendid pink shoelaces (bound to make anyone run better!)

I am doing this in memory of my older sister who lost her life to cancer before her 36th birthday. I'd like to think that she will be watching over me, making sure the weather is perfect and giving me the encouragement to go on when I think I can't run anymore. However, I am under no illusions. If she does watch over me she will think it hilarious to give me muddy puddles to run through that turn out to be much deeper than they look and probably make sure my lovely pink shoelaces come undone with the suitably comedic struggle not to go flying as my feet tangle up in them. Whatever cosmic tricks she plays on me will be fine - after 16 years of life without her in it, the little moments I attribute to her keep the memory of her alive.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

World's Worst Mum

I think I must be the world's worst mum.

I went to the Baby Show today at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. All the big names (and some I'd never heard of) in innovative products to make mums' lives easier, more stylish and eco friendly and babies' lives safer and happier, were there exhibiting their wares in a consumer's paradise. There was no shortage of freebies, prize draws and special offers and the main stage had an impressive line up of shows to entertain and inform on such matters as baby first aid and maternity fashions.

Why then did I find it all so mind numbingly boring?

I failed to get excited by the abundance of travel systems and 'essential' baby equipment. I found the talk by the UK's leading expert on Baby Sleep a tad obvious and as for the 'natural rubber bath toys'... in the interest of politeness I will just say they were not to my taste! I also think I might have screamed if one more representative from E-on had asked me who supplies my electricity and gas. Seriously, you couldn't walk anywhere near that particular stand without being accosted.

Perhaps after having six babies, I am a bit jaded with the whole 'new mum' thing. I get on perfectly well with the few baby bits and pieces I have without feeling the need to turn my house into something that looks like the inside of Mothercare. Does this mean my babies are disadvantaged and will grow up in some way different to the children that do have access to the all-singing all-dancing V Tech range and personalised blankets?

When I had my first baby 23 years ago, I was completely and utterly absorbed with her. She occupied every waking moment. A visiting friend once laughed at me when my husband took the baby away to change her nappy and I immediately picked up a pile of photographs of her and started leafing through them. It wasn't even a conscious act. It was an absent minded desire to fill the baby shaped hole that having her taken to another room had left.

It is not the same now. This could be because babies 5 and 6 are a 'second' family - I am more mature and have been through it all already. I am starting again as new mum but I definitely feel the need to maintain a greater sense of me separate from my little ones - if only so that I can stay properly connected to the older children from my first marriage. I adore my little ones with every fibre of my being and all things considered I probably enjoy them more than my 'first time round' babies but they do not dominate my life in quite the same way.

Whatever the psychology behind what I felt today at the Baby Show, the bottom line is I was bored by it.

There were one or two exceptions.

Ella's Kitchen had a lovely stand with a cute vegetable inspired play area that my three year old loved. In fact, she stayed there under the watchful eye of her dad for quite some time while I whizzed around the exhibition hall unencumbered to see all that was on offer. I also loved the Race for Life stand and feel particularly inspired to take part now that I have been given some freebie pink shoe laces! My kids were delighted to be given a little cuddly toy each at the Bobike stand as we were having a good look at some possible solutions for the problem of to how to take two babies safely out cycling. We picked up the catalogue to peruse at our leisure. (The soft toys were cuddled all the way home until sleep loosened their grips).

"Watering" the "vegetables"  with Ella's Kitchen

As well as the Baby Show, the NEC was also hosting something called "Body Power". The trail of people walking from the car parks could be neatly classified into two types. Pregnant ladies/buggy pushers and buff body building types with clothes designed to maximise the visual impact of their exquisitely defined muscles.

Since my Sunday morning trips to the gym have started to include exercises to target particular muscle groups in addition to the cardio-vascular stuff (Dave the personal trainer can be ruthless when it comes to reps) I have noticed a very definite change in the overall look of my body. I can really understand how the whole pumping iron thing can become addictive.  I couldn't help feeling a little envious of what treats the "Body Power" people might have in store for them (demonstrations of super strength, perfect specimens glistening with accentuating oil, exercise gear to be seen in...)

Beautiful as pregnant ladies and babies are, I did crave just a little bit to be surrounded by the hunks of man flesh and the somewhat rarer women body builders in their skimpy lycra.

Yes, this world's worst mum definitely felt like she was at the wrong show!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Hasbro Preschool Games - Monkey Dunk and Pop Goes Froggio (review)

Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the demands of my energetic 3 year old so having a few games designed for her age group tucked away in the toy cupboard can provide some much needed structured entertainment.

I was pleased to be given two such games from Hasbro to review.

Monkey Dunk is a game for 2-4 players aged 4+. It is described as The Monkey Flippin' Game with the Elefun Surprise.

The game is based on the idea of Tiddlywinks but instead of flipping counters, you have specially designed plastic flippin' monkeys. Instead of an ordinary target pot into which to flip, you have four 'swimming holes' that by utilising the box and a jungle decorated cardboard back drop, creates a lagoon. The final touch that separates this game from the traditional  and relatively sedate game of Tiddlywinks is the 'Elefun popper'. The rubber ring wearing elephant character is placed into one of the swimming holes where it remains quietly until the moment that it pops up signalling the end of the round and maybe knocking your less successfully flipped monkeys into point scoring swimming holes. (I say 'point scoring' - what you actually score is banana tokens!- what else??)

The game is colourful with lots of attention to detail and I loved the plastic monkeys. It is recommended for 4+ which maybe explains why my 3 year old completely failed to master the monkey flipping technique. She tried very hard but even with the patient encouragement of the other players, she could not manage it. Despite her disappointment at not being able to participate fully, she did enjoy being on the sidelines of the manic flipping of the older participants and occasionally threw a monkey into a swimming hole with an accompanying, satisfied " I DID it!!"

This is definitely a game to go back to once her fingers are a little stronger and her manual dexterity a little more developed.

Pop Goes Froggio  is a game for 2-4 players aged 3+ and is described as The Fast-Matching Frog-Catching Game.

'Froggio' is a cute foam frog character that my 3 year old took an instant liking to (although I have to admit, it made my baby son cry for some unknown reason!). He sits on a lily pad contraption that has a 'butterfly spinner' and is attached to a foot pump. Twelve good sized 'lily pad cards' have illustrations of six different animal characters.

The idea of the game is to spin the butterfly spinner to select a character. You must then search for the character on the lily pad cards that will have been scattered about the room. Upon finding the correct card you must then run to the foot pump and stomp on it to launch Froggio into the air. If you can catch Froggio before he hits the ground, you win the lily pad card.

All the components had a lovely robust feel to them.

For younger players, it is possible to have the lily pad cards face up so it is a simple matching activity rather than memory and matching and the rules about catching can be relaxed.

My daughter loved handling the lily cards and was quickly making up her own matching games with them. She also loved trying to catch Froggio when he was launched but with limited success! Sadly, she could not quite manage to stomp hard enough to achieve anything other than a tiny movement of Froggio and an unfortunate "escaping air" sound that she found highly amusing. 'Stomping' is a technique we will have to work on!

Although we were not able to play the game exactly as intended, we still had a lot of fun and I loved that she made up her own games using the equipment too.

My daughter took great delight in showing Pop goes Froggio to her older sister's boyfriend (when she was supposed to be getting ready for bed). The foot pump was given a good test of how robust it is when he obliged her by launching  Froggio higher than we had ever managed with his size 10 policeman's foot,  rewarded with the squeals of pleasure you would expect!

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy From The Heart

Sometimes my life can feel dominated by a never ending cycle of laundry but even that is a potential reason to be cheerful. I remember once, shortly after having my second baby, sorting the clean laundry into piles on my bed ready to put away. It made me smile that as well as a pile of my clothes, a pile of man clothes and a pile of little girl clothes, there was now a pile of babygros and and soft woollen matinee jackets. I shared my joy with my sister telling her that I had four piles now. The look of deep sympathy that  showed on her face made me realise she had misunderstood. She thought I was talking about haemorrhoids!!

Celebrating a birthday has given me lots of reasons to be cheerful from the Birthday Banner  my 3 year old painted for her biggest sister and her beautiful rendition of the "Happy Birthday" song, to the Indian meal the birthday girl and her boyfriend treated my husband and I to at my favourite local Balti restaurant. (Oh and not forgetting the cake I made her!)

I don't want to speak too soon, but could that possibly be sun and blue sky I see through my window between the clouds?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Happy Birthday, Liberty

Today, my baby girl, my first born, my miraculous little treasure will be 23 years old.

I love it when people say that I must have been very young when I had her or I don't look old enough to have a grown up daughter or the old chestnut "Are you sisters?"

I was 24 years old when she burst into my life. Only one year older than she is now.

Our lives are quite different.  I was married to a man I didn't like very much - she is in a relationship with a man she admires and adores. We both made the same career choice to work in secondary schools for privileged children but I was a lab technician and she is an English Teacher. I was desperate to have a child to nurture and give me the family life I craved - she is in absolutely no hurry whatsoever to make me a granny.

I'm not sure what my no-nonsense, confident daughter would have made of the 24 year old insecure me prone to crippling bouts of depression. She probably would have had very little tolerance for me if I'm completely honest!

As she was growing up, my daughter tried desperately hard to connect with her father and earn his approval - in the books she read, the hobbies she pursued and her general demeanour. I found that quite alienating and our relationship was not without problems. I read her diary once (an invasion of her privacy I know but who can resist a peek?) She wrote Mum is a bitch - no wonder dad hates her. I'll never forget that.

My daughter didn't find that connection she was looking for with her father but our bond has grown incredibly strong over the years.

At the time of my divorce, she was my rock. She held the family together when I was falling apart. She saw inside my soul and wrote songs that expressed exactly what I was feeling. We learned to laugh together in the face of disaster. I could not have coped without her.

I am so proud of the woman my daughter has become. I love the very special adult relationship we have now and I know I can always rely on her brutal honesty.

Liberty, this post is for you. Happy Birthday. I Love You. 

In the Powder Room of the Hoxton Hotel

Picture the scene.

Here I am, standing in the Powder Room of the Hoxton Hotel, adjusting my brand new dress (that cost as much as a whole week's groceries) over my 'Trinny and Suzannah Body Shaper' enhanced figure (thank you Bitchin' Wives Club Blog for the competition to win that particular godsend) and trying to pull off the casual "I always hang out in establishments like this" persona... when who should walk in and take her place at the mirror besides me?

Who indeed? That is the question. Who would I most like to meet in the Powder Room of the Hoxton Hotel?

I have given this question a lot of thought and there is one truly inspirational woman that stands out to me and who I would be honoured to powder my nose in the presence of - and that is Katie.

No. Not Katie Price aka Jordan. As much as I love her outrageous lifestyle and admire her ability to remain firmly in the public eye, I felt so disappointed when her extravagant fairytale wedding to the lovely, but nowhere near as talented as he thinks he is, Peter Andre, ended in mundane divorce. I've never quite forgiven her.

My Katie is Katie Piper.

Life is such an unfathomably strange and fragile thing. One decision or one chance meeting can set you on a completely different path. We have no idea what might be around the next corner.

Katie Piper would almost certainly have been just another pretty face and perfect body earning a living as a model and passing under my radar had a brutal and horrific event not been waiting around her next corner.

An ex boyfriend (and I can only imagine how seriously messed up a human being he was) had arranged for an acid attack to be carried out on the poor, unsuspecting woman.

Someone throws some liquid in your face. You are shocked and dismayed and trying to make sense of what has happened. Then you feel the burning as the soft tissue literally melts away from the underlying bone. Fear. Disbelief. Utter panic as you realise that you can't breathe because acid has gone down your throat in the instant the liquid was thrown and you automatically opened your mouth in surprise. Acid that is now burning through your windpipe.

I once had a pint of maggots thrown in my general direction when I was in a queue for the cinema with a group of friends. That was bad enough.

In a moment, the acid ruined the once beautiful face of Katie Piper and nearly claimed her life.

She could have curled up an died. She could have become a bitter and twisted version of her former self. She could have the let the unfairness of it all eat her from the inside in the same way that the acid had eaten her from the outside.

She didn't.

She endured operations and pioneering treatments to rebuild her face and restore function.

Remarkably, she decided to share her story to inspire other burn victims.

She pieced her life together, walked with her head held high and worked tirelessly to promote The Katie Piper Foundation - a charity set up to help people living with facial disfigurements.

The woman is an inspiration, not just to the people coming to terms with disfigurements but to all of us who complain that we have another grey hair or a new wrinkle or a bit of excess flab.

So there I am, in the powder room of the Hoxton, adjusting and preening and feeling a little bit self conscious when in walks Katie Piper. She stands besides me at the mirror and applies lip gloss to grafted lips that have been redefined by a tattoo artist's ink. Her skin is almost reptilian in texture beneath the heavy, concealing makeup and one eye that will never see again since taking the full force of the acid attack, looks a little bit watery with a reconstructed eyelid that doesn't quite shut properly. But she IS beautiful. Completely beautiful.

She sees my reflection in the mirror smiling at hers and she smiles back. 

She makes me feel beautiful.

We are all made of the same building blocks to the same basic design yet there is infinite variety. Katie shows by extreme example how to embrace who you are and let your true nature shine through.

Who would I most like to meet in the Powder Room of the Hoxton Hotel? Katie Piper -  the woman who can show us what it really means to be beautiful.

This post is an entry to the Super Duper ITPR Cybermummy Contest.

The Gallery - Week 59 - Mustachioed

I hope Ivy (now 20 years old) will forgive me for using this photograph of her as a partially clad, quirky little bundle of loveliness.

She put the box on her head, stuck the sticker to her upper lip and called herself Grandpa.

Never did quite understand how her mind worked!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Kalms - a review

It's always the same. On the morning of my appointment with the hairdresser, my hair will fall in soft curls around my face with not a split end in sight whereas in the weeks previously it will have been a frazzled haystack.

Likewise when I agreed to review Kalms lozenges. The lozenges were sent with a press release about the importance of sleep so I erronously assumed that they were part of the Kalms sleep promoting family of products.  Despite having suffered on and off with insomnia of varying degrees of severity for years, since having what I thought was a simple and natural solution in my hand, the problem of getting to sleep completely failed to raise it's head. (Waking up was another matter altogether!)

I now realise that the Kalms lozenges are marketed as a natural stress relieving aid to be taken any time of the day, but it was too late. I had already decided to hand the review over to my ever willing mum to see if it might offer her any relief from her long term sleep issues.

Before I report her findings, I would just like to paint a quick picture of my mum's susceptibility.

As a young woman she was hypnotised by a stage hypnotist with little more than a click of the fingers and staggered around the stage, grasping her throat and pleading for water believing that she was in a scorchingly hot desert. After two minutes of talking to a man of the cloth she found religion (then promptly lost it again). She reads the Sun and believes every article is the absolute truth.

My mum is not a questioning sort of person. She is very naive and innocent but she is honest. This is an extract from her "Sleep Diary" that she kept for the purpose of the Kalms review after sucking on a lozenge at bedtime.

... although I didn't have a perfect night's sleep I can honestly say I slept for longer periods and feel a lot brighter this morning than usual

... I have started dreaming for the first time in ages.

... I had the best night's sleep I have had in ages.

... I have to admit to yet another good night's sleep.

The Kalms lozenges do not claim to be a cure for insomnia but clearly for my mum, they were having some effect. It may be that the lemon balm, which is widely used in the Mediterranean as a soothing herb, was relaxing her just enough to overcome her anxiety about sleepless nights. It may be that my mum really is so susceptible to suggestion that giving her a piece of the cardboard packaging to chew on and telling her it would make her sleep would be enough!

The lozenges are pleasant tasting, contain no artificial colours or flavours, are suitable for vegetarians and might just help relieve stress. They can't hurt so I think they have to be worth a try. I am certainly going to be keeping a packet in my medicine cabinet for those moments when I need all the help I can get. I hope they remain there gathering dust for a very long time!

Kalms Lozenges RRP £2.99 for 18

Also available: Kalms Sleep and Kalms Night One-a-Night traditional herbal remedies to help you get a good night's sleep.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Knitted Toys - from a nana with love

Ever since I bought Jean Greenhowe's Knitted Toys book from the charity shop and gave it to my mum, she has gone into overdrive on knitted toy production. Now, instead of bringing a cardi or jumper per weekly visit for one of the little ones, she brings a variety of cute, cuddly characters.

Mum is the first to admit she is learning as she goes and not all of her efforts have yielded the greatest of successes. Some of her toys would certainly never be awarded any sort of safety standard and have had to be designated 'top shelf ornamental status' lest they prove choking hazards... and her baby white mouse does actually look, to my eyes, much more akin to a super absorbent tampon rather than a twitchy whiskered rodent.

Joking aside, I absolutely adore her little creations made with love and can't help thinking that there is enormous potential there to customise with a bit of imagination.

I have dabbled with knitting at various points in my life (mostly during pregnancy) and do find it surprisingly relaxing. My mum has very generously agreed to share not just her wool and needles but her time and patience to be my knitting mentor as I attempt one or two creations of my own. As with most things, finding the time to dedicate to it is difficult so my progress is painfully slow. I have been practicing technique on a tiny little fish that only takes minutes to produce and have been so delighted to see my daughter playing fantastically imaginative games with the freaky family I have made (one in particular bears far too close a resemblance to a penis!).

I was so enjoying the knitting experience that I went out to buy my own set of needles and a ball of wool to practice with when mum and her many coloured oddments were not available.

I took my 3 year old daughter with me to buy the wool. I selected a lovely soft, neutral grey and asked her what she thought of the colour. She took it out of my hand, said "That is not good" and put it back on the shelf. She then selected a shocking pink ball, placed it in my hand and very emphatically stated "That is good".  Who was I to argue?!

What does the pink fish top right remind you of?!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

what a performance! - review

I'm always keen to try new family games so I was delighted to be offered "what a performance!' from Orchard toys to review for Izziwizzikids.co.uk.

The box boasts an action-packed game of fun for all the family and is recommended for ages 5 - adult.

My little girl is only 3 years old but I knew that with a bit of support she'd give it a good go and she was very keen to try.

The colourful board is in four pieces that fix together like a jigsaw. Counters, dice and shaker are provided as well as a spinner, activity cards, timer and a magic decoder which my little one was intrigued by. She may not be able to read yet but she enjoyed holding the decoder to her eye and pretending to read the encrypted forfeits on the reverse of the activity cards.

The idea of the game is simple. In teams or as single players you throw the dice and move around the board to the finish, landing on special instruction squares as you go. You may be instructed to do a forfeit, perform an activity or spin the spinner to choose a category on the activity card. Other players must try to guess what you are attempting to perform. A successful guess is rewarded by the guesser moving one square forward. If no successful guess is made or the player fails to do the activity, they must carry out a forfeit.

The game is fast paced with a great variety of activities.

We had a lot of fun playing but be warned that some of the activities do require a fairly generous amount of space.

This is our video review for "what a performance!"

For more "what a performance!" information and reviews see http://www.izziwizzikids.co.uk/what-a-performance-by-orchard-toys/


In much the same way as my dad's stamp collecting hobby never quite gained the status of philately, I would never call him an amateur ornithologist - but he does love his garden birds.

It is a bit of a standing joke that my dad will excitedly jump to attention saying "Jilly! Look, Jilly!" to his ever faithful wife as he points out a very ordinary bird exhibiting very ordinary bird behaviour.

Today, however, I have to say his "Jilly! Look, Jilly!" cry was the start of a bit of excitement.

I really wasn't quite sure what I was looking at as he pointed out a young bird in my garden. I grabbed my camera and my long lens and tried to capture a few shots to make sense of what I was seeing. I'm still not completely sure.

Was it some sort of tumour, a strange conjoined twin phenomenon or do you get hunchbacked birds?

The strangely deformed feathered fellow seemed quite happy hopping around the lawn and even posed for a few more photographs.

I've certainly never seen anything like it before in my garden. Any ideas?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Special Delivery from Puddletown

We had a Special Delivery from Puddletown yesterday!

The lovely Gretel Parker, creator of the Puddletown Books, sent "Peggy's Lost Pennies" along with a signed Mrs Mouse postcard as a gift for my daughter Adrian after seeing how much she had enjoyed Mrs Mouse's Cupcakes. Needless to say, Adrian was one happy little girl.

If you have not yet discovered Gretel Parker's work, you are missing a treat.

Breast is best - for fewer behavioural problems?

The BBC have reported that babies who are breastfed for at least four months are less likely to develop behavioural problems in later life. The research fails to determine whether this is because of some magical property of breast milk or is a case of mothers that breast feed have better interaction with their babies (which I'm sure will annoy mums who bottle feed and have perfectly good interactions!)

I found the whole thing to be a bit wishy washy and unsubstantiated but my opinion on breastfeeding remains resolutely unchanged.

I have breastfed all 6 of my children for well beyond four months. It wasn't always easy but it was what I wanted to do and with perseverance I have managed. I have to believe that a body that has performed the miracle of supporting a developing foetus and delivering a baby must also know what it is doing when it comes to nutrition. I trust my body to provide my growing infants with exactly what they need. So far, it has not let me down.

For me, breast is definitely best regardless of what any Oxford researcher may tell me (apart from anything else, have you ever actually tasted formula milk? It is not nice.)

The Gallery - Week 58 - Chilled Out

For my perfect chill out - just add water.

(Incidentally, this is the "After" shot to my "Before")

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Do one good thing

I do feel very lucky. I am not fantastically wealthy but I have a comfortable home and enough money to buy all the things I need. I have a supportive husband and great kids making me proud. We all enjoy good health. Such things as having clean water, food, sanitation and cleanliness are taken totally for granted. But how different life would be if access to clean water wasn't as simple as turning on a tap.... if providing food for the family wasn't as simple as a trip to the supermarket... if there was no flushable toilet.

So many people on this planet live with exactly that situation.

This year, I bought the Comic Relief merchandise and made my donation by text to 'do my bit' for people in desperate need in Africa - then promptly forgot all about them. It isn't that I don't care - who wouldn't be moved by the sight of sick, malnourished babies hanging onto life by the thinnest of threads? It's more a case of my own life getting in the way and the poignant images that we were bombarded with for the duration of the appeal quickly becoming remote and detached from reality. If I stop and think about it, I wish there was more I could do but what difference can an ordinary mum like me make?

Of course I can make a difference.  A tiny, imperceptible difference - but if enough people do the same, that quickly becomes a significant, life changing difference. And it is SO EASY thanks to the non-profit organisation Global Ethics and their One range of everyday premium products available in supermarkets.

The one range includes water, toilet tissue and hand wash and 100% of the profits from the sales of these products is used to fund a "like for like" project in Africa (for example the profits from sales of hand wash and toilet tissue will be used to fund hygiene and sanitation projects)

I love the idea that by choosing One water for my kids' lunch boxes when I am doing my weekly shop, I am not only supporting the funding of clean water projects where they are needed, I am also sharing my values. I want my children to be grateful for the things they have and care about the plight of those less fortunate. I want them to be aware and to know that they can make a difference. I want them to care.

I was pleased to be sent a selection of One products to try out.

I am already a big fan of their water. The toilet tissue and anti-bacterial hand wash are of an equally high quality. I certainly don't feel as though I will be making any compromises when I choose One over my usual brand and I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing something good, for someone else, somewhere else.

As their tag line goes, do one good thing.

For more information about One products and the good work being done as a result of ordinary people like me choosing to buy them, visit:

Monday, 9 May 2011

Ballroom Blitz and Beer at the Brewery

I have been looking forward to the second of my Alphabet Dates and this weekend it was time for:

Every Sunday, my husband and I have a ballroom dancing lesson and recently, Liberty and her boyfriend have joined our class. I love it but as with all things, if you don't practise regularly, progress is slow. There are not many opportunities to dance a waltz or quickstep and even less to tango. For our B date, we made an opportunity.

I didn't exactly plaster on the fake tan and get out the sequins but I did apply tinted moisturiser and put on a flouncy skirt. We had hired the hall where we usually have our lessons and set off in the Blue BMW armed with supplies of Buxton spring water, sparkling Badoit and chocolate Buttons. We met Liberty and partner there, closed the curtains and turned on the revolving disco ball.

Although the hall was a little empty with just the four of us, we appreciated the space to work on our routines and still managed to collide with each other. We cranked the Ballroom tunes up to an almost anti-social volume and danced till our hearts were content and our legs aching!

The second part of our date was a much appreciated pint of Beer from our new local Joule's Brewery pub.

The brewery has access to a source of natural spring water filtered through the same red sandstone that was used to build the church across the road where my girls have participated in the annual Carol concerts. This spring water is an essential ingredient in the Joule's Pale Ales. I am no connoisseur of real ale but I did thoroughly enjoy my pint (so much so that I had another!) and the local history and tradition attached to it made it all the more special. It also made me smile when I found out that physicist James Prescott Joule was a member of the Joule's family of brewers, given that my husband's early career was as a research physicist.

The pub had been extensively refurbished at the same time that the brewery was built and was so lovely inside that we decided to stay for a meal. The veggie options were a bit limited and there was nothing that fitted in with a B theme but I was pleased when our pie, chips and peas were served on Beige plates (and I added plenty of Brown sauce!)

When we got home from our slightly extended B date, both the baby and the babysitter were fast asleep.

Big THANKS to LibertyFallsDown for the Alphabetti Spaghetti inspired icons.
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