Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Hallowe'en

My little ones are tucked up asleep in their beds, Ivy has returned to Uni after her Hallowe'en weekend visit and my teenage girls have retired to their rooms to do whatever it is they spend so many hours in their rooms doing.

The candles that have been casting their eerie light over our proceedings this evening are all but burnt out.

It is my moment to reflect.

It has been a hectic but satisfying Hallowe'en.

My three year old had her weekly dance class this afternoon. The little dancers were allowed to forget the strict dress code for one day and wear their Hallowe'en outfits if they wished. My Addy was not at all convinced by this having only just become the proud owner of pink leotard, tutu, tights and crossover.

I managed to persuade her to wear part of a witches costume - a purple and black tutu - in place of her pink regulation ballet skirt. She then surprised me by insisting on having "green eyes".

I wondered if she had been inspired by the eye make up worn by Jason Donovan on this weekend's Spooktacular Strictly. I am not very adventurous with my make up palette and knew that I had no green eye shadow so I got out the face paints and had visions of painting delicate pumpkin tendrils from the outside edge of her eyelids, weaving organically across her brow. She protested saying quite adamantly that she wanted green eyes. I had no idea what she meant until she marched off to the dressing up box and came back with this glow in the dark alien mask, presented it to me as if I was an idiot and said "See - green eyes".


(It may not be obvious from the photograph but the eye portion is made from green plastic and when you wear the mask, the world has a decidedly green tint)




By now, we were actually looking like we might be late for the start of the class, and I remembered that the car needed filling up with fuel so I didn't argue.

We were only a tiny bit late. Addy joined her class.

During the sessions, most mums wait in the kitchen area. It is just possible, if you bend down and squint, to see through a tiny gap at the bottom of the interconnecting serving hatch shutter into the dance hall. I couldn't resist taking a peek.

It was a delight to see the tiny tots prancing daintily in their lacy, sparkly witch costumes.... and my Addy clomping enthusiastically behind in her oversized glow in the dark alien mask! Full marks to her for individuality and eagerness.

Back home, we added a few finishing touches to our Hallowe'en decorations with some half price bargains I picked up earlier and we all sat down together to a gothic banquet of veggie sausage, egg, chips, beans and ketchup (Addy's choice!)

It is so important to me that my children grow up with great memories of their childhood and I hope that Hallowe'en at our house will rank highly amongst them.

My bowl of treats prepared for any trick or treaters that came calling remains untouched. I guess the damp weather put them off and they settled for buying their own treats from the selection of half price merchandise that the retailers are so keen to be rid of to make way for Xmas stock.

Hold onto your witches hats - Christmas is definitely coming!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloweekend

It's been a busy week this half term with our ongoing DIY projects and various trips and outings but I was determined not to let Hallowe'en go neglected.

We decided to have a Hallowe'en Weekend (or a Halloweekend if you like).

I made a Dexter inspired tablecloth (clear plastic packing material spattered with red acrylic paint) and baked cupcakes that I decorated with chocolate buttercream and spooky plastic rings bought from B&M bargains (9 for 79p). The kids loved them and enjoyed licking buttercream off the rings before wearing. Only 2 year old nephew Freddy actually tried to eat the ring!


We also made apple and ginger muffins, spooky shaped gingerbread and a fruit crumble with a Jack Skellington face impressed into the topping - but I forgot to take photos!

As well as themed baking we had fun with Hallowe'en arts and crafts. We made a very simplified version of the gorgeous paper banner described by Lightly Enchanted (her's is a million times better than ours but ours did only take seconds to make!)


These are my silhouette monsters that I made when challenged by my eldest daughter who was inspired by a photograph that she saw on the internet.


I was quite pleased that I hadn't been able to bring myself to throw out the bunch of red roses that my husband surprised me with a while ago. The faded blooms made a great starting point for dressing our mantlepiece.


Candles added the perfect ambience but we were reminded of the importance of diligence in extinguishing them by my eldest's Fireman boyfriend.

We all took the opportunity to dress up with looks from the hauntingly beautiful to the plain cute.


We have packed a lot of Hallowe'en fun into this weekend and we still have Monday to celebrate the time when the veil between worlds is thin (including a rather special gift from an equally special friend).

HAPPY HALLOWE'EN EVERYONE!

Friday, 28 October 2011

And the winners are...

The winners of my Entertainment One DVD Giveaway have been randomly selected and are as follows:

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom: The Tooth Fairy



Peppa Pig: International Day and Other Stories



Please provide me with your details so that I can forward them to the PR company who will send you your prize.


Thank you to everyone that entered.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

G is for Glamour with Groupon


For anyone who has not yet discovered Groupon, it is well worth checking out. Every day, they offer deals on such things as restaurants, beauty treatments and leisure activities in your chosen city. As much as I love the big discounts, what I really love is the email popping up in my inbox giving me ideas of things to do that I might otherwise never have thought of.

My husband also gets the emails and when he saw a deal on a Boudoir Photography Session, he bought it for me.

When he told me about it, I wasn't sure whether to be excited by the idea or run screaming. It was definitely something well outside of my comfort zone - I am usually the one firmly on the other side of the camera taking the photos!

In the spirit of embracing opportunities, I bought myself some gorgeous new underwear and tried not to dwell too much on the fact that I am 47 years old and have had six children.

We decided to wrap the Boudoir shoot up in our G Alphabet Date (it was purchased from Groupon and it was all about Glamour - perfect).

The day before our date, my husband took care of the kids and cooking the tea while I had as long as I liked to pamper myself with a relaxing soak in our recently mended whirlpool bath (I have really missed those bubbly baths in the years it has been non-functioning because a tiny plastic pipe had slipped off). I  applied numerous lotions and potions, painted my nails and did my hair (by "did" I only mean wash and brush - I am not very good with hair!) I felt great to indulge my girly side.

I got my different sets of underwear ready and packed shoes to complement the different looks.

My husband had presented me with a large gift box tied with an ivory ribbon. I was nervous about opening it because I struggle to ever buy lingerie for myself that fits so how on earth could he possibly succeed. In the past he has bought me clothes that, to my complete surprise, have fit perfectly. This time, his luck had run out. The item he had chosen for me was black, lacy, gorgeous and in my size but looked hideous on. It wasn't just a little bit wrong - it didn't fit anywhere! I felt guilty that his efforts had been wasted and bad that my body was so freakish. However, this was not the time to start being plagued with negative body image thoughts so I did my best to get over it. He had bought me some lovely seamed stockings that would fit fine and saved me a frantic trip out on a  hosiery hunt.

The photo shoot was booked for 10.30am and it was over an hours drive to get there so an early start was necessary to make sure I had time to put my make up on. Despite being bleary eyed, I did enjoy the excuse to get glamorous.

I will write all about the Boudoir shoot in a separate post when I have the photos but for now I will just say that I spent two very interesting hours under the guidance of a lovely lady who put me at ease, shared a joke and certainly seemed to know what she was doing. During this time, my husband was amusing himself nearby getting his car washed, having a haircut and playing a game of snooker. He was ready to pick me up once I was finished.

It might seem a bit odd to go on a 'date' where you spend such a big chunk of time not actually together but it gave us plenty to talk about when we met back up. We drove with the soft top down on the car and the sun shining (that always makes me feel carefree) and stopped for lunch at a country pub. We didn't manage to find a pub that began with G to fit in with the alphabet theme but there was Good food, Good company and a Glass of beer. Who could ask for more?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Knee Disaster

My husband is of the habit of using his knee to support pieces of wood that he is drilling into if he feels the scale of the job does not justifying getting out his work bench. He has been doing some DIY this weekend - part of which has involved drilling. When he shouted down the stairs to me that he had had a Knee Disaster my heart leapt into my throat in the way that hearts do when you are not quite sure what to expect and by the time I was powering up the stairs, my adrenaline was really pumping.

What my husband had actually shouted down the stairs to me was that he had had a Mini Disaster. Both of his knees were still intact (which is something of a pre-requisitite for a keen ballroom dancer). My wall was slightly less intact!

It was such a relief that I did not have blood and mangled cartilage to contend with that dealing with a mess of rubble on my carpet and having a fairly substantial hole to patch up seemed inconsequential.


My husband was full of apologies for his miscalculation with the drilling that had caused the problem  but for me it was reminder of how precious my loved ones are, how vulnerable human flesh is and how important it is to stay focussed on the things that really matter.

I will clean up the mess, I will fill the hole and repaint the wall so it is as good as it ever was. But most importantly, when I dance with my husband next week, I will appreciate it so much more.

Silent Sunday

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Littlest Angel

The Littlest Angel is a classic children's story by Charles Tazewell. In the 60 plus years that it has been in publication, there have been many reworkings and film adaptations.

Brand new for Christmas 2011, is yet another film adaption on DVD.


There is no denying that the animation used in this latest version is stunning, the characters varied and interesting and Ron Perlman's gorgeous voice is perfect for God. The story telling is fast paced with plenty of humour as well as some poignant and heartwarming moments.

This is the story of the Littlest Angel in Heaven who is struggling to adapt to his new existence and the expectations there are of him. He misses his life on Earth, in particular, a box of boyhood treasures that he has left behind. It is a story of friendship, bending the rules, doing what your heart tells you and ultimately triumphing.

Why then did I just not like this film?

The reason I struggled to enjoy this film, despite all the good qualities, was that it was hard to get over the fact that the Littlest Angel is who he is because the little boy he was on Earth has died. This tragedy is glossed over but much emphasis is made on how homesick he is and how much he misses his old life. When he returns to Earth, it is not the memory of a loving family that drives him - it is to retrieve a treasure box hidden beneath the floorboards of his old bedroom. Perhaps the parent part of me finds this so fundamentally wrong that I can't see beyond it.

The fact that the story has endured for so many years must mean that my opinion is not widely shared.

It is a visually beautiful film and does give a whole new perspective to the story of the First Christmas from the point of view of the angels but for me,  it probably won't make it to my "must see family viewing for Xmas" list.

Having said that, this morning my little girl asked "Can I watch angel film again?" Who am I to argue?

For your chance to win a copy of The Littlest Angel on DVD and judge for yourself if this story deserves its beloved reputation, simply
  • follow my blog and leave a comment below with a means of contacting you.
For an additional entry
  • tweet   " #WIN a copy of The Littlest Angel on DVD http://qwertymum.blogspot.com/2011/10/littlest-angel-giveaway.html?spref=tw @PaulaHaylock  " and leave a separate comment below to say you have done so.

Winner will be chosen at random from all entries on Friday, 11th November 2011 (11/11/11)
UK only

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bizu Style Studio

I did have some concerns when I was sent the Bizu Style Studio from Spinmaster for review. Firstly, my little girl is rather young for the target market of 6+ although with the help and encouragement from her older sisters, there is little she can't manage. Secondly, it seemed a lot more plastic and gimmicky than the sort of toys that I usually buy for my children. However, with an open mind I got stuck into the review.


The kit contained
  • a selection of beads to create  jewellery, including 4 animal character heads
  • a plastic tower with rotating trays to organise and store your beads and help you to design your creations
  • templates with suggested designs
  • 4 elastics 
  • threading tool
  • 2 key chain attachments.

The kit can be used to make 4 character bracelets that  link together to make a necklace or by using the key chain attachments, turned into charms. You can follow the template designs or create your own unique bead combinations. 

Organising the beads into the tower was quite a challenge for a three year old but she did enjoy it I am sure that the slightly older girls that this product is aimed at would take great delight in the process. Rotating the trays to experiment with different combinations of beads gave you an idea of quite how much variety it was possible to work into the designs (I haven't checked the maths but apparently 40 beads will give you a possible 15,000 combinations!). There was a fun element once you had made your choice - twisting the top of the tower dispenses your beads down a spiral chute into a collecting tray. 

With the aid of the special tool, the beads are threaded onto the elastic manually. I was worried that this might be a bit fiddly but it wasn't at all. Once the tool was removed, the bracelet was ready to wear.

We were not terribly adventurous with our designs, sticking quite closely to the templates provided, but the jewellery can be dismantled fairly easily to make new creations if you should change your mind. 

The really fun thing about this set was that with two little twists (a little bit like making balloon animals but very much simpler) your bracelets transform into cute little collectible characters and back again.


Additional sets of beads are available with 35 different characters to collect in Glam, Funky, Rock and Wild themes.

I am always a little wary of products that encourage 'collecting' because of the potential cost implication of completing collections but they do seem to be increasingly popular. For aspiring jewellery designers and lovers of cute collectibles the Bizu Style Studio could make a great Christmas present. 

Available from Argos, Asda, The Entertainer, Sainsbury's, Smyths, Tesco, Toys R Us (RRP £19.99)

For more information visit www.thebizuworld.com

Win £500 worth of Baby Goodies with Infacol

Having had six children across 3 decades, there is not much that fazes me in terms of parenting any more but as a young first time mum all those years ago, I clearly remember struggling to adapt to having a tiny baby to care for. My first born suffered badly with colic and I felt such a failure when nothing I did seemed to calm her or take away her discomfort.  For this reason, I am very happy to be helping to spread the word about an initiative by Blog Match and Infacol, the UK's leading colic relief treatment, to give one lucky person the chance to win £500 worth of baby goodies and raise awareness of colic in the process.

*****

Infacol’s new social media pages officially launched on 3rd October 2011 (Facebook / Twitter / Blog / YouTube) and together, are dedicated to creating the ultimate parenting and baby wellbeing social community where you can learn, share tips and advice and get updated on all things relating to the wellbeing of your new addition - with a focus on colic of course.

To celebrate the launch of this new initiative, Infacol are running a sweepstake competition on their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/infacol), the prize being approximately £500 worth of baby related goods.

COMPETITION DETAILS:
It’s simpleJust ‘Like’ the new Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Infacol) then answer 3 colic related questions correctly and follow the instructions to enter the contest - one lucky winner will be picked to win the prize on 2/11/11.

Competition Start Date: 3/10/11
Competition Finish Date: 1/11/11

The Prize: The goody bag contains an exciting range of premium brand unisex baby related goods, ideal for a newborn. The actual contents of the goody bag remain secret but the total value is equivalent to £500 of goods (RRP). 

Why Choose Infacol?

·       Relieves infant colic and griping pain and assists in bringing up babies’ wind
·       It is suitable to use from birth onwards (unlike gripe waters, which can only be given to babies over a month old)
·       Infacol has an integrated dropper so there’s no need to struggle with a spoon
·       It is sugar, alcohol and colourant free, as well as value for money, as it contains up to 100 doses (RRP  £4.20 for 50ml dropper). 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Thomas & Friends Clock Jigsaw

With so many all-singing-all-dancing toys and games available to buy these days, it can be easy to forget the value of the simpler, traditional varieties such as the humble jigsaw puzzle.

We have always loved jigsaws in our house and as my children grew older it became something of a Christmas tradition to get a new (ever more challenging) puzzle, start it on boxing day and see how quickly we could have it finished.

Most of our puzzle collection (in particular, those aimed at younger children) was donated to charity when divorce meant I had to move home. Had I known then that in a few short years I would be starting a second family with my new partner, I would never have parted with them. At least this way it means I  get to start a whole new collection.

This Thomas & Friends jigsaw by Ravensburger is exactly the sort of puzzle I will be looking for to go under the Christmas tree this year.


I have to confess that I am not a huge fan of Thomas the Tank Engine but my little boy did enjoy pointing at the pictures of the trains so maybe it is time for me to rethink! At 16 months, he was more interested in throwing the jigsaw pieces than working out how they fit together but my daughter is very good with puzzles.


At 3 and a half years, she might be considered a little young for a 60 piece puzzle (the recommended age is 4+) but with some help from her big sister and a lot of encouragement, it was not beyond her.

The puzzle pieces were a lovely size for little hands and made of robust card. They slotted together firmly to create a finished picture that did not break apart too easily.

As well as being a quality jigsaw puzzle, there was an additional feature which I absolutely loved - movable clock hands. This added a whole new level of fun and learning.


My daughter enjoyed playing with the clock and moving the hands into different positions. I can clearly remember how hard I found telling the time as a child so anything that can assist with the mastery of this difficult skill has to be a good thing.


Ravensburger have launched six new puzzles as part of its Thomas range (including this one which was sent to me for review) to coincide with the DVD release of Thomas & Friends: Day of the Diesels. They are well worth checking out.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Peppa Pig

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom: The Tooth Fairy has been a huge hit in our house. My daughter likes to have her daily dose of "Elves and Fairies" when she returns home tired from her morning at Nursery school. She is more than happy to watch the same episodes over and over again but for my own sanity I prefer to introduce some variety. To this end, I was very happy to receive a copy of Peppa Pig -International Day and other Stories on DVD for review.


Peppa Pig- International Day and other Stories is due for release on Monday, 24th October 2011. With eleven fun filled episodes featuring the unmistakable Peppa Pig and her family, it is sure to provide plenty of entertainment to keep little ones happy.

There is lots to like about this DVD: the cast of cute characters, the quirky animation, the catchy theme song, the simple story telling. For me, the best part has to be the laughter and the oinking!

For more fun with Peppa Pig visit www.peppapig.com


Entertainment One have kindly supplied a copy of the DVD (RRP £12.99) to giveaway. For a chance to win:


  • help me get to 200 followers by following my blog via GFC and leave a comment below with a means of contacting you (eg Twitter ID)
For additional entries:
  • Like QWERTY Mum facebook page
  • Tweet " WIN a copy of Peppa Pig - International Day & Other Stories on DVD @PaulaHaylock  http://qwertymum.blogspot.com/2011/10/peppa-pig-giveaway.html?spref=tw "
Leave separate comments below to say you have done so.



Winner will be drawn at random from all comments on Friday 28th October.
(UK only please)
Good Luck!


COMPETITION CLOSED




ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Moshi Monster Clay Buddies

This week saw the launch of a new pocket money collectable from E-Max - Moshi Monster Clay Buddies.

The Moshi Monster brand is already well established through the online game which involves adopting and caring for a pet monster and completing various puzzles to earn rewards that can be exchanged for virtual items for your adopted pet.

The new collectible adds an element of hands on creativity to the brand.

Each blind foil pack (which retail at £2.99) contains modelling clay, cardboard Moshi features and an adoption booklet with instructions on how to make your Moshi monster and information about the character. There are 48 different characters in the range to collect.

It was quite exciting opening the pack to see what was inside but no doubt there is the downside of disappointment when you find that you have just bought a character that you already have in your collection. They wouldn't be quite so easy to swap with friends as trading cards.

The modelling clay was a good quality - vibrantly coloured and easy to work. It was nice to see the children engaged in squishing, squeezing, rolling, and flattening  activities. The instructions were very clear  and it did not take long to create a reasonable model. The video shows our progress as we attempted to make our very own 'Luvli'.


A brand new website, www.myclaybuddies.com, is being created in conjunction with the launch of the Moshi Monster Clay Buddies, giving children the opportunity to upload pictures and videos of their models.

None of my children are really of the age to get excited by Moshi Monsters but I can certainly understand the appeal and the Clay Buddies would definitely make great little stocking fillers.

Moshi Monster Clay Buddies are available to buy from Toys R Us, The Entertainer, Smyths, Next and Hobbycraft.

****
UPDATE
Moshi Monsters Clay Buddies are now on Facebook

Mac's Back!

After my computer catastrophe, I was left using my husband's laptop which was slower and had a much more compact keyboard than I'm used to (which made for some interesting typos).

However, thanks to the kindness and generosity of a good friend, I am now back in business with a new keyboard and a fully restored Mac. I was only without my machine for a very short time but I can't even begin to tell you how much I missed it. I hope I have learned my lesson about liquids and proximity to sensitive equipment but just in in case, I will be committing this handy hint to memory:

...upside down in the airing cupboard in a bag of (uncooked) rice is usually the best bet for rescuing soaked technology.



Wednesday, 12 October 2011

tinyme

One of the unexpected things that I have enjoyed on my blogging journey has been finding out about some wonderful products that might otherwise have passed me by.

Last night, I was invited to a blogger event in the beautifully restored Oundle Mill in Northamptonshire, hosted by Blog-Match for an Australian company launching in the UK - tinyme.

Tinyme specialise in high quality, affordable, personalised designer items primarily for kids with  a range of products that includes wall art, labels, bags, diaries, calendars and much more.


We were treated to an informative presentation  followed by a lovely meal and the opportunity to chat to the infectiously enthusiastic Aussie founders of the company. Their sense of fun with a geeky attention to detail was strongly reflected in their products.

Personalising and ordering products is done via their website tinyme.co.uk. It is very easy to use and with all the colour, design and font options as well as the ability to add your child's name,  you can create a unique end product. I had fun playing around with designs for my daughter who has just started dance classes and will need something to carry all her gear.




Anyone looking for personalised labels will find a great deal with a selection 150 premium quality labels for just £23.99. The only difficult thing is deciding which of the many, gorgeous designs to choose.

A preview of my choice of design for premium quality labels 

By signing up to the tinyme newsletter  you can qualify for a 10% discount on orders over £35 as well as having access to an exciting range of completely FREE tinyme Printables. (I absolutely love the cupcake toppers!)

Find tinyme on Facebook and follow on Twitter for all the latest news and offers.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

RIP Steve Jobs and my Mac

Within a week of the death of genius innovator and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs,  my Mac has also come to an untimely end. In the case of my Mac, it has more to do with the water that I spilt on it than anything else but I like to think there is a cosmic connection.

The trouble is,  my husband doesn't like me spending time on the computer when he comes home from work. I don't blame him. We are always complaining that we don't get enough time together so we shouldn't waste the opportunities we have. However, if I am in the middle of something, I do like to finish it.

So I was working away on the computer and he was expressing his annoyance in the nicest possible way by being very attentive and asking if he could get me anything. What I really needed was five more uninterrupted minutes and then he could have had my complete undivided attention. I settled for a drink of water. There was further discussion about whether he should open a new bottle of sparkling water rather than give me the dregs of the old bottle that would have lost its fizz. I was really losing my train of thought by now and getting frustrated as well as feeling guilty for my preoccupation with something relatively trivial. I told him to just give me the dregs. He did. He plonked the flimsy 2 litre plastic bottle on the desk beside me - with the lid off. It was an accident waiting to happen. It happened.

I thought I'd got away with it. After all, there was only a little water in the bottle and I had reacted quickly to prevent too much of it going on the keyboard. Everything seemed OK until the lower case letters all started to appear as capitals and finally stopped appearing at all.

Although it was my clumsiness that caused the accident, my husband did feel partly responsible for leaving the lidless bottle there in the first place. He tried to fix things. Had any of his banging, shaking and blasting with a hairdryer actually worked, I would have hailed him a genius and been forever in his debt. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case.

My Mac sits in dark, mournful silence. A fitting tribute to Steve Jobs but a huge loss to me.

Monday, 10 October 2011

My top 5 Worst Dates - Listography

1. My best friend didn't have much luck with men so when she had the chance of going out with a guy she really fancied but needed another girl to go along because he had his mate with him, she begged me to go. How bad could a blind date be? It might actually be fun.

I was not attracted to my date at all but tried to be polite and interested whilst my friend had her tongue further down her man's throat than I thought medically possible.

My date was keen to tell me all about the tattoo that he was having done over his entire back. It was so big that it had to be done and stages and the first stage was completed and healing. He was quick to whip his shirt off in the pub to reveal  his swollen, scabby, infected inked skin with testosterone pumped pride. It was grotesque.

I didn't have the pleasure of admiring the finished tattoo. After he drove me home and I used my best evasive moves to avoid the goodnight grope, I never saw him again.

2. I was chatted up in the Student Union swimming pool once. The guy had gorgeous blue eyes and dark hair and looked pleasantly muscular from what I could see through the water. We swam, we trod water as we chatted. He was the president of the University Photographic Society and as I had recently purchased my first SLR camera, I found him very interesting. He offered to show me around his darkroom.

I was all of a flutter as I primped and preened in the swimming pool changing rooms knowing that he would be waiting outside for me.

At first, I thought I'd been stood up but then he called my name to get my attention. My eyes had completely failed to register his presence because he was a tiny little man. At 5' 9" I absolutely towered over him. The swimming pool had disguised the fact that I was tall and he was short and I think we were both a little embarrassed.

I took an uncomfortable speed tour of the dark room and changed my mind about joining the Photographic Society.

3. In the time that I affectionately refer to as 'between husbands',  I dabbled with internet dating. One chap that I met up with had described himself as 5' 10" but later explained that since he had stopped playing rugby he had shrunk 3 inches. His lack of stature was less of a problem than the fact that within minutes he wanted me to live with him in an eco house in the forest and have his babies. It was all a bit desperate.

4. Another of my internet dates turned out to be not quite what I was expecting. Given that it was a non-smoking, vegetarian dating site, it was a bit of a shock when he ordered steak and started rolling his own.  In his defence, he had found out about the site from an advert in an Outdoor Pursuits publication that he subscribed to and he was a fit outdoorsy type. We got on really well for a while but never well enough for me to feel comfortable about introducing my children to him. When it stopped being fun I sent him a text to end the relationship  -  that was before I found out that text dumping was a social faux pas.

5. I didn't ever really 'date' my first husband - we knew each other because we shared a student house and just sort of drifted into a troubled relationship in much the same way as we drifted into a troubled marriage. Our honeymoon sums it up. Our actual wedding was all done on the cheap as we were very short of money but we pushed the boat out for a honeymoon in Paris. Fairly shortly after arriving in arguably the most romantic city in the world, he trod in dog sh*t. I laughed. He didn't find it funny. End of honeymoon!


For more Worst Dates visit the  Listography Linky at guest host Typecast

Friday, 7 October 2011

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom


From the creators of Peppa Pig, comes the BAFTA Award winning animated show Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom.

Last Monday saw the DVD release of Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom: The Tooth Fairy featuring 10 charming episodes. My 3 year old daughter was spell bound by the magical world of elves and fairies and I have to admit to laughing out loud at the episode "The Woodpecker".

Entertainment One have kindly supplied a copy of the DVD to giveaway (RRP £12.99). For a chance to win, simply follow my blog on GFC and leave a comment below with a means of contacting you should you be the winner (eg twitter ID).


For an additional entries:
  • Like QWERTY Mum facebook page
  • Tweet " WIN a copy of Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom: The Tooth Fairy @PaulaHaylock http://qwertymum.blogspot.com/2011/10/ben-hollys-little-kingdom-giveaway.html?spref=tw "
Leave separate comments below to say you have done so.

Winner will be drawn at random from all comments on Friday 28th October.
(UK only please)
Good Luck!

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED


Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz


I love the films that you can sit down and watch with your little ones and really enjoy. Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz was one of them.

It was actually very faithful to the version of The Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, complete with flying monkeys and classic songs, but faster paced and with additional roles for Tom, Jerry and Tuffy the Munchkin Mouse.  These additional roles fitted seamlessly into the story telling whilst retaining the familiar "Tom and Jerry" characteristics that we all know and love (including the fact that they do not talk). The animation was beautiful and the musical score was perfect.

One thing that appealed to me was the more subtle humour that would most likely go right over younger viewers' heads but shows that the film producers respect the adult audience.

Special features on the disc include a Classic version of the film where the opening and closing sequences set in Kansas are filmed in sepia tones. I actually preferred this version but it is a touch that would probably detract from the experience for young children.

The film runs for just under an hour which is perfect for those whose interest cannot be sustained for longer feature films (I would have to include my husband in that category!)

I always know when a film has been a hit with my 3 year old daughter. When we got to the end of this one, she turned to me with bright eyes and asked "Can we watch it again?"

For more DVDs for Xmas ideas see:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Shame they have to grow up

I bumped into a neighbour yesterday who looked at my son, remarked how much he had grown and then added "It's a shame isn't it". Another neighbour who had been holding his chubby little hand and cooing at him said that once the dimples on their knuckles disappear they are not worth knowing.

I will never understand this attitude.

I know that they don't really mean it. They are good people who have brought their own children up well but  I couldn't say those kinds of things even in jest. It would seem like an enormous betrayal.

I admit that there is something miraculous about a tiny, vulnerable newborn and I do miss that feeling of holding my own precious infants to my breast and being totally connected. Surely though, part of the miracle is the huge potential of that child to grow and develop and become their own person.


I have loved each and every stage of my four older daughters growing up and I feel incredibly blessed to have a second chance to witness it all again with my two late in life babies.

I love being a mum and playing the part I play in guiding my children on their journey through life. They constantly surprise and delight me and I continue to learn so much from them.

There is something very special about babies but even when my son's soft, chubby, dimpled hands become big gnarly man ones, he will always be my little boy. He will always be special. I will always love him. In the meantime, I will enjoy every moment.

DVDs for Xmas

My kids have always loved getting DVDs for Christmas. In fact it is something of a running joke in our house how they make a beeline for the "DVD shaped boxes" under the Christmas tree.

In the run up to Christmas I will be reviewing several DVD titles as well as hosting a giveaway or two. I hope it will give you some potential gift ideas  or just put you in the mood for one of my favourite past times - snuggling up on the sofa with the family to watch (as my 3 year old daughter would put it) a gweat feeyulm. Get the popcorn ready, here we go...



Humf is a British made animated children's TV series that airs on Nick Jr. Each episode is 7 minutes long and features "fluffy thing" Humf as he discovers the world around him with a host of other loveable characters that make up Humf's family and friends.

It has a very accessible story telling style with Caroline Quentin doing a fantastic job of providing the narration. The simple animation and catchy background music make it ideal for pre-schoolers. I particularly like that the stories deal with the sort of situations that young children encounter and the voices of  Humf and his friends are provided by children. Humf may be a small purple furry thing but he is very easy to relate to.

The DVD includes 10 episodes plus a bonus disc with a further 6 episodes - plenty to keep little ones entertained.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Scoot n Pull

Everyone wants their children to be healthy and have an active lifestyle. I never like to discourage my daughter when she asks to take her scooter to the park but I know that she will tire and I will end up carrying it. I was intrigued by the Scoot n Pull which promises to eliminate this nuisance. I was sent one to try out.


The Scoot and Pull is really just a strong strap with a D loop and a handle. You put the strap around the vertical bar of the scooter, thread it through the D loop and tighten to secure. It is then ready to pull your child along on their scooter when their little legs have had enough of self propelling. It is as simple as that.


The strap is really easy to put on and off (which is vital because it would be a potential hazard to leave on when not in use). The handle part is comfortable to use and it is brightly coloured.

As a bonus, looping the  handle over back wheel of the scooter whilst the Scoot n Pull is still attached effectively creates a carrying strap (although this did not work on our scooter because the wheels are unusually large and chunky).

For us, there was an additional bonus. Unlike my son, my daughter doesn't seem to have much of an intuitive grasp of steering. When I am pulling her along, she can concentrate solely on the steering (which hopefully will allow her improve enough to not grow up into one of the cliched 'women drivers'!)

The video shows how we got on when we road tested our Scoot n Pull on a trip to our local supermarket. You will see that it is a very simple but effective device that did exactly what I needed it to do.


For more information on Scoot n Pull visit www.scootnpull.co.uk

Head Lice? No thanks.

With four daughters already having made their way through the school system, I am no stranger to the horrors of unwanted, six legged guests taking up residence on scalps. How is it that even thinking about head lice makes your scalp itch?

My youngest daughter is only just starting out on her school journey and I am bracing myself for the dreaded letter home warning of an outbreak. 

As well as regular checking and combing with lots of conditioner, there is now another weapon in my arsenal against the parasitic creepy crawlies - Linicin Prevent Spray.


Linicin Prevent Spray is suitable for use from 2 years to adult, is non toxic and contains no insecticides. The colourless spray has a not unpleasant odour and can be applied daily.

I would not be comfortable about overusing this product regardless of the reassurances that it is completely safe but during periods of high risk of infestation a quick repellent squirt would be infinitely preferable to the alternative of hours of combing or using the chemical treatments to be rid of the beasties. I would also be strongly inclined to use this product to prevent re-infestation. One application should last 7 hours and each bottle contains enough for approximately 30 applications.

The spray is easy to use and completely unnoticeable. Whether or not it is effective in repelling lice I can't say with any certainty until I find myself at war again but it is a very welcome addition to my medicine cabinet. Let those monstrous little bugs do their worst. I'm ready for them!!

The Gallery - Week 77 - Colour

My daughter brought home her first art work from Nursery School this week. I was more excited than she was. I congratulated her on her choice of beautiful autumn colours and asked her what it was. She shrugged nonchalantly and said "It's just paint". I guess sometimes you're simply not that inspired!





Monday, 3 October 2011

My Top 5 Worst Jobs I've Done - Listography

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If you don't count being a mum (which is the best job in the world despite the long hours, no pay and unreasonable expectations) I have only had five jobs in my life so my Listography Top Five Worst Jobs I've Done can include my entire employment history. I will list them in chronological order rather than any other sort of ranking system.

1. Peter Lord Shoe Shop, Slough.
As a first experience in the work place, this wasn't terrible. My starting pay was £5 for a Saturday which seemed like an awful lot to me back then. I enjoyed the shoe fitting training and really liked when the new parents came in with their little ones to buy their first shoes. I also enjoyed the old ladies with their bunions who were looking for the wider fitting shoes that Clarks specialised in. Although it would get me in trouble for wasting time, I never hurried the old ladies that wanted to chat and tell you their whole life story.

There were a few things I hated about the job. One was the pressure to add sundries to your sale. The manager would hover at your side to make sure you gave the customer the opportunity to purchase the recommended (overpriced!) cleaner. Another was being able to see my non-working peers hanging out in the shopping centre having fun while I smiled politely at customers in my uncomfortable floral blouse that was required dress.

2. Solarbo Kitchens, Bath
For somebody that is not very comfortable talking on the phone, this was an odd choice of job for me. I didn't exactly choose it. It just sort of landed in my lap at a time when I needed to find work. I sat in a small kitchen showroom in a rather lovely part of Bath, showing potential customers the range of kitchens available and following up telephone leads. My primary purpose was to set up appointments with the salespeople for which I would receive commission.

I loved the kitchens but I didn't have to work there long to realise that customer satisfaction and value for money were very far down on the list of priorities for the company. There was a Watchdog style investigation and the showroom was closed down. The company was dissolved.

This may not have been a high point in my 'career' but I did learn a lot about Kitchen planning!

3. WH Smiths, Bath
I was a Christmas temp at WH Smiths after my kitchen showroom job suddenly ceased to exist. I quite enjoyed working on the tills and trying to spread a little seasonal cheer but I hated working on the shop floor. I felt very inadequate when anyone asked me a question because with no training and no experience I was pretty clueless. The worst part of the job was that I was working for my first husband (although we were yet to be married at this stage). He couldn't decided whether to treat me as the woman he lived with or a work colleague. He mostly avoided me.

4. King Edward School, Bath
This was the first job I ever really loved. Although a degree in chemistry was an over-qualification to work as a school lab technician, it reminded me of what it was that attracted me to science in the first place, rekindling a love that had been cruelly crushed after three years of feeling out of my depth at University. I felt very at home in my lab coat, I got on well with the teaching staff and I enjoyed being in the school environment. If I had to choose one thing I hated about the job, it would be clearing up the Biology lab after a worm dissection. It didn't happen very often but when it did..... yeurch!

5. Primary School, Shropshire
The final piece in my employment history to date was returning to work after a long break to raise my four older daughters. I was offered a job as a teaching assistant in the local primary school my girls attended. I mostly loved it but it was frustrating only supporting the teacher rather than being the teacher. I took a Foundation degree in teaching and learning and was about to apply for the course that would top this up to a full BA and give me a teacher training qualification when I fell pregnant.

I am now back to doing the job I love the most - being a full time mum.

More Premature E-dracula-tion

My pumpkin knitting project is going well. With some contributions from my mum, I had enough to attach to an ivy garland to bring a little bit of autumn into my conservatory. I haven't yet gathered together the courage to try and embroider on Jack-o-Lantern faces but I still have plenty of time for that..


I was in Wilkinson yesterday, looking for a picture frame to display a print of Ivy with her favourite band Hard Fi on The Best Night of Her Life. I noticed some bags of plastic Hallowe'en tat for £1 and being  a sucker for Hallowe'en tat, popped a bag of skeletons and a bag of bats and rats in my basket.


What had mostly caught my eye were the little skulls with deformed skeletal arms. Why? Two reasons. One: they remind me of the Belial character from one of my all time favourite films "Basket Case"  and Two: I thought they would make absolutely fabulous little decorations for wine glasses and beakers to lend a spookiness to our Hallowe'en drinks. There were 18 of these little things in the packet - enough for a whole family gathering!



The skeletons have a hanging loop on the top of their plastic skulls which does seem to cry out for a craft project to turn them into something spooktacular. I will let you know if I have any inspirational ideas! In the meantime, Addy is very happy giving them all names, making them hold hands and be best friends.



I'm not quite sure what use I will make of the bats and rats apart from allowing Dylan to see how far he can throw them (will I ever get used to the way boys play after having had 5 daughters!) but some will definitely go in a bowl to supplement the sweets that I have at the ready for any Trick or Treaters that come calling.


I'm certainly getting in the mood for Hallowe'en and think we've already had £2 worth of fun out of my impulse purchases. And it's only just the beginning of October...


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Not Quite at the Blackberry Fair

I was very proud of my girls yesterday when I went along to see their band perform at the Blackberry Fair in Whitchurch. It wasn't an easy venue to play with so much going on all around and little opportunity to sound check. After a few hiccups, they got into the swing of it and once again, received very positive comments from onlookers. If nothing else, it was a great opportunity for them to try out the two new songs they have written recently. I think their songwriting is going from strength to strength and can't wait to see what they come up with next.

As I was watching them on stage and allowing their music to wash over me, I had a bit of an emotional moment remembering back to when each of them came bursting into the world. When you become a parent, you are never quite sure what you are going to get or what you are letting yourselves in for. You love your child with an intensity you never thought possible, you do your absolute best to give them a good start in life. But do any of us really know what we are doing? We muddle through. We marvel at the people our children become.

I am constantly in awe of my children from the oldest to the youngest. I love the journey we are on together and moments like yesterday, watching my four older girls perform, really crystallise the feeling of fullfillment, satisfaction and contentment that being a mum gives me.

Thanks kids :)

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Orange One

We are already fans of Ella's Kitchen at our house and were happy to try the new variety in their 100% Organic Smoothie Fruit Range - The Orange One.

The Orange One is a blend of tropical flavours - oranges, mangoes, guavas and bananas. This is our video to show what 3 year old Addy thought of it.


The Orange one is available exclusively from Sainsbury's for 69p per pouch.

For more information on Ella's Kitchen visit their (slightly annoying!) website at http://www.ellaskitchen.co.uk/
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