Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Gallery - Week 83 - The Kitchen

Exactly a year ago today, my home was something of a disaster zone. The sub zero temperatures outside had frozen and burst some water pipes that ran through the roof space above my kitchen. As the damaged pipe defrosted, a torrent of water came flooding through the ceiling. This was my futile attempt to contain the flood.

The floor certainly got a good wash which was no bad thing but I was somewhat disconcerted by the water pouring through my electrical light fitting.

My husband was a hero, squeezing his large body through a tiny space between rafters in the snow covered roof to get access to the broken pipe and replace it. Hopefully, with the special pipe he used and the extra lagging, we won't ever have a repeat of the problem.

All that remained was to wait for it to dry out and access the damage to the decor. 

It could have been a lot worse. There was a crack in the plaster but it was sound enough to be repaired rather than replaced. A large area of the textured paint had peeled away but that could easily be patched. So why is it, I ask myself, that a year later the job still hasn't been done?

Life gets in the way. There is always another job that takes priority. I am almost blind to the unsightly, bare, discoloured ceiling. 

With all our Christmas plans and preparations, I doubt there is enough time left this year to get the job done but it is definitely going to be top of the DIY list come January. I will restore my kitchen to its former glory and re-establish it as the heart of my home.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Jigsaw Mania!

Since reviewing a couple of lovely children's puzzles from Ravensburger (Thomas & Friends Clock and Lion King) my 17 year old, Taylor,  has had her jigsaw appetite well and truly whetted.

She found four old puzzles in the games cupboard that she completed in record time and then set to work on a ridiculously difficult 1000 piece "Murder Mystery" puzzle that I picked up for her in the local charity shop. It was quite intriguing in that there was no picture to work from, just a booklet that told the story of a fatal shooting that happened during a partridge hunt. The idea was that by completing the jigsaw, you uncover a clue that enables you to solve the crime and work out whodunnit.

I manage to contribute about six pieces in total - and that was more by luck than skill.

With perseverance, Taylor did sort of complete the puzzle and solve the mystery. I say sort of  because the 1000 piece puzzle turned out to be a 999 piece puzzle - (the danger of purchasing goods second hand). Although denied the satisfaction of placing the final piece, she took it in good humour.

Today, the collection of puzzles was finally put away so she once again has a bedroom floor - but not before a quick photograph to remember her efforts by.

Monday, 28 November 2011

In search of the perfect mince pie.

I never used to like mince pies. How mad is that? Mince pies are little pieces of Christmas that you can hold in your hand .

My first mince pie of the year tends to mark the moment when I start to get really into the Xmas groove, so to speak, and as such it is something of an occasion.

My 2011 mince pie moment came during the town's annual "Switching on of the Xmas Lights" which this year included a Farmers Market.

My girls were busking so I went along to support them and see what delights the Farmers Market had to offer.

It was a well organised, well attended event that did put me in the Xmas mood. I bought a lovely hand made gift for my in-laws (always good to find something for the difficult to buy for people on my list) and was well and truly ready for my first mince pie of the year.

There were giant meringues and vegan pate but sadly not a mince pie to be seen. As a last resort, I popped into Greggs and bought a packet of their "Award Winning" offerings. The packaging did not specify exactly what Award these pies had won. It would not surprise me if it had been the award for the Hardest Most Tasteless Pastry or the Goopiest Mincemeat. I did not enjoy them at all. Taylor, on the other hand, said she really liked them. All a matter of individual taste I suppose.

On a happier note, a friend promised me a jar of homemade mincemeat which got me very excited. A jar of "Mrs Murray's Marvellous Mincemeat" was delivered this morning and I can't wait to do some Christmas baking.

Another friend has recommended adding a dollop of Philadelphia cream cheese onto the mincemeat before putting the pastry lid on top.  I am not 100% convinced that I am going to like that but I am definitely willing to give it a try.

I am willing to try anything in search of the perfect mince pie.

Do you have any tips or suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Sylvanian Families

My eldest daughters are 23 and 20 years and old. When they were little girls, they had three big boxes under their beds - one full of Barbie dolls, one full of Disney figures and playsets and another full of Sylvanian Families. They were all very well played with.

I never minded tidying away with them after a particularly far reaching game of Sylvanian Families. I enjoyed handling the little figures and the gorgeous miniature accessories.

We had a tree house, a mansion, a picnic bus and, my favourite of all, a bakery. The observant reader will note my use of the word we in the previous sentence. I really was as fond of those Sylvanians as my children were.

Sadly, the breakdown of my first marriage and having to move from our family home, necessitated a ruthless sort out. I needed to travel light into my uncertain future and the girls were growing up and happy with computer games. The Barbies, the action figure and the Sylvanians were all victims of our streamlining. Had I known that within a few short years I would be a mother again to a baby girl, I never would have parted with so much. (I still would have gladly said goodbye to the matted haired Barbies but I deeply regret losing the Gary Barlow doll that lurked amongst them!)

Reminiscences aside, this year, Sylvanian Families are celebrating their 25th Anniversary.  I was thrilled to be sent the Wedding Celebration set and Motor Car and Sidecar to review so that I can introduce my latest daughter to Sylvania and begin a brand new collection.

The packaging and the essential qualities of toys themselves don't seem to changed much over the years. They are every bit as lovely as I remember. I really like the emphasis on 'family' which is something that always features in my daughter's play.

 The characters themselves are very appealing with their shiny black eyes, movable limbs, tactile skin and highly detailed outfits but for me,  it is the exquisite miniature accessories that accompany them that make Sylvanians so special.

Although my children would have absolutely no idea about the seventies British sitcom George and Mildred, the humour in the naming of the Sylvanian characters in the Motorcycle and Sidecar set is not lost on me.

Geroge and Mildred Mulberry have everything they need for riding around the country lanes and both motorcycle and sidecar have storage spaces to store their maps, licences and information books.

In the light of the  Royal Wedding fever that gripped the country, the Wedding Celebration Set featuring Katherine and William Balmoral was one of the most successful Sylvanian products of the year, and deservedly so. The dog-collared Reverend is ready to preside over the nuptials of the beautiful bride and her groom, attended by two adorable bridesmaids and a page boy. A bridal bouquet of pink roses adds the perfect finishing touch.

The bride and groom could easily be used as a fun wedding cake topper and the set itself would make a lovely bridesmaid present.

Twenty five years of popularity is quite an achievement and I'm sure that with a product this good, the Sylvanian success story will continue.

For details of stockists and retail prices see

Friday, 25 November 2011

Xmas Raffle

It was the Christmas Fair fund raiser at my daughters nursery last night and I had put my name down to help.  I was given the job of selling raffle tickets which was harder than I thought it would be on account of the treacherous task of taking staples out of the stubs before folding (treacherous to my nails at least) and trying to tear perforations that were not terribly well perforated. The hardest job was actually transferring the folded tickets into the over full ticket drum without them all flying everywhere - but I was encouraged by the 'over fullness'. At least that meant that the raffle was making  plenty of money for the school.

I was reminded of another raffle and another school.

Back when the girls from my first marriage were at primary school, I worked as a teaching assistant and was very involved with the Parent Teacher Association. The Christmas Fair was one of the big fund raisers of the year and my sister and I put a lot of effort into organising it and making sure it all ran smoothly with optimum profit potential.

One afternoon when we were up to our elbows in raffle tickets that needed folding, we felt the urge to be naughty. We bought our own raffle tickets and secure in the knowledge that we almost certainly wouldn't win, wrote out the stubs with bogus comedy names. It provided well needed light relief from the stress of organising to make up some suitably silly names - Hugh Jarse being the one that that had us snorting into our coffee.

On the night of the fair, I was still busy face painting when the raffle was drawn. I had a brief moment of panic when I thought about our childish prank but then relaxed when I considered the odds against our ticket being drawn.

The Deputy Head drew the tickets, glanced at them and then passed them to the Head to call out. The Head was a very elegant, well-to-do lady who seemed to revel in the resonsibility of hosting these events, particularly when she took centre stage with a microphone in her hand.

As soon as the Deputy Head glanced at one particular ticket, I knew that luck had played a cruel trick. His expression changed to a smirk and he handed it to the Head with a cautionary aside to 'be careful!' Whether the Head was carried away by her moment in the limelight and had failed to comprehend what had been whispered to her, or whether she really was totally oblivious, I don't know. She announced with her best theatrically projected voice and perfect diction "Hugh Jarse - Is there a Hugh Jarse here?"

The room fell silent in disbelief and then nudges, whispers, smirks and full on laughter radiated out in ripples. I watched all of this from my Face Painting station then hid beneath a towel I had been using to keep my hands clean, mortified with embarrassment. Amazingly, the Head remained unaware of what she had said and why people were laughing. She actually repeated her announcement at which point my sister jumped up to claim the prize saying that Hugh was a family friend.

For a while after, people could talk of nothing else, even stopping me in the street to say how much they had enjoyed the whole episode!

Thankfully, the Deputy Head saw the funny and to this day, I'm not sure that the Head really got the joke. I didn't lose my job and did go on to organise further fundraisers. I never used bogus names on my raffle tickets again!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Female Aggression

There were two women shouting and screaming at each other in the street today when I walked to pick up my daughter from nursery. Eyes were bulging, jaws clenched, fingers waving, personal space invaded. It wasn't pretty.

I was on the receiving end of such aggression from my ex mother in law once. I didn't respond with the same aggression. I remember feeling strangely detached, calm and above all, sorry for her. She would not be reasoned with and I think my passivity served to aggravate her anger further. The showdown culminated in her being carried away by her ashen faced husband. She was drooling from the mouth, eyes rolling in her head, incoherent. She was not a mentally stable woman and the outburst was fuelled by alcohol. I will never forget it.

I didn't manage to remain so detached when it came to arguments with my ex husband. He would infuriate me completely to the point that I would shout and scream and I am ashamed to admit, even hit him (although I doubt my blows caused anything resembling actual pain). I hated how it made me feel. So much frustration. So much banging my head against a proverbial brick wall. I hated even more that my children had to witness all this hostility (albeit through walls). I hated the person it made me and how my whole body would shake and the pitch of my voice alter to one I didn't even recognise.

Life is very different for me now. I love my husband deeply and when we have our differences we can work them out through talking and understanding. We both want the same things and we want them together. It makes everything so easy.

Don't get me wrong - I still scream and shout - only now it's with playful exuberance or mock horror at the X Factor! I like it very much better this way.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tumblekins Fire Station

I love wooden toys and having found myself with a son after five daughters, I am loving toys with a more masculine appeal. The Tumblekins Fire Station (suitable from ages 1+) from Great Gizmos is exactly the sort of 'boy toy' that I am enjoying having around.

The three piece wooden set comprises a chunky Fire Engine, a friendly Fire Chief and a Fire Station with ramps down which the Fire Chief can roll! The pieces are solidly constructed, vibrantly coloured and beautifully detailed. The rotund little Fire Chief is a perfect shape and size to hold in your hand. It is a very tactile toy that invites exploration.

My son, Dylan, was instantly attracted to the vehicle - he loves anything with wheels. I particularly like the way the wheels have been styled with the inner circle offset from the centre, giving it a quirky fun feel when it moves. It also has a clever design that makes the Fire Chief tumble and roll when he is placed inside to drive along. Dylan and his big sister were fascinated by this. They also found it hilarious to watch the Fire Chief roll down the Station ramps and into his Fire Truck (or on the floor!)

My only criticism is that the paint is already starting to chip from over enthusiastic play, although in some ways that adds to the appeal - every bump and knock tells a story of a happy child with a well loved toy.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Not Quite a Music Video

It started with an idea and some charity shopping and a jumble sale.

The idea took shape during my birthday celebrations on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Video footage was shot on location and back home in my garden.

After much editing and the addition of a spinning golden light, the Not Quite Music Video for Moving the Castles was finally completed.

I love it.

Britain in a Day

The Britain in a Day project invited everybody across the country to upload a video to their You Tube channel of whatever they happened to be doing on 12 November 2011 to create a snapshot of life in the UK today. As making videos of my family is something I love to do, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me.

We had a bonfire party planned for the 12th November and media student, Ivy, was home from Uni for it so she was available to help with filming the footage.

I always enjoy preparing for parties. It was lovely spending time cooking and getting the house ready. My eldest daughter's fireman boyfriend and his friend were our pyro-technicians and arrived with impressive armfuls of fireworks shortly after it began to get dark.

This has become something of a tradition for us. They provide the fireworks and I provide the food and venue. Each year, they find new ways to improve their "letting off" technique to give the best possible display. Whether it was the blow torch or simply the new firework supplier I don't know but they completely surpassed themselves this year with a display so spectacular it sent my two little ones running for cover! I am glad I had contributed  a few 'gentle' fireworks and some sparklers more appropriate for those fearful of the big explosions.

My scorched lawn bears testament to the power of the rockets that were sent skyward but I am sure the grass will recover and the blackened circles will fade much quicker than my memories, which thanks to the video can last indefinitely.

I have had to edit some of the soundtrack of my final video before submission so that it did not include any music (didn't think of that when my girls put on their 'bonfire playlist' halfway through filming!) It was a bit of a fiddle but totally worth it to be part of a such an ambitious social record.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Silent Sunday

The 12 Knits of Xmas

I loved knitting little pumpkin decorations for Hallowe'en and really enjoyed the time I spent with my mum doing it.

I decided to embark on a new project, again with a seasonal flavour, and mum was more than happy to restart our "knitting club".

We are making (or attempting to make) all of the birds My True Love Sent to Me using The Twelve Knits of Christmas pattern book.

We started with the swan.

I don't think I'd ever have the patience to make a jumper or anything bigger than perhaps a tea cosy but I love making little things with very few stitches and rows and lots of interesting shaping. The best part for me is making them up and adding the details that give character to the finished result.

I was so enjoying making my swan that I carried on after my mum had to leave and in a bid to get a head start, so that I have the slightest chance of completing this project before Christmas, I then went on to knit whatever else I could manage.

My biggest problem is that being new to the whole knitting game, I have yet to accumulate all the wool oddments that are ideal for this sort of craft. Mum has bags full of the stuff in all the colours you could ever need but they are in Wrexham, 45 minutes away, and next knitting club is not for another week and a half.

I used my limited colour choices to knit up as much as I could. I now have enough assorted bird body parts waiting around to make me feel like some sort of mad ornithological Frankenstein.

It's my mum's birthday today. She has yet to see my finished swan so this is for her. Hope you're proud of me mum and HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Black Sacks of Surprises

I am not great at buying clothes for myself but I do love finding a bargain on a sale rail or in a charity shop or occasionally a jumble sale. Even better than this is when a stylish, generous friend has a wardrobe clear out and brings a car boot full of clearly labelled black sacks containing neatly folded, good as new, floral fragranced, quality clothes for you to sort through and take your pick from.

It was like Christmas opening the bags and finding out what surprises were contained within. 

It didn't take me long to sort out a dozen items destined for my wardrobe.

It didn't stop at merely a dozen! I now have enough warm woolies to help me cope with whatever winter throws at me. I won't need to buy another plain T shirt, short or long sleeved, for a very long time and best of all, I have some things that  I probably would never have thought to buy for myself but fell in love with when I tried them on for size. 

Two of my grown up daughters have found some keepers and I'm sure my other two will once they have had a chance to look through. 

My mum thought I must be preparing to go on holiday when she came to visit and saw a hanging rail full of clothes in my front room. I told her about my generous friend and invited her to take a look and see if there was anything that she liked. She liked everything but didn't think she'd find anything in her size. I was so pleased when she found some skirts and blouses that fit her and totally suited her elegant style of dress.

There will no doubt be some things left over that can't find a home in any of our wardrobes but I will take great pleasure in donating these on to the local charity shops in the knowledge that there will be some very happy customers walking away with some gorgeous bargains that I really wish had fitted me!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Children in Need

As the country gets ready for the big fund raising event of the year, my own little Pudsey bear tucks into her breakfast.

Inspired by Mari's World, I have baked a batch of cupcakes in spotty cases that will later be "Pudsey-fied" by an enthusiastic 3 year old wearing bear ears! It's going to be messy but I love it.

Tonight we will all snuggle up on the sofa for Children in Need and make our donations but above all, remember how lucky we are.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


When my sister Inside the Wendy House brought this review game round for my girls to try out, for a moment I thought she had a tin of biscuits for us. After my initial disappointment ( I am partial to a bourbon!) I realised that it would be right up their street.

The reason for the game being packaged in a tin (other than to fool me into thinking I had a little something to accompany my coffee) was because it was a 25th anniversary limited edition - and it did make it feel special.

Inside the tin was a playing board, maze tiles, treasure cards and four plastic, coloured playing pieces in the shapes of mystical figures.

The game took a bit of getting used to because instead of moving the pieces around the board in the conventional manner, the board layout itself moves around. The idea is to move the maze to enable yourself to travel around and be the first to collect all your pieces of treasure.  The maze is moved by inserting one maze tile in one of 12 places around the edge of the board thus sliding the whole row of tiles along one position. This one move can have a dramatic effect on the maze which hopefully works to your advantage (and if you're lucky/skillful/evil, to the detriment of opponents!)

Labyrinth is a game for 2-4 players of 7+ years. It certainly kept three teenagers thoroughly entertained and away from their laptops for a good half hour!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom Lotto Game

Ever since reviewing Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom on DVD, "elves and fairies" have been firm favourites with my three year old, Addy. She was delighted when Entertainment One kindly gave us a Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom Lotto game to review.

Apparently, Holly has accidently mixed up all the things in the Little Kingdom whilst practising her magic spells. Our job is to help her put them all back where they belong.

The game consists of four illustrated lotto boards, each with six smaller picture cards that match items that can be found in the illustrations. Each player selects a lotto board and shuffles the smaller picture cards face down in the middle of the table. Players then take it in turns to turn over a card. If the object matches an item on their lotto board picture, they keep the card and place it in one of the six holes on their board.

The boards are beautifully illustrated with scenes from Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom. As the objects on the picture cards are incorporated into the scene, it is a little more challenging to find a match as you have to search the whole picture. Some of the items are partially obscured adding another level of difficulty. Addy loved searching and felt very pleased with herself when she had success.

The components are sturdily made from robust card. I particularly liked that the picture cards fitted securely into holes on the board which eliminated the annoyance of cards being knocked out of place that we have experienced with other lotto games.

The game can be completed fairly quickly which makes it ideal for young children.

As well as practising turn taking and matching skills, placing the cards in the holes required a degree of manual dexterity and the pictures  provided stimuli for conversation. We really enjoyed playing.

I am slightly concerned that the size of the small picture cards will make them prone to being lost but then learning to pack away carefully and look after your toys is another valuable lesson.

Ben & Holly's Lotto Game is available from all good retailers for £7.99.

Ben & Holly's official website can be found at and has some lovely stories, games and activities for little ones.

There is also an official Ben & Holly Facebook page

Monday, 14 November 2011

My Top 5 Random Things I Like - Listography

Another great Listography topic from Kate Takes 5 to get the old neurones firing - this time about "Random Things I Like"

I. I like to dance when I'm cleaning my teeth and washing my face - slightly embarrassing when I did it on holiday and made the whole caravan rock.

2. I like to gallop up the stairs, re-living the Black Beauty fantasies of my girlhood.

3. When I eat fried eggs, I like to put the yolk in my mouth whole and feel the warm explosion on my tongue.

4. I like having my neck kissed - it gives me goosebumps all over my body.

5. I like the smell of new books -  fanning the pages, putting my nose up close and breathing in deeply.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Boudoir Photography

I am not particularly keen on having my photograph taken. My smile feels weird when I respond to the photographer's command to give a big cheesy one and I seem to have an uncanny knack of blinking or pulling a face when the shutter is released.

I am not particularly keen on looking at photographs of myself either. If anybody else criticised themselves as harshly as I criticise myself, I would tell them not to be so daft and concentrate on what is good rather than blowing what you perceive to be bad out of all proportion. I struggle to follow my own advice.

When my husband told me he had booked a Boudoir Photography Shoot for me, my first instinct was to panic. He did reassure me that if I felt uncomfortable about it I did not have to go through with it. I think it was the combination of his conviction that I should do it and the fact that he put no pressure on me to do it that made me think I could.

I did spend some time looking at my body in a full length mirror.

I was a chubby teenager. At my largest I was bursting out of my size 18 clothes and desperately unhappy about the way I looked. During my stressful divorce 6 years ago, my dress size dropped to an 8 which was the thinnest I've ever been. I looked terrible and couldn't get comfortable because of protruding bones. I had crossed the line between slim and skinny.

I am currently a size 10 having lost my baby weight through exercise, trying to eat in moderation and not beating myself up if I have bad day and overeat. I am reasonably happy with who I am and how I look. However, bearing all under unforgiving halogen lights was going to push me to the limits of my bravery.

As I looked at myself in my mirror, I reminded myself that I am forty seven years old and I have given birth to six children, two of them within the last few years. It would be unnatural for there to be no signs of wear and tear. I started to accept that this is me. My husband has no difficulty in accepting and loving all of me and even thinking I am beautiful (poor deluded soul!)  and I should try to do the same.

My Boudoir Photo Shoot started to be less about pushing me to the limits of my bravery and more about celebrating who I am, completely.

I bought new underwear with the help of a delightfully funny shop assistant who made the whole experience one to smile about. I was confident that the bras would maximise whatever assets I have remaining after breastfeeding six children and they made me feel good. I also bought some sparkly new eyeshadow for an extra touch of glamour.

It was surprisingly easy to strip down to my new underwear and pose for the photographs.

The photographer was Midland based Nicola Gotts. The studio was built into her house which made it cosy and intimate. She was friendly and welcoming and very matter of fact about posing me and taking the pictures. I liked her experimental style and the way she found poses that worked for me. An hour flew by and before I knew it I was dressed, drinking a cup of coffee and viewing the digital images.

True to form, there were several images that could be rejected immediately because of face pulling and blinking but I was surprised at how many of the photographs I really liked. It was incredibly empowering to look at a picture of me and think I like that. I narrowed the selection down to a manageable amount and purchased my favourites. We talked about the possibility of improving the images with Photoshop techniques but I actually quite liked the tan lines, moles, wobbly bits and bruises because they were all part of what makes me me. I was starting to get really good at the whole accepting myself thing.

The photo shoot was at the end of October and the disc of photographs with some minor retouching arrived yesterday.

This was the hardest part of the whole process - putting the disc into my computer and opening the file. My "this is me" confidence seemed to have shrivelled like our sad looking Hallowe'en balloons. What was I thinking of - spending money on vanity shots of my middle aged wreck of a body? Madness!

I honestly felt quite unwell - clammy with nervousness - as I forced myself to look.

My immediate thought was that I should not have worried, they were lovely. I looked exactly how I wanted to look - glamorous, womanly, a bit sexy, sure of myself. Then the doubts crept in. My critical eye sought out every flaw and imperfection. So, I chastised myself for my negativity and chanted my new mantra - Be proud of who you are.

By the time my husband came home I had mostly convinced myself that the photos were at least OK.

He LOVED them.

He said they were worth every penny and he was so proud of me.

His enthusing silenced my damaging overly critical side. I am now planning which of the images I want as prints to hang in our bedroom. Now that is definitely a triumph in the battle of self-acceptance.

I would  recommend this experience to anyone.

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Universe Smiles Back

Sometimes the Universe smiles back at you - even from the waste trap in your sink.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Good Week for Shoes

It's been a good week for shoes.

Firstly, my husband decided to give me a gift on his birthday. He bought me a gorgeously impractical pair of shiny black heels that I enjoyed using in a photograph to illustrate a different (and understated) side path on my blogging journey.


I will enjoy wearing them too - and my husband assures me that he will enjoy seeing me wearing them which was his justification for buying them for me. Wins all round!

Secondly, my baby boy has properly made the transition to toddler. It has been a slow transition but he is now confident enough to walk unaided outside and consequently desperately needed shoes. I thought it would be a major headache trying to find shoes that would comfortably fit his chubby little feet and had resigned myself to paying upwards of £40 in the process. As it turned out, I found a gorgeous soft pair of lace-ups in Tesco that fit perfectly and didn't break the bank at all. 

He loves it that "putting on his shoes" is now part of the morning routine and he sits on the bottom stair waving his feet at me waiting for his turn. 

He very proudly held his big sister's hand as they walked into her nursery together on his first day of being a "big boy". It made me smile to see them and it was so much easier for me not having to carry him. 

So it's hello to these already scuffed and scruffy first grown up shoes...

...and goodbye to this:

Ketchup with that?

My ex mother in law once berated me for owning a vibrator. She proudly stated that her sex life was perfectly good with her husband and she didn't need such things. I tried to explain that I didn't need  ketchup on my chips, but sometimes I like it. Her counter argument was to turn her nose up and herrumph!

So is it acceptable to have a healthy squirt of ketchup on your chips?

To extend the metaphor further, sometimes I like brown sauce, curry sauce, gravy or mayonnaise - and I am not ruling out the possibility that there are more delicious condiments out there that I have yet to discover.

I was intrigued when the opportunity to review adult products on my blog presented itself. It would certainly be a different sort of experience to trying out new baby beakers and the latest playground crazes. It would certainly take me outside my comfort zone!

I had all but talked myself out of it when I mentioned it to my family. They thought it was great  idea, especially when I explained that my 'mummy' hat would come off and a brand new persona would emerge in the form of "Dirty QWERTY".


Joking aside, I am now looking forward to the challenge. I am not planning on taking my blog in a whole new direction. It will hopefully be a discrete little sideline that might even throw open a few taboos and raise some interesting questions. My biggest fear is that I will not be able to stop giggling like a school girl!

I have received an email to say that a mystery parcel has been dispatched so I am holding onto my Dirty QWERTY hat and ready to roll with this whatever comes my way!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


I don't generally take my Hallowe'en decorations down until after we have had our bonfire night celebrations. As this won't be taking place until the weekend, it puts me still firmly in the mood for plastic spiders and vampire teeth rather than advent calendars and Xmas shopping. My teenage daughters have been teasing me mercilessly because I keep returning home from trips to the shops with yet more Hallowe'en stock reduced to clear. If I were a moth, "75% off" would be my flame.

The lateness of our Bonfire party has meant that my husband's birthday has been absorbed into the whole Hallowe'en theme. I'm not sure that coming home from work and dressing up as a werewolf would have been high on his "Top 5 ways to spend my birthday" list but he played along without too much persuasion.

I had enough dressing up outfits, courtesy of the 75% off sales, to make sure that everybody had a great costume and we sat down to a special meal which included a somewhat hurriedly put together feta cheese, spinach and potato pie that turned out surprisingly well.

The whole evening was a bit of a rush because Charis had rehearsals for a pantomime she is performing in and being a school night, it was important to get the little ones to bed at a reasonable hour.  Even so, there was real ale and presents and all was good.

As well as all the silly price costumes I have been buying, I was also lucky enough to find Hallowe'en craft sets reduced to 8p in my local Morrisons. I bought enough to give my kids the opportunity to make a huge mess with glitter, pom poms and googly eyes and bought another bagful of assorted rubbers to donate to my little girl's school Xmas fair. I know it isn't exactly Christmassy but I thought they would make fantastic bran tub prizes.

I happened to be in Wilkinsons today when they were making their absolutely final reductions on what was left over after the 75% off sale. My bran tub light bulb lit up again. It made me really happy buying their entire stock of large plastic spiders for 5p each.

I am  hoping that they will go down well at the Xmas fair, raise some much needed funds and put smiles on the faces of the children who take them home.

It has been a good Hallowe'en. And it's not over yet!

Monday, 7 November 2011

If there's someone....

If there's someone who turned your life around
And put the colour back into your world,
Then you shouldn't stay angry at them just for treading muddy footprints into your pale stair carpet.
If there's someone who brings you a cup of tea in bed every single day
Count how many times they would have waited in a cold kitchen for a kettle to boil
While you were warmly snuggled under duvet.
If there's someone who is not afraid to put on their shiny shoes
And twirl you round a ballroom
It would be wrong to be disappointed that they lack the grace and elegance of a dancer.
If there's someone, who after a hard day at work,
Drills and hammers to make your home a better place
The least you could do would be to clean up after his "Oh, F*ck" moments
When there's someone whose face you love
And that same face made soft and beautiful looks at you from your precious child
Isn't that a feeling beyond compare?
And if that someone would do anything for you
And wants to spend the rest of their life with you
And loves you
Then know your good fortune and Praise the day that they were born.

Happy Birthday, Paul xxx

First Frost

Does this mean winter's coming? Time to crank up the heating I think.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

My Top 5 Famous Folk I Used to Fancy - Listography


I couldn't resist this Listography topic, revisiting those Famous Folk that I Used to Fancy.

First there was Tony Curtis. I would fantasise about us getting married. Slightly worryingly, he would have been in his forties and I was a pre-teen.  I absolutely adored his character in the Persuaders.

Then there was Pete Duel who played Hannibal Heyes in Alias Smith and Jones. I was devastated when he shot himself.

The next man to get my hormones racing was Tim Matheson (right) with his role in the quest. Looking back, co-star Kurt Russell was far hotter. Maybe it was the slight resemblance to Pete Duel that did it for me.

My affections briefly transferred to 70s teen idol Leif Garrett. He was so beautiful. 

There have been many more celebrities that I have admired, had lustful thoughts about or just considered perfect specimens of humanity (recently Tommy Walsh, Mark Dolan, Gary Barlow) but none that I have felt so connected to as these early infatuations as I was growing up. So for my fifth "Famous Folk I Used to  Fancy" I will choose my first girl crush - the gorgeous Margaux Hemingway. I loved her eyebrows.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Penis Envy

Up until recently, my little girl has taken no notice of the obvious difference between herself and her younger brother when they've shared a bath. That has now changed and her brother's 'tail' is the most fascinating thing she has ever laid eyes on.

My husband cannot conceal his obvious pride when it comes to the size of our son's willy. The midwife remarked that he was a big boy when he was born - and she wasn't just referring to his healthy 3.82 Kg weight (or 8lbs 7oz in old money).  I'd never really thought about it but I have to admit that when he gets those little erections that baby boys get, it can be really difficult to get his nappy on!

My daughter now says that she wants to be a boy when she grows up. Why? Because she wants a wiggly tail like Dylan.

With her fondness for pink and all things girlie, I don't think for one minute that we are looking at the early signs of transgender issues - just a classic case of penis envy!

Not Quite Famous

My sister may be featuring in the National Papers and Glossy Magazines with her amazing Slimpod diet success but I am every bit as proud of my girls for making the local paper with their band Not Quite.

Although ultimately, their smiling faces will end up in recycling bins across the town, it is a good feeling that for now they are page 2 story.

Today "Market Drayton Advertiser" - tomorrow, who knows, "NME"?

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lion King Jigsaw

The Lion King has always been a firm favourite in our house and my older girls wasted no time introducing their younger siblings to Simba and the cast of cartoon animals (they never need much of an excuse to lose themselves in the Wonderful World of Disney).

News of The Lion King's re-released in 3D was met with much excitement. Even my daughter's slightly grumpy boyfriend (I hope I will be forgiven for describing him as such!) loves the film.

To coincide with the 3D release, Ravensburger have introduced two new jigsaw puzzles featuring Simba and friends -  3 x 49 piece puzzles and a XXL 100 piece puzzle. We were sent the 100 piece puzzle to review.

The recommended age for the puzzle is 6+ but as I have mentioned before, my little girl, Addy, never pays any attention to what would or would not be suitable for a 3 year old. She was eager, as always, to get started.

The pieces were a good size for little hands and made from quality card that withstood her imprecision when it came to fitting the pieces together.

The colourful picture was very engaging and Addy enjoyed naming the characters and watching the scene unfold as she progressed.

Addy was very keen to enlist Grandad's help the following day for a repeat performance. It was a delight to watch her spending this precious time with her Grandad as they solved the puzzle together.

It pleases me to see my children occupied with the more traditional, 'no batteries required' category of toys. There will always be a place for jigsaw puzzles in our house, and Ravensburger definitely seem to have the formula right for producing a quality, appealing product that can be enjoyed again and again.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Destination Landfill

Recycling is a habit that has become ingrained in my way of life. I have separate bins in the kitchen for compostable waste and landfill waste as well as the glass, tin, plastic and paper recycling bins outside my back door - all of which are collected kerbside by Shropshire Council. If my three year old sees that someone has dropped litter on our walk to school, she doesn't say that the perpetrator should have put it in the bin, rather that they should have have put it in the recycling. I like it this way. It feels right.

It was with great disappointment that I found out that, as from later this month, our Council will no longer accept cardboard waste for recycling.

Cardboard waste from packaging makes up a significant proportion of our family's rubbish. Up until now, I have happily flattened it and  put it in the green bin in the knowledge that it would be transformed into useful compost. Now, unless I can find an alternative way of recycling it (which would almost certainly mean finding somewhere to store it until I had enough to justify driving out to a recycling centre with the inevitable cost to me and the environment in terms of fuel consumption) all I can do is consign it to the landfill sites.

The reason for Shropshire Council taking what seems such a backward step is that UK composting regulations now demand that compost meets the 'PAS 100:2011' standard. The inks, dyes and coatings used on cardboard packaging might potentially contaminate the compost so the standard would not be met. I am definitely all for ensuring compost is of a recognisable quality but surely if the inks, dyes and coatings on cardboard are in danger of contaminating the compost, we ought to be addressing the issue of what inks, dyes and coatings are actually used. I cannot believe that there are no green alternatives that would mean cardboard's position as a  composting ingredient can be reinstated.

If the printing on my cardboard packaging was a little less vivid and the feel of it a little less glossy - would I really care? Manufacturers concerned that a more natural look would be less likely to attract consumers should be braver and lead the way. Consumers can be educated - habits can be changed.

As a separate issue to my objections, I am really going to struggle with the once a fortnight collection schedule now that the cardboard waste generated by my family has to  be added to the black bin (destination landfill). I have visions of drowning in non-recyclable rubbish with their glorious dyes, inks and coatings. Seriously, what am I going to do with all this!

Shropshire Council have promised that they are ... "working at finding new practical and cost effective ways of collecting your cardboard in the future".

 For all our sakes, please, HURRY UP!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Something to make me smile

Some things I love (and to use the words of X Factor's lovely Dermot O'Leary) in no particular order, are:
  • chocolate
  • Hallowe'en
  • the gothic and macabre
  • beautiful things
  • thoughtful gifts
  • wonderful friends
It is no surprise then, that by ticking all of the above, this chocolate skull, embellished with edible gold from the devilishly decadent Hotel Chocolat, was guaranteed to put a big smile on my face..

I am grateful beyond words for having someone on my life who would see this and think of me. The only grey cloud to this dazzling silver lining is that I can't quite bring myself to remove the chocolate work of art from its plastic wrapper, let alone allow anyone to eat it! 
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