Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Year in Cakes - 2011

As the year draws to a close, it is good to look back and remember achievements and significant events from the previous twelve months.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Birds my True Love Sent to Me

It has been a busy run up to Christmas as it always is. Add to this the fact that one of my fillings fell out (requiring urgent treatment if I was to stand any chance of indulging in the seasonal fare on offer), the usual sprinkling of illness and general 'run down-ness' that has become synonymous with this time of year and the inevitably stressful completion date for my eldest daughter's house purchase - it is a wonder I have survived unscathed.

Yesterday, as I did battle with other shoppers trying ineffectively to steer overladen shopping trolleys around my local Morrisons, I was not only trying to purchase everything I needed for arguably the most important dinner of the year, I also had a shopping list of cleaning products for my daughter who was beavering away with her sleeves rolled up and marigolds on to make her new house gleam. Rather than being stressed by it all, I found myself walking up and down the aisles with a big smile on my face. I may not have managed to buy everything I needed but I have a grown up home owner daughter and a tooth with a brand new filling that will put to the test with all the lovely treats did find their way into my trolley. If we could all just stop coughing, everything would be perfect.

One of the things that has helped keep everything (relatively) stress free has been my Xmas knitting project in which I have attempted to make one of each of the birds that feature in the Xmas classic, The Twelve Days of Christmas. I never imagined I would find knitting so relaxing and I have really enjoyed seeing my little creations taking shape. Here are the (slightly malformed!) birds my true love sent to me with a Santa thrown in for good measure!



Monday, 19 December 2011

Kodak Christmas Photo Craft Challenge

I love taking photographs and recently I have discovered a new passion for knitting. I thought there had to be some interesting ways to combine these two hobbies and the Kodak Christmas  Photo Craft Challenge gave me just the incentive I needed to get creative.

I'm Taking Part in the Kodak Christmas Photo Craft Challenge

This is the image I decided to use for my Christmas Photo Craft.

I love my daughter's cheeky little expression and the outline of the head is quite clean which made it easy to cut out. 

This is the knitting part of the project.

I have been busy making little knitted decorations for my Christmas tree. The hat and beard of my knitted santa seemed to lend themselves perfectly to the idea I had for this challenge.

I adjusted the size of the photograph and printed it. I cut out the head and added a knitted beard and hat. All that remained was to hang it on the Christmas tree!

My Kodak Christmas Photo Craft Challenge

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A Lovely Surprise

I had a lovely surprise today.

I was quickly checking my twitter account after a day spent away from the computer, knitting with my mum, when I saw the following messages:

Congratulations to  who has won our best video review of the year!  (1st post by Chris Boxall) Charming!

Well done  you've won £50 worth of Orchard Toys products for your What a Performance! video review!

 Please contact me on PR/Marketing email you can find here  Congratulations on your charming review!

I was delighted for two reasons:

1. £50 worth of lovely products from Orchard Toys is going to make a very nice extra pile of presents under the Christmas tree, and

2. It is a good feeling to know that the effort I put into my video reviews is appreciated.

I love finding excuses to make videos and enjoy the whole process from coming up with ideas to filming and editing. Best of all is having the finished product that I can revisit often and marvel at how much my little ones have grown and changed.

I find it astonishing that my video channel has received nearly 86,000 views (at time of writing) in the year it has been in existence, with one particular video clocking up nearly 26,000 on its own! I realise that in viral video terms this is nothing but for me, to think that my little boy beating a cuddly dog repeatedly over the head with a rubber bone has been watched 26,000 times, is quite something!

I am looking forward to receiving (and reviewing) my prize from Orchard Toys and of course, having the excuse for making more videos.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tots 100 Xmas Party Weekend

In my post All I want for Xmas isn't lettuce , I did have a bit of a moan about the vegetarian food served by Turners restaurant at the Tots 100 Xmas Party. This was not a reflection on the weekend, which was fabulous.

We decided to go the whole hog and stay 3 nights at the Butlins resort and take the opportunity to visit my in-laws in Brighton whilst we were down there on the South Coast. As it turned out, my mother in law's hip replacement operation was scheduled for that same weekend which gave us an even bigger incentive to want to see them and offer whatever support we could.

We arrived quite late on the Friday, settled into our hotel, The Shoreline, which was very nice and went for a little wander around the resort.

The Skyline Pavilion from our Hotel window

Things have changed a lot at Butlins since I used to spend family holidays at Barry Island as a child some forty years ago. Back then it was all row upon row of slightly shabby looking chalets and a very 'school dinner' approach to the catering. Now it is clean hotels with much attention to detail (I particularly appreciated the fluffy white towels folded to look like various animals [we had a crab, a dog and an elephant] which made my feeble attempts at napkin folding seem quite insignificant) and eateries to suit a variety of tastes and budgets.

The schedule of entertainment was very impressive and although I usually prefer my holidays to be more about the natural beauty and attractions of the location, I was happy to throw myself into the Butlins way of life and 'be entertained'. My kids loved the fairground rides for little people and the soft adventure play areas and I had an amazingly good time on the first night watching A Beautiful World perform their set in celebration of the music of Take That. Marvellous! I had packed swimming costumes to try out their Splash Waterworld but after two separate people told me that the water tempertaure was uncomfortably cold, we decided to give that a miss. We were already struggling to fight off the winter colds without being reckless!

Enjoying a book with Grandma
On the Saturday, my husband took both children to Brighton for the day to see Grandma before she went into hospital and to catch up with some of his old friends. It felt very strange for me to be in such a family orientated environment without my little ones but I spent some time time with my sister, Wendy, who was also there for the party and enjoyed some rare me time. At two o'clock we met up with the Tots 100 bloggers for coffee and mince pies and a rather bizarre competitive christmas tree decorating hour. My team won, mostly thanks to the painstaking efforts of Squidgyboo to thread fresh cranberries onto cotton to make a fairly juicy garland, but I like to think the friendly face I made out of baubles, a cracker and a santa hat contributed in some small way to the overall effect. I touched base briefly with my family before heading off for Christmas cocktails and dinner at Turners restaurant. It was lovely to get dressed up (although the heels I planned to wear stayed in my suitcase as I opted to stick with my trusty Doc Martens),  meet fellow bloggers, enjoy some kid free time and be thoroughly looked after. Heartfelt thanks to Sally Whittle for making it all possible.

We spent some time enjoying the resort on Sunday morning before heading off to Brighton again for lunch with Grandpa and then to Haywards Heath to visit Grandma who was recovering nicely from her operation. I am so glad that we had booked the extra night at Butlins because we had already spent a lot of time in the car and I, for one, was feeling shattered. Takeaway pizza and a lazy evening in our hotel room was just what I needed.

We made the most of our last few hours of holiday on Monday morning. When we normally would have been on our way to school, we were on our way to the Skyline Pavilion for some fun. It was relatively quiet meaning very little queueing for rides which equates to LOTS of riding.

Taking the teacup ride very seriously

I had one heart-stoppingly horrible moment. Adrian was playing in the soft adventure play area. I was sat in sight of the entrance with a cup of Costa coffee while my husband and Dylan were watching Fireman Sam and an enthusiastic red coat entertain the masses. I was enjoying just sitting and watching the world go by with regular glances into the labyrinth of padded obstacles to reassure myself with a flash of Addy's blonde hair or a glimpse of her stripy jumper. She was having a wonderful time exploring and clambering. As time went by, I felt a growing sense of unease that I hadn't seen her for a while. I had sickening visions of her lying injured, out of sight in the deepest bowels of the soft play area or lured away by some predatory monster. Was it possible that she could have just slipped out unnoticed? I kept thinking that I would spot her smiling face at any moment but when that moment didn't come, the panic began to set in. Maybe by some telepathic link or coincidence, my husband turned up. I explained the situation and he set off in search of her. I stayed where I was in case she was still playing happily in a dark corner.

The whole episode probably lasted no more than five minutes but they were five impossibly long minutes before the sight of my husband returning with my baby girl, unperturbed, held high in his arms, allowed time to pass normally again. She had indeed slipped out of the play area in search of new thrills. She was sitting in a coin operated vehicle pressing buttons without a care in the world when he found her. It was a sobering reminder that life can take unexpected horrifying turns.

By now it was time for our visit to see Santa. Santa's Grotto, set in an enchanted forest, was quite magical. Addy took one look at the rosy cheeked, white bearded gentleman and fled in terror!

It was a great weekend and the Christmassy-ness of it all with fake snow, lights, bauble clad trees, festive songs and the man himself (even if he did frighten the life out of Addy) has been a delight. Back home now to a mountain of laundry and a Christmas day to prepare for.

Monday, 12 December 2011

All I want for Xmas isn't lettuce

I love food.

I am a vegetarian.

I don't think it should be necessary to have to join those two sentences with the connective "but".

I take a lot of time and trouble when planning and preparing my veggie Xmas dinner to ensure that it is well balanced, delicious, festive and impressive, even without the bronzed, stuffed bird to take centre stage. I only wish this were true of all restauranteurs and caterers.

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Tots 100 Christmas Party organised by Sally Whittle, woman of great resourcefulness and boundless energy. The venue was Butlins, Bognor Regis and we were treated to a three course evening meal at their flagship restaurant, Turners, which promised a mouthwatering dining experience from the culinary vision of top chef Brian Turner.

The meal started promisingly with a delicious, creamy parsnip soup with roasted hazelnuts. The fact that the serving staff were uncertain as to whether is was actually suitable for vegetarians did not inspire confidence but I enjoyed it nonetheless and did not find so much as a microscopic piece of chicken looking at me from my soup spoon.

As the main course was served to the meat eating guests, I started to get excited about what might be on offer as the vegetarian alternative. Their turkey with all the trimmings looked lovely. I couldn't help but feel disappointed when presented with a plate of two large, grey, triangular wedges of something and some salad leaves. Where were my roast potatoes? My red cabbage? My brussel sprouts? My french beans? Surely the vegetable components of the turkey dinner could be served to meat eaters and vegetarians alike?

The grey wedges, I believe, were roast chestnut and wild mushroom rice cake. The taste was quite nice but, oh, it was stodgy. It was a lot more starchy rice than chestnut and mushroom and I could feel my poor palate struggling to cope with it. The salad leaves would have been a lovely accompaniment to a light meal on a summer day but, call me old fashioned, it is not what I want for winter dining.

The meat eaters were brought round extra gravy. We had to make do with the smear of sauce that made the plate look pretty but did nothing to ease the digestion of the rice cake which by now, in my over active imagination, had grown to the size of triangular house bricks (do such things exist?) and were taunting my inability to produce enough saliva to do the job.

At least there was still dessert to look forward to.

Dessert consisted of poached winter fruits and cinnamon ice cream. That sounds much nicer than the reality which was a handful of prunes, dried apricots and half a pear. It looked like the sort of food I torture myself with when trying to lose weight. It's Christmas! I want to indulge my taste buds! At least this was not the exclusive domain of the vegetarian. If the meat eaters had been served a decadently rich Christmas pud with creamy custard I would have begun to suspect a Brian Turner conspiracy to drive vegetarians into an insanely jealous meat frenzy rage.

The disappointment of the food did not spoil a lovely evening spent with good company and a rather nice red wine but if you were to ask me what I was most looking forward to on Christmas day, I can guarantee that my answer would NOT be lettuce with my Christmas dinner.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Off to the Tots 100 Xmas Party

Although I miss sitting at my computer and letting my thoughts spill onto the screen as the flashing cursor keeps speed with fingers dancing over keys, I do like the days when I am simply TOO BUSY TO BLOG.

Christmas is rapidly approaching and we have so many festive plans that I wonder how I am going to fit it all in. I love the way life can be a rollercoaster but my blog is my station. I enjoy the ride but it is nice to get off sometimes, feel the world stop for a moment and take time to reflect.

Right now, the stations seem to be whizzing by in a blur. I'm getting ready to go south with the family for the Tots 100 Christmas party at Bognor Regis Butlins and plan to visit my in laws in Brighton while we are there. I am still trying to get my head round the packing and no doubt will have forgotten something  crucial that I will remember in a panic somewhere along the M6.

I can complain that there are not enough hours in the day but I can never complain that my life is boring!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Carol Concent with the mini Grinch

It was my little Addy's Christmas Carol Concert at nursery school yesterday (or as she called it - Carol Concent). She had been enthusiastically belting out word perfect (almost!) renditions of Winter Wonderland and When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney at home and I couldn't wait to see my baby girl performing with her classmates.

It was a pleasantly mild day (unlike today when I nearly got blown over walking to school and the day previously where the paths were treacherously slippery) As the parents arrived, the children where already in position on the playground, wrapped up warm in their coats and hats. There were lots of parents gathered around, craning their necks to try and spot their own precious child in the group of wide eyed little ones.

I couldn't spot my Addy at all. It actually got to the point where I was starting to feel a little worried. Where could she be? Her lovely teacher must have noted my growing anxiety and gestured to me where Addy was hiding and tried to coax her out. Reluctantly, she came forward. I thought that when she spotted my face in the audience she would relax and enjoy herself but her petulant little expression didn't alter. In fact, the furrowed brow and the sulky lip remained firmly in place for the duration of the concert. She did not sing a single word.

Most of the children were joining in beautifully. A couple crumbled under the pressure and burst into inconsolable tears. At least Addy didn't cry. She just had a face that the Grinch would have been proud of.

"The Grinch" recreated at home!

After the concert, the parents were invited into the school for mince pies and hot chocolate. It was a lovely opportunity to have a glimpse into Addy's world - a world that has become a very important part of her development.

I asked her why she hadn't sung and she simply shrugged and said I didn't want to. Can't really argue with that! I do hope it isn't a taste of things to come. Have you done your homework Addy? - I didn't want to. Have you tidied your room Addy? - I didn't want to. Why weren't you  home before midnight Addy? - I didn't want to.

Disappointing as it was that I didn't get to see my little girl singing, I did win the raffle (a nice box of chocs) and there is always next year.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas Muffins

In my quest for the perfect mince pie I have discovered something that will definitely become a part of our family's festive food traditions - the Christmas Muffin.

I used a recipe adapted from Catherine Atkinson's Muffins Galore - a gorgeous book full of inspiring muffin recipes and photographs that make you put on weight simply by looking at them.

Christmas Muffins
Dry Ingredients:
  • 300g SR flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground mixed spice
  • 100g soft brown sugar
Wet Ingredients:
  • 175g Mincemeat
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g melted cooking marg
  • Approx 100mls natural yoghurt made up to 175ml with milk
  • 8 Glace Cherries, chopped
1. Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls.
2. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir until just combined.
3. Dollop into muffin tin lined with muffin cases (makes 12).
4. Sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar to give a decorative, crunchy, sweet topping.
5. Cook for 200˚C (gas mark 6) for approx 20minutes (or until springy)

This recipe does seem to make up to a large amount of mix. I wondered how I was going to fit it all into my 12 muffin cases but I managed.

They are really simple to make and smell gorgeous when they are cooking. The mincemeat gives them a lovely Christmassy flavour and they keep quite well for a couple of days (I don't know if they keep any longer than that because we ate them all!)

It is just possible that this Christmas Eve, Santa might find a festive muffin put out for him with his glass of port at our house.

The Gallery - Week 84 - My Awesome Photograph

I took this photograph at Chester Zoo. I can't help thinking he's admiring his own reflection. If you look closely you might see exactly what he's admiring!

I love the vibrant green, the interesting textures and the gentle humour that make up this photograph which is why I am choosing it as my entry into this week's Gallery.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Cutey Charm Bracelet Giveaway

I love the idea of old fashioned silver charm bracelets - collecting tiny charms that mean something to you and displaying them together on a bracelet. Unfortunately, I've never seen one that actually looks nice! They end up such a muddle.

The new trend in charm bracelets makes a lot more sense and creates a beautifully aesthetic finished piece. Individual beads and charms can be selected to thread onto a simple silver rope bracelet to make something unique and personal. However, the cost of component pieces can be high and the overall cost prohibitive.

New online retailer Cutey have a range of charm bracelets complete with charms that offers a high quality piece of jewellery at a very affordable price. I was sent a bracelet to review.

I was very impressed with the quality of the bracelet that had an authentic feel and a lovely variety of  beads and charms.

I showed the charm bracelet to my fourteen year old daughter who is developing a keen sense of style. She fell in love with it. She spent a good deal of time studying the beads and charms individually and then familiarising herself with the piece as a whole - the tactile movement of it, its weight and wearability.

At  £12.99 with FREE UK delivery, these would make lovely gifts.

I have one Cutey Charm Bracelet to offer as a Giveaway.

For a chance to win, simply:
  • Follow my blog and leave a comment below saying which from the Cutey Range is your favourite. (Please provide a means of contact eg Twitter ID)
For bonus entries (max 3)
  • Like Cutey on Facebook and post a link to this giveaway on their wall.
  • Like Qwerty Mum on Facebook
  • Follow @PaulaHaylock and Tweet " Gorgeous Charm Bracelet from @CuteyJewellery to be won at QWERTY Mum blog @PaulaHaylock #WIN "
Please leave separate comments below for each bonus entry to say that you have done so.

Thank you and Good Luck!

Winner will be chosen at random from all comments on Monday 19th December (UK only)

Competition closed

ThePrizeFinder - UK Competitions

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas Pudding from Fancy Dress Outfitters

Without a doubt, the very best fancy dress costumes are the ones you make yourself - unique, individual and bursting with creativity. But let's be realistic, who always has the time for that sort of thing? Especially at this time of year.

Sometimes, I think, it is perfectly OK to cheat a little.

Online retailers Fancy Dress Outfitters  offer an amazing range of dressing up costumes for both adults and children. I selected an outfit from their Children's Christmas Range to review.

I liked the look of their Snowflake Elf and Tree Fairy costumes but finally opted for the Christmas Pudding.

This is my little Addy, aka the Dancing Xmas Pud, with an original jingle performed by my musical (and ever obliging) daughters.

As well as using fancy dress outfits for parties and other special occasions, I love having a dressing up box available for my children. It can really inspire them and be the catalyst for imaginative play. The Xmas Pudding outfit will make a welcome addition to our festive themed dressing up box.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas Shopping

With the schools closed because of the pension strikes yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage and go Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, it seemed that lots of other people had the same idea. Add to this all the kids that would otherwise have been sitting in lessons and what you have is a crowded town centre barely navigable by one woman and her rather wide buggy.

I persevered with the shopping but with every successful purchase that ladened me down, the job became harder.

When I eventually gave up and came home, my mood had not been tarnished. I had managed to buy some gifts I was really pleased with and felt that I had a clear idea of what still needed to be done - and the majority of that could be accomplished with the miracle of online shopping.

I am feeling very positive about Christmas shopping this year. I have pared down what I need to buy to the barest minimum. This is not because of any financial restrictions - I simply refuse to succumb to the insanity that infects so many people this time of year. There really is no need to go crazy and spend a fortune panic buying things for the sake of it - because it's Christmas!!

Christmas, for me, is about family and friends and making the house warm and cosy and spending time with the kids and seasonal cooking and celebrating and snuggling up to watch heartwarming movies and singing Xmas songs. Of course there is a place for the giving of gifts but I am a firm believer that buying gifts should bring just as much (if not more) pleasure as receiving. I am really getting it right this year. I feel relaxed and happy and full to overflowing with the best kind of warm, fuzzy, it's Xmas feeling.

There is plenty of time for it all to go horribly wrong - an eleventh hour panic that my children will be disappointed with what I've bought them - a horrible realisation after the shops close on Xmas eve that I've forgotten to buy peanuts and how can we possibly have Xmas without peanuts!!!

Last year, we had a Toyologist Christmas thanks to me being the lucky winner of a Toys R Us competition. We had a mountain of toys beneath our Christmas tree which did look amazing and we had a lot of fun opening them and later writing our reviews. This was definitely a one off. I don't even want to think about what my house (and my bank balance) would look like if this were the expectation year after year.

A blog I enjoy reading is Zen Habits. The author, Leo Babauta, wrote a post called "The No New Gifts Holiday Challenge" which, as the title suggests, challenges us to buy no new gifts during the holiday season. I don't think I can ever see myself going to such extreme measures but his alternative ideas make a lot of sense and are based on making, creating, sharing and donating rather than the more typical consumerism that is the norm for December.

I am finding the balance that is right for me, my values and my family and it feels good. I am fully charged with Christmas spirit and loving every minute.

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.

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