Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fun with Googly Eyes

I have such a backlog of posts I have meant to write but not found the time to. At least, I suppose, that is an indication that my life is too busy to be boring!

One such post which I am trying to squeeze in now in between dinner for the kids and catching up on the household chores I neglected today because I was shopping, is another video for the Izziwizzi Kids Playfest.

I was intrigued by the idea of a play activity involving sticking googly eyes on magazine pictures and volunteered to make a short video to demonstrate it. My exceptionally disdainful 23 year old daughter told me in no uncertain terms that it is something that only people with no money and no friends would do but I think she is wrong. We had such a lot of fun with our freaky googly eye pictures.

I think because the pictures we used were all of babies it created a slightly unnerving effect - maybe even  reminiscent of the evil Chucky doll from the horror film Child's Play. Next time we get out the PVA glue and googly eyes, I will make sure I have a better variety of old magazines - I'd love a googly eyed Johnny Depp or maybe even a googly eyed version of my disdainful daughter to get even with her for her comment! - but for now, this is our video:

The Importance of Staying Calm

I took advantage of the fact that the Teacher Strikes today had left my 14 year old daughter's school closed - she is going to Spain shortly and desperately in need of some new clothes, so we went shopping. I also had £40 of birthday money to spend on my little boy (my parents aways give money instead of presents).

It was going so well. We had found summer tops and shorts ideal for Spain, some gorgeous outfits for a little boy who had just turned one and a whole assortment of cars, boats and musical instruments to keep him happy. The only thing we were really struggling with was a swimming costume. My daughter is tall and statuesque and would look amazing in any of the skimpy bikinis that were on offer but she is also only fourteen, yet to feel entirely comfortable in her developing body and sensible enough to know that she would be self conscious and awkward having too much flesh exposed.

We decided to drive to an out of town retail park with a big Tesco and a Sports Shop in the hope that there would be better range of costumes to suit our needs.

As luck would have it, we found exactly what we were looking for and a few more things to add to the basket...  but when I came to pay, I realised that the credit card slot in my purse was unusually empty. I searched all the other slots on the off chance that in  a careless moment I had ignored my own OCD when it comes to wallet ordering but I knew it would be fruitless.

It is a horrible feeling of rising panic. I tried to remember where I had used it last and if there was any possibility that I might have left it in the machine there (it wouldn't be the first time!). I imagined some unscrupulous individual spending thousands of pounds of my credit as I stood there wondering.

My first priority was to find another means to pay for my shopping.  I had a debit card and a couple of other credit cards, none of which I knew the PIN number for. Thankfully, my daughter had a twenty pound note in her purse which when put together with my cash and a Club Card voucher covered the amount we owed.

With the first crisis of How to Pay for my Shopping out of the way, my concerns returned to the Where Did I Use my Credit Card Last conundrum. Eventually we traced it back to the Early Learning Centre. Our departure from there was somewhat hasty and stressful with my three year old daughter digging her heels in and refusing to come out of the Little Tikes Coupe car that she decided she rather liked.

I had picked up the ELC catalogue when I was there so it was an easy enough task to find the contact number for the branch and give them a ring on my mobile which confirmed that I had indeed left my credit card in their machine. With my fears of being the victim of a massive credit card fraud allayed, it was a simple case of driving back into town, revisiting the shop and being reunited with my plastic companion. Slotting that card back into its allotted position in my purse restored normality.

We did a little bit more shopping before we all decided we had just about had enough and wanted to go home.

I don't  know what had possessed me to park my car in the bay next to the trolley park. It meant I couldn't open the doors wide enough to be useful on the driver's side so there was a bit of acrobatic climbing through required. Whether it was that or trying to juggle babies, shopping and buggies I don't know but I threw my keys onto the driver's seat and loaded everything into the back of my Galaxy whilst my daughter strapped the baby into his seat. She finished before I did so she shut the back door and waited for me to finish and climb through into my seat from the passenger side before she could climb through, strap the three year old in and finally get herself seated. I slammed the boot down. There was a whirring and clunking of central locking activating.

I have a fear of locking my babies in the car. I actually have little rituals that I follow when I am on my own with them to prevent it happening. Now here I was with a worried looking teenage daughter questioning why the doors were locked, two little children locked inside as yet oblivious to the situation and car keys sprawled in an untidy heap in plain view on my driver's seat.

I could have panicked. I didn't.

My three year old is extremely bright and capable and thankfully not buckled in!

I asked her to do a little job for me and instructed her to pull on the shiny handle which I though would release the locking mechanism. She didn't really understand what she was supposed to be pulling so tried a few different things. Me shouting my instructions through the window of the car attracted attention. A very well meaning passerby came to offer assistance. Unfortunately, the worried face of a stranger shouting further instructions to an already slightly bemused little girl did nothing to help. It was lovely of her to care enough to try and help but I was really pleased when she apologised profusely because she had to go back to work. To my relief, my daughter eventually pulled the right handle... but the relief was short lived. It had not unlocked the car.

I will be forever grateful that my little girl likes to climb and clamber. I directed her into the front seat to get the keys. I have a million keys on my key ring but the car keys are distinctive. She got the right key in her hand and from that point it was simply a case of getting her to push the remote locking button but by now, she was starting to lose interest in this game.

I don't really know how I was still managing to stay calm but I was. A combination of gentle encouragement, making her laugh and promising that if she pressed the button I would open her packet of sweets for her restored her interest long enough for her to squeeze the car key against another on the ring. By some miracle, the whirring and clunking I longed to hear sounded. The car was open. For the second time in less than an hour, normality was restored.

I have a superstitious belief that these thing come in threes. A lost credit card, children locked in a car.... what, I wonder, is next?


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

When Diets Fail

There are so many factors that conspire against my best weight loss intentions - irresistible special offers at the supermarket, being busy and tired and making bad choicessimple overeating. Now I am adding another. The dreaded 'Time of the Month'.

At the moment I feel bloated and sluggish. My skin always suffers under the hormonal onslaught and all I want to do is dress in baggy, shapeless clothes and feel a bit sorry for myself. I know that within a couple of days everything will be back to normal but that doesn't help me NOW.

The very last thing on my list of things I am willing to do is stand on the scales. I just don't want to know. My head tells me that the reality probably isn't anywhere as near as bad as the picture my bloated belly is painting but I feel too fragile to risk it!

I haven't rushed to the comfort of the biscuit tin but then neither have I said no to enjoying a slice of my son's birthday cake this week. I haven't completely lost the plot with my sensible eating plan but deliberately avoiding the bathroom scales means I don't have to deal with the disappointment of no weight loss or worse WEIGHT GAIN.

If it was a friend who was on a diet I would be very encouraging and say listen to what your body is telling you. Don't go crazy but don't be too hard on yourself. Wait till you are feeling ready to tackle the whole diet thing again and don't worry if you have not made progress this week. It is a long term plan - not an instant fix. There will always be little wobbles, sometimes outside of your control, and you just have to roll with them. If it was a friend who was on a diet I would say all this and mean every word. Why then do I find it so hard to say it to myself??

I am trying to give myself the same consideration that I would give a friend in need of a little reassurance and support but I think I am often more of an enemy to myself than a friend. That is SO wrong. Actually taking the time to think about it and write it here is helping me to see how wrong it is.

I hereby resolve
a) not to beat myself up about having a bad week
b) to give myself permission to have a week away from the scales without feeling guilty or like a failure
c) to be back with renewed vigour in time for next Monday's #mumentum weigh in - I might just be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

I'm Toy Wooden Scooter

From an aesthetic point of view, I would much rather have wooden toys in my house than their plastic counterparts.

We have a lovely wooden dolls house and castle that my grown up children had when they were younger. I kept them because I couldn't bear to part with them and convinced myself that they'd come in for the grandchildren. Little did I know at the time that I would become a mum again to a girl and a boy who will have many years of enjoyment from them (....and still no sign of any grandchildren!).

I was delighted to be sent an 'I'm Toy' Wooden Scooter to review for Izziwizzi Kids.

This is our vlog review.

Since making this video, my little girl has really got to grips with the scooting action and can get up to quite a speed. Her steering leaves something to be desired but no doubt that will come in time. She still can't quite get her head round the difference between a 'skateboard' and a 'scooter' but I don't think she cares. It's all just fun to her.

I think this is a lovely toy with a really solid feel to it. If those grandchildren ever make an appearance, I'm sure it will be ready and waiting to take on a whole new generation of fun seekers.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Campstock 2011 Experience

I was so tired yesterday that all I could manage to post of my weekend was a Silent Sunday picture.

While all the 'lucky bloggers' were descending on Cybermummy, I was sitting in the impressively extensive gardens of Staffordshire Manor House surrounded by rhodedendrons that must have painted a spectacular picture when they were at their best. I was not there to look at faded blooms. I was there supporting Campstock 2011 - a Charity Music Festival in aid of the local Macmillan Hospice. As suggested on the ticket, I had brought a picnic.

As we arrived, laden with everything we could think of to optimise our comfort and enjoyment (folding chairs, flask of coffee, toys for the little ones, waterproofs ...) the Trentham Brass Band were playing. They were very accomplished but made me feel unseasonally Christmassy. I didn't want to be reminded that we are already halfway through the year and Santa will be making his annual appearance before we know it.

There were lots of people there but they were well spread out creating a relaxed atmosphere. I was not entirely relaxed. Once the Brass Band had delivered their last 'oompah' I knew that it was only moments away from the real reason for my interest in this particular event.

For the first time this year, Campstock had decided to extend their line up to include local acts that were just starting out and possibly had not had much exposure in the way of performing gigs. The organiser, Martin, turned to a man who has inspired youngsters musically for many years in his role as Music teacher at my children's secondary school for help. That man has been teaching my girls piano since we moved to Shropshire and put forward the name of their newly formed band, 'Not Quite' as a possible support act.

After listening to a recording of one of their songs and meeting with my girls, Martin invited them to perform.

The sun wasn't exactly shining (but we hadn't needed our waterproofs at least) as my girls took to the stage.

It was a very strange feeling sitting in an audience watching my girls doing their thing - feeling immensely proud but wondering if it was only a mother's bias that lead to thinking they were fantastic. The cheers and applause they received indicated that it wasn't.

They made a few mistakes due to their inexperience - Ivy actually forgot to plug her guitar in for the first song! - but it somehow added to their charm.

The set was over all too quickly.

The stage had to be cleared of their instruments to make room for the next act so with a little help from boyfriends and a stepdad, they carried everything to load into the waiting car. As they walked through the crowd, they were clapped and praised.

They received loads of positive feedback from the other bands as well who all mentioned them during their own sets, in particular acknowledging how good the songs that they had written themselves were.

It was easy to see how the experience had boosted their confidence and now they feel inspired to do some more songwriting over the summer.

I don't imagine that I'll ever see my girls on whatever the modern day equivalent of 'Top of the Pops' is - they don't have the hunger for fame and celebrity that I think goes with the territory - but I do hope that they will have many more opportunities to perform and continue to love what they are doing.

The video shows a selection of the original songs performed by my girls - girls who give me every reason to be one very proud mum.

Not Quite Music blog
Not Quite Music on Facebook
Not Quite Music on Twitter

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hedgetrimming for Salvation

Any #Momentum mums reading this will surely understand how easy it is to fall off the diet wagon.

I have been sticking to my menu plan for the week, preparing home cooked, nutritious healthy meals and thoroughly enjoying doing so. However, this did not stop me having a monumental wobble involving a certain chocolate bar famously made in Slough and named after the fourth planet from the Sun. I can't even bring myself to type it I am so ashamed. Curse Morrisons for having them on special offer and curse the children for not finding them in the larder before I did.

To alleviate my feelings of guilt and hopefully undo any potential weight loss sabotage I had decided to put myself through some gruelling gym activity today but as the sun was shining and the garden was desperately in need of some attention , I decided to pay my chocolate, caramel and nougat penance in the form of hedge trimming instead.

My garden has a LOT of hedges.

Sadly none of them lend themselves to anything creative and quirky in the best topiary fashion. The most exciting one is a rough sphere, the rest are... well, hedge shaped. One stretch is waist height - easy. The majority I can just reach by extending my arms as far as I can (which always makes me feel nervous when I am wielding a power tool that would rip through flesh as easy as  it annihilates  thin branches). I have a beech hedge that I can only reach the top of by standing on a step ladder and over extending (even more terrifying) and a monstrous Lleylandi that reaches virtually as high as Jack's beanstalk. I would need to have over indulged on the entire Mars factory output to feel moved to tackle that particular beast.

There is a part of me that hates destroying all the vibrant fresh new growth that is striving to restore natural chaos to my order but then it is oddly satisfying to be the master of your own little world and beating that unruly privet back into neatness and symmetry.

My hedge trimmer is not exactly girlie in design. It has a big old blade and it is HEAVY. I have to take regular breaks to stop my fingers seizing up with the exertion of holding down the slightly awkward 'on' lever and the safety lever. When I stop, I can still feel my arm muscles vibrating at the same frequency as the cutting blades. That feeling can last for a long time after the final hedge has been trimmed.

Is it worth it?

I am not sure if I have worked all my major muscle groups with the right combination of cardio vascular exercise or even used up a fraction of the empty calories that I consumed in weakness, but I do feel less guilty and the garden looks hell of lot better!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

My Friend Rose

Since leaving home to go to University, I moved from place to place, never putting down roots anywhere.

Then I moved to a little village north of Reading called South Stoke.

My oldest child was of school age so we enrolled her in the local village primary school. It was a tiny school with one class for infants and one for juniors. With so few kids and mums, my usual anonymity was impossible. Everybody seemed to know who I was and were friendly and welcoming. One person in particular went the extra mile to make me feel accepted.

That person was Rose.

Rose volunteered at the school listening to readers and she seemed to know everything about everyone. She had a daughter of a similar age to my own and before long, we were spending lots of time at each other's houses chatting and drinking tea while our girls played.

Rose was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant again and one of the first people I told when my sister died. Moments like that bind you.

When I had my daughters christened, Rose was a natural choice for Godmother and she continues to spoil them even though they are all grown up now.

Rose never forgave my husband for moving us away from our home in South Stoke, especially since the marriage broke down shortly after. We are in regular contact but it can never be the same as it was when we saw each other every day for tea and gossip.

As much as she worried about me when I was going through a  difficult divorce, I worried about her and a life that was unhappy and unfulfilled. Eventually, last year she found the courage to make a big change. She left her long term partner and a stable job and bought a house in Swindon. It was a massive gamble but it paid off. She met a man who is everything she ever wanted and she is living her happy ever after.

Rose does not like to drive which means I don't get to see her very often. I was absolutely thrilled when, on the occasion of my wedding to husband number 2, she drove all the way from Swindon to Shropshire to be with me as I tied the knot on my own happy ever after. It meant the world that she had overcome her unwillingness to drive and had done that for me.

Although I don't see a lot of her in person any more, I love to see her big smile on the photographs that she posts on facebook and her cheery statuses. One status, in particular, had me practically jumping for joy. Her new man had proposed to her whilst on a romantic holiday in Corsica.

Wedding plans are now well underway. Her grown up son will be giving her away but as he is a man of few words (unless he is talking about art house films or arguing how the likes of Steven Spielberg are 'pacifying the masses through escapism') she has asked me to deliver the 'father of the bride' speech.

It might be a little unconventional but I felt so honoured to be asked. I have until January to come up with something befitting a very special person - my friend Rose.

Photographs published by kind permission of Adrian Roberts

Raspberry Picking

I absolutely love being able to go out into my garden to pick fruit or vegetables.

My vegetable plot is fairly unproductive at the moment because we are in the middle of redesigning it with paths to divide up the different plots and make it all more manageable. We have already done the soft fruit area and it has made maintenance and harvesting so much easier.

The strawberries haven't been too good this year but the raspberries are fantastic. I particularly like picking the raspberries because it reminds me of happy days as a child going blackberrying. I would try so hard to impress my dad by finding the biggest, juiciest fruits (which where always the ones just out of reach). I later found out that while I was trying to impress my dad with my gathering  skills, he was busy trying to impress my mum under the railway arches with a bit of elicit loving. It does explain why they were both so eager to go on our Sunday afternoon foraging trips when nobody particularly liked blackberries!

Now as I pick my raspberries it makes me smile to think of the young couple that they were back then, stealing moments together to spice up their marriage. It could be part of the reason why they still insist they are as in love as they ever were after more than 50 years as man and wife. I like to think so.

I used the fruit from my harvest to make a big rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry crumble to celebrate Summer Solstice last Tuesday. It may not have been great for the diet but it was definitely good for the soul.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Gallery - Week 64 - Three Words

For Fathers Day, we indulged daddy's favourite hobby - sailing.

It turned out to be very a special day with the three year old taking her first trip out on the boat, our Flying Fifteen. She seemed to think it was all completely normal despite quite violent rocking and the sometimes deafening sound of wind in the sails. Being so small, there was no need for her to duck for the boon!

My Three Word contribution to this week's Gallery,

Finding Sea Legs

How to Juggle

If you haven't come across Izziwizzi Kids yet, it is a website dedicated to Changing the World of Toys and Play...Together.

Every week they host a Play Fest Party from 8.30pm to 10pm on Twitter (Tuesday) using the hashtag #playfest and Facebook (Thursday). This is an opportunity to share ideas and be inspired.

In support of the Make Time 2 Play Campaign, Izziwizzi kids have launched the Play Fest "How to ... Play Challenge" which calls for volunteers to make short videos on various play related topics.

I love having an excuse to make a video so I put myself forward for  "How to Juggle".

This is what we came up with:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Beauty and the Resurrection of an Old Hobby

Every mum thinks their daughters are beautiful.

I certainly do.

But I've never thought of Taylor as 'beautiful' in quite the way that my eyes have been opened to this week. 'Beautiful' as in Super Model Beautiful.

Taylor is cute and gorgeous but she has no interest in make up and fashion. She dresses for comfort, keeps a completely natural look and would rather bang out some rhythms on her drum kit or go sailing than buy new clothes.

Taylor has a friend, Kirsty, who is a talented young art student. Kirsty enlisted Taylor's help with her current art project which is an exploration of Fame -  the glamour and the pitfalls. She dressed Taylor and some other friends up and had them pose for a series of photographs. Looking at the set of images that resulted amazed me - not only for Kirsty's artistic vision and the execution of it but how incredibly beautiful my little Taylor looked. Simply breathtaking.

Kirsty has kindly given me permission to use the images of Taylor and I have selected four of my favourite glamorous shots plus the contrasting depiction of the dark side of celebrity.

I have to thank Kirsty, not just for allowing me to use her photos or for showing me my daughter in a completely new light but for inspiring me.

As a young woman with my first SLR camera I used to experiment with photographing my sister in poses that ranged from glamorous to the macabre. We had such a lot of fun doing it. I don't know why it never occurred to me before to resurrect that particular hobby using my own daughters as subjects. We talked about it last night after watching Jackass as a tribute to the late Ryan Dunn and came up with loads of ideas.

I have a camera, I have ideas, I have willing models. I can't wait to get started!

Face Painting Marathon

After my early start and full day on Friday at Blog Camp Manchester, I could really have done with a weekend lie in. This was not to be.

A family friend runs a gorgeous little rural nursery. On Saturday, they were having a fund raising Summer Fair and I had volunteered to help.

I was up early cooking Raspberry Ripple Muffins for the cake stall and by 9.30am, we were ready to leave.

My husband was organising a reunion event at work so he was not available to look after our little ones. Thankfully, Ivy and Taylor were ready to step in leaving me free to set up my corner offering Face Painting.

I love face painting and really enjoyed reviewing the Snazaroo face paint sets for Toys R Us  but I prefer to take my time. When faced with a queue of small children all eager to be transformed into butterflies, lions, tigers, superheroes, vampires and werewolves - I did feel a bit under pressure to get on with it quickly.

After the first three or four, I found my rhythm and started really enjoying the challenge. I loved seeing the reaction of my customers when I held the mirror up for them to see themselves and I did manage to raise a few pounds to help the cause.

I barely looked up for the duration of the Fair and when it was time to actually stand up from the tiny nursery chair I had been perched on for two hours, I definitely felt my age.

I slightly regret the fact that it wasn't me that introduced my youngest daughter to the wonders of the Bran Tub, Hook a Duck and Decorate a Biscuit but Ivy did a great job and I got to hear all about it in the enthusiastic but limited vocabulary of a three year old.

It was an exhausting morning but it was lovely to be involved in a community project and I was actually quite proud of my Werewolf face!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Raspberry Ripple Muffins

We are enjoying a fantastic crop of raspberries at the moment.

The children all love to eat them just as they are fresh from the garden but there are still enough for me to freeze some and use a few in cooking.

The following recipe is one I modified to make use of my frozen raspberries. The combination of vanilla and fresh raspberry is lovely and for me, synonymous with summer. Frozen raspberries are quite fragile and crumble easily with a small amount of pressure between your fingers. I much prefer the small pieces of raspberry distributed throughout the muffin rather than having whole fruits. Doing it this way also leaves gorgeous red streaks in the pre-cooked mixture which is why I call them Raspberry Ripple Muffins.

Raspberry Ripple Muffins

Dry ingredients: 10oz SR flour (sifted), 1tsp baking powder, 5oz caster sugar
Wet ingredients: 4floz yoghurt, 4floz milk, 4oz butter (melted), 1 egg, 1tsp vanilla essence
Plus: frozen raspberries to taste

  1. Pre heat oven to 200ÂșC 
  2. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another.
  3. Crumble the raspberries on top of the dry ingredients.
  4. Add wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Spoon into 12 muffin cases.
  6. Cook for approx 20mins until golden.
  7. Enjoy warm or cold.

Step 3. Crumble the raspberries.....

... on top of the dry ingredients.

Step 4.  Stir until just combined.

Step 5. Spoon into 12 muffin cases.

Cook until golden and enjoy!


A good start, then what happened! #mumentum

After a good start to the week when I had my 'diet head' firmly on, the second part of the week has included beer, takeaways, muffins, chocolate and ice cream - non of which is conducive to weight loss!

On a more positive note though, I did feel that everything was a) in moderation and b) thoroughly enjoyed.

I no longer feel that I am about to commit 'ideal weight' suicide but my conduct has been of a 'maintain' nature rather than about shedding the excess pounds.

Time to take stock (and thank you Liska for this monday linky because it is this which is motivating me to do so).

What went wrong? Why did my good start fail to sustain itself?

I actually have a very simple answer and it is one I can put right.

This week has been a very busy one with people needing to be fed at different times to accommodate their schedules. I have been tired and disorganised when it came to evening meals. If it gets to 6pm and I still haven't even thought about what to make for dinner, I can pretty much guarantee I won't make the best choices.

To make sure this doesn't happen again, I have made a menu plan for the whole week. It is easy enough to scribble a few ideas up on the white board in the kitchen (well it would be if I could find a pen that worked) but for me that could make the difference between being focussed/on track/in control and letting the local Indian provide my calorie intake.

My weight this morning stood at 10st 10lbs so that is 1lb down on last week. I should probably be grateful that there were No Cakes at Blog Camp Manchester!

Hoping you #MumenTum ladies have more spectacular losses to report as I aim to be doing next Monday.

Off to do some VIGOROUS housework now.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

What - no cake???

I was at Blog Camp, Manchester yesterday.

I needed to make an early start - no leisurely breakfast in my pyjamas as  I would normally do.

I had already picked an outfit to wear so minimal thought was involved there but trying to remember how to put my make up on with eyes that were refusing to come properly into focus was a mission. Add to that the complication of my Baby Boy crawling around my feet and taking great delight in pulling the toilet paper in billowing white streams from the toilet roll - and I am seriously wondering how working mums EVER manage.

My three year old didn't cause me too much trouble - as long as you don't count the 'house' she constructed out of my shoe collection. Shoes can be put back in the cupboard relatively easily!

I left the house on time with no tears from my babies, abandoned for the day and left to the mercy of a big sister that thoroughly dotes on them.

One last OCD check that I had my ticket, my phone, my credit card etc and I was on the road: first stop - my sister's Wendy house - next stop - Manchester.

Wendy's daughter is at University in Manchester so it should have been familiar territory to her. However, knowing her as well as I do and having experienced her confusion with left and right while navigating, I left nothing to chance. I had my Sat Nav programmed with the correct postcard, a map printed off from the computer and even some written directions.

I'd been feeling really confident until Wendy started saying that this was not the way she and Ian usually come and she didn't recognise this road or this road. All my hopes were hanging on the Sat Nav knowing best. Much as my hopes were hanging, the Sat Nav was hanging too - by one loose screw which eventually gave up its valiant attempt  to hold the display screen in position on the windscreen. The whole thing just fell off.

We were potentially lost and the Sat Nav had just committed suicide.

Wendy retrieved the fallen Sat Nav and tried propping it up somewhere visible but the touch screen that makes it so easy to use was now a booby trap. In her 'propping' attempts, Wendy would inadvertently reset the Sat Nav so that it was no longer directing us anywhere.

Now I REALLY felt  lost.

We eventually settled on Wendy holding the Sat Nav, very carefully, and telling me where we should be going.

We made it to the target Car Park, found three spaces together (which is always best for me!) and parked.

Now I'm not saying that we wouldn't have found our way to the venue on foot from the Car Park but I was glad that we happened to be in the lift with a very helpful young man who gave us idiot proof directions.

We did have to rush the last little bit of the journey to get to the venue just on time but at least we weren't late.

After a quick loo stop and getting a cup of coffee we were almost straight into the first talk which meant as far as socialising was concerned, we managed little more than a quick hello to a couple of fellow bloggers. It was amazing though to simply look around the room from our seat and try to match the real life people to the Blog Names that we know and love. I was surprised at how many of the Bloggers there I had never even heard of which served to remind me how I have barely scratched the surface of the enormous world of the Blogosphere.

The talks were all lively and informative. Lunch had plenty to satisfy my veggie needs. But I have two disappointments.

Firstly, I wish I had been braver when it came to socializing. I am disappointed with myself for not.

The layout of the venue was not particularly conducive to easy interacting and I am so out of practise when it comes to circulating and working a room. I've never been great at it but I was a complete non starter yesterday if I'm honest. I spent most of the time chatting with Wendy. We always have far too much to talk about but I can do it whenever I want - I should have saved it for the journey home and used my time more productively. For me there was also a slightly odd feeling of not knowing where to begin when chatting with somebody I'd never met but whose life and opinions I have intimate knowledge of. And what of their knowledge of me? Had this person sitting in the same room as me read the post where I shared the embarrassing details of my post pregnancy piles?

It was an odd and unnerving feeling but having had a day to think about why it made me feel more than a little inhibited, I don't think it will be a problem again should I get another opportunity for face to face interactions.

My second disappointment is one out of my control. Where was that promised cake?????

Thank you to Nic's Notebook for taking the photo but I really need to work on my posing!!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Young Enterprise

I have been competing for computer time recently with my youngest daughter, who has discovered the CBeebies website with the Mr Bloom games (notably 'Margaret's Patch Match') and Taylor who has been working on a project for a Young Enterprise scheme she is involved in.

Taylor and a group of girls from her college formed a Young Enterprise company selling bird houses. They buy the plain wooden bird boxes from a retired family friend of one of the members at very little cost and add value by customising them with different paint designs. Customers are able to choose the style they want when they make an order.

They have been very successful - a success that was recognised at the Celebration of Awards Ceremony in March when they were presented with awards in four categories including 'Best Company' for which they were presented with an impressive trophy.

Taylor beaming with pride with the trophy on her head!
As the overall winners in their area, they have now been invited to make a presentation for the Regional Finals in Birmingham later this month.

Taylor will be presenting a 15 second advert for the company that she has created herself using the animation software 'Flash'. Big sister, Liberty, helped out by composing a twiddly piano background music which really brought the animation to life. The whole thing has a very pink theme to represent the fact that they are an all-girl group.

Putting together the animation, sound effects and music did mean I was forcibly ejected from the computer from time to time but it was well worth the sacrifice. I am so proud of Taylor for all her achievements but I think that the advert, from a girl with limited artistic ability (!) is genius.

These are some screen shots for a flavour of the project. Hopefully, once the advert is posted to You Tube I can share the whole thing - maybe even with news of success in Regional Finals. I will have my fingers crossed for that.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth - review

I am no germaphobe. It would be a rare day that hand sanitizer found it's way into my shopping basket. However, I do love having a clean and tidy house.

Since my two little ones came along, my clean and tidy ideal has been something I aspire to but never achieve. As quick as I 'clean' and 'tidy', they 'dirty' and 'mess'!

If it came to a choice of spotless home/no children or chaotic mess/children, it really wouldn't be at all difficult. I adore being a mum to my two little terrors and I wouldn't have it any other way.

It doesn't stop me trying to have it all though.

There are two household tasks that I particularly dislike doing - mostly because the time they stay 'done' does not justify the time I spend doing them. As I would happily embrace anything that might make these tasks easier, I was very pleased to be sent the Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth to review.

According to the packaging: Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth is a unique paper towel that cleans like a cloth, its concentrated fibres ensure a cloth-like feel and leaves no nasty streaks across shiny surfaces - making it the perfect cleaning partner.

I have to admit it did feel much stronger than ordinary paper towels.

I tried it out on my Most Hated Task Number 1 - Cleaning the TV

I am in constant battle not just with the dust that is attracted to the TV but also the greasy little finger marks that appear every day when my three year old gets a little too interactive with her favourite programs. I don't help myself by having a black glass TV stand that shows up even the tiniest speck of dust.

I have tried all sorts of things from feather dusters to micro fibre cloths but have never found the perfect solution.

I gave the Thirst Pocket Multi Cloth a go, dampened with my regular anti static spray. Just one sheet removed most of the dust from the TV, the stand and the other bits of equipment that none of us can live without these days. A second sheet tackled the greasy finger marks with no problem and with a third sheet for a final wipe over, it was done. Easy.

I know that the dust will be back next time I look but there are plenty more sheets on my roll!

 Most Hated Task Number 2 - Cleaning low level windows.

I have lots of glass doors in my house. They are lovely for keeping the rooms light but with one of these.. get a lot of these.

I usually use old newspaper with my glass cleaner (as recommended by Kim and Aggie of 'How Clean is Your House?' fame) but on small panes of glass it can be a bit awkward and it does leave your hands feeling really grubby.

I tried the Thirst Pocket Multi Cloth. The claim that this paper towel Performs Like a Cloth is actually quite true. One sheet did a brilliant job...

...and I was very happy to throw this straight into the bin.

The Verdict - far superior to a paper towel, it lives up to the claims it makes and will definitely be making my life a little easier from now on.

MRRSP £2.39 from Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons and Asda.

The Gallery - Week 62 - Dads

I love the relationship my husband has with the two children we have together. He is a very 'hands on' sort of dad and spends as much time with them as other commitments permit.  They clearly adore him.

What I value even more than this is the relationship he has built with the four daughters from my first marriage.

When he came into my life, my daughters were fragile and scarred from a horribly messy marriage breakdown and a father who couldn't even comprehend what it meant to put their needs first.

My girls could have been hostile and suspicious but they were accepting and welcoming. As we gelled as a family unit, they understood for the first time how it could be - happiness, love, fun and support rather than arguing, tension and a lot of banging heads against brick walls.

My girls blossomed.

This picture was taken on Ivy's 16th birthday.

Of all my girls, she was the one who was most badly affected by the divorce. It is only now, five years later, that she is sorting it all out in her head. She is still adamant that she does not want to see her father or have any more than the barest minimum of contact. The other girls joke that she is not missing out - they have little more than the barest minimum of contact anyway, despite their willingness for more.

This was not supposed to be a bitter post about inadequate parenting. It is celebration of the fact that a non-biological father can bring so much into the lives of his stepdaughters and show them what it really means to be there for them - to be a dad.

Monday, 13 June 2011

My Top 5 Places I'd Like to Visit - Listography

Kate's Listography this week invites us to think about our top 5 travel destinations.

I have never been much of a traveller but I do harbour some fantasies that would benefit from an exotic location. It is on this that I base my list.

1. Tarzan Fantasy
The black and white Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies I enjoyed as a child have left an indelible mark. I don't necessarily want to swing through the trees or wear a loin cloth but I would love to go on an African Safari, maybe to the Masia Mara Conservation area in Kenya.

2. Pirate Fantasy
My husband spent many years living in the Caribbean before we were together. I hope one day he will take me there (preferably in a pirate ship!) to enjoy crystal clear water lapping on deserted white sandy beaches. What I would love most of all would be to see sea turtles swimming freely.

3. Belly Dancing Fantasy
I used to do belly dancing lessons. I loved the sensual movements and the amazing costumes. To take that out of a musty village hall and relocate to a sultry Egyptian location (Luxor maybe to take in the pyramids) would be a dream come true. By day I could explore the desert on an Arabian stallion, by night I could wave my veil and shimmy to my heart's desire.

4. Wild West Fantasy
This is another fantasy rooted in my childhood from watching Alias Smith and Jones on TV. How I loved Pete Duel (who played opposite Ben Murphy in the title roles) until he shot himself dead and shattered my girlish dream that we would meet and fall in love and ride off on his horse. I would love to live the Wild West lifestyle in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colarado where I am sure the songs of John Denver (another of my heroes who killed himself) will be ringing in my brain.

5. And finally..

What a travel destination the Moon would make. Imagine the fun of weightlessness and there would have to be some pretty spectacular views. Shame about the lack of oxygen though.

Show us your Shoes

I can't say my sister never does anything for me - she tagged me in a meme that gave me the excuse to think about shoes.

I love shoes and having a very tall husband means I have no excuse not to wear very high heels.

If I'm honest, you are far more likely to see me wearing my old and battered Doc Martens (they were silver once) than any other sort of footwear.

They may not be pretty any more but in terms of comfort and practicality they are unbeatable.

But I don't want to be practical all the time.

These Italian leather, stupidly high heels were a gift from my husband shortly after we got together. They are not the best fit and you certainly couldn't run for a bus in them but it was these that opened my eyes to the world of girl shoes.

No post on shoes would be complete without the shoes I wore on my wedding day. If your wedding day isn't a reason to buy an insanely gorgeous pair of shoes then I don't know what is. I'm sure many of my guests thought they fell more into the category of insane than beautiful but I will love these shoes and the very happy memories tied up in them, forever.

The latest pair of shoes to join my ever growing footwear family were these trainers.

With their gel cushioned soles, I am hoping they will help me fly round the 5K course when I run the Race for Life next month.

I am tagging my daughters Liberty and Ivy who share my love of shoes but thankfully NOT my shoesize!

Time to Lose

I had a shock when I weighed myself this morning. The numbers on the scale that had been hovering teasingly a little above 10st 7lbs (my target is 10st 5lbs) had crept alarmingly up to 10st 11lbs.

I know I have been working out a lot and there is that thing that muscle weighs more than fat but I don't think I can use that as an excuse for the weight gain. There is a more obvious explanation - I eat too much.

So many of us beat ourselves up for overeating but I think it is completely natural.

Human animals would always have feasted in times of excess to prepare themselves for survival through times of scarcity. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on which way you want to look at it) we no longer have times of scarcity. Food is always readily available. Every single day is a potential feast day. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic.

So once we stop beating ourselves up for doing what comes naturally, how can we adapt to the environmental bounty? How do we turn the plentiful excess that we have available to our advantage?

I suppose it all comes down to making healthy choices. If we can turn our eyes away from the cream cakes and pringles and allow ourselves to actually see and delight in the amazing variety of fruit and vegetables available, we are well on our way.

The key to making healthy choices lies in learning to really enjoy the things that are good for us. A diet that focuses on denial is doomed to failure. I always know I am on the right track when I stop fancying a doughnut and long for the fresh, crisp taste of a juicy apple.

Of course there will always be times when a chocolate cake calls to you so loudly that you can't ignore it. And why should you ignore it? Healthy choices for me must satisfy my mind as well as my body.  There is no reason why indulgent treats can't be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle.

I have managed to achieve this ideal in the past and lose a lot of weight. I have long left behind the size 18 figure of my late teens/early twenties and am now comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy size 10 clothes.

However, I have not yet worked out how to stop the slow slippage back to bad habits - an extra slice of toast (or two) for breakfast because you ate the first two so fast that it didn't register, a whole packet of biscuits with your morning coffee because one after another you just keep shovelling them in, finishing up leftovers just because they are there, eating things you don't particulary want or need simply for the sensation of having food in your mouth. It is scary how quickly these things can sneak up on you with the consequent weight gain and negative feelings that have you turning once more to food for comfort.

I am dangerously close to spiralling out of control with my eating.

Instead of cursing my scales this morning for not showing me what I wanted to see, I am grateful for the early warning.

I am feeling motivated and ready to take back control.

I am going to kick start my action plan with a fruit only day today. Hopefully, this will remind me what I've been missing out on when I grab a greasy, salty bag of crisps for a snack in preference to a bowl of delicious, vitamin packed strawberries. It might also give my body a much needed de-tox and it will certainly set a good example to the children.

Fueled by my banana breakfast, I will be heading off to Morrisons shortly to stock my fridge up with enough tastes, textures and colours to keep me interested (and not forgetting the all important water).

Diets start on Monday and life is good.

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