Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chit Chat

There is a definite feel of Spring in the air in Shropshire.

Yesterday, I plunged my hands into compost for the first time this year. I was only repotting a desperately pot bound house plant but it did get my gardening juices flowing. I decided that it was time to make a start and buy some seed potatoes.

We have a wonderful pet shop in our town called Blooming Tails. It is a far cry from the well lit, spacious pet superstores that are popular these days (and not even existing in the same universe as New York's designer clothes store from whom I assume the quirky name is derived). It is dingy and overcrowded and virtually impossible to negotiate with a pushchair. However, they sell loads of good stuff for pet owners and gardeners at really good prices and the staff are all wonderfully friendly.

I went along to buy my seed potatoes and was shocked and saddened to find that some mindless vandal had smashed a hole through the lower glass panel of Blooming Tails' door. Shards of glass lay scattered in the entrance with lethal looking jagged pieces of glass framing the hole. The premises had not been entered and nothing was taken. It seems such a shame that a small business doing their best to survive in a small town should have to deal with such unnecessary inconvenience.

Currently, Blooming Tails are stocking 33 different varieties of seed potato.  I went in to find the variety that was right for me.

Considering I know next to nothing about potato varieties (King Edwards and Jersey Royal New Potatoes representing the sum of my knowledge) I went about choosing in the same way that I pick a horse for my annual flutter on the Grand National. I picked a name I liked the sound of.

There were some wonderful sounding varieties, Pink Fir Apple being one that nearly made it into my shopping basket. In the end, I chose one called Swift in acknowledgement of my 17 year old daughter's love of American singer/songwriter, Taylor Swift. The musical talents of Taylor Swift inspired my daughter to write some songs of her own and learn to play guitar. Winning a guitar signed by her idol was a real highlight of her life and has proved to be a great motivation when it came to the task of mastering chords and strumming styles. Purchasing my dozen Swift seed potatoes for 69p made me think about all of this and smile.

My selection technique has never earned me any winnings on the National but it served me well in this instance. A quick search on Google revealed that Swift potatoes, as the name implies, are a quick maturing variety and can produce a crop within eight weeeks. Perfect for an impatient gardener such as myself. I couldn't resist doing a quick search on the Pink Fir Apple variety as well. They look amazing. I am going to go back and buy half a dozen. I'm sure I can find a space to squeeze them in.

I have placed my Swift potatoes in an egg box on the window sill to chit. Tomorrow I will go and buy my Pink Fir Apples. Hopefully, by then the glass door will be fixed.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Finding my Religion

As a child growing up with the long running TV show Little House On the Prairie, I loved the idea that the neighbours would come together every Sunday to join in worship in their very understated church that doubled up as a school room in their small town of Walnut Grove. They would always find something to be grateful for and rejoice in. In times of hardship they would support each other, never losing their faith. The church was at the heart of the community.

For some years,  I lived in a small village in Oxfordshire. The village primary school had strong links with the church that was situated adjacent to it. I would always attend the family services when my children were involved and when my eldest daughter joined the choir, I would attend most Sundays to see her sing. It plunged me very firmly into village life and of all the places that I had ever lived, that was the one that felt most like home.

Since moving to Shropshire at the turn of the millennium, my churchgoing has been limited to Christmas Carol Services. I didn't get married in church. Neither of my little ones have been christened.

I consider myself a spiritual person - not a religious one. I live my life according to Christian values but  don't feel the need to talk in terms of loving God and Jesus Christ - just loving is enough for me. I have my own belief system which does not, in my eyes, contradict Christianity but allows for a far greater degree of flexibilty. I am entirely comfortable with it.

Yesterday, I went to church.

The reason behind this sudden change of heart is once again driven by one of my children.

Apparently, there is some concern that not enough young people are choosing to attend church. There was a need for another keyboard player to take some of the onus of responsibility from the elderly organist. The decision was made to try and recruit a young musician. My 15 year old daughter, Charis, was put forward as a candidate.

The vicar came to visit us and meet Charis. She was given a weighty volume of 'Mission Praise'.  She started practising.

Yesterday I took my place on the pews of St Mary's church - a beautiful building constructed from Market Drayton's red sandstone and boasting glorious stained glass windows.

I watched with amazement at how my incredible daughter took it all in her stride, playing perfect accompaniments in a manner befitting a song of worship, which is quite unlike anything she has done before. Clearly, the church are delighted that their initiative has worked out so well and given them someone as accomplished, loyal, serene and mature beyond her years as my Charis. Already she is proving herself to be a tremendous asset.

Being the first Sunday in Lent, the congregation was large (not bursting at the seams like it is for the Carol Service but comfortably full). As a new face among the congregation, I was made to feel very welcome and met some truly lovely people. An overhead projector displaying song words and readings  ensured that the service was accessible and singers with microphones to lead the singing and add harmonies produced a strong, rich sound compared with the embarrassing droning that can all too often be the case. Best of all was the very relaxed attitude towards my little ones. They were happy  colouring quietly in the designated play corner and even happier after the service to be given biscuits and squash.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning, allowing the atmosphere of peace to wash over me and I love the fact that my little ones have had the experience of a new environment and are learning how to deal with it in a very positive way.

I find myself now looking forward to next Sunday. Time out from my busy life in the company of friendly, welcoming people within the impressive architecture that somehow exudes a feeling of calm and awe - it can only do me good. Whenever Charis plays, there will always be a pew with my name on it.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart


The furious pace of my life has calmed down ever so slightly now that the pantomime Charis was performing in has finished. No more rehearsals running late into the night requiring pick ups, no more desperately tired Charis crawling out of bed post-noon on non school days.

She was amazing in the panto (oh no she wasn't!!!! - I hear you cry). Despite swollen glands I could still hear her beautiful voice when she sang in the chorus and she demonstrated such poise and precision in her dance routines it was hard to believe that she has never had any formal dance training. As for her role as a Sat Nat, the clarity and command that she conveyed in her lines, belied her tender years. I could not have been more proud.


In my previous marriage, I was not very lucky with my in-laws. Now, I am blessed with a wonderful mother and father-in-law who unfortunately for us, live some 5 hours away in Brighton. We visit when we can but it is not often enough. We talk on the phone but it is not the same as actually seeing them.

I decided last month that I would try and keep them more up to date with the things that are happening in our life by writing them a monthly newsletter. For a mummy blogger, it is second nature to talk about home life and family. I wrote it much as I would a blog post, illustrated with current photographs, printed it off and sent it.

I received an absolutely lovely letter back from  my mother-in-law today, saying how much she had loved it and appreciated. How she had read it many times already and knows that if she needs cheering up, it is right there for her to pick up and read again. It made me so incredibly happy to think that such a small gesture on my part meant so much to her. I am already mentally planning my February update.


The sun shone brightly enough today to go out without coats and to sit in my conservatory with the door thrown open wide while the kids played in the garden. I made the most of my time by knitting a few rows of the trauma bear I am making for the West Mercia Police Family Protection Unit. It's coming along really well and although tinged with sadness thinking about the poor child for whom it is intended and the horrors of child abuse, it still makes me happy that I can do this one small thing to offer a little comfort.

Wedding Rings

February is a lovely, romantic month for me with Valentines Day and my Wedding Anniversary. It has been a very champagne, chocolates and red roses sort of month complete with a home made card (and terrible poetry). It would take a harder heart than mine not to be charmed by it all. It has left me feeling all rather loved up and content.

There has been a lot of sitting opposite each other in a dinner for two fashion with a lot of hand holding. I can't help but feel stupidly happy when I see our matching wedding rings - the symbol of our commitment to each other.

Of course, my life wasn't always this way. There was another marriage before this one. Another wedding ring. That particular symbol of commitment inspired a completely different set of emotions.

I actually had two wedding rings in the duration of my first marriage. The original one had been ripped from my finger that many times in the big I don't love you anymore and I don't want to be with you gesture that it stopped having any of the weight and solemnity that an important symbol should be imbued with. It was just a ring. Sometimes I wore it, sometimes I didn't.

In a rare moment of optimism, we decided to make a fresh start with new matching rings. There was no ceremony to accompany this. I liked my ring very much, Clogau welsh gold in a celtic design, but a ring alone is not enough to save a marriage.

We divorced. The ring came off for good.

A survey has revealed today that Britain has the highest divorce rate in the EU.

There must be an awful lot of obsolete wedding rings .

So the question is, what should one do with a wedding ring that maybe once meant something good but now stirs potentially damaging, negative feelings?

In my life, I enjoy the beauty and magic of ritual and symbolism. I wanted closure on the bad marriage chapter of my life and I am almost too embarrassed to admit that I attempted to wash my lovely wedding ring in my own blood to cleanse it from the bad emotions attached to it. It didn't work and I still have a stupid scar where I cut myself to harvest the blood!

I'm not keen on the idea of giving the jewellery I don't want in my life to my loved ones, which would be an option (although that is exactly what I did with my engagement and eternity rings). A bad ring does not deserve to be given 'family heirloom' status.

A better option perhaps would be the cash for gold route. An indulgent treat could be bought with the proceeds.

My new husband is a good man and he expressed a desire to donate his old wedding ring to a worthy cause. He vaguely remembers handing it to a friend in Switzerland for safe keeping but doesn't know what became of it since.

 My unwanted rings lie mostly forgotten at the back of a drawer.

The ideal solution for me would have involved an epic trek through hostile terrain, the final part of the journey featuring an ascent up the deadly slopes of an active volcano. Upon reaching the summit, the ring would be ceremoniously cast into the fiery molten rock - Tolkien's Mount Doom style. That would certainly have given me the closure, the ritual and the symbolism I desired.

If, perchance, that ring could pass through the all consuming lava and land in a collecting box for a worthy cause to convert to cash, I wouldn't be at all unhappy about that either.

Hipp Organic Mini Pots

Hipp Organic played a significant role in the weaning of my two little ones.

Both children continue to be great eaters and enjoy a range of different foods which is particulalry important to me bringing them up on a vegetarian diet. They do, however, both have a fondness for the sweets, crisps and biscuits that I do my best to limit but are so handy when a hungry toddler needs a snack or treat.

I was sent some of Hipp Organics new mini pots to try.

The mini pots come in packs of six 50g pots - ideal for a snack. Made of 100% fruit puree blended with a little bit of yoghurt , they are healthy, nutritious and contribute to the government guideline '5-a-day'. There is no need to refrigerate which makes them ideal for when you are out and about. They are available in two varieties: banana & peach and apple & pear.

I did wonder if my children, having become familiar with high sugar/ fat/ salt snacks, would consider something this wholesome and pure as a treat. It has certainly been a problem previously.

I needn't have worried. They both loved their mini pots. Addy loved the fruity smell as much as the taste which did lead to several incidents of puree on her nose! The video shows both children enjoying their little treat which evidently is also perfect to take to the moon!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

I Killed Herman

The very lovely Carole from Carole Finds her Wings and best friend of my daughter Liberty, passed onto me an intriguing pot of something. A quick read of the A4 printed sheet that accompanied it revealed that it was in fact a German Friendship Cake, aka Herman. Herman introduced himself as a sour dough cake  and the instructions detailed a care plan for the next ten days.

It all looked fairly straight forward. Most days only required for Herman to be mixed and then there were some special steps for adding extra ingredients. On day 9, the idea is to divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, keep one to cook the following day and pass the remaining three portions onto 3 friends in intriguing pots for them to restart the process.

I am not generally a fan of 'chain' concepts. I delete chain texts and emails at the risk of the evil clown appearing at midnight or back luck befalling me forevermore. But a 'chain' cake in the name of friendship seemed like something I could get on board with. Let's be honest, anything that involves cake is going to have me interested!

As per the instructions, I transferred my Herman into a bowl, covered loosely with a tea towel and left it at room temperature. It was fascinating watching it bubble and expand in the bowl. My problem was that daughter Liberty, who was also the proud owner of her very own Herman, was in the middle of moving house. She entrusted me with hers until she was settled in and in a position to take it off my hands.

This never happened. I was stuck being mum to one and foster mum to the other.

I lovingly cared for Hermann 1 and Herman 2, who if I'm honest were starting to stink the kitchen out a bit.

I got to day 5 and then I went away for two nights at a hotel and spa with my husband to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary.

Liberty assured me that she came round every day to give the Hermans a stir but they were bubbling somewhat out of control and trying to escape the confines of their bowls when I next lifted their tea towel to check on them.

Evidence on my tea towel of the Hermans' escape bid

I'm not quite sure what happened next. Maybe still floating in my bubble of relaxation and romance that I had created for myself during my break, I simply neglected the other men in my life, the Hermans.

It was daughter Charis that finally sprang into action and demanded to know what was going on with the friendship cakes.

We traced back through the instructions to work out what we had failed to do and what we should be doing. I had well and truly lost the Herman plot.

We made the executive decision to to just use what we had to cook up a giant cake and celebrate the idea of friendship by sharing it around.

We had to improvise with some of the ingredients that we should have added but amazingly, entirely thanks to Charis, we ended up with something that sort of worked.

Liberty came round  to partake of our efforts.

The title of my post is perhaps not accurate. I didn't kill Herman. I neglected the Hermans and Charis came to the rescue. I did, however, kill the downward friendship chain. I hope I have made amends in some small way by making a toast to the good people who would have been the recipients, over a cup of coffee and a big chunk of Herman.


I am a big fan of Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzles so I was very interested to take a look at their new watercolour painting sets, Aquarelle, that won Best New Toy in the creative category at the 2012 London Toy Fair.

Aquarelle is an innovative variation of traditional painting by numbers. The sets come in three sizes; mini, midi and maxi and in a variety of different designs including animals, flowers and city scenes. I was sent a mini set to review with a rose design.

The set was nicely presented in a box without wasteful excess packaging and included a mixing palette, fine paintbrush and the three primary colours that can be mixed dropwise to create the full range of shades required to complete the project. The instructions give advice on how to add water to make the colours lighter and more opaque to create colour graduation effects and how to mix the different shades.

There is an example of a finished picture for guidance but the project is fairly open to creativity within the constraints of the image to give the potential for a limitless range of results.

Unlike oils and acrylics that are used on traditional painting by numbers sets, watercolours dry quickly and should be applied quickly to maintain a wet working edge and avoid unwanted dried dark edges. This means that beautiful results can be achieved relatively quickly.

The images are printed onto the card with colour repellent lines which guarantees that the finished piece will be crisp with no loss of detail.

Our watercolour masterpiece

As a general rule, I tend to encourage my children towards crafts that are messy and spontaneous rather than the prescribed versions. However, for children that are more results driven, this is a perfect way to be creative yet be sure of a high standard of finished product. I did find the little bit that I was permitted to do (small blue flowers top centre!) was very relaxing and I can imagine an adult market for Aquarelle as stress relief.

This particular rose design has the potential for a perfect home made mother's day gift. (If you're reading this mum, on March 18th,  just remember whose hand it was that painted the little blue flowers top centre!)

A Curry to Remember with Oruna

Indian cuisine lends itself well to the vegetarian diet. Different combinations of vegetables and spices can produce a range of dishes limited only by imagination, each with its own identity. The wonderful people at my local Indian restaurant have a perfect understanding of this.

In a recent blog post, my sister wrote a very damming decsription of the town where we both live. She is desperate to move away saying that the high street was a depressing collection of charity shops, bargain shops, kebab takeaways and not much more.

I have to agree that we have more than our fair share of charity shops but far from depressing me, I love to have a leisurely browse and often find a good bargain. As for the 'not much more' I have to disagree. I always stop to look at the beautiful window displays of lovely things for the home in Lloyds Interiors and the mouthwatering chocolate creations in the specialist chocolate shop, Tuesday's. I dream of my next manicure or facial when I pass by the sumptuous Ivy Suite and search for an excuse to stop for coffee when I see the warm and welcoming Jones' Coffee Shop with their displays of original art works. There are many shiny gems in Market Drayton's (albeit slightly shabby!) crown.

The gem to which this particular post is dedicated is my local Indian, Oruna Cuisine.

Monday night is a quiet night for Oruna but as Monday this week happened to be the anniversary of my wedding day two years ago, it was the perfect night for my husband and I to treat ourselves to a meal out. We are regular customers to Oruna but despite the extensive menu that caters really well for vegetarians, I have been guilty of choosing the same main course, Paneer Tikka Massala, time and again. I choose it because I love it .

Paneer Tikka Massala is described on the menu as cottage cheese skewered in the tandoori and cooked in a rich sauce. Cottage cheese always makes me think of being on a diet, or worse, baby sick. The cottage cheese used for this dish is a far cry from that image, The cubes are surprisingly meaty in texture, like very tender chicken breast, and they carry the flavour of the sauce perfectly. To describe the sauce as 'rich' is very fitting. It is rich in flavour and colour which is a beautiful, deep red not dissimilar to the colour of emulsion my daughter chose for her dramatic bedroom walls. I remarked on it at the time we were painting and it made us both crave takeaway!

When we were offered the chance to have a specially selected vegetarian banquet prepared just for us by Oruna for our anniversary, we jumped at the chance. To keep me happy, my favourite Panner Tikka Massala was included as one of the main courses. The dishes are all prepared fresh and the chefs pride themselves on being able to adapt the menu to cater to individual requests. As a vegetarian, it is good to know that the speciality dishes on the menu need not be off limits - the meat can be omitted and substituted with vegetables. The dishes prepared for our banquet were to showcase the possibilities.

While the chefs worked their magic in the kitchen, we tucked into a platter of starters.

Pakoras, onion bhajis and samosas are a familiar sight in the supermarket nowadays but freshly cooked, they are so much better than any shop bought relatives. Beneath the tomato rose garnish was a delicious garlic mushroom but my absolute favourite part was the puffy bread folded over to conceal a lightly spiced mixture of potato and chick pea. This was Aloo Channa  Chat and it was divine.

There was a visual feast to enjoy before a single forkful of curry passed our lips as the dishes for our main course were placed before us.

The range of colours and textures was exciting to the eye and I loved the garnishes. The aromas were equally enticing. Could the tastes live up to the high expectations?

Of course they did. Was there ever any doubt?

On the far left of the photograph is my trusted Paneer Tikka Massala (nice colour for bedroom walls don't you agree!) and next to that a lightly spiced potato dish with courgettes. The middle dish was a personal favourite - Aloo Kofta Kyberi - which was spicy deep fried potatoes cooked in the Chef's Special Sauce with chunks of capsicum and onion. Next to that is Chilli Chuna Mattar Paneer which was an interesting combination of fresh chillis cooked with chick peas and garden peas in a semi dry sauce laced with cottage cheese. It was good to try Paneer in a different way to my usual and it had the sort of heat that builds in your mouth  - I love that.  Finally is a Jabra Dhall. I use a lot of lentils in cooking and I think that Dhall is the very best use of this vegetarian staple. This particular dish of spicy lentils cooked with fried garlic in Chef's Special Recipe was the best Dhall I have EVER had.

Without even mentioning the three different rices and two varieties of naan bread that accompanied our banquet, I think you can guess that I was more than impressed.

I cannot praise everyone at Oruna enough for their efforts and especially for the helpful notes they provided me with explaining what the different dishes were for the benefit of this post. They really went beyond the call of duty to make my special anniversary meal one I will remember for a very long time.

And of course I have to thank my husband for marrying in the first place to give me something to celebrate!

In case you're wondering, we did not manage to get through that amount of food in one sitting. We were provided with a doggy bag that means I have it all to look forward to again tonight!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Wild Science - Lip Balm Laboratory

My children have already experienced the Wild Science Beauty Salon - the older ones supervising little Addy to get her experimenting and thinking in a scientific way. It was lovely to have the opportunity to do the same with the Lip Balm Laboratory from Interplay that I was sent to review.

Once again, I was impressed with the quality of the set, the instruction booklet that contained plenty of information in a very digestible format and I particularly loved the workbench that kept everything neat and to hand with a 'laboratory' feel to it.

Although the ingredients are all non toxic, the kit is intended for use by children 8+ with adult supervision so it isn't something that you should let them loose with while you try and grab a bit of 'me' time. We did enjoy our afternoon as scientists and it definitely made a change from a board game or jigsaw.

The video shows how we got on.

Win a £50 Experience Day Gift Voucher

I have just come back from a very relaxing short break with my husband to celebrate our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Part of the break included a spa day.

I love spa days.

I am already planning my next one.

Experience Days UK offer a whole range of spa and pamper days as well as everything from Ghost Hunting to Hot Air Ballooning. There really is something for everybody.

I have a £50 Experience Day Gift Voucher to give away to one lucky blog follower.

The voucher can be redeemed against any of the Gift Experiences on the website so if you fancy a Pamper Day Treat or perhaps some adrenaline rush Zorbing, your wishes can be fulfilled!

For a chance to win:

  • follow or subscribe to my blog and leave a comment below saying what your dream Experience Day would be (along with a means of contact eg twitter ID)

and for additional entries:

  • follow QWERTY Mum on facebook and leave a separate comment to say that you have done so
  • tweet " WIN a £50 Experience Day Gift Voucher with @PaulaHaylock aka QWERTY Mum " and leave a separate comment to say that you have done so

Competition closes on Sunday 11th March, 2012 and the winner will be drawn at random from all entries. (UK only)

Good Luck

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Trauma Bears

My wonderful friend, who never ceases to amaze me how firmly her finger is on the pulse of everything that is happening, pointed me in the direction of  an appeal by West Mercia police for knitters.

I always love to give something back to society whenever I have the opportunity and the new initiative launched by the West Mercia Police's Family Protection Units was an absolutely perfect opportunity for me.

The aim of the initiative is to provide children being interviewed in a case of child abuse with a knitted 'trauma teddy' that they can keep with them for comfort during the process of the investigation. Apparently, research has shown that this very simple idea of having a teddy companion is an effective way of helping the young victims to cope.

Recently, I have been reading the bestselling books of Cathy Glass, author and foster carer. They are the true stories of the children she has fostered and paint a harrowing picture of the long term effects of abuse as well as the suffering endured.

Some years ago I began the process of applying to be a foster carer. Then I discovered that I was pregnant and put my plans on hold to concentrate on my new, unexpected but much welcomed baby. Had it not been for my little late in life miraculous daughter, followed by a second miracle in the shape of my son, my life would have been very different. I like to think I could have helped in some small way with any children that would have been placed in my care for whatever reasons.

Knitting trauma teddies for the Family Protection Units is a tiny link to the sort of life I might have had.

I contacted the people in charge to offer my services and hopefully can begin teddy production as soon as I have the pattern. I only hope that my newly acquired knitting skills are up to the task. I will certainly give it my best effort and hopefully my mum will get on board to help out too.

When I was talking on the telephone with the Family Protection Unit, I was mortified that Dylan chose that moment to bang his Bob the Builder work bench loudly and repeatedly with his plastic hammer and Addy started yelling and screaming because she wanted a biscuit and I was not giving her my undivided attention! I had visions of the emergency despatch of trauma bear yielding social workers to see what on earth was going on at this madhouse.  Two bourbon biscuits restored calm immediately but not until after I had replaced the telephone in its cradle.

I am really looking forward to a new knitting challenge and if one of my creations can offer even the slightest comfort to a child that needs it, then that makes me very happy indeed.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Hearts and Crafts

Today was my last day of frenetic decorating at my daughter's new house. Tomorrow, she and her boyfriend are moving in to begin the next phase of their life together. It has been a busy weekend and start to half term trying to get things finished there as well as catching up with my sister in law and her family for a belated Xmas visit... but we still found time for some Valentines Arts and Crafts.

This was our attempt at wax resist valentine roses:

The idea was draw a spiral with a pink or white crayon and then dab colour on with watered down paint.  The wax resists the paint creating a delicate rose (or a cabbage if you use green!) Dylan was rather too enthusiastic and very thorough with the application of paint. He would have been put to better use painting walls at his big sister's house.

We also made heart garlands using the chain paper doll technique and decorated them with stickers - a lot less messy than the painting and they look cheery hanging in my conservatory.

Our heart love tokens need more work. These were made by scrunching kitchen foil into heart shapes then covering with PVA glue and torn tissue paper. Maybe some glitter for a bit of sparkle would make them look better.

My favourite of all the finished crafts was the multi-googly-eyed heart made by little Addy with an enormous amount of glue that took three days to dry...

... and Dylan's green belly!

Happy Valentine's Day xx

Friday, 10 February 2012

Caring for little feet with Bobux

As a teenager, I worked in a shoe shop. Part of the training involved being shown pictures of feet deformities caused by ill fitting shoes.  

Tiny baby feet are so soft and precious.

Bobux are a company dedicated to understanding and loving little feet.

They have produced a range of footwear suitable for newborn babies through to active toddlers designed to  promote better foot health. By acknowledging that barefoot is best for developing feet, Bobux have created shoes that mimic the freedom of bare feet and support  healthy, natural development.

In addition to the commitment to protect our children's feet, the company have a strong environmental ethos which resonates well with my values.

Even without the good feeling that comes from buying eco friendly shoes that allow feet to develop naturally without restriction, there is also a huge 'cute' factor. These shoes are adorable.

When I was given the opportunity to try a pair of  Bobux shoes for my 19 month son, I chose the Black Nubuck Desert Boot from the i-walk range.

I was very impressed with quality and loved that the shoes were delivered in their own little bag. Most importantly was that they fit my son perfectly. He was very happy wearing them.

The video shows Dylan trying his shoes on for the first time aided by an enthusiastic but not necessarily very capable older sister.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Red, Pink and White Reasons to be Cheerful

I'm not a huge fan of market shopping but I do enjoy the richness of smells, sights and sounds and the general hustle and bustle that my town's street market adds to my walk to and from school each week. I usually have a few pounds in my pocket just in case I spot a bargain and yesterday, I did.

I have a few favourite stall holders: the Flower Man who sells all sorts of bedding plants and perennials for very little money during the growing season, the Meat Man (unusual choice for a vegetarian!) who sells Kilogram half moons of Cheddar cheese with Chili (a favourite in our household) for just £4 (or two for £7 if, like us, you really can get through that much cheese), the Tie Man who has an amazing range of silk ties (I really want to find an excuse to buy the Edvard Munch 'The Scream' tie which I love) and finally, the Book Man.

It was the Book Man who had me reaching for my money yesterday. I bought the Usborne Book of Valentines Things to Make and Do for £1 and I am really looking forward to doing some messy Arts and Crafts with the kids inspired by the ideas within.

I have gathered up as many materials as I can find in various shades of red, pink and white and I can't wait to get started.

Best of all, next week is half term.

What are your Reasons to be Cheerful?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The Battle against Condensation

The average UK household, apparently, produces 12 litres of unwanted humidity per day. Judging by the amount of condensation that has been dripping down my windows during this cold weather, I think I must be an above average UK household.

I am guilty of drying clothes over radiators, forgetting to turn on the extractor fan when I'm cooking and  boiling the kettle several times a day to satisfy my caffeine needs. There is also a lot of showering that occurs during the course of the week and all of these activities are going to create humidity.

The best remedy would be to throw open the windows and give the house a good airing but who wants to lose all their precious heat on a cold winter's day? And if it is miserable and rainy, throwing open the window isn't likely to help much anyway.

As well as the condensation, I have had occasional problems with mould and musty smells and am willing to believe the likelihood of increased air borne allergens.

The Humidity Absorber by Unibond claims to reduce the amount of humidity in a room by up to 30%. I was sent the small Humidity Absorber (RRP £13.99) to try.

I was wondering where was the best place to position my Humidity Absorber to put it to the test when my daughter ran into a condensation problem in her new house worse than anything I was experiencing. The condensation on one cold wall had caused the newly applied emulsion to drip down onto the skirting board. We decided that the Humidity Absorber would be put to best use there.

The unit has three components: the tank with a level window so you can see how much liquid has collected, the top of the device with a slatted grid for air circulation and the 2in1 Power Tab that fits into the top. The Power Tab is the important bit that actually converts any excess humidity into a salty solution which then collects in the tank. The 2in1 aspect is that it also neutralises odour. It is an irritant so care must be taken when handling and it is vital that it is kept  out of reach of children.

One Power Tab should last approximately 6-8 weeks and two are provided. Additional Power Tabs can be purchased in twin packs (RRP £7.99)

The components fitted together into a sturdy unit that sat relatively discretely on the window sill where we left it to do its job. The blue liquid collecting in the tank is evidence that something is happening!

When the Tab is fully dissolved, the tank can be emptied and a replacement Tab inserted into the top.

It is too early to say how effective it will be in combatting the condensation problem in this particular room but it is obviously going to go some way towards improving it.

I imagine that in musty rooms with poor air circulation this would offer a huge benefit.

A large Humidity Absorber designed for rooms up to 20 square metres is also available at the RRP of £19.99 (Tab refills £9.99) at leading home stores and supermarkets.

Monday, 6 February 2012


The cold weather we are having plays havoc with an oft neglected part of my anatomy - my toes.

That angry red patch on my toe is a chilblain and it itches to the point of pain.

Many years ago my mum told me of a cure for chilblains and despite the fact that I  have used it in the past and know that it works, I still avoid resorting to it until the point that I can not suffer a moment longer.

The cure is urine.

Anyone who has been through ante natal care is no stranger to collecting their own urine. For a well hydrated person not suffering from any infection, urine is a fairly innocuous substance. However, in common with most bodily secretions and excretions, it retains the power to revolt and disgust.

When my chilblains took me to that tipping point where desperation outweighs revulsion, it was time to administer the cure.

I tend to put my pelvic muscles to the test and wee directly onto a piece of cotton wool which I then dab onto the affected area. It seems the most efficient way of going about the business.

The relief was instant and the improvement was visible by the following day.

I am wearing my good walking socks now and have bought a pair of hideous but cosy slippers to keep my feet warm and hopefully avoid a recurrence - but should those angry red patches start bothering me again,  maybe next time I won't leave it so long before giving my toes their hap-pee ending.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Cooking with Daddy


One of the things that I like about this time of year is the flood of Partworks that land on the magazine aisles of my local newsagent. It never ceases to amaze me how many random topics are covered by this particular style of publishing - 'The Art of Quilting' being one that I noticed recently.

I have been seduced by the Partwork appeal in the past, collecting You and Your Camera, Changing Rooms, Build Your Own Dolls House, How My Body Works and Horrible Science over the years. If you stop to add up how much these collections cost in total it is quite horrifying and as invariably happens, the publication overtakes ones ability to keep pace with it. The issues remain unread and an embarrassment to my usual frugality.

Nowadays, I enjoy the Partworks in a simpler, more immediate, considerably less expensive fashion by only ever purchasing the first issue at the introductory price. My little Addy has thoroughly enjoyed part one of Dora the Explorer's Little Cooks Collection complete with silicon cake moulds and plate for the bargain price of 99p. The banana muffins she made were delicious.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Valentine Intarsia

I never tire of learning new things.

Until recently the word 'intarsia' was unknown to me and today I have just completed my first intarsia knitting project.

The success of my little project relied heavily on these two YouTube videos that were simple enough for a complete novice like me to understand.

Intro to Intarsia Knitting part1
Intro to Intarsia Knitting part 2

I started with a really straightforward, symmetrical design. Even something this simple required five different strands of wool to be worked. It was a challenge to keep everything from getting into an almighty tangle but for a first attempt, I am quite pleased with the result. I still need to weave the ends in and press the square to stop the edges curling up.

I have knitted this as part of my 2012 patchwork blanket project but I couldn't hep thinking of the Valentine potential - with love in every stitch.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Different Car on the Driveway

There is a different car parked on my driveway today - the car belonging to Taylor's boyfriend, who recently made us all proud by passing his driving test first time. How quickly the boy, who turned up at my house two years ago to woo my daughter, is turning into a man. And a charming, eloquent, funny and thoughtful man too. Very definitely an asset to the family.

Maybe not his best look!

I was browsing through some old photographs yesterday. Below is one of when we first moved to our current home in 2006 with my new partner to start life as a proper family.

From left to right: Taylor, Charis,  Liberty and Ivy with stepdad.

My Charis was was such a tiny little insecure girl then and in a few short years she has blossomed into a beautiful, self-possessed young woman who stands taller than all her sisters...and me.

Having witnessed my children's development to maturity has given me a completely new perspective when it comes to parenting the two little ones from my second marriage.

Some people thought I was mad having babies in my mid forties, at a time when I would otherwise have been slowing down and enjoying more time to myself and more money to spare. Maybe I am mad but if I am - I am happy with my madness. Exotic holidays, designer clothes and regular pampering hold little allure compared with two small warm bodies snuggled into me, two tiny hands holding mine and two pairs of eyes, bright and trusting, looking at me with love. Everything about being a mum to my two little late life miracles fills me with awe, wonder and pure joy.

Dylan and Addy - my sleeping angels

I know that it will feel like the blink of an eye before it is Addy's boyfriend parking his car on my driveway. Until then (and beyond), I intend to continue enjoying every moment.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

In Praise of Teachers

All too often, teachers are criticised and blamed when there are issues with our children's behaviour or academic performance.  Whereas no doubt there are some that deserve it, in my experience, most teachers are dedicated, caring professionals doing their very best under what can sometimes be difficult circumstances.

Teachers come in many different guises. I had an eccentric, unkempt teacher who would pick his nose and wipe it on the blackboard. It was hard to take him seriously. Another teacher, despised by many for his short temper and lack of tolerance for any sort of nonsense, was an absolute hero to me.

It is inevitable that in any group of people there are always going to be some that you relate to and feel an affinity with and some that for whatever reason, you simply don't get on with. Why should it be any different with teachers? Whether it be a teaching style that doesn't suit, a personality clash , or even disliking the tone of someone's voice - there are all sorts of obstacles that can stand in the way of having a good relationship with a teacher.

The education system isn't perfect - there will always be teachers who fail to support or inspire their pupils - but it is what is it and we have to work with it. I have always tried to instil in my children that their education is their responsibility. Teachers are there to facilitate it but if they feel that they are not being given everything they need, there are other ways to approach their learning. I have been so proud of how my girls have been able to do exactly that and thrive. It is more than just a means to achieve a grade in an exam - it is a lesson in life about taking control, putting in the effort to obtain a result and most importantly learning that there will always be situations that are less than ideal and finding the best way forward.

Good, bad or indifferent, our teachers are people we spend a lot of our childhood in the company of. They influence us and it is hard to forget them.

My youngest daughter is just starting out on her academic journey. So far, it has been a very positive experience and I can't praise her teachers highly enough for their part in making her feel settled and secure and I have been greatly impressed by how much my little Addy is learning. After just one term in her early years setting she is confidently writing her own name and blending letter sounds to read simple words.

She has many years of compulsory education ahead of her and I will do all that I can to ensure that it continues to be a positive experience for her and that her full potential is realised. The teachers that she encounters on her journey will have an enormous part to play in this and I hope that the memories she takes into adulthood of her schooldays will be the very best kind. And just maybe there will be a teacher or two in years to come that will look back on their career and remember a strong willed, feisty little blue eyed blonde with an appetite for learning and will wonder what became of her.
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