Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Gazillion Incredibubble Wand

When I was lucky enough to be sent The Original Gazillion Premium Bubbles Incredibubble Wand to review, I imagined trying it out on a gloriously sunny afternoon running barefoot around the garden, entranced by magical, fragile, giant bubbles. It didn't quite turn out that way. It was overcast and chilly - the sort of afternoon when watching a DVD snuggled under a blanket might seem more appealing. Despite the lack of a perfect day, we could not fault the bubbles. They certainly lived up to their part of the picture in my mind.

The kit contains a doughnut shaped tray, the Incredibubble wand with detatchable handle and a bottle of The Original Gazillion Premium Big Bubble Solution. It retails at £12.99. There is currently a special offer available at Argos where the Gazillion Incredibubble Wand and the Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble Wand can be purchased together for just £19.99 (see link below) 

To create enormous bubbles, simply pour the Gazillion solution into the tray, dip the wand into the solution and wave the wand.

The children wasted no time getting started. It was a little tricky at first to get used to such a big wand and how to manoeuvre it without the film of bubble mix popping but they soon got the hang of it. 

The packaging boasts the ability to create "Huge! 10ft Bubbles!" The wand design and the formulation of the Special Super Strength non-toxic Blue Gazillion Bubble Solution make it possible to make this claim. We probably got close to 10ft long sausage shaped bubbles but once they left the wand, they reformed into smaller, but still impressively giant bubbles that seemed to defy science with their existence as they hung in the air contorting under the opposing forces acting on them.

It was utterly mesmerising and in terms of bigger, better, bubble blowing fun, it was beyond compare.

I probably should not have left the kids to their own devices. Eight year old Addy decided it would be fun to try and get her little brother's head inside a bubble. It was a great effort that resulted in a soapy headed little brother. The bubble mix is non toxic but clearly doesn't taste very pleasant judging by how much spitting my poor son proceeded to do to get rid of it!

The children did not stop their bubble-tastic fun until the whole 16oz bottle of solution was completely used up. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

A Sick Day

The sun is shining. It is a beautiful day.

There is only one more day of term after today with the promise of a relaxing Easter break tantalisingly close.

But I cannot enjoy any of this.

My poor little boy is sick.

It started last night when he got into bed with me then vomited explosively.

I have not felt rested for some time because the whole family have been plagued with persistent coughs that always decide to be their most irritating during the hours when the comfort of sleep is so desperately needed. Every night I optimistically hope that this will be the night I manage a good uninterrupted night of blissful slumber. Last night certainly was NOT the night.

Stripping beds, turning mattresses and cleaning  vomit off walls, carpets and furniture are not activities of choice for the early hours. My husband took care of a slightly dazed 5 year old while I put sick drenched bed linen and pyjamas into the washing machine and tried to keep myself from falling apart.

The trusty sick bucket is at hand now. I have a little more work to do to get the house back to where we were before the whole sorry incident began. I have even managed to get a some sleep so I don't feel quite so broken.

I am so sorry that my little man will miss these last two days of term. I know there are lots of fun activities planned for the children that he would have been so excited by. All that really matters though is taking care of my brave boy and getting him back to his happy, healthy self.

He is sleeping now... an angelic face at peace. The sick bucket at his bedside reminds me that the peace can be shattered in an instant.

The sick bucket is ready. I am ready. The sun is still shining.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Colour Fun

I had my first Cadbury's Creme Egg of the year today.

This particular creme egg was included in the goodie bag for a Colour Run organised by one of the sixth formers at my children's school to raise money for the charity Sarcoma UK. I waited until after I completed the run before indulging in the sweet chocolatey goodness and I did enjoy it - everything tastes better when you feel that you have earned it.

The race was two laps of a course through the school grounds (about 5K in total) and included colour stations with teenagers pelting runners with a range of colourful powders as well as a wet, soapy, long sheet of plastic for sliding on.

I was running with two of my grown up daughters, my future son in law and my little ones: Addy (7 years) and Dylan (5 years).

I fully expected to have to stop after one lap because 5K is a long way for little legs. However, such was the excitement about turning clean white T shirts into a multicoloured mess (not to mention skin and hair) that they both happily opted to complete both laps. Dylan, who is a big fan of the TV show Power Rangers, declared himself to be a "Rainbow Ranger".

One of my daughters took a rather unfortunate hit of bright red powder right to the face. It was in her eyes and mouth and and did require a good rinsing with a water bottle I had taken with me to stay hydrated. I'd had quite a lot of wine the previous evening and thought it wise to have some water to hand. I'm glad that I did.

We did our best with the slide but I don't think any one of us quite had the technique despite some sterling efforts.

We had a wonderful time.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Mother's Day Massage

I received the most lovely Mothers Day gift from my seven year old daughter yesterday. She gave me a little handwritten voucher to be redeemed for a massage.

She has been learning the art of massage at school as an initiative to promote positive touch by a teacher passionate about the benefits of both giving and receiving massage - benefits that include reducing anxiety, helping with focus and building relationships on trust and respect. 

When I was ready to redeem my massage voucher, I put on some mellow music (a Michael Buble CD did the job) and lit a candle that had been part of a thoughtful gift from my grown up girls that made feel, with every tear that ran down my cheeks, how blessed I am to be their mother.

Scene set, I sat comfortably on a bean bag and let my little girl work her magic on my back, arms, hands, head and shoulders.

The massage was wonderful. I am an absolute believer in the healing power of touch. It was without a doubt restorative but the connectedness with this little human being that I brought into the world (and love with all that I am) was indescribably good. 

As a family, we are no strangers to touch. We hold hands and we cuddle...  a lot. However, I do think that making time for massage could have enormous benefits.

At the end of the session, she thanked me for allowing her to give me a massage as she has been taught to do. Learning to give and being grateful for the opportunity to give is so important and I was glad to be reminded of it.

It really was a very special Mothers Day gift.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Muddy Trainers

I don't tend to celebrate Valentines day. The following week is my wedding anniversary so I put my romantic efforts into that occasion instead. My husband did give me red roses and I gave him and the kids red foil wrapped heart shaped chocolates but my greatest Valentines pleasure is buying reduced to clear merchandise in the days following and using them to set the scene for the anniversary celebration.

That didn't happen this year. Immediately after valentines day, I left my husband and my red roses and took the children off for a few days of visiting with my parents. By the time my anniversary weekend came around I had no '75% off' table confetti/ light up ballons/ cuddly toys/ love crackers etc and no plan.

No plan isn't quite true. I had arranged for the little ones to have a weekend sleepover with their big sister to give my husband and I some much needed time together. I thought about how best to spend this precious 'us time'. I considered a stay at a hotel with a spa or a dinner for two at a nice restaurant. In the end, the most important thing was the actual time together so keeping it as simple as possible was probably our best bet. I tidied the house and we bought a few treats for a special home cooked meal. The one thing that we both really wanted to do was to drive out to some beautiful countryside and go for a run.

When we were planning where to go, we made allowances for the fact that it was a bit wet and windy by choosing a forest run. I imagined compacted forest paths sheltered by trees.  Arriving at our destination, we realised our mistake. The route we had selected was actually exposed heathland with gorse bushes and steep hills. The drive through the forest to get there had been beautiful and now, here we were in this bleak landscape being battered by wind and rain. Oh well! No point turning back. Off we went!

The weather did ease off a bit and we had wrapped up warm so that wasn't too much of a problem. The hills drained all the energy in our legs but we weren't here to set any speed records so we didn't mind having to stop and walk.  The worst part was the mud. So many different kinds of mud. A whole pallette of mud from black through to pale yellowy grey with all shades of brown in between. Sticky mud. Sloshy mud. Deep mud. Vast oceans of mud sucking at our feet with every step. It did cross my mind that we could be in a luxury spa right now having a very different kind of mud treatment. We ran. We trudged. We slipped. We slid. My husband fell over in the mud with fairly amusing consequences. Were we discouraged? No! We were having the best time. We were loving it. 

It took us nearly an hour to complete the 5 kilometer circular route - an hour of torturous bliss!

We had a wonderful weekend. My valentines roses even had some life left in them to provide the romantic touch that I'd failed to do with my usual post valentine bargain hunting. The only slight niggle was the state of my mud caked trainers. I feared they would never be the same agaiin. After leaving them drying for a week, I thought that the best way to clean them would be to put them on and go for a little run in the hope that the mud would just fall away.

Today, the sun was shining. I put on my once purple trainers and marvelled at the little dust cloud produced when I tied the laces. I planned the route in my head - out the back gate, across the football pitch to the path that runs around the hockey pitches, through the car park, into the woods, across the meadows onto the footpath that leads back to the road, down the road and back to my house. It was a perfect plan apart from the into the woods and across the meadows part. My trainers are muddier than when I started.

Plan B. Washing machine?

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Giving it up for Lent

I had been drinking too much coffee.

It was the begining of Lent.

I put these two facts together and came to a logical conclusion to give up coffee for Lent.

Had I known how horribly unpleasant withdrawing from caffeine would be, I would never have  considered going cold turkey like that. I would have devised a careful plan to cut down gradually over a suitable amount of time and gently beat the addiction into a manageable habit. I entered into my " give up coffee for Lent" plan with ignorant optimism and found out the hard way how it feels to suddenly be deprived of a substance to which your body has become overly familiar with and possibly reliant on.

The first day without caffeine was absolutely fine. No adverse effects. No cravings. It was day two when the headache hit. The headache could not be ignored. The headache lasted three whole days. The headache was not even the worst of it.

I thought I must be coming down with flu. My muscles ached with a deep niggling ache that made it almost impossible to get comfortable or to have a restful nights sleep. The ache bore into joints as well adding to my misery. I didn't want to do anything and doing nothing was still ridiculously difficult. These symptoms persisted without any other signs of flu developing.

It was during the night when sleep eluded me and I feared I might never be at peace in my own body again that I started searching the internet on a quest for find answers for my malady.

Caffeine withdrawal. It was as simple as that. 

I could have abandoned my self denial plan and launched into "moderate coffee consumption" but I was worried that that might lead straight back to over indulging to a dangerously high degree. I decided to persevere... to remember the relentless aches that had plagued me for days and use than as a deterrent against returning to my old ways.

The aching muscles and joints subsided about a day after the headache lifted. I didn't feel fantastic but I was OK. 

There are still many days before Easter and I am not even going to think about drinking coffee until the period of Lent is over. In the meantime I am drinking occasional cups of green tea or decaffeinated coffee.

I miss the smell of coffee and I miss the ritual of a coffee break  (green tea break just doesn't have that same impact) but I am convinced that what I am doing is for the best.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Andy's Amazing Adventures for little explorers

I had promised my five year old son a treat for being good. He had his heart set on a certain ovoid confection that is not just chocolate but a toy as well. He wanted this with an almost angry passion. He wanted it with an angry passion that I felt his choice did not really justify (unless they happen to be on special offer). He wanted it with an angry passion that was completely forgotten the moment he found himself in the magazine aisle.

My little boy's eyes were wide with excitement when he spotted one particular colourful glossy comic complete with free gift. We bought it. He loved it. I was happy that he was happy and it was great that he was reading but I wasn't 100% convinced that it was value for money.

I was very interested to hear that a brand new comic was being launched based on the popular CBeebies Andy's Adventures. I was delighted to be offered a complimentary copy of the first issue to review but my delight paled into insignificance compared with my son's reaction to receiving it! He literally jumped for joy.

We are very familiar with Andy and his Adventures. The hat, gizmo, backpack checklist that Andy completes before his adventures is a routine that has often featured in make believe play at home. A big selling point of Andy's Amazing Adventures for us (and I'm sure for many others) is the dinosaur content. My son is a self proclaimed dinosaur expert and wants to be a time travelling dinosaur zoologist when he grows up (as well as an astronaut like Tim Peake). This new magazine was pretty much guaranteed to be a hit with him. I can be a little harder to impress, especially when it comes to making decisions about what to spend money on, but I absolutely loved it.

The first issue is 36 colourful pages printed on quality paper and packed full with a really good mix of activities including a story, games, drawing, colouring and making. It is very well laid out and interactive with stickers to add, boxes to tick and little pictures to colour to show an activity has been completed. Andy's very expressive face pops up regularly with speech bubbles for encouraging words and fun comments. The magazine is created in association with the BBC Natural History Unit which inspires confidence that the content is more than simple entertainment and provides notes for parents explaining the learning theory behind the fun. In summary, it is a very appealing publication with real value.

I gave the magazine to my son when he got home from school at 3.30pm. Apart from a brief interruption for tea, he did not put it down until bedtime.

He independently followed the instructions to make his own wearable gizmo and hat and showed them off with pride. He hadn't quite done it right and actually stuck the hat to his forehead with Sellotape which was at least quite enterprising. We played the game together as per the instructions using the mini dinos and T-Rex grabber included as a gift on the front of the magazine. He won. Of course! 

Flicking through the magazine now I can see there are still plenty of activities left for him to do including cutting out and making a Dino land for the mini dinos. That should keep him busy tonight.

Coincidentally, Dad had been at a Dinosaur Talk that evening with local amateur enthusiasts. When he came home and asked his son what he had been up to, the reply was this:

I travelled back in time 65 million years and saw a triceratops!

I think that was time well spent.

Andy's Amazing Adventures on sale from Wednesday 10th February 2016, priced £2.75

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Missing Years

Last year, my husband and I bought a house. Not a house to live in, or to holiday in, or to rent out for profit. We bought a house for our daughter to live in. Don't get me wrong, she does make a contribution to cover the mortgage repayments but it is well below what we could expect from the market rental value. We bought a house for our daughter to live in because she was desperately unhappy with the accommodation she could afford in London where she works - unhappy to the point that it was making her sick.

My daughter has traded her single room with a kitchen and bathroom shared with strangers that intimidated her (she is not the outgoing type) for a two bedroomed house to herself (and her fiancé when he is not studying hard at a University in the middle of Wales). She also has me just a short drive away to offer support when she needs it. The change in lifestyle has made a corresponding change in her happiness and well being. I have had the gratification of being able to help and gained a babysitter and running partner.

For the last couple of days, I have been at the house providing access (and tea) for a couple of chaps who are fitting new double glazed windows. The upstairs is all done and looks fantastic. Rotten window frames and glass dripping with condensation are gone, much like the London room misery. Modern, clean, efficient double glazed units make everything seem much brighter.

Out with the old, in with the new.

It is a lovely little house. Once I got over the fact that a 2 bedroomed end terrace house here in Sussex cost as much as a  4 bedroomed detached  house back in Shropshire where we lived previously, I began to really enjoy the whole process of property purchasing. I spent many happy hours on the Rightmove website perusing possibilities. We viewed three of those possibilities and fell in love with one. The house reminded me very much of the first house I ever bought (many years and a husband ago).

I call the twenty years I spent married to my first husband "the missing years". My current husband, the love of my life, was at my first wedding. If fate had aligned itself in a slightly different configuration, he could have been at my wedding as my groom. We could have begun our life together twenty years earlier - experienced buying our first home, starting a family. It didn't. We didn't. I can't regret any of the twists and turns of my life but I also can't help wondering about the missing years. We filled in a big chunk of the missing years when we unexpectedly started a a second family. We joke that we have a 100% extra free life - 100% supporting our grown up children and trying to find time for ourselves, plus 100% meeting the demands of our two growing children and throwing ourselves into family life. Of course that second 100% is not really free - we can get incredibly tired and over stretched - we pay! 

Buying the house, so similar to my first starter home, provided another opportunity for a buy one life get one life free experience. It was an electrifying thrill to be handed the keys. We opened the door on a "what could have been" and filled in the missing years with cleaning, decorating, fixing and best of all, sourcing essential furniture on a very tight budget. We achieved an incredible amount in a short space of time so that it would be ready for when my daughter's London lease ran out. We made a home. We made a home then returned to our actual home filled with furniture and memories collected over time. We returned to our actual home feeling a wonderful sense of connectedness and with hearts  less justified in their yearning for missing years.

The missing years were not wasted years. My husband and I both lived full lives doing the things we wanted to do - just not together. Our togetherness now seems to make anything possible. We have so much living to do in whatever time the Gods see fit to allow us. If the price is that I sometimes feel tired and over stretched, that is a very small price.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Goodbye January

It is the last day of January, which also happens to be the birthday of one of my friends - a very special friend. I am fairly sure that the birthday card I sent him will not have arrived on time, which pretty much sums up what the whole of the month of January has been like. I have never felt on top of things emotionally or physically, I have been unable to sustain much in the way of productivity in either a practical or personal sense and the days have lumped one atop another in a gloomy, suffocating mass of mostly bleurghh-ness (best description I can manage). I think maybe that is just what January is.

This January has also been punctuated by the deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and now Terry Wogan. Although I can never claim to be a fan of Terry Wogan, his presence in my life via his radio show (played in the car by my dad when driving me to school) and the annual Eurovision song contest hosting, is undeniable. It seems as though the fabric of "influential celebrity figures in my life" is being eroded quicker than I can adjust. And I haven't even mentioned Grizzly Adams!

It hasn't all been bad.

There have been some beautiful sunsets and the days are getting noticeably longer.

We enjoyed one almost perfect snowy day (perfect because the snow lasted for one day and was gone) 

I have managed to do two parkruns with the time for my second improving by 2 minutes. If  only improvement were linear and sustainable, I'd be achieving my goal of a sub 30min 5K well before my next birthday (a birthday that I am very excited about this year on account of plans that involve running and four of my daughters and foam).

There have been plenty of good moments (and although many of them involve being snuggled up in bed under my duvet that does not in any way make them less valid) but overall I am not sad to see the back of this January.

So to finish, a very happy birthday to my special friend, and goodbye January.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Addy Picks her Nose

We had snow today - not a huge amount, but enough.

Enough to make the world outside my window look magical...

 enough to get the kids excited...

 and enough to build a snowman.

We had a glorious, rosy cheeked walk through the woods by our house,

and the inevitable snowball mayhem.

Such a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

Of course, the title of this post makes no sense without my final photograph:

Thursday, 14 January 2016


Plates? Really? A blog post about plates?

Let me try and make some sense out of the jumble of thoughts and emotions that are compelling me to sit down and contemplate plates. Contem-plate. Oh dear!

Back in 1985 when I started to make a home with my first husband, my mother-in-law presented us with a whole lot of "bottom drawer" stuff that she had been collecting for her son. Included in this was a set of crockery. Please don't get me wrong - I was very grateful for everything, especially considering we had very little money at that time -  but I did feel that I had been deprived of the pleasure of choosing the things I wanted in my life. Things that I would be using every day.

The dinner set she provided wasn't even that hideous. This was many years ago but I remember them being a sort of magnolia colour edged with a double border of pale blue and pink and with a mass produced 'hand-made' rustic feel (forgive the contradiction but it is the best way I can describe them).   They were OK. They were fine. We ate many meals from them. Did they make my heart sing with joy every time I set the table or washed up? Absolutely not.

I had dreams... modest dreams in the scheme of things... dreams of a simple but elegant lifestyle of everyday luxury... a lifestyle that for me was embodied by the epitome of classic design that was the Imperial Blue Denby dinner service! I would look longingly at displays of it in shop windows and department stores.

I did eventually become the proud owner of a starter set and was given a few pieces to add to the collection but no amount of crockery could fix an unhappy marriage. I lost interest in more than just the blue Denby. Over the years there were breakages but I held onto what was left and never completely fell out of love with them or what they had stood for.

The whirlwind of my second marriage has not allowed a great deal of time to dwell on the subject of plates, blue Denby or otherwise (disregarding a few notable exceptions: Inca PlatesA Tale of Two PlatesDinner Party)

In 2008, I cooked Christmas dinner for a large contingent of my extended family. I went to IKEA and bought enough plates and bowls so that every place setting matched. It was a lot of plates and bowls.

I have been using the same plates and bowls ever since and no matter how many of the inevitable breakages we had, there were always enough (more than enough!) for our needs. Until now.

One of my daughters has recently set up home with her fiancé. She did not have enough plates. I happily donated a set to her from my endless supply. I actually found myself in a state of shock when I realised that the endless supply had in fact ended. With only four plates left, it was time to do something.

I still had four of my original Imperial Blue Denby dinner plates tucked away at the back of a cupboard so I pulled them out as a stopgap until I could find a new matching set of replacement plates. The emotional response to the Denby was still very much in evidence.

I think that for the most part, I have achieved the simple, elegant lifestyle I always craved and with my second husband it is (again, for the most part) joy filled and wonderful. My Imperial Blue Denby plates no longer represented an aspiration but were more like old friends... old friends I was very happy to have at the table performing the everyday task that comes with being a plate.

I had to take my car to the garage for a service today. Whilst I was in town I had a long overdue (simple and elegant I hope) haircut and a mooch around the charity shops. It felt like fate, or a rare alignment of old dreams and new reality, when I spotted in a charity shop across the road from the garage, a stack of twelve Imperial Blue Denby plates in three different sizes, in perfect condition with a modest price tag.

The blue Denby had always had the power to make my heart sing but never so much as in that moment. Added to the surviving pieces of my original collection, it made more than enough for a complete dinner set

Here they are, purchased, washed and draining on my draining board along with another of today's charity shop finds - two crystal sherry glasses to replace my glass of choice for port which met with a shattering demise over Christmas.

The restoration of my Imperial Blue Denby dream will most certainly warrant a toast with a glass of port tonight.

Friday, 8 January 2016


The daffodils are blooming and Xmas and New Year already seem like dim and distant memories... yet it is still only the first week of January.

Since moving house last year, blogging has taken a back seat to the long emails I write regularly to my mum to let her know how I am getting on. Exercise has also taken a back seat (most recently to an unhealthy preoccupation with the vast selection of entertainment on Netflix). I intend to remedy both of these situations.

I will still email my mum (and just try and tear me away from season two of An American Horror Story) but I will make time to sit at my computer and write. My husband has entered me into my first triathlon (not counting the tandem triathlon that we did together back in Shropshire) which is a huge motivation to get out running, cycling and swimming... so that takes care of the exercise deficiency.

I have already completed my first timed 5K run of the year (although I'm having to pinch myself that that actually happened) and although it was, what some would say, a pitifully slow 38 minute 5K, it was still 5K and it was a start. This blog post is probably the literary equivalent of a 38 minute 5K, but again, it is a start.

Happy New Year x

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