Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Crazy stuff that's happened in the last week

I've had a strange few days. I've got some pretty horrific mozzie bites on my back because I am so special that I get bitten even when I don't go on holiday !! To make myself feel better I decided to flick through the photos I've taken in the last week as I'm a bit of a magpie for images and am always keen to capture interesting things I've seen or done. So in order to cheer myself up I've compiled a photo diary for the week I've just had:
  • Me and the boy went to visit the new Morrisons at Fiveways Corner in Purley. It's not my usual store, but I was fascinated to hear that it's apparently an 'innovation store' which explains this:
cold mist on vegetables

It's a mist that's sprayed over the vegetables to keep them fresh in store. I know, how mad is that ?
  • During this shopping trip I decided to treat the boy to microchips and he chose a small baguette for lunch. While I was in the kitchen getting him a drink he made this:
A small chip buttie

Yes that's right, he made his first proper chip buttie. That's my boy !

  • The boy was looking at one of his books in bed. It is a book that has concentric circles telling the story of the Old Lady who swallowed a fly. He took two of the circles and made this: 
Cardboard discs made to look like a planet

When I asked him what it was he said, "it's a planet Mummy." My eyes were was as wide as the circles and I called Hubbie to confirm that he hadn't taught the boy this. We are both still baffled (and yes very, very proud).
  • Possibly the most exciting thing that happened was when I took the bus home from work this week. 
If you recall the TV show CHiPs you will recall the actor Erik Estrada who played Officer Poncharello.  Now look closely at the driver of this bus.

Driver of bus in Croydon who looks like Erik Estrada

Yes !! It is Ponch from CHiPs !!! I am going to petition the bus company to rename his route the Croydon Highway Patrol.

Who's with me ?
  • Then today I saw the strangest thing of all. 

Firstly I should explain that I have a very good friend whose surname is Footman. I've known him for years and we chat most days on Twitter as he now lives in Thailand.

I was in Waitrose earlier today and as I was queuing up to pay I saw this out of the corner of my eye.

Front page of the Daily Mirror from 31st July 2013

Only when I saw all I could think was, "Who's Kate Footman ?" "Is she related to Tim ?""I didn't think Bangkok was that slummy." etc. See this is how highly I regard my friends - I don't see a job title I see my friend's name.

So that's my week in photos. Crazy or what ?

Monday, 29 July 2013

My first ever giveway: It's celebration time woo hoo !!

I may have mentioned the massive goodie bag that I got from attending Britmums live last month. It was brimming with lovely stuff and took me a few days to fully comprehend what I had in it. One of the items I hadn't really spotted at first was an iphone cover by Speck that was super light, looked pretty robust and had a textured back. As my iphone has fallen victim to the old cracked back syndrome that so many iphones before it have befallen I was quite keen to try this and see if it would offer better protection than the ones I'd tried before.  The freebie cover is for an iphone 5 - which I don't have yet - so I asked nicely if I could have one for the iphone 4s. In super fast time I received a bright pink phone cover and a vibrant green cover for an ipad mini to use and review.

Pixelskin HD cover for iphone 4s by Speck Products Firstly the phone case which is a perfect fit and leaves a really discreet outline of colour around the outside of the phone and full coverage of the back while still allowing you to use all the buttons on the side and to access the headphone point without obscuring the lens of the camera at the back. It is very lightweight and seems to be pretty shockproof so if - like me - you are prone to dropping your iphone a lot it will withstand some bashing. I was very surprised at how much I like this cover as it isn't all that exciting to look at, but once you have it on your phone it comes into its own. I previously had a silicone type cover that just went round the edge and then I bought a plastic photo image cover that was very nice to look at, but cracked at the slightest drop. This is far sturdier and I'm not worried about it going discoloured or shattering.

miFitFolio ipad mini case by Speck products Ipad mini case by speck products The other product I was sent was a fitfolio case for the ipad mini. When I got my ipad I carried it around in bubble wrap for the first few days so keen was I to ensure it came to no harm. Then I got a cover that was mock leather with a magnetic closure and was delighted as it provided maximum coverage. The main let down was it was about the same weight as the ipad itself and it was also bulky.

This case, however, is in two parts with a plastic shell or cradle that clips onto the ipad and the soft(ish) cover that folds back into a stand and acts as a cover when not being used. The clip on is snug and holds it in place and ensures you don't get any of the slippage that I had with my old cover that led to some photos featuring a cloudy bit where the lens got covered accidentally. No such issue with the Speck cover as it's secure and fixed but also thin and lightweight so it takes up little space in my bag. The only downside I have found is that when the cover is closed it does sometimes trigger an app to open so I just open it again and shut it down. It's a very minor quibble though.

I have to admit that when these items arrived I wasn't sure about them. They're in bright candy colours which I found a bit loud at first, but to be honest I like them now I've used them for a while. The products have been designed with use in mind so they are practical and sturdy to use as well as being light and cheery looking. The iphone case I was sent is the pixelskin HD and retails for $29.95 online. The ipad mini case is the FitFolio for ipad and is priced at $34.95.

Now the good bit - I have two of these lovely products to give away !!
Speck products to give away
I've never done a giveaway before and as it's now been 2 years since I started blogging I thought it was high time I gave some prizes away with the help of the lovely Lindsay Anne at Speck in California. (I will be calling in on our next trip to San Francisco - you have been warned !)

So here's the deal: I have an iphone 5 cover in purple and a cover for a Kindle Fire in hot pink. You can win one of these of your choice.

To enter simply tell me a funny story about technology and your family (parents, pets, kids, etc.) Also please tell me which item you'd like to win.

As it's the school holidays I will pick two winners at the end of August*  - Good luck !! .

Disclosure: I was sent these products to write an honest review. All views, words and photos are my own.

*sorry postage within the UK only

Friday, 26 July 2013

Flash, bang, wallop what a picture…

We've been talking about booking a holiday for a while now. Well, since before it turned hot and sunny here and didn't feel like living in Narnia that is. We have so many destinations in mind with friends in France, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and California and family in India, Australia and New York.  The main sticking point was that we don't have a passport for the boy and I am so incredibly worried about travelling with a toddler who refuses to listen or sit still for any length of time. My passport is still in my maiden name as I had it renewed the year before we were married and I was loathe to pay for a new one just to use my married name.

So both me and the boy need passports. Today we popped in to see my lovely friend Lucy - who works for a photographer's studio - to get our passport photos done. If that seems a bit extravagant let me explain why we decided to call in the professionals. I have taken many, many photos of my boy since he was born. He was always pretty happy to oblige with a cheesy grin and a look straight to camera or iphone or ipad or camcorder, etc.  Then something changed.

If I ask him to look at me for a photo now he does this:

toddler and cat toy on sofa cushions
So the photos we have of him are wholly unsuitable to be used for a passport.

Like this one where he has his hair over his eyes and his fingers in his mouth. All no-nos for a passport photo apparently:
toddler in highchair with teddy bear
Can you spot why this one would not be suitable ? Yep it's the hat and sunglasses and the fact that he has his mouth open:
toddler in a pirate hat and sunglasses
So to get him to sit for his photo I had mine done first - and yes it does look like a mug shot - and I did have to have some photos taken with Jiggles bear on my head in order for him to agree to have his done. Only then he kept:
  • turning round on the stool
  • climbing off the stool 
  • trying to grab the door handle next to him
Finally we got a photo that may just pass - and yes it does look like a mug shot. Then he spotted an open door to an office (big mistake !) so he went off to:
  • line up all the phone handsets
  • count the handsets
  • sit at the computer to 'work' 
  • open and close the tape measure 
  • count the fans in the room 
When I tried to get him to come home he told me to go and "leave me to do some work Mummy."
toddler in the photographer's office

Then when I finally got him home I popped in to check why he was taking so long on the loo. He decided to impersonate an Andrex puppy and had unravelled the entire loo roll onto the floor.

I'm exhausted just from getting the photos done - not sure I can cope with taking him on holiday just yet !

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Love food - love cookbooks: a review post.

Parragon books Ok I fess up here and now I love recipe books. Not cooking from them, but having them to look at, to pore over and to drool on. In the past my birthday and Christmas lists have included requests for books by Nigel Slater, Gok Wan (shutup)and cupcake compendiums.

My first husband worked for a publishing company so he often used to come home with beautiful cookbooks for me and I have a range of books that I've admired, but never cooked from. In recent years I've also developed a passion for collecting the recipe cards from Waitrose so the shelf of cookbooks is pretty weighed down now.

So when I was at Britmums Live and met the lovely ladies from Parragon books it may have been the tower of cupcakes that attracted me, but it was the books that kept me there. Not least as the books they were offering were these beauties.

Now I've got vegetarian cookbooks (even one signed by Paul McCartney - ooh get me !) so that isn't the appeal here. Instead it's the simplicity of the visual cues to assist with preparation and cooking. The photos show you all the ingredients you need - which is very helpful if it's something you haven't used before. I recall the first time I cooked with fennel and had to look up how to prepare it online before I could do anything. With this book you can see clearly what everything is and how to use it. There are some classic recipes here - like the caramelized onion tart for example - and some ideas you may not have tried before. I know there are people who don't feel confident to cook for vegetarians so this is a pretty good starting point.

step by step instructions to cook caramelised onion tart

Now we come to Mama's family cookbook. This gem is styled to look like a handwritten collection of family recipes and again some are deceptively simple, but the photography and simple instructions make it a practical guide to making family meals. I make the same pasta dishes all the time and often 'cheat' with bought sauces so I'm hoping this book will inspire me to cook from scratch a bit more often.
Mama's cookbook Parragon books

I have a few books from the Love Food range already and you may be familiar with the sparkly heart logo on the top right corner of the cover. It's a range that Parragon developed to inspire the aspirational cook in all of us. As well as the Step By Step range (which features a photo to guide beginners through each step of a recipe) the do the 100 Best range (the most delicious recipes in every category) and some new titles like The Burger, The Bistro Cookbook, and A Year Full of Recipes. The books I was given retail at £16 and are available in all the usual places including online retailers. They're lovely books and I'd recommend them to accomplished cooks and aspiring ones alike.

Disclosure: I was given these books to write an honest review.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Pink wings, a tutu and a Sunday in the park.

Race for life Logo The hot weather this week has been lovely, but I was hoping it would settle down to a breezier weekend and moreover a cool Sunday. Not just because I'd prefer if men kept their shirts on please. Not just because being out of breath before I get to the bus stop is my idea of a bad start to the day. Not just because when it's really hot I am even grumpier than usual as I can't handle the heat for any prolonged period of time. No, none of these perfectly sensible reasons.

I want it to be cooler tomorrow because I'll be donning pink fairy wings, a tutu, deely boppers and a Hawaiian style lai in order to run race for life on one of the tougher courses I've done. It's not my first race for life, far from it I've done many of them and used to do a few each year. I haven't been running as much since I had my son and have only taken part in a few running events so deciding to do my first fancy dress run on possibly one of the hottest days I've ever run might not be the best decision.

It is important, however, because this year I have three people in mind for whom I am taking part. In the past I've run in memory of people and to celebrate friends who have made it through. This year for the first time I am running in memory of our dear neighbour who passed away a few weeks ago, in celebration of my lovely friend Soraya who has come out the other side of her journey with breast cancer and for our wonderful midwife Penny who is currently undergoing a chemo regime to fight the aggressive pancreatic cancer that has riven her family for generations.

We have become used to hearing the phrase that cancer touches everyone's life. In my childhood no one ever had cancer and we grew up believing that it just didn't affect indian people. I now assume that it just wasn't talked about openly so when our elderly great aunt passed away after years of illness it may well have been cancer, but no one said it was.

My father-in-law had a kidney removed a few years ago as it had developed a tumour, a few years ago my aunt found out after a biopsy that she had pancreatic cancer that had been caught early enough for her to survive and my brother-in-law had extensive surgery earlier this year to remove a pre-cancerous growth.
pink wings and tutu

I don't for a moment believe that my wearing pink wings will make it better for anyone living with a diagnosis or who is currently fighting cancer or who has made it through a punishing regime of treatment. What I do hope is that my small gesture will make them smile and feel supported and noticed. I run Race for Life as a sign of respect for those people who are still around and to show them that their fight is not or has not been in vain.

If you can sponsor me any amount I'd be most grateful - I promise to post photos of me in full pink regalia in return for your kindness.

Sponsor me here - thank you

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A breakdown in the time / space continuum

hanging onto the face of a clock
I know that things are going wrong. I know this because in the last few days I've lost track of time and been late to get my son to a toddler birthday party which we knew about for months. In case you don't understand why this is important I should give you some background.

I grew up in a family that was always late for everything. My Dad seemed to think he was able to travel at light speed because if we had to be somewhere at 12 o'clock he'd leave at 5 to 12 regardless of how far it was from our house. In an indian family it's considered odd to be on time for anything so it was fine if we were visiting other indian people, but if it was anyone else we'd feel quite embarrassed as we'd get everywhere really late. As a result of this family history I was notoriously late all the time as I had no concept of being on time for anything. I would leave it too late to get somewhere then the sole would fall off my shoe so I'd have to go home and I'd be even later - yes this really did happen.

When I met my first husband I found out how annoying the tardiness really was. He would arrange to visit his mother and tell her we'd be there at 1pm (and not tell me he'd said that to her) then we'd leave our home at 1pm and he wouldn't even call her to say we'd be late. I'd have to call her and apologise for some made up delay that had occured and she'd be furious with us and rude to me on the phone. I resolved to try harder to keep better time and since then have been a stickler for timekeeping.

Hubbie comes from a family where his Dad would be sitting in the car on the drive waiting for everyone else to make sure they were always early for everything. When we invite our families over we tell the in-laws to come over at 1pm knowing they will arrive early and tell mine it's at 12 because they're always late. Except that one time when my family actually were on time and I was still in my dressing gown as I wasn't expecting them.

Anyway all of this is a long way round saying that I'm such a slave to good timekeeping that if I am late it throws me completely and I cannot cope. If it happens more than once I actually start to lose the plot. If it's someone else who has made me late I am apoplectic.

A few weeks ago I had an important meeting at the BBC which my boss had said he might go to. We got an email to say the time of the meeting had been changed and I was ready to leave with plenty of time to arrive there. Then the boss said he was going to join me. And he wanted to walk there. I asked if he knew the way on foot and he assured me he did. With 5 minutes to the start of the meeting we were still at least 20 minutes away and I suggested that we might have to get on the tube instead of continuing to walk. It turns out that the boss was too cheap to pay for a tube ticket which is why he'd suggested walking so we arrived late, flustered, overheated and sweaty. I was also furious.

Then today we were all invited to Brighton for a 'works outing' and were supposed to meet at the station at 11.30. I changed my morning plans to make sure I'd arrive on time only for all my colleagues to turn up after 12. I wandered round the shops on a gorgeous sunny day until they arrived and then we all had a long walk along the beach and then on to the boss's house for lunch. We eventually got there in time for me to  pop to the loo and turn back to walk to the station to come home as I had to pick up my boy from nursery. It was all a bit of a waste of time really.

I've become very aware of how important all the minutes of my day are since I became a Mum. I have always packed a lot into my time so making space for my son's schedule means it's a tightly run ship. When I have pirates board that ship and make me walk the plank I am not amused at all. I'm taking back the wheel and chucking these time-bandits off my ship from now on.

I'm not a timelord and I can't actually move myself around in a TARDIS so until I can bend time to suit all the places I need to be I just need to breathe deeply and smile at them. Does anyone know where I can get a sonic screwdriver ?
Doctor Who and his sonic screwdriver

Sunday, 14 July 2013

I'm a feminist because…my boy deserves a Mum who has self-respect

Malala Yousafzai
You may have seen an item on the news yesterday about Malala Day. Or you might have heard or seen the address given by Malala Yousafzai to the United Nations. In case you haven't heard of her Malala is a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban. These grown men targeted a child for trying to get an education and for challenging the assertion that women and girls should not be treated equally in Pakistani society. Yesterday Malala addressed a worldwide audience to denounce the Taliban as fearful of her and of women in general.

It's also possible you have been aware of recent sermons given in some mosques to encourage more positive attitudes towards women. This was partly in response to the press coverage of the arrests of a group of asian men who undertook a campaign of child abuse and sexual assaults on young women. As  others have pointed out preaching that women should not be treated this way will not undo generations of  belief that women are not equal to men. It will not convince those who hold these views to change them. It does, however, give the impression that some imams are taking it seriously and that they believe they hold influence in a community where there are pockets of insanity.

What it has made me more aware of is that I am thoroughly sick and tired of misogyny being part of every day life. Of the casual sexism that we put up with and dismiss as part of the cultural norm. It can't be only me who is mightily fed up of men who are a bit too macho or trying to hard to impress other 'blokey blokes.' I realised years ago that having to subjugate myself in order to make men look better was not something I was happy to do. I was not willing to accept that it's only men who can hold an audience in the pub with funny stories. I dated a man whose friends would all fall about at their mate Martin's jokes and when I responded to yet another sexist anecdote dryly with, "have you ever wondered why you're single Martin ?" they all gave my boyfriend a look that suggested he keep his woman in line in future.

Men and women in a bar chatting
The issue isn't just my low tolerance for macho tomfoolery, but how some women are complicit in this celebration of how much better men are at being funny or clever. I always wondered why I wasn't amused by the 'funniest guy in the office.' One evening out with my impro friends we were joined by an aspiring stand up comedian who was 'on' from the minute he arrived at the table. The lads in our group hero worshipped him and one of the women was obsessed with him so they all laughed at his every word. I was underwhelmed by him and his acolytes and thought I probably just didn't get the joke.

Don't get me wrong, I love to flirt and be feminine. I can be coy and playful and laugh at a man's jokes even when they're not that funny. What I don't do is find it amusing when a man puts women down in order to get the laugh. When a man humiliates his girlfriend or wife in front of people to amuse and elevate his own status. You see this is the subtle manifestation of what the Taliban represent and the cultural attitude that women are 'less than' men. If I laugh when a man puts his wife down or join in when he tells me his girlfriend is a bit dumb I'm complicit in building his belief that it's ok to say it.

Which brings me back to Malala and her amazing courage in facing down the Taliban. It isn't ok that women and girls are beaten, raped, killed and lied about in order to further this idea that they're inferior to men. I am proud that an asian woman has become a symbol of courage and bravery and I hope that she does get nominated for and eventually wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

If Malala's experience teaches us anything it should be to show why being a feminist is about more than arguing amongst ourselves as women. Instead we should be getting on with the business of lifting each other up. Malala was almost killed for challenging a patriarchial society. Her feminism was born of adversity. We don't have to do anything nearly so life threatening.

Bottom line: It's not shameful to be feminist. Women and girls should not feel embarrassed or wrong for wanting to claim the title as their own. My challenge is to ensure my boy grows up with feminist values and respect for women too.

I'm a feminist cartoon

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

My first, my last, my everything...

toddler climbing up to see an exhibit at the science museumHubbie and I decided to take a few days off work so at the end of last week we had 4 days of family time during which we were blessed with glorious sunny weather. In recent weeks we've taken our boy out for special days to Peppa Pig World and Chessington and that's gone well so we thought we'd try a few new things.

So here - in no particular order - are some of our 'family firsts':

We introduced our boy to the dinosaurs in the Natural History museum (and discovered a way in that avoids the massive long queue at the front of the building). It was absolutely heaving with school groups so my plan to go during the week backfired a bit. 

Right next door we let our son loose in the Science Museum where he went to space and enjoyed the many motor vehicles. He was able to climb onto trains, cars and tried on some headphones playing sound effects. It's a great place with lots of interactive exhibits for children (and adults) and was a lot less crowded so we let him run fairly free as we could still spot him easily. 

toddler on routemaster bus top deckBefore we had our boy we used to say we'd love to take our child(ren) to Giraffe as they are so family friendly and welcoming to kids. We took him to the Kensington branch where he was less than impressed with his fruit smoothie, but loved his water cup with a straw pushed through the lid. These people understand kids which is why they provide a proper non-spill cup for them :o)

After our lovely lunch at Giraffe we went to the bus stop and waited for the No.9 bus. It's a routemaster bus on the heritage route that runs through Kensington and runs every 20 minutes on weekdays. It was a great nostalgia trip for us and a new experience for the little one as he isn't usually allowed on the top deck of the bus. He even pulled the string to alert the driver to our stop. We met the coolest Nepali bus conductor ever who helped us stow our (folded) buggy away while we rode the bus. 

white cat lying in polka dot blanket As it was so hot we spent most of the day in the garden. The boy was paddling in a blue plastic hippo filled with water and Hubbie built an impressive wooden den for the boy. The cat was sunbathing (and running away from us as we tried to put suncream on his ears*) and I was… actually I have no idea. It must have been good. In the evening I got all dressed up and went out to a ball and had great fun, drank too much red wine and danced until my legs ached (they still do if I'm honest !)

The best thing was that being at home for four days and the weather being hot meant we could finally try and encourage our son out of nappies - I don't call it training, he's not a dog. He's been frustrated for a while now by having to lie down for nappy changing and I've told him that if he learns to use the toilet he won't have to put up with the changing any more. Well we decided to give it a go and had some mixed success at first. So many other parents have told me that after 2 hellish days their child just 'got it' that I started to wonder if we had just pushed him to do it too soon. Then today something amazing happened. I picked him up from nursery and every member of staff told me he'd done really well and 'stayed dry' all day.

I'm made up that he's got the idea and is being so independent now. It is another sign that he's growing up and learning new things and that we're getting the hang of this parenting lark. 

*not I'm not insane, our cat is white and his ears can burn in the sun so the vet has advised that we put suncream on them. It's not like he's asked us to ensure he tans evenly !!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

What do I tell my toddler ?

Pink orchid in a ceramic pot on window sill It's been a really odd day today. it started off normal enough with all of us going swimming then for a change I took the boy shopping while Hubbie mowed the front garden and fired up his beloved barbecue for lunch. As we were coming home I got a call from Hubbie that there was a car in front of our drive so I'd have to park on the road. No big deal, but I was worried as I knew what this probably meant.

Our neighbours on both sides are lovely and we have a good relationship with them. On one side are a couple who were both widowed in that last few years and who have grown up children. The other side are an older couple who also have grown up kids and are retired. All of the neighbours have taken care of us, our cat and our son at some point and we've done the same for them. The older couple kind of 'adopted' our boy as a surrogate grandchild as theirs is almost 11 years old and they missed having a little child around. 

Not long after we moved in I was talking to the retired chap and he told me he was being treated for cancer and was travelling to St Thomas' hospital for his chemotherapy. In between sessions he was still able to tend to his garden and play bowls with his wife and they went on holidays and we watered his plants. I recall one very hot Sunday afternoon last summer (not unlike today) when they called us over the fence to join them and their son and daughter-in-law for drinks. Our boy ran around having fun, we chilled out with them and it was just really lovely. 

We found out later that the chemo had been unsuccessful and that his cancer had spread. Then at Christmas he was in hospital and since then he has been very seriously ill. All our son was aware of was the he was 'not well' and he would say that to us as an explanation for not having seen the man next door for a while. In the last few weeks his condition deteriorated and nurses and doctors became a regular fixture at their home. 

Then today came the news we had been expecting, but dreading. The car across our drive was the undertakers who had arrived for 'the body' as he passed away this morning. We took the boy into the garden to play with his new den so that he wouldn't see what was going on. Hubbie and I bowed our heads in respect as he was taken away and both shed some tears for him and for his family's loss. 

Then we went on with our day as normal, the barbecue we had planned went ahead as family members called in next door to visit our newly widowed neighbour. We put a card through the door to offer our condolences and later on watched Andy Murray in the men's final at Wimbledon. Our boy has now witnessed a piece of history as it happened. 

The dilemma I have now is how do I tell my son what has happened ? What can I say to him that he will understand ? He drew a picture for our neighbour as I asked him to and came with me to post the card through the door, but he didn't ask why. 

At some point he will wonder where his lovely, kind, playful surrogate grandparent is and I just don't know what I'm going to say. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

A room of one's own

When we bought our first house together me and Hubbie were keen to have a garden. We were both living in flats in South West London and wanted some outdoor space. He had a small courtyard garden in his bachelor pad in Wandsworth and we would have brunch sitting outside and the neighbourhood cats would pop over to visit. On one memorable occasion when he had the front and back doors open one of the feline neighbours ran through the flat to make a hasty escape from someone or something, not even so much as an 'excuse me' if you don't mind ! My flat wasn't so much of a cat thoroughfare seeing as it was on the sixth floor overlooking Battesea Power Station and with about 12 train tracks running past the window. It was a spectacular view of the River Thames and the New Year's Eve fireworks alone were worth the mortgage !!
Our cat sitting on the water butt Me with a branch in my back pocket in the garden
 Anyway, when we were looking for a home we wanted a garden because we knew we wanted to rehome a cat and we love spending time outdoors. In our first home together we had a lavender filled idyll where we spent most evenings and weekends in the summer months. I always called it our 'favourite room' and it really was - even with the East Grinstead line going past. Yes train lines are a theme with us. Then as our family grew with our boy joining the fold we decided to move somewhere bigger and even toyed with the idea of leaving the area so that we'd be nearer our respective parents.  After some to-ing and fro-ing and not a little bit of stress we finally found this house and when we read the details Hubbie said, "this must be a misprint, it says the garden is 200 ft long." We came to have a look around with our tiny little baby boy and saw this enormous garden and I just knew we had to live here. Yes it's a lot of work, but more than anything it has given us a whole new massive room to play with.
Lily of the valley flowers Flowers gathered from the garden
At first we didn't know much about what was in the garden as we moved here in Oct so the apple trees were full and the leaves were starting to shed, but it took our first year here to appreciate the full beauty of how many flowers and plants we have. Only today I realised that the white flowers growing on the plants I gleefully hacked back last week are Lily of the Valley (and only then because I saw our beloved bees on them and took a big whiff of the scent and it had a distinct hint of Yardley about it !). There are roses all over and after an apple free year last year we have trees groaning with fruit this Summer - bring on the crumbles and pies !! I also have a plethora of beautiful flowers that I can pop into a simple glass vase to bring some of the garden indoors - it adds to my love of 'indoor-outdoor' decor.
wooden garden structure Blue hippo paddling pool, toys and toddler in sunhat
This year we've been able to construct more of a play garden space for our son to enjoy. We eat outdoors every chance we get (and Hubbie needs little excuse to fire up his prized gas barbecue when it's as hot as it is at the moment) and he sees it as we do as an extension of the house. Whether he's playing football or chucking water around it's all about having some fun and being outside. We do, however, draw the line at having a trampoline in our garden. I'm not going to get all Kate Hopkins and judgey about it, we just don't want to have one in our favourite room.

Having said that Hubbie has been busy this afternoon building our boy his own 'quiet space' outside. A room of his own where he can contemplate deep thoughts and park his favourite cars underneath when he's finished playing. He's already got some furniture in there and I expect at bedtime tonight he will run in there and hide as he knows Daddy can't fit in there to get him out.

I'm out this evening at a ball - which I need to go and get ready for, like ten minutes ago.

I expect to get home and find them both asleep in the 'new house.'

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

I heart happiness

This evening I was walking behind a woman who was wearing a polka dot coat and asked her where she'd got it from. She was flattered that I'd asked and it made her smile. I often ask women who are wearing something that looks beautiful where they got it and it's nearly always a coat. At this point my friend Bee is rolling her eyes at the ceiling as she was the first person to voice (to me anyway) that I own far more coats than is strictly necessary when I said - pointedly - that Buffy the vampire slayer wore a different coat almost every episode.
Girl holding up fingers to make a heart shape into sunset

Anyway, I digress, from the topic of happiness and in particular two things that happened today that have made me happy:

Firstly my lovely friend Carole posted a piece from the Metro newspaper about Liz Jones - you know her, spitting invective weekly and last year she mocked this blog to demonstrate why Mummy bloggers are rubbish and she didn't even give me credit if you please ! Anyway, she appears to have changed her mind about her arch enemies ie. other women. Apparently she's realised that the best life choice to make as a woman in order to be happy is to be a housewife who works part time and blogs, so yay me !!

Secondly I was at a local community police meeting that I attend and found out that the sergeant of our local team has had to reapply for his job and was given his fourth choice of location. This means he will no longer be based locally to me and I won't have to deal with him any more. I have always found him rude and unhelpful when members of the community have tried to ask for help or advice so him not being there any more is a big win for me. I didn't wish him gone, but the fact that he will be is not making me unhappy.

So Karma is being nice to me right now and I feel I should pass on the happiness to others. Not least as I finished the anger management course this week so I feel equipped to impart some knowledge that I've gained to help improve relationships and restore harmony in your family:

Find your love language. So work out if you prefer a hug as a sign of love or do you like being told you are loved ? Do you prefer gifts or to do nice things for your loved one ? Identifying your own love language and that of those who you love will make for happier relationships and possibly even some nice jewellery !  

Give lots of praise instead of concentrating on what's gone wrong. So instead of saying, "I am very cross that you didn't bring the wheelie bin into the back garden last night," it is better and healthier to express it thus, "well done for noticing that the wheelie bin makes a decorative feature outside the front door all night."

My favourite was learning how to use "I" statements to avert a confrontation. The idea is that instead of saying. "you always…" or "you never…" the approach to take is to make statements that follow this format. "I feel..." When you... Next time please…" so translating this into my own experience instead of saying, "pick your socks up off the floor or I'll stab you." it would be more productive and positive for my marriage to say, "I feel like stabbing you when you leave your socks on the floor. Next time please pick them up or I'll stab you. Please."

I just need to find a suitable love language and some "I" statements for the world's bossiest pilates teacher who taught me last week. I felt like I'd been assaulted by a small skinny drill sergeant with a high pitched voice and who was a bit 'handsie' with her adjustments. I did also, however, feel like I'd worked really hard afterwards and ached in what I am choosing to believe is a good way.

Now that I've got my groove back I'm also going back to teaching yoga and am looking for a local ashtanga vinyasa class as I feel up to going back to a more energetic form of yoga.

See even being ordered around by a bendy woman isn't going to annoy me this week :o) 

Monday, 1 July 2013

My boy flew an elephant and met a pirate cat - all at Chessington World of Adventures

the monorail at Chessington
I'm old enough to remember when Chessington was still a zoo, when Thorpe Park and Alton Towers opened and I remember when Legoland was still Windsor Safari Park. Admittedly I'm not someone who goes to theme parks for the rides and I'm such a lightweight that a roundabout going too fast is likely to make my feel a bit queasy so a roller coaster that goes upside down or drops super fast into a black hole is likely to send me into cardiac arrest.

With all of this in mind it is with some trepidation that we've been starting to take the boy to theme parks as he is now old enough to enjoy going on rides with the promise of going "a bit fast." He also wants to drive so this is one way to keep him out of the driver's seat of the family car and still satiate his curiosity.

I was very keen to take him to Chessington to try out some of the new attractions they have for under fives so we were delighted when Mumsnet invited us to a VIP day at Chessington World of Adventures. The park has undergone many transformations in the years since I was at school so it's a bit of everything now. There is the zoo, the sealife centre, the rides for grown-up thrill seekers and now specific activities and rides for little ones too. As part of our VIP day at the park we were invited to the Holiday Inn which is right next to the park and where you can watch animals roam while you eat your breakfast. My boy was less interested in the exotic zebras than the everyday ducks though - typical !

Flying Jumbos in Chessington
Once inside the park we went round the Sealife centre which is a good indoor activity for rainy days, but on the hot and sunny day we were there was a rapid run round for us. I'm still wowed by the tunnel where you can watch a shark go over your head and my boy loved watching the rays in the water and seeing real jellyfish. The octonauts trail activity was a little old for him, but is a nice way to encourage children to read the information about the creatures.

We had time to go on some rides before lunch so the boy and Hubbie went on the flying Jumbos where the little one was able to control how high they flew. It looked a bit too fast for my pathetic and feeble stomach to cope with, but they seemed to love it. In the course of the day we took him on the truckers ride and the toadies cars as well, but the latter was pretty difficult to locate. The noise and commotion from the Bubbleworks ride was enough to put our boy off so we left that one out and bought him an ice cream instead.

Captain Barnacles & Kwasi the pirate at Chessington
The hightlight of the afternoon was meeting the Octonauts characters who come out at regular intervals during the day. We were lucky enough to meet Captain Barnacles and Kwasi and my boy had a great time tickling and hugging them and having his photo taken. I was a bit surprised as he's not a fan of them usually, but since meeting them he's been a lot keener on the show.

All in all it's a fun day out for the family, but there are a few small things that would make it a bit easier for families. The directions in the park are sparce and the map is so full of information it's not as simple to follow as it could be. We did wonder if they couldn't have put the rides for smaller children a bit closer together as very young children get tired out and might not make it round all of them.

It was a busy and sunny day when we went and the staff are very helpful and everyone we asked for help was able to assist us willingly and cheerfully. I think Chessington is trying very hard to be all things to all people so most visitors will find something of interest. It is up to you whether or not this is enough to warrant more than one visit though.

If you have a Merlin pass you can use it here - visit to plan your visit.

I hope you have a fun day out :o)

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel , a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid to attend the event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.