Monday, 28 October 2013

It's like invasion of the body snatchers

About a month ago I decided to get my hair cut shorter. It's been quite long since before I had my boy and I fancied a change so I had more than half of it chopped off. I love it, it's much handier to style and I've now got the hang of using far less shampoo and conditioner so I'm not left rinsing it out for hours. The strange thing was that only two people noticed and commented. It made me paranoid as I was convinced that meant that it looked terrible.

I don't mean I was fishing for compliments. I mean I was surprised that no one seemed to notice. If someone has changed their hair I will mention it, but I might say, "you've had your hair cut shorter, it suits you" rather than, "your hair looks lovely" if it doesn't - after all if you think someone looks rotten you won't say so will you ?

At my thinnest - at sister's wedding
At university I had quite bad acne that I was sure people stared at. I was convinced that if someone was looking at me it was that they were staring at my blemishes. If you ask anyone I knew then if they recall my appearance they normally mention my very long hair and obsession with shoes rather than my (mostly imagined) hideousness. I've realised that a lot of people don't notice at all - they just don't look at faces or features. I notice things about people. I look at their appearance when I talk to them, but you have to choose when to tell someone they look tired - it's just not polite, so I'd err on the side of never.

I rarely look in mirrors these days so I have no idea what I look like. I manage to go whole days without looking at myself and use either the small mirror in the back of the sun visor of the car or a handheld mirror that is smaller than my lipstick to apply eyeliner and lippy. It isn't because I don't care, I just don't prioritise myself any more. I also have quite a low opinion of my appearance so I'd rather not have it confirmed by looking.

Once upon a time I used to go to the gym every day - sometimes twice a day. Admittedly I was single then and could only access the internet at the gym so I spent hours there and would go to kill time and being able to swim and exercise was a bonus. I was a lot fitter and took part in charity runs, did the Moonwalk one year and could walk up stairs without groaning about my knees. I trained to teach yoga and all the others on my course were slimmer and fitter than me so I dieted and lost weight and was the slimmest I've been as an adult.

At my heaviest - waiting for the train.
Then I fell pregnant and my body changed. That was fine and I was delighted with my growing body as I was pretty sure I had the capacity to get my shape back, maybe not at my thinnest, but certainly slimmer than I am now. I tried everything that I was told, breastfeeding didn't make me slim, walking everywhere with my boy in a pram helped, but it didn't make me thin. And now my boy is three years old and I'm still avoiding mirrors as I don't want to see what I already know. That I am still not a 'yummy Mummy' and while others snap back into shape after making many babies I'm morphing into my aunties after having just the one.

My sister cursed me when I was pregnant by saying that I'd get fat and not be able to lose the weight - I laughed it off as I was sure she was wrong - she was right. All the women in my family are big and I spent my youth trying to keep fit to avoid the inevitable. Now I have creaky knees, a persistent shoulder injury and while I still exercise every day it's through gritted teeth. I do 100 stomach crunches every morning (VB does many more than that), but I'm not about to show off a washboard stomach any time soon.

Victoria Wood made a joke years ago about walking into the Body Shop and saying, "I'd like mine in a size ten please." I hear that.

Does anyone know where my body has gone and how I can get it back please ?  Mine appears to have been snatched !

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Brush, rinse and spit: you know the drill

Gum disease ? What gum disease ? Oh the kind that used to cost me £70 every 3 months when I was with a private dentist and that my NHS dentist has told me is not an issue ? Now I'm not calling my previous dentist a crook, but the Ferrari parked in the drive, his holiday photos from the Caribbean and the fact that he mentioned his kids' private schooling should have been enough clues.

dentist checking teeth I was raised to look after my teeth as my parents take dental health very seriously. Unfortunately I grew up in the 1970s when dentists were paid per tooth and my parents owned a shop that sold sweets so I have a mouth full of fillings. Not the nice white ones, the horrid amalgam ones that fall out when you bite into a particularly crunchy apple and tingle when you accidentally eat the foil off a creme egg.

The other consequence of my parents' fastidiousness is that I have a tendency to overbrush my teeth so my gums are receding and I do have sensitive teeth as a result. This means I spend an inordinate amount on dental products and have been known to stockpile toothpaste when it's on offer. I have used Oral B electric toothbrushes for years (that ad campaign that claimed dentists use them has never really left me !) and when we were in America I was in seventh heaven as I could buy those fab dental floss harps in massive bags from Walgreen chemists.

Comedy teeth You see when it comes to dental hygiene the stakes are too high to be shoddy in taking care of our teeth. It's not for nothing that losing your teeth in a dream is a sign of anxiety. I would hate to lose mine so I make sure I brush them twice a day with a good toothpaste and I have been ensuring my boy does the same since he's had more than two teeth in his head. I even buy Neo Dentabits that are supposed to help keep his teeth and gums healthy and improve his cat breath. I'm not risking tooth or gum loss for any of this family !!

Due to my gum issue and sensitive teeth I do seek out toothpaste that is designed for those particular problems. The lovely folks at Oral-B kindly sent me some Pro-Expert Premium Gum Protection toothpaste to try and it is very similar to the ones I already use. It does, however, taste quite different. It's not particularly minty - which I like - and it isn't overly foamy either. It does have a strong aftertaste though and I find if I try to eat or drink something soon after brushing my teeth it tastes odd. It does leave my teeth feeling fresh and clean though and I haven't had any sensitivity issues since I've been using it. That is my one non-negotiable for a good toothpaste so full marks from me on this alone.

I'd definitely use this toothpaste again as it ticks the most important boxes for me when it comes to dental care. Another handy (and not entirely necessary) benefit is that it matches my toothbrush :o)

This post is an entry for BritMums’ #ORALBLoveYourGums Challenge sponsored by Oral-B, promoting healthy gums – something especially important for pregnant women. Get tips and advice on

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Seven Years Hitched

Dear Hubbie,

Yes I know it's a really bad play on words, but it wouldn't have made sense if I'd titled this post Some Like it Hot would it now ? (well maybe to some people, but you know I'm not about being cliquey). So today is our wedding anniversary - yes I know you've already fallen over in shock as I always mix up the date of our wedding with the date we went on honeymoon. It's an easy mistake though isn't it ?
Me and Hubbie on our wedding day
Anyway, I digress. Seven years ago we were married in a civil ceremony at Chelsea Town Hall followed by a party with family and friends above a pub in Battersea. I know you know this, but I'm narrating for other readers so bear with me please. I wore a gold silk sari and you wore a very snazzy suit (as modelled by Bryan Ferry). We took photos on Battersea Bridge and I let the bath overrun in the lovely hotel in Paddington that we stayed in afterwards as we were too busy opening wedding cards from our lovely guests.

Since that day in 2006 a lot has changed, where we live, what we do, who we live with and much more besides. Here are seven of the highlights (one for each year - naturally):

1. When we bought our first house we spent months working on it and learned that when DIYing we have to be doing separate projects in order to preserve our sanity. I'm not joking when I tell people that we nearly got divorced putting down the kitchen flooring. It was worth it for the laughs over cheap pizza and Weatherspoons breakfasts though.

2. Going to Battersea Cats & Dogs home to choose Neo as our newest family member was brilliant. You made up your mind as soon as you opened the door to the cattery and he wandered up to you to say "hello." He was one of us from that day forth and it's thanks to you that he is.

3. When we were told that it was unlikely we'd have children we sat in the corridor of the hospital for what seemed hours crying and holding each other. It felt like the worst pain in the world and could have broken us. It didn't, it made us stronger. We're still here.

4. On your first visit to India my late Naniji was delighted at your shared love of cricket and I was amazed at how the two of you would sit watching TV together, communicating despite your lack of Punjabi and her limited English. She adored your love of trains too and when asked by my Mum she said, 'Of course he's one of us - he's Indian.' High praise indeed ! 
me and hubbie in Alykes
5. I'm glad that when we're on holiday we've always enjoyed spending all our time together - mostly thanks to your laid back approach if I'm honest. It was you who taught me that Rome will still be there even if we don't visit the Coliseum in the morning. Another hour in bed is fine, we are on holiday after all.

6. When our son was being born, things were going wrong and you were incredible. You had family calling you to ask what was going on and you had doctors telling you that you might lose your wife and son. That was a lot of stress all at once on the back of no sleep for more than a day. I had no idea, because to me you were a picture of calm and joy when our boy was delivered safe and perfect. 
My boy and Hubbie and me
7. Our son has your cheeky sense of humour and I love how he enjoys making people smile - just like Daddy. Eventually he will, no doubt, develop sarcasm too. He's hilarious and clever and looks like you. We did that :o) 

So that's my top seven. It hasn't always been easy, but it has been totally worth it. Being married is more than 'just a piece of paper' to us. We work at our relationship and sometimes we work harder than seems fair. Other times we laugh until I can't breathe and I have tears rolling down my face and you think that's even funnier than the thing that made me laugh in the first place. 

Happy Anniversary - I love you :o) 

Listen to His & Hers: The Seven Year (H)itch - our new show featuring songs we've chosen to celebrate our anniversary on Fri 25th Oct 9pm-10pm at or as a podcast from Sat 26th Oct. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Keep calm, I've got a big bag and I'm not afraid to fill it (with cupcakes)

Me getting ready to go to a football match!This time last year I was cacking myself wondering why I'd decided to go to the first Mumsnet Blogfest. I didn't know anyone else who was going and I was terrified I'd stick out like a useless amateur in a room full of technical wizards in amazingly co-ordinated outfits with perfect figures and no evidence of mummyhood other than a much cooler bag than me.

As I waddled over to the venue very early and awaited the onslaught of power mums I was quite surprised to find welcoming, friendly normal women quite happily noshing the pastries that I'd expected they'd be avoiding. My first conversation was with a lovely blogger who's based in Italy and had just been published (intimidating much ?), but everyone I met was really friendly and I learned so much all day. I had been going through an identity crisis wondering whether my blog was actually being read by anyone and whether or not there was any point in continuing. I left with renewed confidence that I could do new things and try to build and audience without changing the essential nature of what I enjoyed writing.

cupcakes in a box
I'm really looking forward to going again this year now I know a lot more bloggers and am less timid about promoting my blog, I've learned how to use linkys (well this post is on one isn't it so that's one skill I didn't have last year !). It's a great day with so much going on and there was not a moment that I wasn't learning something new, including how many cupcakes I can fit into my handbag - a lot if you must know !

The sessions are so great I want to borrow Hermione's ability to be in more than one class at once so I don't have to miss any of them. As well as looking forward to the sessions I'm also going to see some blogger friends who I've chatted to online and some I've even met in real life. Some are even presenting the sessions - ooh get me with my blogger celeb pals :o)

So my top tips if it's your first Blogfest ?
  1. Dress how you like, it's not a fashion show and no one is judging you.
  2. Bring a very big bag - there is so much to pick up and the goodie bag is enormous !!
  3. Take a break from whatever nonsensical food fad you're following for just one day. The cakes, the lunch and the drinks are so wonderful you'd be crazy to miss out on them.
  4. Bring a tablet with you and don't lug a massive laptop along - it was heavy and I didn't use it at all !! .
  5.  There will be wifi.
  6.  Tweet while you're there - it's a great way to meet and greet other bloggers who are sitting in the same room and it's how I got talking to the fabulous Mammasaurus !
  7. Don't try and do everything - the sessions will be online later so you can watch any you missed
  8. If you're bringing a baby seek me out and I'll be more than happy to hold and hug while you go to the loo or drink your tea - honestly !!
  9. Don't be afraid to talk to the brands that are there - they will work with a range of bloggers and you don't have to be the Bloggess to get their interest
  10. Make friends & have fun !!
I'll see you there :o)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sandals, sarong and a stack of books. Check.

autumnal leaves.
It took some to-ing and fro-ing (an identity verification issue and resending of birth certificate and a refund of my check and send fee from the Post Office), but we now have passports for my boy and me. His first one and finally my passport in my married name - about time too as it's our 7th anniversary this week. You see I'd renewed my passport the year before we got married - I didn't know we'd be hitched the following year - and I was loathe to pay for a new passport just to change my name. The boy has never flown before so we thought we'd better choose a short flight for his first time and go somewhere warm and relaxing.

I know I need a holiday because Seasonal Affective Disorder has set in with a vengeance. The wet and windy weather is making me feel angry and upset and the only cheery moment of the day is when the boy kicks through what we now call, "crunchy munchy leaves" (thank you Octonauts). It's a miserable time of year for me and many others so I think a break should pretty much be prescribed by a medical professional. I mean the signs of distress are unmistakeable:

  • The highlight of my week so far has been that I spent all morning cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, let's be fair though it's only Tuesday so there is time for things to improve 
  • It's so rainy and windy outside that we're eating comfort foods and feeling stuffed. I'd much rather be outside in a warmer climate eating salads and fruit and drinking wine for lunch 
  • I've had to take the cardigans and scarves from the back of the wardrobe and put the summer clothes to the back - that's not right is it ? 
  • The cat is permanently fixed to his beanbag upstairs. If even he won't go out then it's either the end of days or winter - same thing really
  • I'm starting to sympathise with the white witch in Narnia. No wonder she was pissed off, who wants to have to deal with frizzy hair all the time from the cold and rain ? At least if it's proper winter with snow you can wrap up warm and cosy. This in between weather is just infuriating.
So the plan is to book somewhere not too far and warm enough for me to wear sandals. Where the boy can splash in a pool and play all day. Where Hubbie can watch sports and lie in the sun (and preferably not burn). Where I can read sit under a massive parasol, swim a bit, read lots of books and not cook for a week.

Ah, holidays… I love and miss you so much.

pool toys in the sunshine by the edge of the poolFixed aeroplane outside an airport.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Save the Children & Mothercare Born to… range

Born to care range from Mothercare / Save the Children
Years ago I worked for Save The Children at their offices in Mary Datchelor House in Camberwell. I was a merchandising assistant on a maternity cover and helped produce the Christmas catalogue and manage stock in the run up to the busy season for card sales. It was very interesting and gave me a good idea about how charity works which led to a career in the voluntary sector that has spanned over 12 years.

It also taught me that selling items for charity can be a really good way to generate support so I was very keen to find out more about a new initiative from Save the Children in conjunction with Mothercare. The range is a new clothing collection aimed at babies and children age 0 to 8 years and for every item sold, Mothercare will donate £1 to Save the Children. You can find out more and view the range here: Mothercare Born to range

The lovely folks at Save the Children sent us a t shirt from the new range which my boy loves. It bears the legend 'Born to Ride' and is perfect for him to wear when riding his new scooter. This range is a very reasonable price too, with this t shirt costing £5. It's a good fit for him and the colours are vibrant - it hasn't been washed yet so I can't comment on how well it washes. There is a discreet Save the Children label on the hem of the shirt which did prompt questions from family and meant I could explain the charity link.

I love the idea of buying children's clothing that benefits children who are in need. In the run up to Christmas the range is ideal to add to a present list so that friends and family can feel good about the pressie they've bought for your little one, especially as the items are not that expensive. Anything that raises the profile of charities doing important work is a good thing in my book. I've worked as a fundraiser for many years so I know how difficult it can be to inspire people to give and this partnership between two high profile organisations that are linked with children is a great fit with the potential to raise a lot of money for Save the Children. 

Disclosure: I was not paid for this post, but did receive a t-shirt free of charge from Save the Children. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Zestica fertility kit

If you're a regular reader you will know a little about the journey we had to take in order to meet our beloved boy. You may also have realised we've been trying for another for a while. I won't dwell on the details as friends & family reading this really won't want to know, but it's safe to share that seeing a lot of others who've gone on to have a second ( or more) has not been easy. I smile and congratulate them as it's churlish not to and they're probably not that keen to hear how we were so close and it didn't work out. No one wants to be a downer do they ?

Zestica fertility kit
Another kindly blogger who's had similar experiences and is now pregnant with her second (and I'm genuinely very happy for her) put me in contact with Zestica as they have launched a kit to assist couples who are struggling to conceive. The kit comes with two different gels in individual tubes and a set of ovulation tests. There is a calendar provided to help you work out when to use which product. 
The conception gels are used daily in the days leading up to ovulation and are designed to prepare you (the woman) to conceive. The ovulation kits help pin point when you ovulate so you can try on the most likely days. The fertility gels are to use on those days. Not to be too indelicate, but they're also for the woman and are supposed to help assist 'his' swimmers to Olympic standards. 

The timings are a little difficult to get the hang of at first, but the instructions do help. There is a reference to an online calendar which I was unable to find so I relied on charting the days on paper. There is, however, an issue with the lack of spontaneity in having to pop in a gel before you can have some 'grown up time.' 

Zestica fertility gel tube I did not fall pregnant after using this kit, but I know that despite the stories you hear about things working first time they rarely do if you're already struggling to conceive. I was prepared to try shamanic healing, acupuncture and all manner of bizarre weirdness before we had our boy, so this is quite scientific in comparison. 

It's not entirely clear what the science behind it is, but I'm guessing that most people using it won't ask too many questions if it works for them. It's priced at £39.99 which isn't the priciest kit I've seen so it's reasonable value. You get enough gels & tests for one cycle so if you're having to try again a few times the costs could be quite substantial. 

If you're trying for a baby it is probably worth giving this kit a go. You will get a good idea how your cycle works (if you don't know already) and it's not that much of a hassle to use - aside from the spontaneity issue mentioned earlier of course.

You can purchase the kit from and good luck !

Disclosure: I was sent this kit in order to write an honest review. No payment was received for this post. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

I'll be honest, I'm just not a very good Mummy.

I have failed my boy - I'm not fit to call myself his parent. Someone will soon be sending me this notice in the post from the Parenting Police headquarters.
Fear of failure
On Friday after his swimming lesson one of the other mums came up to me to say he was splashing around and taking up a lot of the attention from the teacher and as a result the others were missing out. Apparently because I'm swimming in the adult pool she thinks I haven't seen him even though I look over every 3-4 minutes and every time I hear his name called (which is frequently). He loves swimming and he loves to splash around in the water. Some children don't love this and he is only 3 so he doesn't appreciate that his idea of fun is not theirs. I've spoken to him about it before, but he is 3 so I may well have to say it quite a few more times before it sinks in.

The problem is that after she'd had this dig at me for not sitting on the side watching him swim - like all the other mums do - I was upset at what she'd said. It made me resentful. So when we got in the car instead of being reasonable I took it out on my son. This was unfair as I don't think he's done anything wrong and the teacher hadn't said he was being disruptive either when I asked her. I was cross with the woman who told me off and as a result I told off my son. We had a row. There were tears. It was horrible.

So I feel I've failed because surely in the rules of how to be a parent one of the first ones is that you are on your child's side ? If I'm not on his side and defending him then who is ? It's my job to defend him and to speak up for him and to show that I believe in him. I'm not saying that if he hits or spits or steals I'm going to give him praise and defend his actions. I mean when he's done something that I don't think is wrong I should defend him shouldn't I ? If I don't then whose side am I on ?

I'm the oldest child of four and when I was young my parents were quite strict. When I fell over they would tell me off for not being careful or for not looking after my bike - it did cost money after all. I had a bloody knee from falling over in the park once, as I limped home I was told off because my socks were ruined. When my younger siblings fell over or got hurt in my care I was accused of trying to kill them - I am not joking this really happened. The result is that I never felt that they were on my side.

The other day my son fell off a chair at my parents house. I checked to make sure he wasn't hurt and told him that he should be more careful. My parents looked at me with what I can only call ironic concern - they thought I was being too hard on him. I was. Did I mention he's only 3 ? What is wrong with me ?

I'm grateful to my parents for a lot of things. They taught me a lot of important values and they raised me. They are wonderful grandparents and love my son. They are on his side as much as they weren't on mine. Maybe that's why I feel like such a traitor for not being kinder to him when things happen. I know how it feels if you make a mistake and your parents are the first ones to point out how stupid you are. That's why I'm so hard on myself first - I'd rather not hear how I've let them down and how disappointed they are. So why do I hear their words coming out of my mouth to my beloved son ?

I don't want my son to grow up thinking I am not on his side. I want him to know that I will defend him and stand up for him. When he's a grown man I want him to know I've always been proud of him. I will cheer his achievements and when things aren't going his way I'll be there to support and care for him or just to listen.

So why is this simple thing so difficult for me to get right ?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

My eighties retro baby boy

The Duck Man from Pretty in Pink
Not a week goes by without some hokey research study into something that is either startlingly obvious: "Scientists reveal that not sleeping enough makes you tired" or deeply patronising: "Doctors reveal their concerns that pregnant women are not stopping work early enough to protect their babies." Don't bother looking for either of these studies as I made them up. It doesn't mean that someone hasn't done them though. I don't think there has been any scientific research into the effect of maternal behaviour or music tastes in utero though. Well beyond the whole, 'play soothing music to the foetus and it will respond when it's a baby' type thing of course.

The reason I wonder this is because I'm convinced that my son has developed music preferences based purely on what I like to listen to. I went to a lot of gigs when I was pregnant with our boy. We went to Ben & Jerry's Big Sundae on Clapham Common and the boy bopped along to Billy Bragg. He also enjoyed the mellow tones of Norah Jones and even managed to keep up with the Primitives. I am delighted that he loves music now and he seems to have a wide ranging taste (as I've said before on this blog). What I wasn't prepared for is his love of music that is so outside his experience I'm fascinated to know how it's come into his consciousness.

Rocky Horror Picture Show
For weeks now he has been singing. "Let's do the Timewarp again," and "Monster Mash." I'm a massive fan of Rocky Horror so I can see why he'd like that although I can't recall ever having watched it or listened to the music in his presence. He's also been saying "Go Flustered," which we've spent weeks trying to work out - while also hushing him in case it's something rude. After some questioning and not a little head scratching we finally realised he's been singing, "Ghostbusters." Seems startlingly obvious doesn't it ? Except he's never watched it and as far as I know it's not been on the TV lately. It was one of my favourite films as a child though so I can only conclude one thing - he's inherited my tastes from the eighties !

Once we'd finally worked it out I tracked down the cartoon series on Lovefilm and he watched it this afternoon fascinated and enraptured. I was never that keen on the cartoon if I'm honest, but his concentration levels don't extend to the movie yet. Unlike his friend Attie who regularly watches "Starhorses" (Star Wars) starring "Threesweepio" (C3PO). Mind you she also used to regularly watch "Hamadations"(101 Dalmations).

I'm wondering if all this talk of an eighties revival is also revealing itself in the DNA of our toddlers. What can we expect next ? Will they all turn their baseball caps backwards and fight for the right to party ? Maybe they will start doing the MC Hammer dance - well my boy already does that if he needs the loo and doesn't want to admit it. Maybe they'll go all shoulder paddy and big haired too. Oh wait that's just pageant toddlers isn't it ?

Whatever it is that's happening I'm a bit freaked out by it.

There is something strange in my neighbourhood. All I can say is, "Go Flustered !"

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Mumsnet bedtime stories

Mumsnet book of bedtime storiesOn a rare night out last week I was invited to attend the launch for Mumsnet Book of Bedtime Stories. It was one of the few times I've been into town after dark and there was wine and everything !

The book is the result of a competition that invited Mumsnet and Gransnet members to submit bedtime stories to be chosen for this compilation. I did consider sending in a story, but it's devilish difficult to actually write a story for kids ! Michael Rosen whittled down the twenty shortlisted stories to the ten that appear in the book and it must have been very hard to choose. I don't envy him the decision, but what a fun job to do.

The authors were all at the launch and I got most (if not all) of them to sign a book for my boy. I also chatted to some of the illustrators about the fact that the stories look absolutely beautiful and they are all so different. There is a nice range of styles and age ranges in this book so it will last for a while and would make a wonderful gift to give a child, a parent or grandparent or anyone who loves picture books.

I'm going to give a copy to Mother-in-law so that my boy has one for when he stays with her. It's like having ten picture books in one - a space saver too !! I'd suggest it would also work to take on holiday so you don't have to carry lots of books to keep your little ones entertained. I can see this book becoming a firm favourite in our house and I'm delighted I got to talk to some of the people who created it. It's inspired me to give writing a children's story a go, but I've got a long way to go before I'm as good as these guys ! 

Thank you to Hannah from Mumsnet for inviting me to the book launch :o)
Time for Bed from the Mumsnet book of bedtime stories

The 10 winning stories (in author alphabetical order) are:
  • Polly the Jumping Cow by Jools Abrams-Humphries 
  • Bedtime at the Lighthouse by Philip Bell
  • Time for Bed by Michelle Eckhaus
  • The Night Thief and the Moon by Katherine Latham
  • A Parcel for Theo by Claire McCauley
  • Princess Imogen's Independent Day by Christine O'Neill
  • The Dancing Bear by Suzy Robinson
  • The Sheriff of Rusty Nail by Sophie Wills
  • Celeste Who Sang to the Stars by Kate Wilson
  • Allie to the Rescue by Helen Yendall

If you are looking for a special and beautiful present for a child (or a grandparent) Click here to buy the book from Amazon

Mumsnet bedtime stories book

Disclosure: This is a personal review of the book - I was not paid to attend, but I did get a free book.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Could we BE any more like Monica & Chandler ?

Monica and Chandler arm wrestling - Warner Bros TV Like many others of my vintage I have watched every episode of Friends an insane number of times. Not for Rachel's hair, nor Joey's muscles, not even to watch Lisa Kudrow corpsing in almost every scene.


Around 9 years ago it occurred to me that Hubbie and I know pretty much all the dialogue from Friends and more worryingly we actually are Monica & Chandler.

If you think this is a bit far fetched allow me to present the evidence.

- Hubbie also does a job that no one understands, although he is not a transponster

- I am obsessed with cleaning and order. I don't make my own cleaning solutions, but I do have a dinner set that we *never* use

- When we got our test results from investigations into why we weren't getting pregnant Hubbie quoted the actual dialogue from the episode where Chandler finds out why they can't either

- we also decided to adopt, but we were not mistaken by the adoption agency for a vicar and a doctor

We are NOT like Monica & Chandler for the following reasons:

- Hubbie has *never* peed on my foot to relieve a jellyfish sting

- I do not have a secret cupboard filled with all my mess

- We did get pregnant and have our gorgeous boy

Talking of whom, in recent months it is becoming clear that our boy is Ross Geller

Ross Geller playing keyboards - Warner Bros TV- he takes forever to say a sentence, he starts talking and drifts off halfway through

- his keyboard playing skills while innovative and entertaining could not be described as good

- he loves dinosaurs (a bit obvious this one really)

And of course he's not like Ross because:

- he is our son and not my brother (that would be Eastenders wouldn't it ?)

So, we are in fact half of a family sitcom.

I'd rather be half of Friends than Outnumbered though :o)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

"I'd give anything to have biscuit crumbs trodden into the carpet."

I was driving back from a yoga training day today and listening to Radio 4. It was a repeat of Woman's Hour with Jane Garvey and I heard an interview with Jody Day for the second time this week about her experience of being a childless woman. It moved me when I heard it the first time, but I was doing chores that time and today I was properly listening. It was a breathtakingly honest account of discovering one day that having children just isn't going to happen. In addition to dealing with the grief at this realisation there is the loneliness as friends with children slowly let you go as they carry on with their lives as a family.

drinking in a bar in greece before we became parents
The interview hit a chord with me for two reasons. At one point we were told we wouldn't have children and it reminded me how it felt when that was the realistic future that me and Hubbie had to come to terms with. One day I was sitting reading a magazine at the hairdressers and I phoned Hubbie from under the dryer to ask if he'd agree to adopting one of the millions of abandoned girl children from India. Another time I called him to say that I'd heard about some healing technique that had amazing results and we just had to try it. We were asked constantly when we were going to have children and some family members were less than subtle about it. As well as being asked about it we also had to contend with other people who were having babies. It broke my heart hearing we wouldn't have a baby. It broke Hubbie's heart too and he even suggested I might want to be with someone else who might be a better bet. I nearly hit him for that.

It could have broken us. Thankfully it didn't.

The other reason is because now we do have a son and when I met up with friends recently we were chatting. I mentioned how I missed going out as much as they do and having holidays and other things that we don't do as much any more now we are parents. My friend said she would love to be in my position and have a child and a family life. I was reminded of that today on Radio 4 when a listener said she would give anything to have biscuit crumbs on her carpet rather than a clean and tidy childless home. That made me choke. Not a good thing when you're on the M25.

I know how it feels to long for a child. To try and count the blessings you will have instead of children. The beautiful home free from sticky fingerprints and the expensive holidays instead of day trips to Legoland and Chessington. I also know that I had a career because I didn't have children. I wasn't a 'career woman' out of choice. Hubbie was willing to endure acupuncture in our pursuit of parenthood - he is terrified of needles.

glamorous handbag with Mum things in
Of course I know that not every woman wants to have children, but I also know that when it is not an option it just feels so very unfair. I also know that being told you're so lucky that you don't get woken up early is not reassuring. That owning a gorgeous handbag that won't have upturned juice cartons and gummy sweets in it is no consolation when you want someone to call you Mummy. I know that having a spontaneous and inventive sex life with your partner doesn't necessarily make up for having a second bedroom that you would have loved to have been a nursery.

Most importantly that interview reminded me today that I should never forget to be a kind and considerate friend.

I remember how it felt to long for what I now have.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A good egg :o)

It is British Egg Week and a while back I promised my blogger pal Jen that I'd share my favourite Egg dishes in a blog post. So that time has now come. Here - in no particular order - are my personal favourite egg dishes. Nothing quite as fancy as recipes using eggs you understand, just ways to cook eggs that are simple, tasty and relatively good for you.

Silicone egg mould Poached eggs: 

I know there is a proper 'cheffy' way to make poached eggs using a pan of water on a rolling boil and my gorgeous friend Sharon can do this fantastically well. I have tried the old school poaching pans that leave you with a rock hard egg and an electronic gadget that Hubbie bought me that exploded the eggs and made the kitchen smell terrible for weeks after it's inaugural (and only) use.

poached egg and bread and marmite
I have finally settled on these fab little silicone moulds for making poached eggs. You lightly oil them (I use spray oil) and crack the egg into the mould and pop it into a pan of water and bring it to a boil. The timings are pretty exact on this and I find 4 mins creates my perfect egg. In this piccie you will see it's a little over as the yolk isn't as runny as I'd like, but it's still a pretty good brunch with some baguette slices and butter and marmite with a big cup of tea - yummy !!

Boiled egg and soldiers:

boiled egg timer. I love boiled egg and toast soldiers for breakfast or lunch. When I was pregnant I stopped eating them as I'd read that you could only eat fully cooked eggs while pregnant and I missed them like crazy. Then I found out (in my last few weeks of pregnancy) that I could have eaten Lion brand eggs all along as they are safe to eat. It is, however, an effort to make a 'dippy egg' and involves some scientific timing. I occasionally get it just right with a lovely runny yolk and solid white as well as perfect toast for dipping. More often though, I over or under cook the egg and the toast is either a bit too crunchy or a bit soggy and it makes for an ok meal rather than the one I've been so longing to enjoy with a lovely big mug of tea.

So imagine my joy when we stayed in a hotel in Edinburgh where the chef made my perfect egg and toast for me. I actually considered moving in permanently just for the sheer joy of perfect boiled egg and soldiers every day. Until then I have this gadget which my lovely friend Adrian gave me as he had two of them. You pop it into the pan with the cold water and egg(s) and it changes colour to indicate how well done it is. I've found that using larger eggs can throw this system though, so it does take some testing to get it just right. Can anyone tell me why they are called soldiers by the way ?

boiled egg and toast soldierseegg and timer in pan of water

Fried Egg:

Fried egg in small panDead simple this one - spray the frying pan with a light spritz of oil and crack the egg into the pan. My chef friend Ajay told me the right way to make a fried egg so that it is cooked and the top is not too soft, but the yolk is runny. It involves cooking in a lot of oil on a low heat which makes me feel a bit ill so I do it this way instead. As I don't like the top of my egg to be too wet I have discovered - thanks to an unlikely tip from my father in law - that popping a lid over the pan will enable the steam to cook the top of the egg and prevents the edges or underside going crunchy (yeuch !!) If you have the grill on to do tomatoes, sausages, etc you can pop the pan under the grill and it will cook the top, but you also risk overcooking the yolk too, so I advise caution with this method. 

Scrambled egg: 

scrambled eggs on toastThe fat free version of this is my personal choice, but you can make it in a pan and stir cream into it slowly until it's all rich and luxurious. I choose this method as it's fast and not as messy as a pan and it uses no fat at all. Firstly break the egg(s) into a microwavable bowl. Beat the egg with a fork and if want to you can add milk. Now depending on the strength of your microwave this bit can be tricky. I give the egg a blast of around 30-40 seconds and then stir the mixture. I keep giving it 10 seconds at a time and stirring between hits. Remember it will keep cooking even after you take it out of the microwave so don't overdo it. I like my scrambled eggs soft, but not runny, and on a piece of toast with - you guessed it - a cup of tea :o)

egg starting to cook in bowl.
beaten egg in a bowl

semi-scrambled eggs.

Eggy Bread: 

eggy bread I know that this is called French Toast and all sorts of other fancy names, but let's keep it simple and call it what it is - eggy bread. This is actually my favourite way to use up eggs that are on the way out and to revive any bread I have that is going a bit stale. I make eggy bread with slices of leftover baguette, sliced up rolls, the scrag ends of bread and essentially anything bready - if you have it why not try brioche ? Soaking a dry crust of bread in beaten egg gives it a whole new life and it can be a sweet or savoury dish. When I'm feeling really fancy I have a savoury one with a side helping of HP sauce followed by a sweet one with a smattering of maple syrup (and if I've got any fruit to use up that goes on as well). This truly is the most versatile dish, but it does involve a little bit of effort to make. I beat the egg and leave it plain. My Mum seasons the beaten egg mixture with salt and pepper for savoury and sugar for sweet. I've added a smidgeon of maple syrup to the egg mix before now and it makes a delicious sticky coating on on the individual slices which works really well with sliced bananas and strawberries. If you're being proper fancy you can shake some icing sugar over the top too.

So these are my preferred ways to cook eggs.  I haven't even mentioned omelettes, or baked eggs, but here are some ideas that you might not have tried before. They're really simple and I find them filling and tasty.

It's often said that eggs are very versatile and it is true. Why not see how many different ways you can cook eggs and tell me what your favourite is ?