Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloween Fun!

I have always had a fascination with the macabre, the grotesque and the horrific!  I love my horror films, books and memorabilia.  I am a firm believer in the possibility of a future Zombie Apocalypse and I have my plan for survival all worked out! Halloween is my time!!

I adore the outfits available at this time of year.  Dressing up is such fun, especially when you get to dress up your little darlings as Halloween creatures of the night!  Thinking back to when my eldest were younger we had to get creative.  The vast array of fabulous outfits we see in the shops today, simply did not exist. In 1996 we had a Halloween party and made the costumes using bin bags.  The children had a lot of fun becoming witches and zombies!  The resulting outfits were quite impressive when teamed with a few props and some face paint!

Sometimes I think we miss out a bit these days having it so easy...but then,  I go to Tesco and see the huge array of fantastic costumes in sizes from the teeniest baby to an XL adult, and I succumb to the delights of this commercial time in which we live!!  Choosing an outfit for Fred was tricky!  It needed to be practical enough to accommodate his toddling, warm enough to stop him from getting cold (and needing a cardi which would totally ruin the look) and fabulous enough that he would look cool! There were spiders, pumpkins, monsters, witches and mummies...but I chose a vampire outfit!  Not your modern day Twilight style vampire...oh no!  This was a proper Hammer House of Horrors, Christopher Lee, Count Dracula number complete with cloak.  Exactly how vampires should be!!   So with a touch of Daddy's hair gel to slick back the hair...our little Count Fredula was complete!

My 14 year old went for a beautiful corpse look and looked stunning in her black prom dress and fascinator.  My 8 year old loved her purple witch's outfit! 

My husband donned a rather scary werewolf mask and I went down the witchy route and the Horror Family were ready to party!!

Thanks to QWERTY MUM for a great party...excellent veggie chilli, veggie pizza and amazing Halloween cupcakes.  Gotta love Halloween!!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Still missing you Carol xxx

Today would have been my sister Carol's 51st birthday.  She'd be preparing for an amazing party.  She loved this time of year.  Her birthday, Halloween and the promise of Christmas just around the corner meant she was in her element.  Dressing up, stringing decorations in the trees in her front garden, socialising, parties, family.  She was the best, most imaginative host ever.  She was fun, caring, hilariously funny, a little outrageous, giving, loving...the most brilliant person I've ever known.  I thank the Lord that I was blessed to have her as my big sister.  She inspired me, I aspired to be like her, I adored her.  She was a huge presence in my life, which is why even now 15 years after her death, I still miss her everyday.

At just 36 years old, my sister was cruelly taken away from us.  Six years earlier she had been diagnosed and treated for skin cancer.  The medical profession had not done enough and the malignancy found its way into her lymphatic system.  It was a fight that she could not win.  It devastated us. 

Sometimes I still find myself thinking "I'll phone Carol to tell her that."  I still remember her phone number as if it was just yesterday that she was my confidante, on hand to listen to her younger sisters trials and tribulations.  She was always the first person I turned to. Her dry sense of humour would always lighten up any situation. She knew how to handle things, how to turn situations around.  She made you feel special...that was her gift.

Carol never lived to know who the Spice Girls were.  Never read Harry Potter.  Never saw Toy Story.  She never saw the explosion of the internet.  How she would have loved Facebook and Blogging!  She'd have embraced the Social Media and I would have loved having her in my virtual world.  She would have adored Sky +.  Mobile phones with cameras and videoing capabilities.  Reality TV.  3D horror films at the cinema.  Laptops.  Pixar films.  Sat Nav's. Digital radio. MP3's. 

She never got to be there to see her children grow up into the beautiful, amazing adults they have become.  I am so proud of my nephew and niece and they have so much of their mother in them, it is a comfort and an honour to have them in our lives.  My third child was born six months after my sister died.  Carol knew I was pregnant, I told her the day before she died that I would give my baby her name.  My daughter Ella Carol Ann wears her middle names with pride, honouring the auntie she never got to meet.  We keep Carol's memory alive with the handful of old family videos and photos we are lucky enough to have.  We have many funny stories!  Carol lives on in our hearts and the four nieces and two nephews who will never know their Auntie in person, will know about the wonderful human being who will always be a part of our family.

Cancer devastates families.  It is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths in the UK.  420 deaths a minute are attributed to cancer, that is one death every four minutes.  Every number in these statistics is a real person, someone's loved one, someone who will be missed everyday.  Someone like my amazing sister Carol. 

Being fortunate enough to be finalists in the VW competition means we can support Cancer Research UK with a financial donation.  We are exteremely honoured to be able to donate £500 to this worthy cause.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Salux Wash Cloth Review

I was lucky enough to win a  Salux Wash Cloth from R8Beauty and although I've reviewed it using their standard review forms, I thought why not blog about it too!!

This wash cloth originally comes from Japan where bathing is considered an art, a science and a daily part of their lifestyle culture.  It was a Japanese Invention Award winner created in 1956 and now available worldwide and set to revolutionise our showering!

What makes Salux Wash Cloths so special?

  • It is 11x35 ins in size making it perfect for washing your back and neck easily.

  • Creates a rich invigorating lather using just a little shower gel so it's econonmical!

  • Exfoliates your entire body as it polishes your skin while you wash.  It achieves the results of a loofah but is much more gentle on the skin!

  • Special patented texture stimulates your skin and promotes blood circulation. Great for cellulite massage!

  • 60% nylon 40% polyester  so it is hygienic and rinses clean and dries quickly after each use.  Machine washable too!

  • Longer lasting and more sanitary because it resists mildew and odours.  It can last for years!

  • The one thing I've noticed since using  this cloth is that my skin feels softer and smoother.  I've stopped using expensive exfoliating products because I really don't need them.  Just a small squirt of shower gel goes a really long way and the unique texture of the cloth turns it into a rich foam.  I wash and exfoliate in one quick easy step!  So it saves both time and money!  The extra long size makes cleaning all those hard to reach places really easy! 

    For £4.99, this is a real bargain.  Just think how much you will save on shower gels and exfoliating products alone.  Also because it will last a long time and is completely machine washable, you won't need to replace it as often as you would a flannel or loofah.

    I highly recommend this cloth to busy mums, people looking to economise on products, for travelling (easily fits into your washbag), for anyone who loves trying new beauty products and to anyone who wants soft, smooth skin with minimum effort!!

    Wednesday, 20 October 2010

    My Superhero Mum and Dad! What the video did not tell you!

    Nominating a finalist in a National Competition was at first a real thrill, but the reality of being involved in a "voting" competition has taken some of the shine off an otherwise really wonderful adventure. My parents who I nominated, are not even computer literate so can not promote themselves in the virtual world at all!  As a family we don't have that drive to self-promote and find begging for votes rather embarrassing, so against the advice of the PR company, we've taken a more back seat approach.    From day one we knew we could not compete and we are happy to just sit back and let nature take its course.  We are letting our campaign run organically and grow from family, friends and contacts sharing the love!
    I still stand by my original nomination.  My parents are 77 and 78.  My dad is actually a real live hero.  He fought for King and Country during the Suez Crisis.  He marched in the Queen's Coronation procession in 1952.  He saved a little boy from drowning in the swimming pool in Butlins!  He played Santa every year for local children and ran half marathons for charity.  He coached the local football team, raising funds to take them on tour.  Sadly now he is vitually crippled with arthritis in his knees and hips.  He uses a stick if it gets too bad, but being from the generation where men were men, he takes his infirmity as a slight on his masculinity.  We really want him to be able to take a more sedate approach to life and the thought of winning the VW made us think that he could possibly hang up his car keys, put away his Disabled Badge and be chaffeured around on family days out! 
    My mum doesn't have quite as much of a heroic background, but she has taken care of her family tirelessly and selflessly.  She looked after her 98 year old mother until she sadly passed away in 1998.  She worked two jobs to help make ends meet when I was a child and still found time to volunteer at the local children's playcentre.  She was a mother figure to countless waifs and strays in our community, who fell in love with her kind spirit and ceaseless energy.
    The video we made for the competition was of them taking on the challenge of hosting a surprise party for my 8 year old daughter.  It was difficult for my parents to actually rise to the challenge without a huge amount of help and support.  For a start at 78 my dad couldn't be insured to drive the car which we were given to help in the challenge.  So really, it was more of a team approach with my husband being responsible for the majority of the driving tasks.  My parents were run ragged over the four days being ferried about to buy local produce and party goods.  They helped with their three youngest grandchildren while we prepared for the big day.  My mum did all the baking for the party. We talked about the implications of my dad's health and how this car could transform his life.  We discussed our experience of losing  a very close family member to cancer and how this opportunity was supporting Cancer Research in her honour. 
    Help came from our children who have a family band and had to write original songs to play at the party (because of copywright restrictions preventing them from singing covers or even "Happy Birthday to You"!) including "Song for my Grandparents" which had even the sound man from the camera crew in tears.  It told of the grandchildren's love and respect for their grandparents and how it felt to know they were always there to love and support them.  My parents were so moved and emotions run high.
    Sadly none of these moments made it into the final cut.  We came across as a fun loving, very close, extended family...which is what we are!  But there wasn't as much depth or involvement with my parents as I would have liked. There Superhero status did not really shine through.  I thought however they looked wonderful and I was very proud and honoured to be a part of the project.
    So, to me Jill and Stan will always be real life Superheros who fully deserve to be in the final three.  Although they will not win the competition, because they can not compete for the votes, they are always winners to me, my sister and our families!

    Monday, 18 October 2010

    My Horror Marriage!

    My husband is just one of the most wonderful men you could meet.  He is so family-centred, adores his kids and our homelife.  He cooks, cleans, washes up and always puts down the toliet seat!  He never hogs the remote control.  He works hard to enable me to be a stay at home mum.  He phones me at least twice a day and constantly declares his love for me.  The man is fab!

    So when he just rang me to tell me he had me a present, I knew it'd be something perfect!  I was not disappointed.  Jewellery does not excite me...I have metal allergies.  Chocolate's no good because I'm on a diet.  I'm not very material at all...I hardly wear make-up and never covet the latest fashions or shoes.  But his gift is totally brilliant!


    Some might scoff at this choice of gift, but you do not know me like my husband does!  We love all things horror!  When we first met in the 80's it was the era of Halloween films, Friday the 13th's, Poltergeist and my personal favourite the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.  We shared an enjoyment of being scared witless by the latest masked, marauding, murdering character or evil spirit! This love has evolved with us.  We have a sizeable library of DVD's and Blu-Rays, many of which fit this favoured genre.  From the 1932 classic Todd Browning's Freaks to the high tech gore of Saw Franchise...we love them all.

    Our love of horror lead us to name our latest born baby Freddy after my horror icon hero Freddy Krueger.  I even got doting Knitting Nana to make him a little dark green and red striped jumper to match his namesake's outfit of choice!

    This year was our 13th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated in a style true to ourselves and held a horror film themed fancy dress party.  I was dressed as a blood spattered prom queen and my husband was Dorian Gray.  All our guests entered into the spirit and our house looked like an overspill from a casting of a film paying homage to the scary side of celluloid.  Our food was all themed and we spent many an hour giggling when we devised puns to represent buffet items.   "Dawn of the SPREAD" , "The Evil BREAD", "Jason Vor-CHEESE", "Nightmare on Elm SWEETS", "SHROOMS" (for our delicious veggie mushroom pate) and "The Hills have PIES" are some examples!  I made a graveyard cake and a chocolate fudge bat cake.  My sister brought Mummy Muffins.  We festooned the house with cobwebs, wall decorations and black balloons.  It was perfect for us!

    My beautiful children.
    Blood spattered prom queen!
    Me, my husband and Freddy!

    Scary cakes!

    So tonight I have a date with my husband, a take away and The Human Centipede....very romantic!!!

    Saturday, 16 October 2010

    Legoland and going home!

    We used to be Southeners, being born and bred in Berkshire. I was originally from Slough (John Betjeman the poet laureate extolled the virtues of my home town in his poem that began "Come friendly bombs and drop on Slough, It isn't fit for humans now!")  After having my eldest son I moved away from Slough to Hampshire, where we stayed until 1999. We then relocated to the greener pastures of Shropshire (home of Muller Yogurt!) and this was the best decision we ever made, giving the children a standard of living that we simply could not afford where we were! However, whenever we venture down south there is still a sense of going home.  Today was one such day!

    The children are always curious to see the places where me and my husband grew up...even though much of what we remembered is now gone.  My childhood home has long since been demolished giving way to modern, soulless flats.  Our school, where we met back in 1981, used to be the tallest building for miles around, but is now dwarfed into insignificance by huge industrial factories and warehouses that have been squeezed into every spot of free space around it.  Places that I remember looking new and shiny are now dirty, dull and degenerated.  Sadly, Legoland Windsor was one such place.  We decided to take the kids to Legoland, a place where we had often taken our older children when we lived close.  We remembered the colourful, vibrant bricks and the awe and wonder that the models evoked in our children.  The reality today was very different.  I know the season is coming to its end, but everything looked so tired.  Grubby, sun bleached lego models held none of the magic they did 10 years ago. Rides with water looked toxic, ridden with algae, green and slimy.  Litter was strewn around.  The Miniland looked overgrown with weeds.  I was just not impressed.  I wanted to whip out a cloth and a tub of Astonish and put a bit of shine back into the place!  The restaurant we went to was crowded with tables and chairs.  Most people eating there were parents like us with a buggy.  We were all trying to negoiate the haphazard furniture and find seats with space for the pushchairs and high chairs we needed.  In the melee we dropped one of our plates of food.  Smashed china and mashed potato was strewn across the floor.  My husband was on his hands and knees trying to clear up the mess.  Not one of the people who worked there offered any help, despite the obvious Health and Safety issues raised by small children, broken crockery and slippy mash!  We were none too impressed.  Having said that though, my 1 year old loved playing with the giant Duplo bricks in the play area and he also loved running up to the jets of erupting water in Duplo Land with his 8 year old sister.  And to see them smiling makes it all worth while! 


    Friday, 15 October 2010

    Excited to be a Mummy Blogger!

    Two months ago, blogging to me was something other people did.  It wasn't the sort of thing a 40 something, stay at home mum and housewife would embark on!  Surely not!!!   I was more a pen and paper kind of girl , my tinkerings with words were jotted firmly in the real world rather than in cyberspace!

    However, in September, the world of blogging opened up to me.  At this time I started entering online competitions and with increasing frequency these were hosted on blogs.  I entered into a world of like minded women, reviews, stories and  advice.  There were so many blogs out there and each one was written by a real became something do-able!! 

    As a new mum myself to 1 year old Fred, I empathized with other mothers in particular and have enjoyed looking at photos of beautiful babies and reading other mum's experiences of this magical time.  I felt I had something to contribute to this community.  So, with some trepidation I wrote my first post and with even greater trepidation, I published it.  I had started blogging! 

    Getting a new follower or a comment is a real thrill and I have felt humbled and moved to think that my words can enter this virtual society and become a part of something so huge and with such potential!  I kept seeing the British Mummy Blogger badge on blogs I went to, and decided that I would love to be accepted into the official community of bloggers so I joined up.  I felt like an imposter applying for membership.  This was just me and my laptop...did I have a place in this group??  It took ages for my membership to be approved.  I concluded that they had taken one look at my ramblings and decided that I was not worthy of displaying the BMB badge!  Then today I received the acceptance email...I'm not going to lie...I was very excited!!  I was now an official blogger....not just a 40 something, stay at home mum and housewife!!

    Win a Disneyland Paris Break by voting for my lovely parents!! TY xxx

    Tuesday, 12 October 2010

    The Ugly Side of Comping

    My family have had the most amazing experience ever since nominating my wonderful parents for the title of Ultimate Family Superhero.  We loved making our home video which captured the very essence of our big, loving family.  I enjoyed the phone interview describing the thirteen talented, incredible grandchildren.  We thought the photoshoot of my parents was amazing...they felt like celebrities and deservedly so!! And as for the challenge itself, the party we hosted will be remembered forever by everyone involved.  We waited excitedly to see the final cut of the film and looked forward to sharing it with family and friends. I can honestly say that the prospect of winning a car was secondary to relishing the once in a lifetime oportunity of celebrating our family in such a unique manner.

    When the site finally went live it was great to hear the reactions and responses from all our loved ones.  The messages of support and the sharing of the link was heart warming.  But very quickly I realised that this old school approach was not the way that this competition was meant to be played.  We are meant to court this new fangled social media and enter blogs and comment on trending tweets all in the name of promotion.  I am very naive and thought that people would look at three videos and vote for their favourite on the merit of worthiness, entertainment or that all elusive X Factor.  I was happy to be judged on this criteria with a level playing field.  However, when the result is going to depend on computer savvy, "going viral", stalking opposition to look for weakness and adding links direct to your own entry on Comping Forums thus by-passing the other two videos, I can not compete.  My parents are 78 and can't switch a computer on, let alone promote themselves this way.  I enjoy what I do on a computer and simply could not compromise my enjoyment by trying to infiltrate blogs and forums for the sole reason of self-promotion.  I know that my refusal to enter into this will result in my parents losing...but my integrity is more important than this dangling VW carrot.  I will continue to talk to friends and my fellow comping friends...who are few but wonderful.  I will talk to the schools who would benefit from the prize money.  I will occasionally tweet.  I will let the local papers run stories that celebrate my parents.  I will print flyers for my parents to hand out to the other OAP's who live in the bungalows next door to them...knowing full well they will not have access to a PC.  I will invite anyone who reads my blog to watch my parents' film and if they like it they can vote.  I will continue to respect the Mummy Bloggers and not turn their sites into "Vote for me" advertisements.

    And do you know what...I feel so much better for having articulated this.  I've had a miserable, tearful day thinking that people have made assumptions about me and concluded that I am not worthy of winning because I am a "serial winner" of cars which 1: I am husband spent six hours in a cold shopping centre with his hands on a Hyundai and won on a tie-break question.  This was not my doing, I've NEVER won a car and probably given what I know now, never will. And 2: Have only been entering competitions seriously since August this year.  And 3: Entered this because I believe my parents deserved to be honoured never believing it'd get this far.

    So...I'm basically happy to enjoy this ride to the end...but on my terms!  The joy of the adventure will not be tarnished by my feelings on this desperate scrabble for votes.  I want my voters to vote for me because we were the best candidates not because I invaded their cyberspace relentlessly. I have loved being a part of VW's Ultimate Family Superhero Competition but I am happy not to win the final prize if I can't achieve that without compromising my beliefs!

    The Joy of Comping Part 2

    My comping adventures began 19 years ago and I enjoyed some success as recalled in my earlier post.

    However when my next child was born we moved to the country.   The abundance of city centre supermarkets were no longer available to me and my access to those entry forms dried up.  So that combined with the demands of relocating with a new baby saw a natural end to my glory days!

    I didn't really touch competitions again for a while.  I had a very brief and not very successful dabble when I discovered the MSE forums but found the new approach to comping was quite alien.  No longer was the element of skill involved and as I hadn't discovered Roboform, I felt that the endless typing out of details was not for me.  I busied myself with the heady rush of Farmville on Facebook and didn't give the competitions a second thought!!!

    It wasn't until three months ago that the old comping bug resurfaced.  My daughter had wanted V Festival tickets as she heard that her favourite singer Joshua Radin was to be performing.  We are not in the financial position to be able to buy the over inflated tickets that are available just prior to the festival taking place.  The thought of entering the world of techno-comping did not occur to me until, whilst on Facebook, I saw an OK competition to win tickets.  It was asking for the reason why you wanted to win and that brought back the familiar comfort of the slogan comp from days gone by.  I tentatively entered 15 minutes before the deadline...this new world of entering competitions seemed so open, so public and quite scary. Some 30 minutes after the competition closed, a message popped up on Facebook announcing me as the winner!  Telling my daughter was fantastic...she was delighted and went on to have a fabulous time.  I was again hooked, knowing I could make a positive difference  to my children's lives, giving them otherwise impossible experiences and having a huge amount of fun in the process.

    I discovered this whole new world of video competitions and photo competitions which are a real outlet for creativity and very entertaining to take part in!  My husband took on the physical challenge of the Hyundai Contest...a real once in a lifetime experience (and judging by his still aching wrists it is definitely something never to be repeated!!)  Regardless of the outcomes, as long as we enjoy it, this adventure into competitions is an exciting one and I am not ashamed of being regarded as a "comper"!

    Sunday, 10 October 2010

    My husband is amazing!! He won!!!

    Our day started at 6am...on a Saturday morning that felt obscene!!!  We had a three hour drive to High Wycombe to attend the Eden Shopping Centre Hands Off My Hyundai Challenge!  My husband had won his place by entering his Computer Car in their Facebook Competition.

    Being the sort of people who like to be prepared, we researched the challenge beforehand.  The Terms and Conditions stated that the contestants had to put their hands on the Hyundai in designated spots for six hours.  If after this time more than one person was left standing, it would go to a Tie Break question.  So we thought it'd be prudent to swot up on a few facts.  Ian learnt a load of facts and figures on the Hyundai I20 and the company itself...founded in 1967, car width 1.71m and for sale in 193 countries etc.  However, on a last minute whim I printed out a Wikipedia page on the shopping centre just in case!  On the journey down we did a spot of cramming of the information!

    We arrived and Ian signed waiver forms relinquishing Eden's responsibiity in the event of any misfortune that might befall him!  Worrying!!  We met the other contestants and their families.  Most were friendly and chatty, excited by the whole experience.  Others were secretive, not wanting to fraternise with the enemy!!  One person didn't show up at all!  Ian was the second oldest there, most of the entrants were students from the local college...young and fit!  Lots were drawn for your car position, allocating a pair of coloured handprints to everyone.  Ian got the worst position for him...on the driver side door with one hand on the window and the other under the wing mirror.  Being tall he could not get his hand on the lower print without twisting it to point downwards.  So he awkwardly took his position, looking like he was in pain from the onset!  However with stalwart determination he powered through the pain barrier and did the first three hours without incident.  Everyone had a 15 minute comfort break at 1pm which re-energised them all and allowed everyone to use the toilet.  By now it was pretty certain that no one was going to give we revised a few facts...just in case!

    Back on the car, the final three hours went by quite fast. Friends and family turned up to support Ian which clearly kept him going!  He held out brilliantly, despite losing all sensation in his hand at one point!

      But he soldiered on to the countdown that declared the contestants could take their hands off!  Then came the tie-break questions.  We had no idea what to expect but we hoped for the best.  I could not believe our luck when the first question asked for the date when the shopping centre was opened...we had read it this morning...2008!!!  Three people did not know this and were out, leaving five and Ian left!  When the next question was read out, I knew the Gods were smiling.  How many square feet of shopping space was available in the centre?  OMG...we knew the answer.  Peoples' faces dropped all around the car.  Only one other woman had researched any information and she was struggling to remember.  But my fabulous husband remembered the fact with absolute instant clarity...850,000sq ft!  Following this question they announced they had a winner...Ian gave me a knowing grin as they called out his name as the winner!  I could not believe that he had really done it...I was really shaking!  An amazing feeling!!!

    Ian did so well, rising to the physical challenge and having the foresight to swot up and having the memory when it counted under pressure!  He is now the proud owner of a Hyundai I20 worth £11,500.  I am so proud of him....and I love Wikipedia!!!

    Friday, 8 October 2010

    Happy Birthday to my Baby Boy

    Twenty two years ago today, I was a frightened nineteen year old in a delivery room at Wrexham Park Hospital.  After having an induction at two weeks overdue, everything went wrong.  I was rushed from my bed on the ward by a nurse shouting to colleagues that my baby's heart was "as flat as a pancake"...words that still send a shiver down my spine.  My baby was in severe foetal distress and had passed meconium  so was in real danger. I had drips in my hand, monitors attached internally to my baby's head, a heart rate monitor beeping out alarming decelerations in my baby's heart rate and an epidural in place ready for an emergency C-Section.  The epidural had not worked, numbing only my right side.  I can't imagine what would have happened had I made it to the operating room.  The doctor was disinclined to believe me when I said I still have feeling, and I wasn't brave enough to argue my case further.  Thankfully though, even after I had signed the forms for the C-Section, nature took its course and with the brutal help of a pair of forceps, my baby son was born.  He was purple and lifeless and was whisked away unceremoniously to be worked on by a team of peadiatricians.  "Is he dead?"  I repeated over and over again.  Eventually, my baby cried and was handed to me breathing independently.  He was bruised by the forceps, very thin and so, so sad.  But he was my son and I loved him. 

    When my placenta was delivered, the reason for his problems were evident.  Having seen the rich, red , blood filled placentas of my later births, I know that the shrunken, blue placenta that had struggled to sustain my son, was just not healthy.  My baby had lost weight in the womb and looked like a skinned rabbit!  He maintained the fetal position for weeks, his legs disappearing up inside the body of his babygros. 

    He wasn't an easy baby.  Feeding was difficult.  He hated nappy changes, scratching at his own face with unconsolable anguish.  He only slept on my chest.  But I cared for that little scrap of humanity with every ounce of my being.  He flourished.

    22 years on, I look at my tall, handsome son.  He is loving, funny, kind and considerate.  He has made a good life for himself, living with the girlfriend he adores, about to move into a house and doing brilliantly in his new career as a Support Analyst!  I am so proud of my beautiful son.  Happy Birthday Joe xxx

    Thursday, 7 October 2010

    Save to Lose

    Diets have been a major part of my adult life.  I am guilty of being somewhat of a yo-yo dieter.  I obsess about not eating when I am in the throes of a new lose-weight-quick scheme.  I am an intelligent woman and I know that I am doing myself no favours by denying my body the nutrients it needs.  The seductive sight of the numbers falling on my digital scales becomes almost addictive.  I crave that validation of my denial.  However, the early fall off of weight is mostly water from the fat cells and is unsustainable.  The results diminish and lead to disillusionment.  The starvation becomes pointless...I hit the cake with a vengeance!!

    I find dieting difficult because I have a husband who absolutely adores me!  He says he loves me and is equally attracted to me whether I'm carrying the extra poundage or not!  There seems no incentive to not eat whatever I want whenever I want it.  It's only when I catch an unflattering glimpse of myself in the relection from a shop window, or if I go to put on something in my wardrobe that just will not do up, do I feel enough self-revulsion to diet again.  But coming to that decision with such negativity is what starts the destructive yo-yo-ing.  It just never works.

    After years of explaining this to my husband he has finally understood that i need to approach my weightloss in a different, more positive way.  I'd never be the sort of person to enjoy diet groups, so my help needed to come from him.  He cogitated and deliberated about how best to help me.  He came up with a scheme...the Save to Lose scheme.  It's brilliant and I love it!!

    He made me a small, cardboard money box based on the bank at the beginning of Toy Story when Andy is playing with his toys!    As I lose weight I get a token to deposit in the bank. Psychologically this is marvellous...instead of battling to lose weight, I'm earning tokens.  I save as I lose.  It's positive!  I'm rewarded for a slow steady weight loss, getting tokens at increments for the total poundage lost!  I also get weight related facts which are great...for example how much the equivalent of my shed weight in 18ct gold would be worth!!  It's well thought out and keeps me motivated.  His thoughtfulness and effort makes me feel like I'm doing it for him as well as for myself.  I need that to keep me on the straight and narrow!  When I have shed 28lbs I will have banked 152 tokens which my husband will convert to its cold, hard equivalent in cash....perfect for buying new clothes for my new slimmer figure!!

    I'm 7lbs down already...looking forwards to my next deposit!!

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Why my Mum and Dad really are Superheroes!

    Since becoming finalists in the Volkswagen Ultimate Family Hero Competition  I have really reflected on what being a family superhero means.  I nominated my parents, 76 year old Jill and 77 year old Stan.  They have been happily married for 55 years, which is a heroic feat by anyone's standards.  They are still very much in love and spend all their time together. They are grandparents to thirteen grandkids.  Tom 23, Loralei, 22, Katie 22, Joe 22, Emily 19, Megan 18, Maisie 16, Ella 14, Charis 13, Kizzy 8, Adrian 2, Freddy 1 and Dylan 3 mths.  Without fail they visit my sister and I every week.  They bring a bag containing 5 different fruit and veg products (making sure we get our five a day) along with some treats for the kids.  Nana often bakes an apple pie for each of us.  She knits constantly, a hobby she took up following a fall that left her with a metal plate in her wrist.  After months of physiotherapy she found that knitting strengthened her wrist and aided its mobility.  She hasn't stopped since.  The younger babies are kept in jumpers and cardies, the older children get fingerless gloves and hats!  We lovingly refer to them as NanaKnits!  Grandad suffers terribly with artritic knees that has, over the years, lead to hip and back pain as his body compensates for the pain in his knees which has affected his posture.  He practices Reiki and tries to alleviate his pain without the need for painkillers.  He puts a brave face on it though and is always laughing and joking.  He is, as they say, a real character.  He adores his family and really would do anything to help any of them.  He has financially helped the older grandchildren in times of need, for example he has helped Tom pay for a new car. I'm sure he would love to be more hands on with such pursuits, but his physical limitations make it impossible.  However, he is interested and supportive and generous.  He is the biggest fan of his grandchildren and his pride is palpable.  He loves to listen to the family band Her Bandana Dreams and is quick to sing along with songs he knows.

    For us, the three generations of family come together effortlessly.  The love and affection is evident.  The hugs and kisses flow freely and the laughs are aplenty.  In this day and age I know we are incredibly blessed to have the family we have.  It is wonderful to see my parents' marriage as a role model to the grandchildren.  It is fantastic to see how demonstrative and comfortable with affection, the children are.  It is wonderful that they are so confident, loving and respectful.  I thank my parents for providing the cornerstone upon which I built my own life.  Through them I developed the tools I needed to forge my own happy marriage and raise my own incredible children.

    Without my Superhero Parents, none of us would be here.  Without their love, support and care, our story may have been very different.  I thank them and stand by my nomination for Superpops and Nana!

    Voting starts on October 11th.  Regardless of the outcome, they are our family superheroes!!!

    Superpops and Nana

    Tuesday, 5 October 2010

    Baking Inside the Wendy House

    If there is one thing that really conjures up the idea of family togetherness, it is the whole process of baking with the children!  The sight of my 8 year old in her chef's hat and apron wielding her miniature wooden spoons is just delightful.  It's an image from a bygone era, pre-laptops and before CBBC.  It harks back to simpler times when things were homemade...there was no Krispy Kreme Donut concession to tempt us out of the kitchen.  If you wanted a cake, you baked it yourself.

    In our house, Muffins and Cupcakes are our thing!  The varieties are endless ranging from light as a feather yogurt based lemon muffins to rich, dark, dense dark chocolate and raspberry cupcakes!  We have adorable cake cases with animal prints or polka dots on them. We make big ones or mini ones!

    We top them with fondant icing, ganache, cream, fudge frosting or glace icing and decorate them with fresh berries, chocolate curls, hundreds and thousands or sweeties!  We have a production line and work together as a team, with the ocassional sweet treat being popped directly into my eager helpers' mouths!  We have such fun with it!  We make them for any and every ocassion!




    Our latest favourite and super easy recipe is VANILLA CUPCAKES which the kids adore and I would highly recommend for a fabulous fun cooking with the kids session!


    Freddy xxx

    I never really ever felt that I was done with having babies.  I could never commit to any permanent method of birth control (much to Ian's delight because that would have meant a vasectomy for him!!  He is a little protective of his testicles!!)  Each new arrival did not bring that feeling of closure, and I never thought my family was complete.  That was until Freddy's birth.  He seems to have given me that sense of completeness that I never felt before. 

    Being 40 and pregnant meant I was faced with the prospect of genetic counselling and the offer of tests to check to see if the baby was "normal".  I declined all such intervention, refusing even the routine bloodwork which calculates the probabilty of having a baby with Downs Syndrome or Spina Bifida.  My committment to my child started at conception, and regardless of my high risk status, this baby had my support.  As soon as a saw a developing brain and a beating heart on the first scan, that was confirmed!

    Thankfully, we were incredibly blessed and despite a scare on the 20 week scan (that turned out to be nothing more than human error on behalf of an over eager and under trained sonographer) we had an absolutely perfect baby boy!

    Our family is girl heavy.  At the time of Freddy's birth my grandparents had 11 grandchildren of which only 2 were boys!  My own son Joe was 21 and had always longed for a baby brother.  I had given him 3 sisters!  Freddy's arrival delighted him, even though he had left home to live with his girlfriend just weeks before he was born.  Having my baby boy seemed to give a beautiful symmetry to my family.  The girls were also thrilled with Freddy.  He brought a whole new dimension to our home.  Boys' toys litter the living room floor.  Fred is a bundle of energy and full of mischief.  He is a very different creature to his sisters.  He loves balls.  He loves throwing things.  He is funny, affectionate and cheeky. He is an absolute joy!

    My family feels complete now.  I look at my children and feel so proud of each and every one of them. I never thought I'd be a new mum again at 40, but it proving to be an exciting journey and I am loving the ride! 

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    Feeling rather humble :)

    I am very new to this blogging lark, and not entirely sure if what I am doing is right!  However, tonight I just worked out how to view comments on past blog posts.  I felt so honoured to see comments from other bloggers, people who do not know me personally and have no obligation to read my posts, let alone comment on them.  Yet, they have taken the time to look at my ramblings and have offered me support, complimented me and told me that they have been moved by my words.  I feel priveleged to be a part of this community albeit only in a very small way, and I am humbled by knowing that people care.

    I hope that in time I will understand exactly what I am doing and do justice to this incredible media that we are fortunate enough to have at our fingertips.  We are living in a time of great technological possibilities.  The concept of being able to write what is essentially a journal, which in the past would have been words on paper lost to a drawer or shoved under a bed never to be shared, is quite overwhelming.  Yet knowing that you can reach strangers, make friends and touch people with your written words on a huge scale is mind blowing!  This is a journey that I have only just embarked on, but I'm ready to travel to wherever it takes me.

    Thank you so much. xxx

    More Car Madness!!

    Just as the excitement of the VW filming has calmed down...we now have another crazy experience to contend with!!

    I spotted a competition to win a Hyundai car with the Eden Shopping Centre in High Wycombe.  You had to upload a picture of a car you had built and post it to their wall.  Ten finalists would win the chance to compete in a Hands on my Hyundai Competition.  The person who lasts longest takes the car!  After 6 hours in the event of a tie, a tie-breaker will take place.  Runners up win a goodie bag! 

    I challenged my husband Ian to enter this one, because he is the gadget mad one, who loved Meccano as a child!  So next day at work he set about carrying out this task.  As he works in the IT industry it seemed obvious to use computer components...CDs, pieces of Hard Drive and Key Board bits helped construct a rather ingenius little car that he proudly photographed and emailed to me!!  I was very impressed, especially with him spelling out Hyundai with keyboard letters!  So we entered it!

    Surprisingly, only 22 entries were received in this competition.  So the odds were very much in Ian's favour.  I also think his was definitely one of the best, having been built especially for the competition and paying homage to the brand...making it particularly apt!

    Today he received the phone call to say he is in the final 10.  It's going to be mad.  High Wycombe is 3 hours away from us and the contest starts at 9.15am.  6 hours standing up with 2 hands on a car is going to be horrible...but Ian was a Venture Scout and loves a challenge!!  We're looking at it as another unexpected adventure that we would never have done otherwise.  Life throws these opportunities at you...I think you have to grasp them and roll with them and see what fate has in store for you!!  I'll be there supporting Ian and regardless of the outcome, we will have another unforgettable family adventure!!


    Sunday, 3 October 2010

    Ultimate Family Superhero...the Challenge!!

    This week has been absolutely mad!  A real rollercoaster ride of organisational activity, secret keeping and masses of mirth...with the added bonus of driving around in a brand, spanking new VW Touran and filming clips of everything we did!!  But the week of madness came to an incredible finale on October 2nd with the hosting of the Ultimate Family Surprise Party for my 8 year old daughter Kizzy...complete with camera crew, soundmen and PR people.

    The day began at 8am.  This was not easy to achieve...Freddy decided to sleep-in for the first time ever, and had to be pulled out from under his Toy Story duvet at 7.50am, which was something that did not impress him at all!  So my stress levels were quite high before the day even began.  Marinella, my PR contact throughout the competition process, was on the phone at eight o'clock on the dot.  We finally got to my sister's house (the party venue) some 10 minutes late but no one seemed to mind.  I finally relaxed and allowed myself to be enveloped by the whole creative process!

    I was expecting quite a low key film crew set up...instead we got the proper treatment with cameramen, sound crew, director, PR people and some other people who organised the equipment and whatnot.  They came in a VW van that bore a passing resemblance to the A Team vehicle!  The madness began forthwith with a staged shot of us all outside by the car...on the count of 3 we had to turn and walk into the house.  From there we had breakfast in the kitchen.  Me and Maisie were sniffing milk to see if they were cheesy smelling...I turned to realise there was a camera looking right at us.  Not the greatest bit of film!!!  This intrusive camera work continued...but we soon got used to acting "naturally" and proceeded with party food prep, balloon blowing and decorating!

    As the nominator of Superpops and Nana, I was taken aside several times to carry out specific jobs to advance the plot!  I found myself giving fake instructions to Ian and delegating jobs to people and taking phone calls etc.  All while trying to act "natural"!  My big job came when I was given a secret task to collect a secret package from a PC shop in town.  I was wired up and had the full crew following my every move.  I had to take Superpops and Nana with me....thankfully Ella came too for moral support.  This was the first time I drove this car on the open road.  When it first arrived I tried to drive around the estate and failed epically!  I stalled 4 times and didn't get above 20 miles per hour.  I was determined to do better, but did whine and panic a bit before setting off :(  After adjusting the seat though and actually being able to reach the pedals, I found the driving a lot easier (didn't think to do that on my first attempt...too excited to think straight most probably!!)  So my mission was to drive into town, park up (thank God there was a huge space right outside the shop!!) and go to the shop and ask for my secret package!  All the while I was filmed by the crew.  People were coming out of shops to watch.  I felt very celebrity-esque!!  The girl in the PC Shop seemed delighted to be in on the action and was all smiles when she gave me the secret package that turned out to be a huge picture of Kizzy, photoshopped as a princess!  It was brilliant and my reaction of joyous wow-ing was 100% genuine!  I knew Kizzy would love it!!  She had been the best, most giving, little girl on the planet, agreeing to forgo her birthday for Nana and Grandad.  She believed the party was for them and was totally happy about it.  We had secretly plotted to make a big reveal during the party where the emphasis would turn from Superpops and Nana to Kizzy.  This picture was another perfect prop to use in that moment!  I stashed the huge picture into the boot of the car and drove home.  I had to reverse into the drive which terrified me...I had hit Paula's gate trying to back in before....but I did it!!!

    Eventually, the party started with Her Bandana Dreams playing a set.  Nan, Grandad and Kizzy had returned to my house with the camera crew to get changed (OMG I didn't even tidy up before we left in the morning...there was a bowl of Shreddies on the sofa!!).  During this time we personalised everything so it bacame Kizzy's party and awaited their arrival.  They entered the house to be greeted by everyone applauding! Everything went perfectly.  After playing Life is a Movie and Draw me a picture, the band played the Grandparent Song that Ella wrote.  The floodgates opened and the tissues were distributed as me, Paula, Nana, Kizzy, Maisie and apparently the soundman let our emotions out in tear form!!  Grandad did the tight faced/keeping it in thing but was clearly moved, evident in the way he leapt out of his chair to give Ella an emotionally charged hug at the end of the song!  Then came the twist...the band played their Happy Birthday Song.  Kizzy realised that the day was all about her...she shed joyful tears that turned into joyous exuberance as a brand new pink BMX was wheeled in along with a pink handbag shaped birthday cake and the giant Kizzy picture!!  The reveal could not have been better if scripted! We had pulled off the surprise after all the conspiring of the last week....a real triumph and an unforgettable birthday for Kizzy!! 
    I hope the crew filmed some golden moments and I can't wait to see the final cut of our entry into the final competition.  Whether the public vote for us or not....we have had an amazing adventure!!


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