26 June 2013

Welcome to Write On




Put the kettle on, open the biscuits, and - more importantly - open a new note pad or a new post on your blog. I have some writing prompts for you (and me).

I used to go to a monthly writing group. We had 'homework' in the form of a writing prompt. I haven't found a similar group since we moved house two years ago. I haven't looked that hard either, there's always something else to do. No longer. I miss the structure of someone else telling me what to write about. To get me back into the habit of writing regularly I thought I'd challenge myself online. I'd love you to join me.

How to Write On
  • Chose a writing prompt from the list below (I'll set three new prompts each Wednesday).
  • Write a blog post inspired by a prompt (or do all three). You can write in any way you choose, whether that be fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, stream of consciousness, essay or 'just' a regular blog post.
  • Include my shiny new badge in your blog post, if you like (just copy and paste the code from the top of the sidebar or bottom of this post).
  • Publish your post between now and Monday.
  • I'll publish my post, inspired by one of the prompts, on Monday.
  • Link up your blog post (The linky goes live at 9am on Monday).
  • I will attempt to comment on and share all of your posts.
  • It would be great if you could read and comment on some, or all, of the posts too.


I'm hoping we'll create a supportive writing community.
These writing prompts are for everybody. Even if you wouldn't call yourself a writer, you are still writing on your blog. Have a go. Express yourself. Stretch yourself, you never know what might happen. There are no rules. Try to enjoy writing.

There is also a Bloggers and Writers Facebook Group that you may find useful.


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Write On Prompts - Week 1

1 - I have never...
What have you never done, that everyone else has done? Would you like to do it or are you taking a stand?

2 - Toys being sold by gender - right or wrong?
Does the way toys are sold make you cross or are there more important things to worry about in life? Have your say.

3 - Mother
What does this word mean to you?


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Here is the shiny badge code

Baby Baby

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21 June 2013

Freaky Friday at Milton Keynes Museum


It's been a while since I published a Freaky Friday post, but we recently went to Milton Keynes Museum again and I had to share these beauties with you.







Don't have nightmares...



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19 June 2013

Weight Loss Coaching


I've written before about my weight issues. It seems so obvious - if you haven't got an eating disorder - that to lose weight you should just eat less bad stuff, eat more good stuff, and be more active. If if were that simple I would be a size 10. If it were that simple no one would be overweight.

Dawn Walton is a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. She is also my friend and wants to help me become as healthy as she has become. In the last year or so Dawn has gone from a size 24 couch potato to a size 12 marathon runner. She is an amazing person who has dropped her emotional baggage along with the weight. You can read Dawn's story in her book, Nothing Needs to be the Way it has Always Been.

Dawn has recently developed a Weight Loss Coaching Programme and asked me if I would like to review it, free of charge. Of course I asked myself the question What have I got to lose? The answer would seem to be only weight. So I agreed. I am writing about my experience of this programme now, at the beginning. I will also give you updates throughout the twelve weeks.

It sounds simple, but it is not easy. Change is hard. Dawn explains more about the programme on her personal blog The Moiderer. When she suggested the idea to me I knew that she could help me. She helped me before when I had pneumonia. [Edited to add: Dawn had also helped me lose some weight last year when she was training to be a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, she also got me to the point where I was ready to join Slimming World where I lost a load more]. Then I got nervous. What if it didn't work? The worst that could happen is that I'll just carry on going to Slimming World and lose ten minutes per day listening to a recording. Then I got even more nervous. What if it did work? Could I really change my relationship with food that fundamentally that food becomes a fuel and nothing more?

What if I really could be slim, fit and healthy?

I would love to be a normal size. I would like to eat like a normal person. I would like to wear normal clothes. I said this to Dawn at our first Weight Loss Coaching Skype session and she asked what I mean by normal.  I surprised myself with my answer. I want to be unremarkable (a strange admission for a blogger). I don't want people to look at me and feel sorry for my children as they clearly have a fat and unhealthy mum - the biggest mum at the school gate. I hate it.

I've been following Dawn's programme for nearly two weeks now. I listen daily to a personal download that Dawn has recorded for me. This is simple, it's ten minutes of relaxing with my headphones in. I also write down three positive changes that I have noticed each day. This is easy as I am noticing so many changes. I am walking quicker and doing more. I am choosing - mostly - to eat healthy foods. When I eat 'bad' foods I'm not enjoying them. CURSES!

The part of the programme that I am find really difficult is eating mindfully. I am used to doing six things at once. To stop everything, to close the laptop, to move anything with writing on, and just eat is torture for me.  I'm finding I am eating less because I want to get back to doing other things. I know I still have a long way to go as when I'm eating a 'bad' food I forget to eat it mindfully. That's just taking away all the fun of the binge. I'm sure Dawn will have something to say about this at our weekly catch up...

I'll keep you posted.


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17 June 2013

Feeding the Ducks


Children love to feed the ducks. The ducks (and swans and geese and moorhens) always look starving and are so grateful for the scraps of bread that the children throw at them. There isn't much in life that's funnier - for a child - than to hit a duck with a tiny chunk of bread, or have them catch it in their beak.

But should we feed the ducks? At Furzton Lake in Milton Keynes there is a feeding platform. We take one slice of granary bread for each child, already torn into bite-sized pieces. Once it's gone, it's gone. We shake out the bag for the sparrows.

I have no idea what was going to through the minds of the people who threw into the water whole naan bread, half a loaf of soda bread, the whole rolls or the massive pieces of French stick. Idiots.

I've always felt uneasy watching other families arrive with whole loaves of white bread. I really dislike plastic white bread and can't imagine it does the ducks much good. I decided to find out.

A quick Google threw up a great website called Duck Rescue Network . They have all the answers. Sadly we shouldn't be feeding the ducks at all. Any type of bread is bad for their health. If you must feed the ducks they can eat greens, defrosted peas, grapes (cut up) or grains. We'll do that next time.


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Review: LEGO Duplo Number Train 10558 and LEGO Roadshows


The LEGO Duplo Number Train 10558 is a fantastic addition to your Duplo stash. It's a toy train that you build yourself. It comes with a driver and a dog.

The scope for imaginative play is huge. Where is the train going? What is it carrying? Where will it stop? Can you build a station?

It's educational too, and helps little ones learnt their numbers and aids counting.

Best of all it's only £12.99 which I think is great value for money.


This is Presley building a station.


Our children are 5 and 4, so they're at the upper end of the Duplo age range. They have regular LEGO, but they're still happy to spend an afternoon playing with Duplo. It never dates, it's a wonderful quality toy.

Over half term the LEGO Roadshow visited the Centre MK in Milton Keynes. Sadly Cash had a vomiting bug the night before, so instead of going to the Roadshow we were in A&E to rule out concussion (he had bumped his head the day before).

We were so disappointed to miss it. The children could play with LEGO CHIMA, LEGO FRIENDS or LEGO DUPLO and every child received a goody bag.

Here are some photographs of the day:






Look out for the LEGO Roadshow coming to a shopping centre near you this summer.


Disclosure: we were sent a LEGO Duplo Number Train to review. We also received a few other LEGO goodies from the PR when she found out the boys were ill. Thanks, Kelly.
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Review: Micro Sprite Scooter


Last year the boys were lucky enough to review Mini Micro Scooters. This year we were given the opportunity to join them on two wheels. We were sent a Micro Sprite Scooter to review. I say 'we', but Andy was willing to volunteer to put it through its paces.

To begin with he felt a little self-conscious, but soon got over himself when he went out with the boys one weekend. He was really impressed with the scooter. He said it handles well and is pretty nippy. The boys were annoyed that Daddy could scoot faster than them.

They went exploring, looking for all the play areas in our village. They could cover ground quickly and managed to scoot for three miles with minimal effort.

The aluminium Micro Sprite Scooter is suitable for ages 5 to adult. It is lightweight and foldable and excellent value for money at £59.99.

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Are you a teacher?

Micro Scooters also sent through a press release. I don't normally publish press releases here on Baby Baby, but I made an exception for this one. It makes for fascinating reading.


Teachers Who Scoot To School Gain More Pupil Respect
Pilot Study Finds Scooting Improves All-Round Teacher Performance
A pilot study by Micro Scooters UK has found that teachers who scoot to school not only make better teachers but also garner greater respect amongst their pupils and the pupils' parents.
The month-long study took place earlier this year in the West Midlands county town of Worcester. It involved 8 primary school teachers scooting to-and-from school each day versus a test group of 8 who made their journey via car.
Conducted by sustainable transport expert Steve Fox of Fox Consulting, the study found the scooting teachers performed twice as well as their peers when it came to:
  • Fitness
  • Happiness
  • Self esteem
  • Motivation
  • Road safety
  • Relationships
  • Commuting
COMMUTING
•  Scooting paid for itself after two weeks
•  Scooting made the teachers feel more positive simply by using their cars less
FITNESS
• Scooting provided the teachers with a convenient way to improve fitness that was compatible with their lifestyle
• Scooting kick started their motivation to get fit
• Scooting helped them to feel fitter and encouraged them to continue a fitness regime even when the study had ended
RELATIONSHIPS
•  Scooting allowed teachers to meet new parents and interact with them on a daily basis
•  Scooting improved relationships with both children and parents
•  Kids think teachers who scoot are cool
ROAD SAFETY
•  Scooting helped teachers understand what drivers need to consider when driving near scooters
•  Scooting made teachers further appreciate the need to wear a helmet
•  Because pavements are congested, scooting taught teachers to be more aware of other users
•  Scooting made teachers more aware of the need to teach road safety

MOTIVATION
•  Scooting made teachers feel more motivated in the mornings
•  Scooting made teachers look forward to getting to school
•  Scooting increased teachers energy levels
•  Scooting ensured a better relationships with the kids
SELF-ESTEEM
•  Scooting gave teachers more energy and improved their fitness giving them an overall feeling of well being
•  Scooting enabled teachers to speak with parents from whom they got good feedback making them feel good.
•  Scooting made them feel less likely to complain about smaller issues
•  Teachers with children at the school scooted in with them and they had fun on the journey rather than the stress of driving

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Commenting on the scheme, Micro Scooters UK business development director, Ben Gibson, said:
“We know from customer feedback that scooting makes for happier children who perform better at school. It seems the same is true of their teachers. As well as extending the scheme to other schools throughout the UK, we’re also planning schemes for other stressful professions such as nursing to see if it can improve their well-being too!”


What an excellent idea. Do you fancy scooting to work?

I'm still recovering from pneumonia, but hopefully I'll soon be scooting to school with the boys every day.


Disclosure: we were sent a Micro Sprite Scooter to review. 


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10 June 2013

Lost Cinemas




This collection of photographs is at Milton Keynes museum. It made me sad to think that in even the smallest town there used to be a cinema.

I've always loved films and used to go to the cinema a lot. I remember my dad taking me to see Star Wars in 1977. We had to queue around the block to get in. 

Going to the cinema used to be a cheap night out. I've always liked going on my own during the day. There's something rather indulgent about it. When I was travelling it was a great way to pass the time, especially on a rainy afternoon.

Things have changed. When I went to the cinema last year, it was the first time in over five years. I was shocked at the price of the tickets. A night out at the cinema for two adults, including a babysitter, is about £50. Also films are much longer than they used to be. You can now go out for dinner, or go to the cinema - but you can't do both

I took four year old Cash to the cinema for the first time at the weekend (his brother simply refuses to go). We went to see Epic. I booked online to save 10% and it was still £15. 

Luckily I had a voucher for a free popcorn. We'll never eat all that, we said. Erm...


We occasionally turn our lounge into a cinema. We pop our own popcorn, line up the teddies on the sofa and close the curtains.



A couple of years ago, when we bought a new television, we received a free subscription to Lovefilm. At first we struggled to find enough films that we wanted to watch, but - and this may surprise you - new films are released all the time and they only take a couple of months to arrive at Lovefilm. I think we pay £6 per month for unlimited films. Now every Saturday night is date night. It's not the same as going to the cinema, but it's a pretty good alternative.

Have you seen any good films lately?


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Pampers Mother & Baby Competition

This is a sponsored post.


This is a simple to enter competition with a fantastic prize.

Pampers are celebrating ‘great mornings’ and asking mums to share pictures and their sleep tips for a chance to win a professional photoshoot and appear in Mother & Baby magazine!

You can tell just by looking at your baby’s beautiful morning face whether they’ve had a good night’s sleep or not, and we want mums to show us what works for their baby to have a great start to the day.
Pampers, whose Baby-Dry nappies are recommended for up to 12 hours of Golden Sleep by 92% of UK mums*, are celebrating these great morning moments by inviting you to share images of the great morning moments you share with your little one along with your tip for a good night’s sleep.

How to enter
Simply email a recent photo of you and your baby, and your tip in no more than 50 words to pamperscompetition@hkstrategies.com. Remember to include your address and a contact number.

A selection of the entries will be shared each week on the Pampers Facebook page, and three winners will be selected to have a professional photoshoot and appear in a Pampers advertorial in Mother & Baby magazine!

Closing date for entries is 9th July 2013.

So what are you waiting for?

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My top tip is the daily bedtime routine. Your baby can never be too young for a bedtime routine. Bath, Pampers Baby Dry nappy, milk, story and bed - at the same time every night. We still do this now, but without the milk and the nappies. My children are 5 and 4 after all.

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Good luck!

Do let me know if you win.



*Based on a survey by 704 mums.
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9 June 2013

Listening

Following on from my reading post, I also wanted to share a little of the music I've been listening to recently.




I'm a little late to the party, but I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. BBC 6 Music 100 greatest hits of the last twenty years was posted up recently. Clocks by Coldplay is number one and this has been scoffed at almost universally. I mean, it's not even Coldplay's best song...  Okay, so, Coldplay are a guilty pleasure of mine, but I didn't draw up the shortlist, or even vote, so I can't get that worked up about it.

I'm an indie girl at heart, so I like a lot of the top 100. One track in the top ten was completely new to me and I LOVE IT. You can watch the whole top 100 on YouTube, or listen on Spotify (the link is in the paragraph above), but here is my new favourite song: Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National.





We have Spotify Premium membership. It's a great way to hear new music - to try before you buy. I don't agree with downloading music for free, unless the artist is giving it away. I don't think Spotify can pay huge amounts of royalties, but it must be better than ripping? The main reason I use Spotify is to listen to all the music I already own. Our CD's are mostly in the loft, so I mentally scan them and then search for my favourites.

Looking back through my recent Spotify history you'll find The Delays, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Doves, Powderfinger, Electronic, Laura Marling and Adam & the Ants (yes, really).

Still, nothing beats live music.



One of my favourite bands of all time is Turin Brakes. Their debut album, The Optimist LP is as awesome now as it was when it was released in 2001. As I was adding the link to buy the CD via Amazon I couldn't help noticing that it was only £3.42. £3.42. An absolute bargain. I'd buy it again if I hadn't already bought two copies (the first one wore out from excessive playing). They have just recorded their sixth studio album and I can't wait for it to be released.

I've been to see them live a few times and they are always amazing.



Olly Knights, Turin Brakes' lead singer, has a beautiful solo record out. If Not Now When is personal and heart-warming. When I listen to it in the car, on my own, I turn it up to eleven and absorb the sound. It fills my soul. I can feel something inside me blooming. Don't laugh at me. I think Cliff had it right when he sang 'satisfies my soul'. Well, just that phrase. The rest of Living Doll is plain creepy.


I also have the vinyl copy and am waiting - patiently - for Andy to get our turntable out of the loft.

This is the video for Bitten by the Frost, the second single to be taken from the album. Enjoy.





Andy and I always watch Jools Holland. Most episodes are a bit meh. I must be getting old as a lot of the bands look and sound the same. I love it when there's a band or artist on there that I haven't heard before, but I love straight away. This happened with Alabama Shakes and Laura Mvula.




You're welcome.

Where do you discover new music? Please don't make me listen to Radio 1...

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Have you read the Highway Code?

This post has been commissioned by Irwin Mitchell solicitors. I would have written it anyway, bad driving really gets my goat.



I really do wonder whether the majority of drivers on the roads have ever read the Highway Code. They must have learnt it to pass their driving test, but once they passed their tests decided to ignore every single page of it.

Since I've had pneumonia I've been driving the boys to school and back. It's a mile round trip. In that mile I see all sorts of shocking driving. I mean, really truly terrible driving. I'll be glad to get back to regular walking. Well, I say that, but it's amazing how many drivers fail to stop at the zebra crossing - the one right outside the school. Clearly their journey is far more important than mine and they couldn't care less about my life or the lives of my children.

I'm staggered by the number of drivers who fail to give way or just stop without signalling. They park near the zebra crossing and they park on blind bends. They don't give you enough time to park safely, as they edge their cars closer and closer trying to bully you into a road accident. We're all dropping our children off at the same school. Why they feel the need to intimidate other drivers is beyond me.

Quite often when I go out I swear that I'll simply stop driving. I feel like I'm invisible in my car. I think it's because I'm a defensive driver, other driver simply take advantage. If I pull in behind a parked car to give way to the car approaching from the other direction, the car behind me will overtake me and the parked car, forcing the approaching car to make an emergency stop. No wonder the compensation claim is used so frequently.

And don't get me started on people who undertake on motorways and/or use their mobile phones whilst driving. It makes me so cross that these people have so little regard for the Highway Code or the law or anyone else on the road. They think because they are in their cars they are in a self-important bubble and can not let anyone get in their way. I'm getting road rage just thinking about it. Grrr.

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