This year, for the first time, I'm taking the boys trick or treating at Halloween. I've resisted for years. Last year I carved a pumpkin into a Jack O'Lantern and placed it by the front door. It certainly attracted more callers, but in previous years - with no Halloween paraphernalia - we still had plenty of trick or treaters.
One year I had a distraught Presley to deal with at Halloween. He had managed to shell some acorns and shove the bits up his nose. I had to consol him, answer the door, shove sweets at strangers and think about calling NHS Direct.
This year, Halloween falls in the middle of our half term. We are going to a friend's house, with some other families, for a take-a-plate Halloween tea (I'll be searching Pinterest for spooky food ideas). Then, when it gets dark, we'll go trick or treating. We have costumes. We have plastic buckets in the shape of pumpkins. We're ready.
BUT... I have some rules that I'd like to share with you.
SANDY'S HALLOWEEN RULES:
If I ruled the world, Halloween would happen like this.
If you want trick or treaters to knock on your door, leave a pumpkin on your doorstep. If you don't, don't.
If you go trick or treating, only knock on doors where there is a pumpkin on the doorstop.
Actually, if I ruled the world 31st October would be just another day.
Breema is difficult to describe. It's a new age kind of a cross between partner yoga and Thai massage. The idea is you feel fully present. This appealed to me as my head is all over the place. I'm never doing less than seventeen things at once. I have also been trying to eat mindfully, but struggling. You can have Breema done to you or you can practise Self-Breema.
Why have I never heard of it?
It's new to the UK. It's been around elsewhere for some time. For more information do check out the Breema website.
What happens during Breema? What does it feel like?
You know when you go to a spa, or a salon, and you have a treatment? You get an orange 17 year old making you feel more tense during a terrible massage because you know she is pulling disgusted faces behind your (fat, oily) back. Well, Breema is NOTHING like that.
There are no oils. In fact, it's not a massage. You are fully clothed. You feel safe, warm and loved. There is no judgement, no competition, you're just being.
Eva Brauner from Core Inspiration makes you feel at ease as soon as you meet her. You lie on a padded floor as Eva touches you with her hands, body and feet. She holds you, pulls gently, taps and rubs.
I have never experienced anything like it. I have never felt so relaxed. Afterwards, I didn't want to move. I felt utter bliss.
Luckily for me, Eva is based in Milton Keynes.
£45 per session. As a treat for yourself, or a friend, it's totally worth it. I really can not recommend Eva more highly. I LOVED my Breema session.
Last November I went to the first Mumsnet Blogfest. I'm such an awesome blogger that it has only taken me eleven months to write about it. Finger on the pulse, me.
Still, better late than never.
To top off a slick, professional, yet friendly conference I nabbed a front row seat for keynote speaker, Caitlin Moran. Being a complete Caitlin fan-girl I snapped away all the way though her funny and wise turn. The woman can talk and pull faces, all at the same time. Who knew?
What I loved about Blogfest was that it wasn't the usual crowd. There were some familiar faces, and I was grateful for that, but because I wasn't bumping into friends every two seconds I was able to widen my blogging circle.
The sessions were mostly useful, although I felt the speakers were quite journo-heavy.
As soon as the tickets went on sale for this year's Blogfest, I snapped one up. I'm excited by the sessions and will be torn as I have friends speaking at different sessions AT THE SAME TIME. Argh.
Are you going? Do say hello. I may write about you in eleven months or so...
You may have seen this amazing story unfolding on many different blogs over the last few weeks. Today it is my turn to play blogger consequences.
For the background to this writing challenge, and part one of the story, visit Tired Mummy of Two.
Mari left us yesterday with Laura's brother, Simon, surprising her with cruise tickets for her birthday. It's not that simple though. Laura's husband, Robert, has just reappeared after faking his own death...
"Simon chatted as he walked her down the short corridor towards the lounge and as he turned the corner his eyes landed on Robert standing opposite."
Simon opened his mouth, then closed it again forcing it into a tight thin line. As he clenched his fists he pressed his nails into his palms.
Robert jumped to his feet, defensively raising his hands.
"Simon, S-Simon, I'm sorry, I can explain...", he said.
"No, Robert, you can't explain", shouted Laura, "Get out. Now!".
Robert flushed red, then paled as both Laura and Simon lunged towards him. He ran for the door but collided with Simon's wife, Jude, knocking her to the ground.
Robert made it out of the front door, trench coat flying behind him. Laura yelled after him to never come back, then slammed the door.
Laura's ears were ringing. Poppy, her dog, was barking and running up and down the hall. Through the din, Laura heard Simon shouting,
"Laura, call 999, it's Jude".
What's wrong with Jude? Will they make it onto the cruise? What happens to Robert? Will we see Tony again?
A few weeks ago I made the cake to beat all cakes for the boys' birthday party - even if I do say so myself.
We called it Cakezilla and you can see why.
It was huge, and I'm really rather pleased with it. I think it was my most liked ever Facebook update and Instagram photograph.
It was two regular vanilla sponges sandwiched together with chocolate butter cream. I'd also covered it in chocolate butter cream, placed chocolate finger biscuits all around the sides, and put giant chocolate buttons and assorted sprinkes on the top.
If I hadn't made it up as I went along I would have made the cake chocolate, but it was yumminess on a plate anyway.
I had some butter cream, giant chocolate buttons and sprinkles left over, so I also decorated these 12-for-60p fairy cakes from Morrisons to serve at the party. They went down very well too.
Recipe for Cakezilla Vanilla Sponge
Weigh 4 eggs in their shells. Use this weight for the plain flour, butter or marg, and caster sugar.
Add baking powder and vanilla essence.
Make an all-in-one batter. I use an electric hand whisk.
Add a drop of milk if the batter is too thick.
Cook in a 9" spring cake tin, sprayed with cake release spray, for 30-40 minutes at 180. The cake is done when a knife or skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.
Repeat steps 1-5 for the second cake (if the first simply isn't high enough).
Recipe for Cakezilla Chocolate Butter Cream
Put 250g of salted butter, 50g of cocoa powder and 450g of icing sugar in the bowl of your mixer.
Cover your mixer with a tea-towel to stop the icing sugar from escaping.
Mix slowly at first, then at full speed for 5 minutes.
Scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.
Add some milk if your icing is too thick. Mix for a final 2 minutes.
Clean up the icing sugar that still managed to escape from your mixer.
Do let me know if you make anything similar. I can guarantee you will have a queue of children - and grown-ups - waiting for a slice of your Cakezilla.
What I didn't expect - but what I got - was fun for all the family.
I was over the moon to see just how interested my children were in singing into the microphone.
They were able to practice their reading and have a sing and dance. We chose simple songs for them - mostly ones they hadn't heard before - and soon they were singing with gusto.
You can watch the lyrics, streamed over the internet, on full screen and they are clear and very well done.
Presley, 6, and Cash, 5, have been going to bed later than normal every night as they ask for just one more song please. Andy and I have then had to wait until they're in bed and asleep before we can have a go.
Lucky Voice Karaoke Kit - £49.95
You get a mixing box. There's reverb for instance, to make your voice sound better - I don't need it, obv. The kit comes with one good quality microphone and it's possible to add another. It's easy to set up, you just attach it to your internet connected laptop or PC, and speakers, and off you go.
Lucky Voice Online Karaoke Subscription - £4.99
For just £4.99 per month you can access thousands of decent karaoke versions of songs. If you want to belt out 'I believe in a thing called love' or 'Wuthering Heights' at full blast on a Saturday night you can. And I did. With just about any song you can think of just a few clicks away, the hardest thing will be deciding what to sing next. Fancy yourself as the next Adele? You can sing the whole of '21' in the privacy of your own kitchen. There's no time restriction, other than your need for sleep. New songs are being added all the time. You can sign up for regular email updates if you don't wanna miss a thing.
Not sure if it's for you? Try it for a month for nothing, there's a 31 day free trial. Register here for your online karaoke experience.
It's easy to use, great fun and would make a fantastic family Christmas present.
Positives - there are so many songs to choose from.
Negatives - there are so many songs to choose from.
Disclosure - we were given a Lucky Voice Karaoke Kit and a year's subscription to Lucky Voice Online Karaoke free of charge for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own, blah blah blah.