30 September 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Saving Grapes!


29 September 2009

This is My Dream - A Meme

The lovely Zooarcheaologist from Being A Mummy has started a dream meme. She wrote beautifully about her dream life in a dream house. She kindly tagged me.

I'm quite behind with all these memes, tags and awards. I had intended to do a mega-meme post and list them all, but for some reason this dream meme got me thinking. I've been thinking about it all morning.

I've had a bleugh few days. I'm not well. Before you reach for the disinfectant, it's not swine flu! I suppose I have some virus or other. For some reason one of the symptoms appears to be extreme grumpiness. Another is a complete lack of tolerance for my children's behaviour. I feel like a rotten mother.

When I was pregnant with Presley, my colleagues referred to me as Earth Mother. I'd expressed a desire to: have a natural birth, breastfeed, babywear, use washable nappies, cook wholesome organic food from scratch. I did all of these things, some for a lot longer than others. This doesn't make me an Earth Mother, but there are worse labels.

Then I had another baby, Cash, less than a year later. Thirteen months on and some aspects of parenting are getting easier, but others are still firmly in the 'it's really hard work' category. Maybe it's because I'm 39 and not as fit as I'd like to be. I get tired. CBeebies is my friend and part-time babysitter.

What I've been dreaming about all morning is being Supermummy. I want to be a fragrant yummy mummy, a domestic goddess. I want to be Mary Poppins and Nigella Lawson all rolled into one Supermummy package.

My dream is to always have a smile on my face, have the patience of a saint and the clean, organised house of Anthea Turner.

My children will be bright, enthusiastic learners with excellent manners. They will not poke each other in the eye, push each other over, turn the TV on and off and on and off repeatedly. They will eat everything they are given and play together nicely.

Back in the real world, forget all the labels. All I really want is to be a good mum and to have happy children.

When the boys wake up from their naps I will be their smiling, loving mum. I will not be the shouty old moo of a mother they had this morning!

I would like to pass this meme on to a few bloggers who I'm sure have dreams a plenty.

Fraught Mummy at Brits in Bosnia
Hazel at Hot Cross Mum


I know Josie doesn't get much sleep, but I hope she gets enough to have a lovely dream. She is hosting a fantastic sleep deprivation carnival on her blog. She also has a sleep deprivation gallery, where you will see some very tired parents. I'm on there if you fancy a giggle.


The best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival is being held by Gigi at Mums Rock. She has very kindly included one of my posts. There are some great blogs listed if you fancy a read.

Mug photo credit: www.Amazon.com


27 September 2009

Blogger Blind Date!

Saturday was the big date. On Friday night I washed my hair. Despite blow-drying it, the fringe I cut myself didn't get any longer. I even shaved my legs. I regretted this as I watched blood pour down the plughole. My scabby ankle looked worse than a hairy one!

I took Presley along for moral support and took a seat in the Preston PizzaExpress.

After a few minutes the first of my 'dates' turned up. Lindy from Squidgyboo arrived with her beautiful daughter Squidge. Presley and Squidge eyed each other up and then decided to do some drawing with the pencils provided.

Next to arrive was Yummy Mammy. Closely followed by Sally from Who's The Mummy? with her adorable daughter Flea.

I felt slightly awkward to start with. As Sally pointed out we all know a bit about each other from reading our blogs, but this is the first time we have met in person. This awkwardness didn't last long and we were soon chatting away. We talked about blogging, but we mainly discussed our lives, where we lived and our families.

I'm no stranger to this blind date business. I met my husband Andy on the internet. We even went to a PizzaExpress as part of our eight hour long first date. We both had the same pizza, but different drinks. Ahhh.

Anyway, I digress, back to Saturday!

We all enjoyed the food. Dough balls, unsurprisingly, were a rather popular starter. We all had a pizza. I was the only one who tried the new Leggera, the pizza with a hole in the centre filled with salad. I normally order pizza and salad anyway and never eat it all, so this was ideal for me. I would have preferred less rocket in my salad, but was pleased the salad came with dressing.

Only the children had a pudding. They all had ice cream with chocolate sauce.

There was only one major incident. We didn't see it happen, but Presley was the main suspect. One of Flea's play people (a policeman no less) met a sticky end in Presley's ice cream. Six baby wipes and four napkins later he was returned, shaken, to his rightful owner!

We had a lovely time, but I'm sorry to say the service was shockingly bad. We hardly saw a waitress. We had to wait AGES for our food. The children were starving. Every time Presley saw someone in the restaurant with a pizza to pointed at it longingly.

Also there were no children's drinks on the menu. Everything came in a glass, well drinks and ice cream anyway. One waitress put my pizza and a sharp pizza cutter down next to my two year old. Not a good idea! Glasses were also put down within grabbing distance. Presley had his first taste of diet coke.

After two hours we all needed to go home, poor Lindy had already got a £25 parking ticket that day and didn't want another. We had our coats on. We were standing up. No one came. In the end I went to the counter and asked for the bill. I left the payment on the table. I'm not sure if anyone noticed we left!

I have to say this is the first time I've been to PizzaExpress and had bad service, it's usually excellent.

It was a lovely idea to get bloggers together and I hope we'll all meet up again.

Huge thanks to Louise Bury from We Are Social for matchmaking!


Bloggers’ Festive Theatre Campaign to Boost Children’s Cancer Charity (oh yes it is)

The lovely Linda Jones has asked me (and others) to post this press release on their blogs. I'm happy to oblige. This is a wonderful campaign that I will be supporting. Oh yes I will!

UK parent bloggers are joining forces to laugh their socks off while raising cash for a children’s cancer charity.

Bloggers are signing up for The Great Panto Review 2009 which will benefit NACCPO – The National Alliance of Childhood Cancer Parents’ Organisations.

Leading theatres in England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to give bloggers access so their reviews can spread ‘word of mouth’ throughout the blogospshere.

Cardiff’s New Theatre where John Barrowman is appearing as Robin Hood and the Birmingham Hippodrome where Ray Quinn and Joe Pasquale will star in Sleeping Beauty were among the first to pledge to welcome the bloggers and back the charity effort.

Reports will be featured at http://www.havealovelytime.com which is an “umbrella” family travel and activities site featuring reports from top UK parent bloggers.

Writers taking part will be asked to donate to NACCPO, while readers will also be asked to give generously.

Panto reviews will also be published on the bloggers’ own sites as well as being promoted through social media platforms such as facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon and Digg.

Contributors, many of whom are also members at http://britishmummybloggers.ning.com, are currently contacting more theatres large and small to request review tickets or places at panto media previews.

http://www.havealovelytime.com editor and mum of two Linda Jones said she came up with the idea after being approached by several large corporations including Disney and Ford to write about their products and wanted to harness the resulting ‘word of mouth’ to do something positive at Christmas time.

She said: “It has been very exciting to see how well this has taken off so far. The bloggers and their families who are reviewing the shows are over the moon and we have had nothing but positive feedback from theatres approached.

“The idea was inspired by the fact that my family loved John Barrowman at the Birmingham Hippodrome last year and as Aladdin the year before.

“I wanted to be able to share that laughter with other bloggers, as well as promoting the Great British panto and raising money for a wonderful charity.

“NACCPO fundraiser Rachael Olley has contributed to Have a Lovely Time so I was well aware of the work they do. As the site is all about having fun, especially on holiday and NACCPO help families with short breaks, we wanted to do something to help.”

Susanna Scott, who founded http://britishmummybloggers.ning.com added: “I hope that in a year when some families will be weighing up whether they can afford to go and see a panto, our reports will help give the Great British panto a shot in the arm.

“We have more than 600 members, who each have a loyal readership of anything from dozens to hundreds of thousands of readers, so the potential audience is huge.”

NACCPO fundraiser Rachael Olley added: “To see the star names in productions backing this campaign is great for us. We rely on fundraising and applaud the bloggers for their innovative way of bringing in money which will be used to support children with cancer.”

We are entirely dependant on fundraising to continue our services - we do not receive any government or statutory funding so every penny is gratefully received. “

The National Alliance of Childhood Cancer Parent Organisations (NACCPO) is made up of parent run organisations that have common aims of working together to support children and young adults with cancer.”

• If you are a parent blogger and would like to know more about the Great Panto Review 2009, please check out www.havealovelytime.com or contact editor Linda Jones on Linda@passionatemedia.co.uk

• Please donate to The Great Panto Review 2009 here: http://www.justgiving.com/havealovelytime

If you'd like to support NACCPO, whether or not you'll be visiting a panto this year, please visit our Justgiving page. I have set a target for the time being which I hope is realistic. This may change, depending how we go.

Thank you!


25 September 2009

Grandparents' Day

I saw in my diary that tomorrow (26th September) is Grandparents' Day. I think it's one of those newfangled Hallmark days. You know, those days invented by card manufacturers, florists and chocolatiers to make a few extra sales in the lull before Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas.

I won't be buying a card, well I make my own anyway, but it did make me think about the role of grandparents.

We seem to be returning to the good old days of looking after our elderly relatives. Years ago it was common for families to include three generations in one home. If you were posh you had a granny annex. These days, in 'credit crunch Britain' with house prices still beyond the reach of many first time buyers, many families are pooling their property resources and living together again.

I think this is a good thing, particularly for the grandchildren. Having said that, I don't want my mother or my in-laws living here!

We moved from Surrey to Lancashire when Presley was three months old. It was a wrench moving away from friends, and in particular I miss my NCT group and their babies. We moved to be near Andy's family. It was for more than free babysitting, although this is useful! Having Grandma close by was extremely helpful when I was pregnant with Cash. I had to go to the hospital twice a week from 28 weeks due to concerns over his growth. This would have been tricky if I had to take the 9-12 month Presley with me for those long mornings sat in waiting rooms.

Andy's parents adore Presley and Cash and the feeling is mutual. If I tell Presley that we'll be seeing Grandma and Grandad today, he raises his arms and shouts 'Hooway'. It's great for the boys to spend time with their cousins too.

Presley's favourite thing to do is run around the garden with his Grandad, as you can see from the photograph above. He also likes digging in the vegetable patch. I always take a change of clothes with us in case of muddy puddle incidents.

I get on well with my in-laws, although Andy's Mum is obsessed with feeding the boys chocolate and biscuits. She respected my wishes (I think) and didn't start plying them with goodies until they reached their first birthdays. I don't really mind them having treats at Grandma and Grandad's, they don't get many at home. Mean Mummy!

The usual rules don't apply when Grandma is in charge. Whereas I'm careful that the toys the boys play with are age appropriate, they play with all sorts at the in-laws. Ribbons, 40 year old wooden pull along toys with wires sticking out and cheap fluffy toys brought back from holidays. Despite all this, there have been no injuries or choking incidents. Perhaps I worry too much.

Grandma would never let anything happen to her precious grandchildren.

I compare this with the experience my own Mum has of being a Grandmother. Presley and Cash are her only grandchildren. The grandchildren she thought she would never have. This is one of the reasons she emigrated Down Under 12 years ago. It must be so hard for her now as she couldn't live further away.

My Mum came over for a month when each of the boys were babies. I let her hold them all the time while I ran round doing all the housework. Pregnant ladies: do as I say, not as I do. If people come round to help when you have a newborn, remember you are the baby's mother and it's your house. You call the shots and issue housework instructions! I didn't do this, mainly because Mum had limited time with us.

Mum spent August this year with us. This time it was a holiday and it was wonderful for her to spend time with all of us. The boys took to her straight away. I made a photo album for the them. In the album are photographs of all the family, including Nanna. They love looking at it. By the time she arrived I think they both recognised her. Andy and I made the most of her staying with us and went out. A lot.

It was difficult when she left. Presley pointed to her empty chair at the dining table and cried. We send her DVDs and photographs of the boys, but it's not the same as being nearby.

I wonder if I'll have grandchildren? I wonder what sort of grandmother I'll be?

Happy Grandparents' Day.


24 September 2009

Here, There and Everywhere!

It's been a busy old week.

My head has been all over the place, a bit like my blog posts.
They've been here, there and everywhere.

Firstly there is still time to enter my little giveaway.
Click here to enter.

My tea set review has been published on the Great Toy Guide.

The Best of British Mummy Bloggers' carnival
is being hosted by the lovely New Mummy.
You can read my fragrant post and 41 others here.

I also have a post in the Boy or Girl debate at A Mother's Secrets.

And finally.....
I've written a guest post for New Mummy's Tips.
It's the first is a series, called Blogger Basics.
If you're new to blogging, and using Blogger, it's a must read.


23 September 2009

I Can't Find My Little Boy

You know that heart-stopping, sinking feeling you get when you scan a room full of toddlers and momentarily you can't see your child? Try to imagine that feeling lasting for a bit longer, for a few minutes perhaps. Feel sick yet?

This afternoon I gathered up Cash at the end of Playgroup. Presley was riding round on a toy tractor. I told him that I was putting Cash in the pushchair and I would come back for him. I put Cash's coat on and started fastening the pushchair straps. I looked round to see where Presley was.

I could see the abandoned tractor, but no Presley. The church hall was emptying. I had the heart-stopping, sinking feeling. I scanned the hall again. I looked into the empty Wendy House.

'Where's Presley?', I asked. The few people around didn't know who I meant. I knew I wouldn't be able to spot him with his new short hair, so how would they? We haven't been coming for that long.

'Presley', I called. Nothing.

'PRESLEY...PRESLEY'. Still nothing.

'I can't find my little boy'.

I asked the Playgroup leader, Lisa, to watch Cash. I felt an awful rising panic. I ran outside.

'Is there a little boy out here?'. The other mothers deigned to stop their chatting to look at me like I was a bit simple. 'I can't find my little boy, have you seen a boy, running around?'. They hadn't.

I ran back in. I think the others were looking for Presley and discussing where he could be, but I couldn't hear properly. I felt like I was under water. Sound was muffled. Above the sound of rushing water I heard Lisa say 'he could be out the back'.

I ran to the first door. Beyond this door were three closed doors. What if he was stuck in a cupboard? 'PRESLEY'. I tried the first door, it was locked. I thought I'm not going to find him.

I opened the second door. He wasn't in the kitchen, but Maggie, who was washing up, hadn't seen him. She came out with me and we tried the third door. This led out to the church entrance. He wasn't there. She assured me the external doors were locked. She showed me the doors were locked. She said 'he can't get out'.

But what if he had? The church is at a busy junction. If he had got out, he could have gone in any direction. He could have tried to cross the road. I'm not going to find him. 'PRESLEY'.

I thought I heard a child crying, faraway. The sound was being carried on the wind. Would I always hear this child crying and never be able to reach him? 'PRESLEY'.

The world was closing in on me, swallowing me up, ready to spit me out. 'PRESLEY'.

I went back into the main hall, ready to try the other door to the toilets. Someone had left the door open.

Presley sauntered out through the open door.

I ran and scooped him up in my arms. I held him tight. I told him that he knows he has to stay where mummy can see him and where he can see mummy. My voice sounded strange to me, like it sounds on tape or video. The water was still whooshing around me.

Presley sank into me. I think he knew something had happened, but wasn't sure so he clung on to me.

Lisa brought a chair for us to sit on (this must have happened before).

I sobbed into my baby's T-shirt.

I pulled myself together, dried my eyes and got Presley's coat. My hands were shaking so much it took me a while to fasten the zip. It took me even longer to strap him into the pushchair.

I mustered a weak smile and thanked Lisa. I cried all the way home. I cried when I told Andy. I cried as I drank my cup of tea. I cried with relief.


22 September 2009

I'm a Stay At Home Mum (SAHM)

I had a lovely night out tonight at Word Soup, Preston's premier live literature event. Well, that's what they call it, and it's true!

In the interval a young woman at the next table turned her chair round to say hello. She didn't want to be sat on her own. Mel was a journalism student, 20, who was live-tweeting the event.

She was very friendly, although I guessed we didn't have a great deal in common. Then she asked me a question. A question I'm still not used to answering.

She asked me 'what do you do?'.

In the past I would usually say 'I'm an accountant', sometimes I would say 'I work in accounts'. I would use the latter when I suspected the questioner would ask me if I would prepare their accounts. 'I'm not that sort of accountant' I'd say. 'I work in industry' I'd have to explain. 'I manage an accounts department'. It's easier not to say 'accountant' sometimes.

More recently I was able to say 'I'm on maternity leave', then 'I'm an accountant' or whatever.

Now I'm a stay at home mum. That's what I am. It's what I've always wanted to be.

So why do I feel awkward saying it out loud to people? I'm not ashamed, or am I?

Perhaps I associate 'stay at home mum' with 'housewife'. It's a connotation that makes me uncomfortable because of the negative way these roles are portrayed by the media. The stereotypical stay at home mum sits on her lazy fat backside all day watching Jeremy Kyle.

This is not what I do. Unless Presley and Cash are both asleep, I am looking after them. I'm feeding them, washing them, reading to them, playing with them and cuddling them.

I'm doing an important job. There's no job more important than raising children. What I really mean is there's no job more important to me than raising my children.

Back to tonight. I said 'I'm a stay at home mum'. I followed it up by saying that my boys were two and one so I had my hands full. I think I said this to justify my existence. Mel, as it turned out, loves babies. She also looked genuinely surprised when I said I was 39. She said I was the youngest 39 year old she had ever seen.

I knew we'd get on.

Am I on my own in feeling slightly strange when I have to say out loud that I'm a stay at home mum? How do you answer the question 'what do you do?'?


21 September 2009

Being Selfish AND a Giveaway?!

When I was asked if I would like to be part of the Radox Be Selfish campaign I thought it sounded great. (Thanks to Kim Hong at Fleishman Hillard PR). Some Radox bubble bath and a water resistant Kathy Lette book. Lovely.

I thought, I can have some much needed ME time. It wasn't that simple though.

I know I should put myself first more often, but when you're a mum your children come first. For me it's as simple as that. During the day I try to stay away from my laptop. It's all too easy to be distracted by Twitter or Facebook or by reading blogs. My boys won't be small for long and they need my attention now. CBeebies is a good babysitter if I need to get some housework done, but it's no substitute for playing with mummy. It's certainly not as good as sitting in the leg seat (on my lap) and reading a book or sixteen!

Writing this blog is something I do just for me. I also do a bit of songwriting and I have recently started writing short stories. I do this when the boys are asleep. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to be at home when they both have an afternoon nap - at the same time. Otherwise I play on the laptop at night. I can't do this every night as I also like to spend some time with my husband!

So for me to have a luxurious, selfish bubble bath in the evening (instead of a speed-shower) would be taking me away from either chatting to Andy or doing a bit of writing. After a few weeks of staring at the Radox and 'All Steamed Up' by Kathy Lette I decided to 'take the plunge'. Sorry!

My bath was far too hot, but I laid back and started reading. I think Kathy Lette is great. Her books are fabulous, she has a brilliant turn of phrase. Her sound-bites on BBC Breakfast are good fun too. This water resistant book is short and bitter-sweet. I'm really enjoying it. I laughed out loud when she described the protagonist's neighbour as someone who sun-dries their own tomatoes. Oh dear, that's me!

If you would like to download a copy of the book, please visit the Radox Be Selfish Website. There's an interview with Kathy Lette to listen to. You will also find a free prize draw there too, you could win a luxury spa break for two.

I'm having a little giveaway too, to celebrate reaching 100 followers on this blog and to say thank you to you all for sticking with me.

If you would like to go into the hat to win a water resistant copy of 'All Steamed Up' by Kathy Lette and a bottle of Radox please let me know in the comments. I will give the baby the hat containing names on scraps of paper at 6pm (BST) on Friday afternoon, 25th September. Whoever is not eaten will be the winner.

Sorry, UK only :-(

Well, as the boys are both still asleep I'm going to put the kettle on....


20 September 2009

Hair Today.... Gone Tomorrow!

Last week my Wordless Wednesday was a photograph of Presley with his long hair. I asked the question 'to cut or not to cut'.

I had a lot of comments, thank you. A quick count up shows only three in favour of short hair and a few suggesting a trim to thicken it up. The rest of you said 'no' quite emphatically!

Presley's only just two and too young to ask fro an opinion on his hair. Our biggest problem was his hair sticking under his nose, like a big moustache, when he had a cold. It seemed to be bothering him...


We had it cut short!

Presley was very good at the hairdresser's and was delighted with the lollypop that he was given for being a good boy!

My goodness, he looks so different. My baby has gone. We now have a little boy. I'm expecting less 'what a pretty girl' comments. We had, on average, three a week! His grandparents are happy now. He'll be harder to spot at playgroup too.

In some ways I'm sad that we didn't keep his hair long. Part of me liked to be rebellious and have a son with long hair.

Now though at least I can see his beautiful face.

You can't, sorry, but here is a photograph of the back of his head!!


19 September 2009

Make Your Own Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Have you got a glut of tomatoes? Is your greenhouse bursting at the seams? Is your kitchen covered with bowls of tomatoes?

If the answer is yes, then I have a fantastic recipe for you. It's so simple. Here is how to save loads of money and make your own sun-dried tomatoes.

First wash your tomatoes, then slice them in half and place them in an oiled roasting tin.

Pour over a good drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and black pepper. You can also add herbs for more flavour. Here we used a little dried oregano and some fresh basil leaves:

Now you cook them. You'll need to start cooking them in the morning (ideally on a day when you're planning on staying at home) because they take about 6-8 hours to cook at 100 degrees centigrade. We use our top oven for this.

You can tell when they're ready because they look soft and edible! Like this:

I don't know how long they will keep for because ours are always eaten up within a few days!

They are so sweet and DELICIOUS!

Our favourite way to eat them is in a simple pasta salad. The recipe for this is:
Feta cheese
Sliced black olives
Home made sun-dried tomatoes
Black pepper

Grown-up recipes are a bit of a departure for Baby Baby, but I really wanted to share this one. Normal service will be resumed next time!


16 September 2009

Wordless Wednesday - To Cut Or Not To Cut?


15 September 2009

The Day I Met Patrick Swayze

My friend Liz was about to emigrate to Australia. We went for a last night out in London. We had a meal and she was so excited that we had tickets to see Guys and Dolls starring her idol Patrick Swayze.

He had a star quality on stage and was pretty fabulous.

Afterwards Liz asked if we could wait at the stage door, in case he came out. I have to say I felt a bit weird doing this, but she seemed very keen, so we waited.

After a short while, there he was, standing in front of us. I was won over. Although he was a total professional and was here as part of his job, he was charming. He answered questions and posed for photographs. It felt like we were in the presence of an old style Hollywood star.

I was saddened to hear today of his death from cancer.

Rest in Peace.


14 September 2009

You Are A Great Read & That!

Goodness me! Not one, not two, but three lovely bloggers think I'm a great read.
Here's the badge to prove it:

Thank you Hot Cross Mum, Emily at Maternal Tales and Laura from Yummy Mummy Flabby Tummy. They are also great reads. Go see!

The rules, and as usual you can modify if you like, are to list ten happy memories.

Here are my ten happy people, places, events and things, in no particular order:

1) Andy, my husband. He has made it his life's work to make me happy and he is succeeding. I hope I make him happy too. I feel I could try harder to do this.

2) Presley, my two year old ray of sunshine.

3) Cash, my one year old jolly poppet.

4) The Flaming Lips. I first saw them live at The Royal Albert Hall. I sang and danced so much I couldn't speak or walk properly the next day, but it was worth it to be part of an amazing concert. See:

5) Waking up on Christmas morning and shouting 'HAS HE BEEN?' to my parents. I loved the magic of Christmas and I hope I can recreate this for my boys.

6) Orange ice cream. Not orange sorbet, although that's okay, proper orange flavour ice cream. I had some at some seaside town or other when I was young. I've never seen it since. Dear Blogosphere, please would you fix it for me to find some orange flavour ice cream. Thanks.

7) Sydney, Australia. I lived here for a year and it is officially my favourite city in the world ever. I lived in the colourful suburb of Newtown. I worked in the CBD. My office overlooked the Harbour Bridge. At lunchtime - if we didn't go to the Wentworth Hotel for drinks - I could walk to the Opera House and sit in the Botanic Gardens. I made some great friends and had a blast!

8) Dancing the night away at our wedding. One of the songs we danced to was written by Andy (aka MC Heapey) and I with our dear friend Paul (aka Johnny Cashpoint). Of course you can hear it, but I'll warn you, it may not be everyone's cup of tea. Turn it up!

9) Standing on stage with my husband performing a song wot I wrote. I was soooo nervous, but I was proud that we were doing something together, something that not many people do. Proof:

10) Being involved in a very big, very hush hush business deal. I had a cloak and dagger existence for a month while the MD and I prepared the company I worked for, for sale. After they saw the accounts that I had prepared, the buyer upped their offer. When the sale went though I got a big fat hairy bonus. Those were the days!

I'm passing this award on to five wonderful bloggers who are indeed great reads, and they may not have this award yet... If you haven't visited them before, now's your chance:


Thanks also to the fabulous Tish Tash Toys for the Meme Award. Check out her gorgeous shop too:


For more great reads you can head over to the Best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival, currently being hosted by Clareybabbling.


I've written some more reviews for the Great Toy Guide. We love the Star Wars laptop, but are not crazy about the VTech Toy Phone!


Finally, huge thanks to Leslieanne at Life With A Little Dude for awarding me this gorgeous badge for being one of her readers. There are no rules attached to this one. So thank you for reading my blog. If you would like something pretty for your sidebar, look no further, this is yours:

Well, apparently it is National Cupcake Week! x


12 September 2009

My First Review

I read on British Mummy Bloggers that someone called Luke from The Edge was looking for 'family-focused bloggers to test and review a selection of Carex products and our Hands Up For Hygiene educational campaign'. I emailed him and was sent loads of free Carex, see above photograph.

I've arrived, I thought. I've got myself a piece of the freebie action!

Then along came 'Indie-gate' and I felt bad. The comments on this article made me feel silly and naive, I felt belittled. I wondered whether I should stop blogging. I soon got over it of course, but I thought long and hard about posting reviews on my blog. Was I being used? Were the PR companies that targeted mummy bloggers being cynical or ill-advised?

Actually, it doesn't matter. I've signed up to the Blogging with Integrity campaign. Most of my readers are 'family-focused' too. If you don't want to read this review however, skip past it, I won't mind.

So anyway, Carex.

I have contact dermatitis. At its peak it's like having a thousand tiny cuts on my hands. My fingers swell and they're so itchy. With a baby you're constantly washing your hands and this can be particularly uncomfortable. The pain keeps me awake at night.

When the Carex arrived I only had one stubborn patch on one finger, but it was enough to stop me squeezing a lemon I can tell you. Also I live in fear of being made to use alcohol gel to cleanse my hands!

I started using the Carex with trepidation, but I thought in for a penny in for a pound and put it by every sink. Amazingly enough the dermatitis has completely cleared up. Could be a coincidence, but I can say categorically that Carex hasn't made it worse.

In addition to the above I love the smell. Some handwashes make me feel nauseous, but not this. My favourite was the Moisture Plus.

Since my hands are no longer sore I've been able to use the hand-gels. The small ones are perfect for handbag or changing bag and I've been teaching the boys how to wash their hands with it. So important these days with the threat of the dreaded swine flu.

There was only one thing I didn't like, and that was the amount of handwash that was dispensed with each press. Far too much came out each time and of course this means it doesn't last long.

So will I buy Carex from now on? Yes.


10 September 2009

It's A.... Baby!

Peggy at Perfectly Happy Mum has asked for posts for the next chapter of her parenting blog, A Mother’s Secrets. This time she wants to know if, when you were pregnant, you wanted a boy or a girl and if you found out what you were having before he or she was born.

I’m going to be controversial here, or certainly in the minority. I didn’t want to find out the sex of my babies before they were born. This is my personal opinion. I don’t want to offend anyone who wants to know what they’re having, it’s your choice. This post is about how I feel and about my choices.

So why didn’t I want to know what flavour my babies were before they were born?

You don’t get many surprises in life, why can’t you wait for him or her to make an appearance to find out if you have a son or a daughter? How much nicer for the birth announcement to start with ‘It’s a Boy!’ or ‘It’s a Girl!’, rather than ‘He/She’s here’.

I loved choosing a boy’s name and a girl’s name. We kept both names a secret, even from our parents. I loved buying vests and babygros in neutral colours; creams, whites and lemons.

Your birth partner doesn’t really have much to do on the day, so before they cut the cord, they can identify the sex of the baby. Then they can sit down again.

The scan at around twenty weeks is called an anomaly scan for a reason. Most people say ‘we’re going to find out if it’s a boy or a girl today’. They’re actually going to find out if the baby is developing as expected. When I had my twenty week scans my first question was ‘is it okay?’, and certainly not ‘what is it?’. The sonographer commented that I was a rarity. She said that normally couples ask ‘what is it?’ way before she has finished checking that the baby is okay.

I understand it is exciting to find out what you’re having, but I promise you it’s just as exciting – if not more so – to find out on the day of the birth. I’ll never forget Andy looking at the brand new Presley and saying, his voice choked with tears, ‘we’ve got a boy’.

I had loads of scans with Cash. He was a small baby and the hospital were concerned about his development. I had at least one scan a week from twenty eight weeks. I saw a few disappointed faces leaving the sonography rooms. One man stormed out shouting ‘ it’s a bloody girl’. Charming.

I thought Presley was going to be a girl all throughout my pregnancy, until the last two weeks when I changed my bet. If I’m being honest, I think I secretly wanted a son. Gosh, that sounds terrible now I’ve typed it. It wasn’t a desperate yearning, I just liked the idea of having a son. If he had been a girl I wouldn’t have been disappointed. I believe I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

When I was expecting Cash I thought he was another boy as the pregnancy was so similar. Again I thought another boy would be lovely as they are only a year apart in age, they will play together. If he had been a girl, I know they would have still played together. Again, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

If we try for baby number three, and that’s a big if, I still wouldn’t mind what sex the baby was so long as it was healthy. A lot of people have said to us, ‘oh, you must want a daughter next’. Of course, that would be lovely, but so would another son.

All children are lovely. If you get pregnant in order to have a boy, or a girl, you may end up extremely disappointed. If you find out at twenty weeks that the baby is the wrong flavour you will be disappointed for a lot longer. Once the baby arrives, it really doesn’t matter what it is so long as it’s well, so why put yourself through it. Also, these scans aren’t always accurate.

A new baby is perfect whatever the colour babygro.

Photo credit: www.ecotopia.co.uk


9 September 2009

Advice From The Sleep Professor

Professor Gregory Stores rang me earlier this week. Don't worry, he's not a random caller. He's one of the experts at The Pampers Village. I won the lovely A Modern Mother's Pampers Golden Sleep Train competition and this was my prize. I had an hour on the phone with a sleep professor. Would he be able to help my family get a good night's sleep?

Cash, who has just turned one, used to sleep for twelve hours per night, only rarely waking up. Over the last few months he's started waking at random times throughout the night, about once a week. All he wants to do is play, so one of us (usually me) takes him downstairs to play.

I know!

I can hear you shouting at your screens. Clearly this isn't helping him learn to sleep at night. For the sake of peace and quiet for the sleeping partner (Andy, who has to work the next day) we go and play. As I'm typing this I know how silly it sounds. Anyway, this is the problem I put to the Prof.

A few of you had questions for the Prof too. If anyone would like to read them, they are in the comments here. They follow a similar pattern to our little problem: babies who in the past have been capable of sleeping through, but now wake up at inconvenient times, or too early in the morning.

Drum roll please.....

Here is the advice:

First a little disclaimer. The advice given here is in the form of general principles. It is not intended to replace the advice of health care professionals. If you believe your child is unwell you should seek advice from your GP or HV. These principles only apply to children that are in good health. Oh, and all babies are different.

Okay, here is the advice, coming up.... now:

At around six months a baby develops its biological clock. They learn the difference between day and night. At around six months most babies no longer need a night feed, particularly as they move onto solid food.

To encourage proper day/night associations, try to make night feeds and nappy changes as quiet and calm as possible. Keep the lighting minimal, avoid talking and eye contact.

Sleeping though the night is a habit. If this habit becomes disrupted the baby may need help to get back into the habit. The disruption could be a heatwave, teething, a cold, too much light in the baby's room, loud noises, a change in routine, a holiday or any kind of upset.

It's important for your baby to learn to settle themselves. If you're at home, daytime naps are best taken in the night-time cot. Follow the same routine every day where you can. Put the baby in the cot and give a dummy and/or comforter and leave the room.

Daytime naps are important. If the baby has too little sleep in the day they will become over-tired and may not sleep well at night. The acid test to find out whether the baby has had the right amount of sleep during day is how easily they settle at night. If they have had too much sleep during the day they won't settle so well at night.

Waking up in the night is normal, but the baby needs to learn to self sooth.

Try not to go to your baby straightaway during the night, certainly not at the first sign they are waking.

When you go in, check for all the usual 'baby can't sleep because...' issues. You know, dirty nappy, leaking nappy, too hot, too cold, teething etc. Once you have eliminated all of the above, say goodnight and leave the room.

You shouldn't reward the baby who should be asleep with cuddles, a sneaky feed or playing downstairs with mummy.

You can see where this is heading, can't you?


Anyway, back to the advice...

If the baby is well, you leave them to cry. You can go in to check on them, but once it is clear they are otherwise okay you leave the room. They may cry for a long time the first night, but the crying will reduce each night. After a few nights they usually stop crying as they have learnt to settle themselves, or self-sooth.

Babies do not feel abandoned during controlled crying.

Controlled crying is a quick solution to what can be a long-term problem. It's in the whole family's interests to get a good night's sleep.

If, as a parent, you find this difficult, try getting support from your health visitor. Make sure you and your partner are both consistent in your approach to controlled crying.

The controlled crying technique can also be used for daytime naps and early wakers. If your baby wakes at 5 every morning and you have done the usual checks, let them stay in their cot until you are ready to get up.

Your baby won't come to any harm in their cot.

Controlled crying definitely works.


So, there you have it.

I found the Prof easy to talk to. We had a chuckle about my horrified reaction to controlled crying. I believe I said 'you mean you leave them to cry? Oh no!'.

I've never left a baby to cry in my two years as a mother. It goes against every maternal bone in my body. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a co-sleeping, continuum mum - our bed isn't big enough for a start. Both my boys slept better once they were moved into their own rooms at seven months.

We do have a sleep problem though. I'm getting on a bit (it's the big 40, or the big-four-oh-dear next year) and Andy and I both feel pretty shattered most of the time. So what do we do?

This is a head verses heart dilemma.

Do I follow my head and take the Prof's advice? Or do I follow my heart and go to my baby when he cries?

If I go with the former, I'm going to follow the controlled crying technique as explained by the fabulous Rachel at Really Rachel. I can see from the comments on this post that controlled crying seems to work, but I'm not sure I've got it in me to try.

If I go with the latter, I can guarantee Andy will never agree to baby number three, we're just too tired.

What will we do? Watch this space...


7 September 2009

My Baby Smells of Strawberries

As I feed my twelve month old son, cradled in my arms, I can smell strawberries. At lunchtime he scrunched pieces of strawberry into his fist and managed to get most of them in his mouth. The rest fell onto his doggy T-shirt and his pale blue shorts, no longer just pale blue.

I look at that chubby fist now grabbing onto my blouse. I can't believe he is mine.

He has just woken up from his afternoon nap. He's still sleepy. There are pink marks on his beautiful face. He must have slept with his hand by his head. He has been sweating. His hair sits in damp curls against his neck.

Early September sunshine dapples through the trees and dances on his blond head. It illuminates his long eye lashes - wasted on a boy!

He is in a trance, gulping the warm milk. His nose twitches as he drinks, like a little rabbit. I can see the shape of a dolphin in his ear. This has fascinated me since I first noticed it, a few days after he was born.

He has had his fill of milk and pulls away. I gently wipe the trickle of milk that dribbles down his chin. He gives me a gummy, satisfied smile. Two bottom teeth are now visible. He won't be a baby for much longer, but he'll always be my baby.


5 September 2009

A Pizza the Action!

The lovely Zooarcheaologist from Being a Mummy forwarded me an email from Louise at We Are Social. PizzaExpress are launching a new Leggera pizza and are inviting bloggers to try it. Goodness me, a free lunch. Is there such a thing? I suppose we'll find out!

The Leggera is a lighter pizza with a hole in the middle. The hole has salad in it. All for 500 calories. Sounds good to me.

I asked on Twitter and in the North West Mums group on British Mummy Bloggers to find out if any other bloggers fancied meeting me for lunch. It seemed like a good idea at the time. A few people said yes.


One of the best things about blogging is the supportive and friendly community. So why am I nervous about meeting fellow bloggers in real life? Well, I'm quite shy really. I've lived in Preston for less than two years and have only made a few friends. I'd like to make more.


You are cordially invited to Pizza Express in Preston to try the Leggera.

Please email me (sandycalico@ymail.com) and we can move on to the joy that will be finding a date when we are all free!


There is also a voucher for two pizzas for £10 here.


4 September 2009

How Does Your Baby Sleep?

My prize for winning A Modern Mother's Pamper's Golden Sleep Train competition is an hour on the telephone with a Sleep Professor.

I have a few questions of my own for Professor Gregory Stores. I will be asking why was Cash awake from 1am to 3am today? Yes, I have matchsticks holding open my eyes this morning!

If there's time I'd love to put your questions to the Professor too. The call will take place on Monday afternoon (7th September). Please leave me a comment before then with your sleep question and I'll do my best to ask as many as I can. I'll do a post afterwards and pass on all the Professor's good sleep advice.

*Yawns* Is it bedtime yet?


2 September 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Are You Looking At Me?

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