28 February 2012

Have you ever been to Graceland?

Six years ago today I was sat in my childhood bedroom. The carpet was still an acrylic mixture of browns and buffs designed not to show the dirt (or the backs of earrings). The bedroom door still didn't close properly. If you wanted to sleep with the window open you had to wedge the door either side with jeans and a t-shirt to stop it banging in the wind. In the cupboard over the stairs 'I love John Taylor IDST' still showed through two coats of white paint.

Dad was downstairs, watching television. 'Are you being framed' (sic) probably, or 'Watchdog'.

I was sifting through the responses to my internet dating profile, thinking it would be nice to go on a date. A night out would be fun. I'd spent too many quiet nights in. Dad wasn't well enough for me to look for somewhere else to live, but neither was he that poorly that I had to stay in with him every night. I especially didn't need to be in when Phil and Ken came round and the three of them talked at each other for a few hours while they drank gin and tonics and ate Fruit and Nut.

I logged into the 'chat' section of the dating website for the first time. New chat windows were opening up faster than I could look at them. Paul said 'Hello', Dave said 'Hi', Chris said 'Hi', Rob said 'hi' (how hard is it to find the shift key?), then Andy asked 'Have you ever been to Graceland?'.

I didn't even look at his photograph or profile at that stage. We just started chatting about freaky waxworks in Country and Western museums. I closed all of the other windows down. Andy was intelligent, funny and on my wavelength. We exchanged email addresses.

Reader, I married him.


Child Car Seat Safety

This is a very-useful-actually guest post from Sainsbury's Bank. I wasn't compensated directly for publishing this post, but I have been given a Sainsbury's gift card as a thank you for joining their Family Blogger Network.

Child Car Seat Safety

As a driver, if you have a passenger aged 12 years or under, or shorter than 135cm, it is your responsibility to make sure they’re correctly restrained in an appropriate car seat or booster. Failure to do so will put your child passenger in danger. You could also be fined up to £500, possibly affecting your car insurance premiums.

With this in mind, here’s our guide to child car seats.

Choosing the right one
Here is a brief rundown on the different child car seat groups.

Group 0 and 0+ (rear-facing baby seats): For babies up to 10kg (22lbs), which is roughly from birth to 6-9 months of age.

Group 0+ seats are also for newborns, but last until your child is 13kg (29lbs), or about 15 months old. These rear-facing seats give added protection to a baby’s neck, head and spine.

Group 1 (forward-facing child seats): For children weighing 9-18kg (20-40lbs), which is about 9 months to 4 years old. They have a harness and high sides, which reduce the risk of injury during a collision.

Group 2-3 (booster seats and cushions): For children approximately 4-6 years old, weighing 15-25kg (33-55lbs). They usually come with a detachable back, which leaves you with just a booster cushion.

Group 3 seats are for children of 6-11 years, from 22-36kg (48-79lbs).
To restrain a child in a Group 2-3 seat, use an adult seatbelt.
Some seats convert from one group to another, making them good value for money.

Things to consider
Check the seat has an ‘E’ mark, showing it meets the United Nations standard Regulation 44.03 or 44.04.
If your car seat will be taken out of your vehicle regularly (eg: to transfer it to another car) make sure it’s light enough to make it viable.
Some car seats recline, and if you’re planning to do many long journeys this could help your child to sleep.



26 February 2012

Tots100 Book Club: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I was at a party with Caitlin Moran once. I didn't get to speak to her as she was surrounded by people. Every now and again I'd catch a glimpse of leopardprint or big hair and smile to myself.

I remember her presenting 'Naked City' on Channel 4 in the nineties. I remember her raving about Jeff Buckley, so much so that I bought 'Grace' and played it on repeat for years. I don't follow many famous people on Twitter, but I follow @CaitlinMoran.  She's very very funny. Her Celebrity Watch column in the Times is genius, but I only get to read it when the pay wall is down.

We've established that I'm a bit of a fan of Ms Moran, so I was keen to read her book 'How to be a Woman'. It's part autobiography, part feminist essay. Don't let the latter put you off. If only all feminist essays were this accessible then perhaps the world would be a better place. I found myself agreeing with just about everything Moran writes.

This book is simply brilliant. It made me roar with laughter and with outrage. She tackles subjects as diverse as abortion, Katie Price, pubic hair, childbirth and £600 handbags. In fact her description of her two very different experiences of childbirth should be compulsory reading for women and men. She is brutally honest and completely inspirational.

I would like to recommend this wonderful book to Becky from Lakes Single Mum, as I know she will enjoy it. In fact I defy anyone not to devour this book and then declare themselves a STRIDENT FEMINIST!

Tots100 Parent Blogger Book Club

The Tots100 Book Club is where bloggers share their favourite stories. Every month, the Tots100 invites 10 bloggers to tell us about stories that have moved and inspired them – and to share their favourite books with another blogger. Each month, we’ll be publishing a round-up of the Book Club’s recommendations over on the Tots100 site, meaning you need never be short of great reading inspiration again!



19 February 2012

Pinterest: What's all the fuss about?

Those of you old enough to remember John Craven's Newsround may recall many reports that began 'the latest craze to sweep the nation...'. These crazes included the Rubik's Cube, Deely Boppers and Clackers. I had them all in the 80's.

Now the latest craze to sweep the internet nation is the social bookmarking site Pinterest. For the benefit of those readers that have no idea what it is, have joined Pinterest but can't see the point or have joined and are wondering what they are supposed to do next, this post is for you. It's not a technical 'how-to', but more an insight into how I make the most of Pinterest.

I love Pinterest, it's my happy place. I pin stuff I like, that I've found on the internet, onto virtual boards. I can also see what my friends like too and re-pin it to my boards if it grabs me.

Pinterest can be aspirational

You can have a 'how I'd like my home to look' board and pin images of beautifully decorated rooms. You can create mood boards and pin colours or textures. For instance, Liz from Violet Posy has a board called 'Kitchen Inspiration'. I can see her dream kitchen and it is stunning.

One board that makes me smile is 'Clothes I'll never have' by Kat at 3 Bedroom Bungalow. We can all dream about the perfect shoe or amazing coat and now we can lust after them on Pinterest.

Pinterest can be inspirational

If you're stuck for craft ideas for you or your children there are thousands of options for projects large and small. Some are educational and others are just about getting messy and having fun. Two of my favourite pinners for children's crafts are Maggy from Red Ted Art and Cathy from Nurturestore.

If you're looking for an amusing or inspirational quote you'll find plenty of them on Pinterest. I can take or leave these boards. Sally from Who's the Mummy doesn't sit on the fence on this issue!

Pinterest can be practical

This is where Pinterest comes into its own for me. My most pinned board is 'Recipes'. If I see a recipe I like on a blog or anywhere else online I pin it. All my recipe pins are in one place. I know that the easy banana cake recipe is easy to find. No more wading through pages of favourites, with Pinterest I can go straight to it.

If you want to find a slow cooker recipe or ideas for children's cupcakes you will find them on Pinterest.

One board I regularly drool over is by Amy at Cooking, Cakes and Children and is simply called 'food'. Amy and I share a love for all things made with chocolate and caramel!

Another useful board is by Very Bored in Catalunya. Here VBIC rates every book she reads out of five. If a book gets five stars I'm going to give it a go.

Pinterest can be fun

It's not all bakes and makes on Pinterest. I love Simone from SFR Product Reviews' board 'Eye Candy'. I guess Ryan Reynolds is kinda cute...

Pinterest can be good for bloggers

If you pin a how-to guide or a recipe or craft idea from your blog you will get a link from Pinterest. You may also get a lot of traffic, especially if you get re-pinned. I only pin or re-pin something if I really like it. Circles of bloggers mass re-pinning each other's links looks a little spammy to me. Of course the beauty of Pinterest is that you only have to follow people that interest you. I'm not going to name names, but if someone only pins photographs of their dog, I'm probably going to unfollow them.

I hope this has encouraged you to explore Pinterest. If you would like an invite, please let me have your email address and I'll see what I can do - I have a few invites left to give out.

Happy pinning!



13 February 2012

On Friendship

I keep seeing the quote 'friends for a reason, friends for a season or friends or life' recently.

I quite like it and particularly the 'friends for a season' part. I used to get upset when I realised I'd lost touch with certain friends. I was surprised that people who I had connected with and shared my life with, either at school or at work, seemed to go quiet on me. Once we no longer had that everyday proximity we drifted apart.

Now I understand that we can't be lifelong friends with everyone we connect with. It takes too much time and energy, particularly once you have children. I'm glad I shared a season with these people, I'm also happy I have a handful of lifelong friends.

Plan B wrote a wonderful post on making new friends recently, I would urge you to take a look, but do come back. The comments are excellent too, full of wise words and advice.

I make new friends in two ways now, online and via my children. They are very different types of friendship.

This became particularly apparent last week. It was the last week of term. We had been to nursery every day for six weeks and the boys were tired. They love nursery, but they needed a break and a rest. Consequently it was hard getting them to put their boots, coats, gloves and hats on and out of the door. When I say it was hard, I mean I had turned into a screaming banshee. There are only so many times you can ask a child to put their coat on and keep it on before you lose your rag. I hate to admit it, but the tedium of this daily battle had me in tears of despair.

When I got back from dropping the boys off, I went on Twitter. I started chatting to @kateab and mentioned I was having a hard time. Before long @pantswithnames and @vwallop were also chatting about the school run. We were all relieved that it wasn't just us and we discussed possible reward chart ideas. I love that my blogging friends are on the same wavelength and that they are there for me, even if we haven't yet met in real life.

Contrast this with the Other Mothers I know from nursery. We are sizing each other up at the moment. Who do we get on with? Do we have anything in common other than our children? Will our children all get into the school attached to the nursery? Will we be friends for life? Will Presley marry Lola? (Okay, that's probably just me being daft).

We have started meeting at each other's houses for play dates. This is going well. We are getting know each other over coffee and our children are learning to share their toys (some better than others, but that's another story).

I shared my frustrations with them, admitting to despairing at how hard it is to get a 4 year old and a 3 year old out of the door to go to nursery. They looked at me like I'd just done a poo on their Ikea rug (I hadn't). They looked at me with a mixture of pity and contempt. None of them admitted they shared my problem. Instead they offered advice like put their clothes out the night before and start getting ready earlier. Well, DUH!

I mentioned this contrast to my (very wise) mother-in-law and I think she got it spot on when she said that bloggers were used to sharing and the Other Mothers were used to saving face. I hope the Other Mothers do let their guards down soon.  Perhaps I'll be brave and suggest a night out. Maybe the perfect parent masks may slip over a bottle or two of wine. I hope so.

10 February 2012

Freaky Friday: Shield Bug

I haven't done a Freaky Friday for a while. A quick search of my recent photographs unearthed this weird insect.

I found this brightly-coloured bug on my kitchen table when I was making my Easy Christmas Wreath.

In front of my children I'd say 'look at the pretty mini-beast'. Fortunately they weren't around to witness me recoil in horror and do a Google image search for bugs. As I'm not a huge fan of insects I didn't enjoy this activity, but I was curious. Apparently this is a shield bug. It may also be a stink bug.

I've never seen anything like it and it was in my house.

Isn't it beautiful / I feel itchy just looking at the photograph of it, urgh.*

*Delete as appropriate, depending on whether your children are watching!


5 February 2012

Things I have said to my children this weekend...

... at the pool

  • Not boogies, boobies
  • No, they haven't got any milk in them now
  • Yes, I suppose they look a little bit like butternut squash
  • Yes, I suppose Mummy has got a funny tummy
  • Mummies and daddies have hair there
  • You'll have some one day
  • Do you need a poo?
  • Yes, they've got toilets here
  • Well done, darling
  • Yes, you can see your poo in the loo, how funny
  • They're magic taps
  • Just put your hands under

... at the party

  • People do gymnastics at the gymnasium
  • It's a hall where people do gymnastics
  • Forward rolls and jumping
  • No, this isn't Eliot's house
  • Okay, I'll give Eliot his present
  • Take your boots and socks off x3
  • Get down, wait until the man says you can climb that
  • Lovely balancing
  • What's the matter?
  • Okay, Cash, you can sit with Mummy
  • What's the matter?
  • Okay, Presley, you can sit with Mummy too
  • Do you want to join in yet? x7
  • Wait your turn
  • I'm watching
  • Yes, I saw you
  • What do you want to eat?
  • You can't just have Hula Hoops for tea
  • Yes, I'll put some on the shopping list
  • You need a sandwich on that plate
  • Put it back on your plate, you're having a sandwich
  • Don't eat it then
  • Leave it on your plate x2
  • Ooh look, pudding
  • One more biscuit
  • Last one
  • No, the last one was the last one
  • Have you finished now? x2
  • Everyone else has gone home
  • Say thank you to Eliot's mummy for the Hula Hoops
  • Put on your socks and boots x3

... at home

  • No, we've run out of carrots
  • Yes, I'll put them on the shopping list
  • I think 5 Octonauts snowmen is enough
  • There's not enough snow for Barnacles and Peso
  • Would you like a hot chocolate when we go in?
  • Okay, a warm chocolate?
  • It's not too hot
  • Blow on it
  • Mummy blow on it too
  • It's cold now
  • You want it cold, like chocolate milkshake?
  • Fine
  • Leave it then
  • Boys! x4
  • Play nicely or Mummy will take it away
  • Right
  • Let's sit quietly for five minutes
  • Snuggle up, Mummy's cold
  • Shall we watch 'The Snowman'?
  • I know, he melted
  • Yes, your snowmen are melting now
  • I am warm now, thank you

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