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Monday, 31 January 2011

January - that was the month that was

January is coming to an end.

How am I getting along in having a Happy New Year 2011.

I still love life in the countryside getting on with my writing and having my Dad around for company. It is nice to be able to make progress even with things like housework now that all the children are in school during the day.

I have lost one cat and gained another. February may bring more as I am becoming a real convert to cats.

Healthy eating and drinking has not applied enough this month. When I get cross or tense, I eat and drink. Various people have behaved like idiots this month and hence, lots of gorging on my part. I must do better from tomorrow.

I am enjoying my writing and making new contacts in the field. That is all good and means I am doing what I love to do.

I have not managed a meet up with my friend, Louise, which is a shame but I have high hopes for next month. Hint, hint if you are reading this Lou.

Me and Him Indoors are getting on well on all fronts. Hurtling towards our wedding anniversary and learning to communicate with each other much better.

I saw the darling step-daughter and her family early in January. She introduced me to the lovely Baileys in Coffee treat. She always was a terrible influence lol.

I have largely stuck to my plan to not waste my energies on those who give little in return.

All in all, bar the idiots, not a bad month at all

Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with Tilda

Chinese New Year is an important holiday and time of celebration in Chinese culture. Each year is named after one of the twelve nominated animals - this year it is the celebration of the Rabbit with it starting on the 1st day of February and finishing on the 15th with a Lantern Festival.

Centred on reuniting family and friends, Chinese New Year is all about sharing and food is an integral part of the celebrations. This February, you too can help bring your loved ones together with your very own Chinese New Year feast.

Creating an appetising Chinese banquet couldn’t be easier, thanks to Tilda’s delicious oriental stir fry range. Ready in a matter of minutes, Tilda Stir Fry can help you create a truly authentic Asian experience that your guests will love.

Choose from two delicious flavours Peking Rice with sweet Shaoxing rice wine, blended spices, shallots and red chilli or Kung Po Rice with sweet Hoisin sauce with warm spices and red chilli.

To celebrate why not try serving up a mouth-watering dish of Peking Wraps.


You will need:
1 pack Tilda Peking Rice
150g cooked, shredded duck
15 Chinese pancakes or 1 pack 8 tortilla wraps
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and finely sliced

Prepare the Peking Stir Fry using 150g cooked, shredded duck following the pack instructions. Fill Chinese pancakes or alternatively use tortilla wraps cut in half, with 1-2 tablespoons of the Peking Duck Stir Fry, top with finely sliced spring onions and cucumber, then roll to create a wrap.

Serve immediately
Perfect served with a fruity plum sauce
Makes approx 15 Peking Wraps

For more inspiring recipe suggestions on how you can celebrate the Lantern Festival visit

Prawn buckwheat noodles with soy and ginger shallots

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus 20 minutes marinating time
Cooking time: 10 minutes

You’ll need:
12 small shallots, peeled halved
3 tbsp soy sauce
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
250g shelled large raw prawns
250g spring greens, trimmed and shredded
200g buckwheat noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the packet

What to do:
1. Put the shallots in a small, non-metallic bowl with the soy sauce and ginger. Cover and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the marinade.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and add the shallots. Stir fry for 3 minutes, until starting to turn golden. Add the chilli, and garlic and stir fry for 1 minute, then add the prawns and stir fry for another 2 minutes, until they have turned pink.

3. Add the spring greens to the pan and stir fry for 2 minutes, until just tender. Pour in the reserved marinade and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the cooked noodles to the pan and mix well. Serve straight away.

PER SERVING (4) 283 kcalories, 25g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 4g fibre, 4g sugars, 1. 91g sodium.

Nutrition – this recipe contains: B complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E vitamin K and the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium, potassium. Shallots have higher amounts of the protective antioxidant compounds (phenolics and flavinoids) than onions. There will also be antioxidants and flavinoids in the herbs and spices.

Thai Noodle Salad Recipe

THAI Noodle Salad with Crispy Shallots, Asian Herbs and Pan Fried Butterfly Prawns
Serves 4

350g cooked fine rice noodles
8 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced into rings
50g beansprouts, rinsed and drained well
12 large tiger prawns, cooked and peeled
½ red pepper thinly sliced
3 tbsp fresh coriander
2 tbsp chopped mint
2 cm ginger, peeled and chopped
Grated rind of 1 lime
½ large red chilli, very thinly sliced
Oil for frying

3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sunflower oil
Juice of 2 limes

Heat enough sunflower oil to half fill a medium saucepan and fry in small batches the 8 finely sliced shallots until golden brown and crisp. Drain well on kitchen towel and set to one side. Meanwhile, toss together the cooked rice noodles, the shallot rings, red pepper, beansprouts, mint, coriander, ginger, red chilli and the grated lime rind.
Mix together all the ingredients to make the dressing.
Split the cooked tiger prawns in half just up to the tail and fan out like a butterfly. Heat a frying pan with 1 tbsp of sunflower oil and toss in the prawns. Fry for 1 – 2 minutes, tossing the pan at regular intervals. Drain.
To serve, place a portion of the rice noodle salad on a plate or in a rice bowl, garnish with three prawns per portion and spoon over the dressing. Top with a pile of the crispy shallots. This dish can also be served with a dash of soy sauce.

Blue Dragon Thai Green Chicken Curry Recipe

Blue Dragon Thai Green Chicken Curry

An authentic recipe, using traditional Thai ingredients for a food experience straight out of a Bangkok street market.

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves 2-4

You’ll need:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Blue Dragon Premium Green Curry Paste
2 400ml cans Blue Dragon Coconut Milk
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 chicken breasts, cut into thin slices
2 kaffir lime leaves
6 baby aubergines, quartered
24 pea aubergines
1 tbsp Blue Dragon Thai Fish Sauce
A handful of Thai basil
1 tbsp sugar
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 carton Blue Dragon Coconut Cream

What to do:

1. Heat spices in a dry frying pan until a light, even brown colour.
2. Remove spices from the saucepan and in a mortar pound until finely powdered
3. In a saucepan, heat the oil until hot.
4. Add the Blue Dragon Green Curry Paste and spices and stir fry for about 30 seconds- 1 minute until it develops an aroma.
5. Lower the heat and add the coconut milk a little at a time. Allow it to simmer for about 1 minute.
6. Add the chicken, shallots, shredded kaffir lime leaves and both types of aubergine and simmer for 2 mins.
7. Add Blue Dragon Fish sauce and sugar to taste and continue to simmer until the chicken is tender and the aubergines are cooked
8. Serve with Jasmine rice.

It is important to fry the paste in oil first to release the aromas of the aromatic herbs and spices.
If you cant find Thai aubergines, use mange tout, baby sweet corn and frozen peas instead- add to the curry at the same time as the chicken.

Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Vinaigrette

Spice up an ordinary salad with this punchy dressing
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 0
Serves: 2

You’ll need:
1 tbsp Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Dipping sauce with kaffir lime
1.5 tbsp malt vinegar
½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
Pinch black pepper

What to do:
To make the Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients except the black pepper. Lightly toss salad leaves of your choice with the dressing, sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

You can make the salad more substantial by adding grilled chicken, prawns or fish.

Thai Cabage and Chicken Noodles for Chinese New Year


Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

You’ll need:

1pt chicken stock (fresh or cube is fine)
1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and cut in half
1 star anise
2tbsp fish sauce
2 chicken breasts
400g white cabbage core removed and shredded very finely
200g rice noodles
2 spring onions sliced
1 small bunch fresh coriander
1 small bunch fresh mint
1 lime cut into wedges

What to do:

1. Place the stock, ginger, star anise, fish sauce and chicken breasts into a sauce pan and slowly bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and leave to poach for 5-8 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and leave to rest for 5 minutes, then shred.

2. While the chicken is resting add the cabbage to the stock and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the cabbage is tender. Place the rice noodles in a bowl then cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes depending on the packs instructions then drain.

3. Remove the star anise and ginger from the stock, divide the noodles and cabbage between four bowls and add a ladle of stock to each. Top each bowl with the shredded chicken, spring onions, coriander and mint and serve with a wedge or 2 of lime.

This recipe also works well with sweetheart cabbage

Friday, 28 January 2011

Chocolate Fondue Recipe

Chocolate Fondue

You will need:

Fondue dish & forks

Tea light


100g Dark chocolate

2 tbsp Whole milk

8 tbsp Double cream

2 tsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract


Assorted fruits for dipping


* In a pan gently heat the milk, cream, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract and chocolate until melted, stir to combine and then tip into the fondue dish with the lit Tea light underneath
* Cut the fruit into bite size chunks, place on a plate with the marshmallows
* Dip and enjoy

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Heart-shaped biscuits from Loseley

Heart-shaped biscuits from Loseley


* 125gLoseley Summer Meadow Butter
* 170g caster sugar
* 1 egg
* 230g plain flour, plus 2 tsps
* 30g self-raising flour
* 5 tbsp desiccated coconut
* 1 egg white
* 240g icing sugar, sifted
* 2tsp lemon juice, approximately
* Pink food colouring


Cream Loseley butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and then stir in sifted flours and coconut. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Roll between sheets of baking paper to 4mm thickness. Allow to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Cut out heart shapes with a 5 cm-wide cutter and place on tray 1.5 cm apart. Bake for about 10 minutes or until pale gold. Cool on a rack. Place egg white in a bowl. Add half the icing sugar and combine. Stir in remaining icing sugar and 2 teaspoons flour. Add enough lemon juice to make a thick, spreadable icing. Tint with food colouring and spread on biscuits. Set at room temperature. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 40 biscuits

Loseley Summer Meadow Butter is packed in a 250grm tub and costs £1.29p.

Loseley Chilled Foods are available from the chilled cabinet of local independent grocers, Morrisons, Waitrose and now Iceland. Visit for more information.

Thai Cabbage and Chicken Noodles - Recipe for Chinese New Year


Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

You’ll need:

1pt chicken stock (fresh or cube is fine)
1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and cut in half
1 star anise
2tbsp fish sauce
2 chicken breasts
400g white cabbage core removed and shredded very finely
200g rice noodles
2 spring onions sliced
1 small bunch fresh coriander
1 small bunch fresh mint
1 lime cut into wedges

What to do:

1. Place the stock, ginger, star anise, fish sauce and chicken breasts into a sauce pan and slowly bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and leave to poach for 5-8 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and leave to rest for 5 minutes, then shred.

2. While the chicken is resting add the cabbage to the stock and simmer for 5-8 minutes until the cabbage is tender. Place the rice noodles in a bowl then cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 5-10 minutes depending on the packs instructions then drain.

3. Remove the star anise and ginger from the stock, divide the noodles and cabbage between four bowls and add a ladle of stock to each. Top each bowl with the shredded chicken, spring onions, coriander and mint and serve with a wedge or 2 of lime.

This recipe also works well with sweetheart cabbage

Calling contributions from great mummy bloggers on 3 reasons they are good mums

I have started a meme on 3 Good Reasons Why I am a Good Mummy. Please promote it on Twitter using #3reasonsiamagoodmummy and letting me @netcurtains know you did so. Please write a blog post about why you are a good mum three times over this week.
Here are the Mums I would like to blog but all are more than welcome to join in. Let's celebrate mums and the miracles we work every day.

3 Reasons I am a good Mummy this week

I am having a go at my first meme so bear with me as I am clueless on the clever parts of blogging but here is my virginal attempt.

I thought we all beat ourselves up way too much as Mums so maybe it would be good to ask some mummy bloggers to talk about 3 reasons they are a good Mummy. Sometimes it is hard to think about good things about ourselves but I think it is probably necessary for our sanity and to explain why our children love us so much despite everything.

So here are my 3 ways of being a good Mum this week.

1. I have ensured that my son got to his choir practices even when it clashed with other plans. He performs at Sheffield Arena tonight as part of Young Voices. I asked if he was nervous at all and he said not. So presumbably I have instilled some self-belief in him too. Result!

2. I baked with my daughter last night even though I was exteremely tired and not feeling well. We made chocolate chip shortbread hearts and also different shapes to make it more fun. If this inspires you, scroll down to find the recipe.

3. I told all 3 of my children I loved them every single day of the week and often more than once.

Over to you mummy bloggers.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Chocolate Fudge Recipe

Easy Chocolate Fudge

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

Makes: 60 pieces

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 1hour


400g (14oz) dark or milk chocolate

397g can Carnation Condensed Milk

25g (1oz) butter

100g (3½oz) icing sugar

55g (2oz) roasted chopped nuts (optional)


1. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place in a non-stick saucepan with the condensed milk and butter, heat very gently, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. (Alternatively place these ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 10-20 second bursts, stirring frequently until the mixture is silky smooth).

2. Beat the icing sugar into the mixture until combined thoroughly. Press the fudge into a 18cm (7in) square tin, smooth over the top and press the nuts into the surface, if using.

3. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour until set, cut into squares.


Try any nuts or dried fruit you like in this recipe – pecans, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds all work really well. Or you could try adding cranberries, blueberries or even mini marshmallows!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sainsbury's Chocolate Chip Shortbread Hearts

I highly recommend this recipe. Great fun to make anytime and why not start practising now for Valentine's Day.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 35 minutes

Makes about: 12

125g butter
55g caster sugar
1 tsp Taste the Difference Madagascan Vanilla extract
180g plain flour
1 x 100g Taste the Difference Cooks Belgium Dark Chocolate,
(finely chopped)

• Heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C, 375°F/Gas 5.
• Beat the butter, sugar and Taste the Difference Madagascan Vanilla extract together until
• Stir in the flour and 75g chopped chocolate to get a paste. Turn on to a work surface and
gently roll out until the paste is 1cm thick.
• Cut into hearts and place onto a baking tray. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
• Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a
wire rack.
• Place the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until
melted. Drizzle the melted chocolate over some of the hearts and leave to cool.

Calling contributions for 7 things you don't know about me (well you actually!)

OK, I took part in a meme recently. See the post about 7 things you don't know about me below.

The bit I did not do as did not know how to do memes properly was to tag 15 bloggers to ask them to tell the world 7 things we don't know about them.

So here are my 15 - women who have loved, lost, learned and gone through a whole lot of L from time to time. But fabulous women and ones you can learn from.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Letter to my daughter

When I said I wanted a second child, my Mum said, "You can't even manage the one you've got!". She always had a way with words. Little did I know that as we had that conversation, you had already taken up residence in my tummy.

As I already had a son, I so wanted you to be a little girl. I kept that to myself though.

The actuality of the pregnancy was a bit of a shock and it took me a few months to come to terms with it. Then there was a little scare part way through and that made me wake up the fact that timing was irrelevant. I wanted you whether you fitted in with my career plans or not.

Labour was horrendous with you. The midwives bent me, shaked me, anyway they wanted me but you took ages to put in an appearance. You were 9 days late and I reckon you only turned up on Good Friday because you had heard chocolate eggs were on their way for Easter.

When they told me you were a girl, I as over the moon. My husband was surprised that I had wanted a girl so much and not told him. Relations visited with cards, flowers and champagne.

We took you home (and ate your Easter Egg!). You slept for hours and hours. We took you to see your grandparents and still you slept. I got to the point where I thought you would never wake up.

You were such a good baby. Basically, you had two modes - eat and sleep.

However, I was struck down by post-natal depression. I loved you. I looked after you. But there was no joy in my heart. I felt a sense of disconnection and this lasted far too long as I did not seek any help.

There was a long journey out of the depression and I have talked elsewhere on this blog about that.

So let's celebrate you!

You are like a mini me. You look like me with your mad hair and perfect skin. Your figure is already becoming like mine, all slim waisted with a huge bum.

You are full of ideas, great with story-telling, music and art and design. You always have a pen or crayon in your hand. There is always a model, a painting or similar on the go. Nothing makes you happier than your art.

You have my flaws. You can fly off the handle in extreme but vaguely impressive ways. You can be stubborn and insist on your own way. When you don't get it, you will either sulk or turn on the coy charm. You can work your Daddy around your little finger. You are not particularly impressed by boys but that may be my propoganda. We all laughed when you wrote down "All boys are shit except Grandad"

I adore you. You are so quirky and lovely. I know you really love me and we cuddle up all the time. You still sneak into my bed every chance you get too. You bring me deep pleasure every day of our lives together.

Never doubt that I love you to bits!

Valentine Competition - Win a Silver Smiley Pendant

Combine precious metals with texting culture and you discover a fun and fabulous range of pendants from

The range combines the symbolic language of texting with a high standard of engraving to create jewellery with a hidden message.

Fantastic for anyone who wants to express their feelings and superb for those who find it hard to say “I love you” or to express themselves in words.

The pendants are available in silver and 9ct gold with the silver ones costing just £29.

Birthstones can also be added and you could add the pendant as a charm to a bracelet.

We are giving away a Smiley Pendant in silver with chain. One side shows a smiley face and the other says “You always make me smile 

To enter, just follow

For an additional entry, tweet details of the competition and leave a comment to let me know you have done so.

The winner will be drawn using on 6th February 2011 and informed that day. The pendant will be posted out first class.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Or is it just me?

This week has just got the point where it is overwhelming me.

It started on Monday when a simple trip into town to collect dog food resulted in me getting locked out of the house. I had to climb through a window and at a size 20 on a good day, I am sure that was not the most graceful sight in the village. I was fine when I got in but by the evening, I felt very shaky and stressed out.

On Tuesday, my Dad had trouble getting his pills that he needs to take to keep him going. So he returned home angry and I felt perhaps I should get more involved in helping him with these matters. He is so independent though so it is difficult to interfere.

All week due to a flood and frozen pipes, a backlog of washing mountains has made it challenging to ensure that clean uniform was available every day for the children. After all, you can bet that they will choose the day when the stocks are low to paint all over themselves or drop their lunches down their jumpers. This does not happen usually but I have struggled this week to have everything organised for them. Apologies to the parenting police but sometimes things don't quite go according to plan.

Then, the lovely Government decided to stop paying me tax credits for my children. Their mistake apparently but it still leaves me out of pocket for now. I telephoned them today and had to answer questions like the dates of birth of my children. What should have being simple questions felt like writing a dissertation for a PHD today.

Then the landlord visited and complained that we are storing things in the barn. I thought that would be Ok since we pay to rent the barn but apparently not. Oh and it was also my fault apparently that he could not find the cat he abandoned here back in September. The same one I have fed and looked after for months. Now I am frightened that by storing stuff in the barn I have put the whole tenancy at risk.

I know many people have a lot more on their plate today. I am not feeling sorry for myself. I just wanted to share that I feel tired and overwhelmed by the various stresses of the week. I then beat myself up for not being good enough at anything really.

I so need this weekend. Time with my husband and the children to remind ourselves that if the world and its wife thinks we are rubbish, we do try our best, help other people freely and know how to have a good time as a strong family unit.

Anybody else sometimes feel it is all too much?

Ready for Valentine's Day?

It is less than a month away.

I am reviewing lots of gift ideas and also just fun ways to make someone feel special on 14th February 2011 over at Mum's Arcade at


Snuggle blankets

Food and Drink

Guilty Pleasures

Bath and Massage Products

and lots more ....

Take a look and feel the love

Reasons to be Cheerful

1. My little boy has started to read and very well too. It was such a thrill when he returned from school and read a whole book to me. As he is my youngest child, this was a very special milestone and a very moving mummy moment.

2. I am networking more with other bloggers and finally learning a little about what tags and memes and linky-ups are. Don't quite get them totally but at least am marginally less clueless. I hope to go to CyberMummy, the national event for mummy bloggers in June. How cool to meet some cyber friends face-to-face. Sponsorship welcome of course to cover the costs of this great big adventure.

3. It is the weekend tomorrow and I am so ready for it. It seems to have dragged this week, one of those times when I find things very overwhelming. So here is to a happy weekend to restore my chirpy spirits.

Don't forget to check out the Mummy from the Heart blog and learn how Reasons to be Cheerful started. Why not blog yours?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

7 things you don't know about me (or may not know anyway)

1. I am 100% Irish even though I speak with a Yorkshire accent and was actually born in London. I am proud to be Irish and think the fact I am explains various aspects of my character. I love being in Ireland particularly liking Dublin, Killarney and Connemara with its wild coast.

2. I once has an "accident" as a little girl in the newsagents. I remember it so clearly. The lady who ran the shop was posh - a bit like the landlady in Corrie in the old days. My mum was chattering away to her and I was shouting "Mum!" trying to grab her attention. She was swatting me away like a wasp. Then the inevitable happened and I peed vast quantities all over the red floor. Needless to say, my mum was embarrassed and, hence, cross with me. I have always thought this was grossly unfair.

3. Once on a school trip, I agreed to show a boy my boobs. Little did I realise that I would then be blackmailed by every boy in the school to show them too. I should have woken up to the baser motives of males at that point. I do remember the dress I wore at the time as it made flashing really easy. It has an elasticated bodice and was green and white checked. I remember the names of the boys too!

4. I was rubbish at sports at school. It used to destroy my day when we had to do P.E. I did quite like hockey though. Once upon a time, I managed to give a girl a black eye and another girl the shape of a hockey stick in bruising on her leg in one match. This earned me the nickname Clogger. I also remember some teachers bullying me for being bad at sports. That has never gone away from my psyche so I will always be the "fat cow".

5. I sprayed fake snow on the windows of a 14th century college one Christmas. If you go to the front of a certain college in Cambridge and look very closely, more than twenty year laters you can still see white on a certain room's windows. Criminal damage - shocking!

6. Apparently I was at college with the Oscar winning actress Rachel Weisz. I don't remember her if I am honest. I do, however, remember Vicki O'Keefe. She was a schoolfriend who was an actress too. She had parts in things like Emmerdale and Nanny with Wendy Craig. You may or may not have heard of Vicki. Probably, sadly, most of you won't have. She died not long after leaving school in a car crash. Vicki and I never really got on probably because we were both aspiring to do great things and get out of our home town. Of all the people I would love to have a coffee with now and reflect on the past, she is high on my list. Sad to think what great achievements she could have had. I don't know how her loved ones cope with her loss.

7. I am a very boring person but occasionally I do stuff I am proud of. These would include walking on fire, winning a Cosmopolitan Woman of Achievement Award, getting Highly Commended for my biscuits in a competition and taking my clothes off for a photo-shoot.

So there you have it. This is part of a meme (whatever they are!) so I am hoping someone will tell me what I am to do next.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A tale of two cats

When we moved into our house last year, we found the previous incumbent up a ladder looking for his cat. Despite his coaxing for hours, the cat refused to turn up obviously deciding a life in the city did not appeal to it.

We were asked to look after the cat when it showed up and the previous resident said he would collect in due course.

We saw the cat and we thought clearly having misheard its owner that it was called Goolie. So we called the cat and it looked at us in a "I hate you" manner and flounced off. We fed and watered it but it stayed in its manner of "I wish to be alone".

After weeks and weeks of this, I started to call the cat and then say things like "Well sod you then". Being an animal lover, I continued to leave food for her. She would not come in the house having paid one nocturnal visit where she came across my husband and fled.

Then, all of a sudden, my Dad reported that the cat has rubbed against his legs one day. This marked a new chapter and the cat became friendlier and friendlier. We got it to come into the house where it developped a deep love for my duvet.

Of course, the cat is not ours and I could see the children and my daughter in particular getting more and more attached to the cat. We took it for vet treatment and then worried in case its owner did not pay us back what we had laid out on the cat.

Eventually, the cat's owner said he would come and collect her. She disappeared that day. He looked at me as if I had sold her or something worse. Thank goodness I could prove that she was live and well as I had the vet bill to show him.

Turns out that the cat that I call Goolie and my son calls Google and my Dad calls anything but its name is actually called Gucci. Daft name for a cat if you ask me but nobody did.

This is a tale of two cats because through having Gucci in our lives, we decided we wanted our own cat. Poppy came to us 10 days ago and is already a much-loved member of the family. She is a moggy, sweet, cuddly and haughty. I like her attitude and style.

This may yet be a tale of three cats. Watch this space!


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Strange Things Happen in my House

Why is it that ...

1. When my husband goes shopping, he always telephones me for guidance?

2. When I go for a bath, every member of my family needs a wee?

3. When I go for a wee, there is always a crisis downstairs that needs attention?

4. My children always announce they need something for school just as we are late for the bus?

5. My husband uses every pot in the house when he cooks a meal?

6. The one time I forget my house key so does everyone else?

7. My youngest son is always hungry?

8. When I cook for my oldest child, he treats the food like the work of the Devil?

9. My dog always jumps up at me when I am wearing my best clothes?

10. My daughter uses the fact that I told her she is an artist to excuse every mess she creates?

Well, why is it?

Friday, 14 January 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

I am continuing to take part in Mummy from the Heart's initiative for Fridays where bloggers list 3 reasons they are cheerful. Here are my reasons this week ...

1. I have a lovely new cat called Poppy. I did not even know I liked cats really but we decided to get one after looking after someone else's for four months. It was pretty clear my daughter would only cope with the loss if there was an immediate replacement. Poppy is haughty, cuddlesome, clean and sweet. Loving her to bits already.

2. It is payday which means I can go rampaging through charity shops with wild abandon over the weekend. I love finding the unusual, the stylish and the fun. It is a buzz to know you are getting a bargain but helping a good cause at the same time.

3. There is a chance, just an off-chance but more than usual, that I will go to the theatre this weekend. Something I love to do but rarely actually get off my bum and do.

Loving Reasons to be Cheerful. Good for us all to focus on what is going right from time to time.

Countdown to Valentine's Day

Christmas seems like a distant memory and already we are hurtling through the year with Valentine's Day being something to look forward to.

I waited for a long time to receive a Valentine's Day card. I was 21 years old, very shy and fascinated by who had left me a card at work. It turned out to be someone I fancied very much indeed. I guess that is as good as it gets rather than getting one from someone you don't like or not getting one at all.

I have had my romantic moments in my time. Yes really! I once came home on the train to find my current beau standing on the platform with a single red rose. I walked down the platform towards him shyly but thrilled all the same.

Him Indoors is very good on the Valentine's Day front. He is much better at that than birthday or Christmas usually. I get a card, flowers and a present most years.

Last year, I put bright pink stickers all over the bedroom wall with the many reasons I love him and reminders of very special memories from our years together. He insisted on keeping them and was very moved. I had thought he would just laugh at me which goes to show how you can underestimate your old man.

From today, I will be reviewing quirky, fun and fabulous gift ideas for Valentine's Day. I will also include those special things that are free but make a huge difference to how somebody you love feels.

One good place for any type of gift is Find a Gift and their offering on the romantic front include:

Brighten up rainy days with this funky umbrella, a must-have for any romantic. When it’s closed, it looks like a normal stylish brolly, but once opened it takes the shape of a huge heart! Choose between a red, hot pink and candy pink umbrella to give your loved one a present to cheer them up on a rainy day.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE – rrp £19.90
This enchanting present brings a welcome change from chocolates and flowers, with a fully personalised scroll carrying a message of up to 2000 characters. The Message in a Bottle arrives in a nautical treasure chest complete with sea shells and sand for extra authenticity.

Make like cupid and stun your Valentine with a meaningful secret message hidden inside this brushed steel arrow. It comes with five spare scrolls in case you don’t get your love note right first time round… or if you’re given to changing your mind! Dimensions of the message arrow: 335 x 52 x 10mm.

My favourite of these is the Message in a Bottle. I have always found the whole concept of finding or sending a message in a bottle magical. Throwing something in the sea and wondering where it might end up. The bottle is nice and would look lovely in a bathroom with light coming through it. Sending a message in such an quirky way appeals to me.

The arrow idea would be great I think for new couples of if you are really keen to attract a special someone.

The umberella is great fun and very girly.

Here's to a great Valentine's Day 2011. Start planning now and pop over to throughout the month for lots of ideas from the cheap and cheerful to the high end.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Letter to my son

Firstly, I love you. I tell you that every day. It is the bit of being a Mum I do really well.

When you arrived in my world, I was fascinated by how you looked and how something as dozy as sex could have brought about a new little human. I remember telling you that you would have to be really clever because I was clueless.

This was proven when your Daddy came to visit later that day and asked where you were. I had a bath and the midwifes took you to the nursery. I just slept and did not even ask when you would be coming back to me.

I remember telephoning your Grandma who could not believe that so quickly after giving birth I was telephoning her. Your Daddy had already announced your arrival to her by telephone. She would not come that day telling me to rest up and she would come to see you the next day. This might have being Grandma understanding how much labour takes out of you. Or knowing your Grandma, she might have had bingo or a lunch club to attend.

The mums in the Maternity Ward kept asking me how come I had such a wonderful baby. You were quiet and did not cry. I just lay there gazing at you, my little miracle.

When the GP came along, he asked why I had not changed your nappy. Somehow I had not realised this would be necessary on the first day. Clueless, I told you.

Grandma and Grandad came to see you the next day. I remember pushing so hard in labour and delivering you for Grandma who had waited so long for a grandchild. There are not many grandparents who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary before welcoming their grandchild. Your Daddy said I was amazing and you popped out so quickly that I took the midwives by surprise. I loved your Grandma you see.

Grandma and Grandad started a love-affair with you that day. Grandad was just as moved if less vocal than Grandma. Grandma said you were highly intelligent as you were following her with your gaze all around the room. She has, of course, being proved right. You are above average in everything and excel in mathematics, science and her great love of history.

I stayed in hospital for a week with you. Hey, the food was good and I wanted to keep you all to myself before returning to a house that included a teenage half-sister. That does not make me nice but I want to be honest about how I felt.

We put you in a special coat to go home in and it was too big so it looked like your arms were outstretched to the side. It made me and your Daddy laugh.

When we got home, we had fish and chips at which point you woke up and alerted me to the fact that motherhood includes demands on your time at the most inconvenient times.

Very soon, we took you to show you off to the village. It felt so alien to be pushing a pram around. Lovely though.

Us being us, it was not long before you had your first visit to a pub either.

We registered your birth and I remember insisting on having photographs taken of this milestone. I felt so happy with my loving partner and gorgeous baby boy.

We had a lovely three years before your sister came along. Just us three with you fitting in so well and just being a total joy. Looking after a baby was new to me but it was all so fascinating.

You were and remain very special to me. Never doubt that in the madness of our household now with a diva of a sister, a thug of a brother and a menagerie of animals.

I resolve to spend more one on one time with you this year. Special memory-making for me and my boy.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Bringing up Baby - Year 1

1. Making sure baby was warm enough on leaving the Maternity Ward
2. Worrying that the car seat was fitted properly
3. Working out how to get downstairs to answer the door with a newborn baby in tow
4. Hiding baby blues
5. Learning to change a nappy and to deal with poos of varying colours and consistency
6. Working out what different cries meant
7. Learning that sometimes eating has to wait whilst you deal with baby
8. Working out how to achieve simple things like a bath whilst looking after baby
9. Worrying that bringing back milk a little bit equated to projectile vomiting
10. Analysing whether it was a good or bad idea to go for the MMR jab
11. Frantic concern about whether I was sterilising things properly
12. Stressing about the right position for baby in the cot
13. Worrying when baby kicked off bedding in the night
14. Jumping up everytime baby snuffled
15. Constant checking for breathing when baby sleeping
16. Working out the "right" balance of work and childrearing for me
17. Thinking I was missing out when my Mum and Dad looked after baby so much better
18. Learning the hard way that if you leave a baby on a bed, it may well roll off
19. Learning the hard way that radiators are a danger to babies
20. Finding good childcare
21. Working out how to pay for said childcare
22. Worrying whether baby was meeting milestones such as walking, hopping, talking
23. Worrying about what to tell baby about his half-siblings
24. Never quite learning how to put up a pram/pushchair
25. Never quite being confident when bathing baby
26. Being upset when babysitter got first artistic effort from toddler
27. Coping with teething and then stressing when baby lost part of a tooth
28. Managing somehow to work throughout this period of being a new mum
29. Forgetting to get baby baptised
30. Knowing that loving baby is the easiest part of motherhood

Yesterday, a mum to a new baby reminded me via her blog what miracles mothers work and what an important role they play in a new person's life. It made me think about my first year of being a Mum and how I coped or didn't.

I look forward to having comments and learning about other mums' experiences of year one.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Dancing on Ice - reflections on women contestants

At 6.30pm last night, I was sitting after a very busy day ready to watch Dancing on Ice.

I love this annual feast of sequins, dance, trauma and triumph. Partly, it reminds me of how my late Mum and I used to see figure skating as essential viewing. Partly, seeing Torvill and Dean takes me back on a Eighties nostalgia trip. Partly, I love these sort of reality shows where people learn a new skill or develop existing talents.

Last night, I reflected on the women who skated and thought how in a way they represent so many of us.

There was Angela Rippon who at 66 years of age was so gutsy to take on such a challenge. I hope that I am confident enough to tackle new challenges in my sixties. She made me think that maybe I should not give up on my idea of being able to drive one day and perhaps booking a lesson might be a useful starting point.

What challenges did you take on later in life?

There was Nadia who to those of us who are overweight is an inspiration after losing so much weight. Just imagine how brilliant she must have felt standing there looking slim and sexy. A success story whether she was voted off or not.

Did you get fit and healthy later in life? Do you hope to in 2011. I know I do.

There was Laura who is not the most well-known celebrity so did not attract as many votes as the better-known ones. She was a fabulous skater for this stage of Dancing on Ice and would have been such a loss to the programme.
Many women are under-estimated when they are young and actually quite good. I know I applied for management jobs in my twenties and really do think my age held me back then.

When were you overlooked in favour of the better-known, the louder, whatever?

There was Kerry Katona who has experienced the highs and lows of fame. She has had well-documented issues with substance misuse, relationships and the like. How brave of her to appear on a show hosted by Philip Schofield after that disastrous interview on ITV This Morning not that long ago. Congratulations to her for taking the risk of appearing in front of a big studio audience and millions of television viewers asking us to give her a break and accept she is changing.

We have all had times when we have let ourselves and our families down. What we need at those times is understanding and support. We need to say sorry but then the only way forward is for our loved ones to say OK, you fucked up but we will work with you for a better future.

When did you come back from a personal crisis? Was it hard to face people after you had done wrong?

Next week, there are more tales of every woman. Denise Welsh is down-to-earth and tells us that she is not perfect and has had problems with drink and has had an affair. She also fights depression which those of us who are fellow sufferers know is amazing in itself.

Have you suffered depression? Do you believe in being honest about your past?

Chloe Madeley also skates next week. As the daughter of Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, she has been on the telly since she was a baby as their child. Now as a young woman, she needs to establish her own identity as well all do as we make that break from parental ties.

When did you make the break from parental ties? Were you always identified in relation to your parents rather than as a person in your own right?

I could empathise with these women and suspect I am not alone.

Please leave a comment and share your womanly experiences, good and bad but all about living, loving and learning.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful 1 2 3

I hope I am doing this correctly.

Mummy from the Heart has set up a scheme where bloggers can talk about their 3 reasons for feeling cheerful right now.

1. Despite a very difficult start to the day where my 5 year old refused to go to school, he went in the end. OK, I bribed him with the promise of a Buzz Lightyear toy but it was either that or choose to fire myself into infinity and beyond.

2. I have just seen the bin people arrive in the village. It feels so good to know that the bin contents and several black bin liners full of Christmas rubbish will be out of my sight today.

3. I have media interest in highlighting the fuel scam where a company took our money purporting to be a broker for heating oil companies. No oil arrived. I am so pleased that I might be able to expose this company nationally and prevent others suffering as my family did in the Artic conditions.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Do you sometimes unfairly favour one of your children?

I have three children aged 10, 6 and 5.

The 10 and 5 year old are boys and have regular battles. They always seem to want the same thing when playing and sometimes it is almost as if they are looking for an excuse to fight.

My 10 year old is by nature very sweet and sensitive. My 5 year old is the polar opposite. He is full on and boisterous.

Last night, there was a battle and to separate the boys, I sent my oldest boy upstairs. He got very upset so we talked. He told us how he felt through sobs and real tears. To summarise, he feels ..

* He gets the blame when the other children do something wrong
* He has to ask for hugs where I give them freely to my 5 year old
* He is not seen as special like the other children

These things are, of course, hard to hear from someone you love very much. He had three years with us when it was all about him and we loved that period with our first baby. Parenting seemed relatively simple and we saw him as a lovely bonus to our relationship.

Things get tougher when you have more children. You have to juggle and I guess it is all too easy to expect too much of your eldest child.

I did not initially bond with my 5 year old and it took me months to love him properly. I think I carry a residual guilt about that. I think he senses that I am that bit softer with him and being a cheeky chappy knows exactly how to play me. He pushes every boundary and all too often I give in for the sake of an easy life. I dont want to be screamed at or punched.

My other two children don't behave like that so I guess I can see my 10 year old's point that I am effectively rewarding my 5 year old for poor behaviour.

So I have a couple of New Year's Resolutions to add to my list.

I will take it easier on my 10 year old and make time for those all important hugs. I will show him just how much I love him and ensure we have quality time alone together. I am going to take him to a play next week as a starting point.

I will steel myself to discipline my 5 year old better and try to let myself of the guilt hook a bit.

I have heard about the tough times elder children have. Seems I am not being a very good Mummy to my 10 year old and I resolve to do much better.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Greatness - time to give up on a unrealistic dream?

I have a guilty secret. Something I don't often talk about although it takes up a fair amount of my thoughts and feelings.

I would like to be great. One of those people that is remembered as making a difference to the world. Someone to look up to. Unforgettable and for all the right rather than the wrong reasons.

When I was little, I wanted to be a great writer. That dream still exists and my blog is my little way of making that happen in a tiny way. I would like to be interviewed by a magazine asking me what I think of life issues of the day. At the top, I would like it to say writer or PR guru and possibly charity campaigner.

When I became addicted to Crown Court on the telly, I wanted to be a barrister. Later I wanted to be like that female solicitor Gareth who did such good work on miscarriage of justice cases. In a small way, I did this in advice agencies kicking ass when people were being treated like shit by authorities.

Today I was listening to the guy who amputated his own arm to fight his way to freedom when trapped by a boulder. It made me question things. He seemed to say that what really matters is love and relationships, not accomplishments, qualifications and the like.

I have a loving family. Is that really all that matters in the end in which case I have just wasted decades of time and energy beating myself up for not being good enough?

When I wrote my Mum's eulogy, I picked out things like her making scones. Is it those little things that make us special or should I continue my doomed quest for greatness?

Do you want to be great, recognised, acknowledged?

If so, who by?

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Living with Dad - the story so far

I moved into a house with an annexe for my elderly father in September.

Since Mum died the previous year, I had wanted Dad to live with me so I could keep an eye on his welfare. He lived with my brother but as my brother got more work offered hundreds of miles away, Dad was all too often on his own.

Living with Dad has worked out well. He lives in a self-contained annexe complete with bedroom, sitting room, kitchenette and bathroom. So he can have his own space and close his door against the chaos that my family creates on a daily basis.

When he wants our company, he can just walk through a door without even having to go outside and vice versa.

The lovely parts of living with Dad are

* Not having to worry about him constantly from far away
* Having access to his wit, wisdom and conversation
* Having him make me a cuppa and offer a variety of biscuits and buns
* Having someone there to talk to when I get lonesome
* Party nights till 4am on occasion
* My 3 children learning from him every day
* Seeing him loving country life and the animals

The challenging parts of living with Dad are

* Trying to stop him paying for things that he shouldn't
* Trying to restrict him from doing so much labourwise such as carrying logs
* Balancing his need for peace with his need for company
* Trying not to let him see couple arguments
* Him blaming me if I don't get him up at some unearthly early hour

I love my Dad. After losing Mum in 2009, I know my time with him is limited. I am grateful to the gods for allowing me this very special time to get to know Dad all over again and to laugh, learn and lean a lot.

I highly recommend three-generation living

Saturday, 1 January 2011

My daugher's resolutions or as she puts it her gift to the world

My 6 year old little girl has come up with her own New Year Resolutions or as she prefers to put it her gift to the world.

She resolves ..

to share her money with the poor

to kiss and hug her mummy

to love everyone

to do the best she can

to use good manners a lot

I think this proves that I am a very lucky mummy indeed.

I also think if we all did her resolutions well, the world would be a far better place for it.

I love my daughter and thank her for reminding me what really matters