Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

February 28, 2011

World Book Day 2011

This Thursday is World Book Day. There are a huge number of events and celebrations taking place to mark this event. I will be reading to the Junior Infants at my son's school and talking to the older kids about writing as a career. I am mildly terrified about the prospect of both!

To also celebrate World Book Day, I will be featuring a number of excellent children's books on the blog this week. First up are two excellent new books from Random House. I have a copy of each to give-away so if you would like to be entered into the draw, please leave a comment below stating which book, if any, you'd prefer. Winners will be announced on Thursday.

Scruffy Bear and the Six White Mouse by Chris Wormell is a gorgeous, hardback book. It tells the story of Scruffy Bear as he protects six, scared white mice from an owl, a fox and a snake. "Curl up, curl up," he tells them, "and don't forget to tuck in your tales." They trick the owl into thinking they are snowballs and the fox into thinking they are furry eggs - but what will happen when one of the mice forgets to tuck in his tail? My three-year-old and five-year-old loved this book from the first time we read it. The story is lovely and based on the concept of taking care of each other - and the illustrations are fantastic. We've also loved Chris Wormell's 'One Smart Fish' - the book I reviewed for World Book Day last year and which I will be reading to my son's class this week.

Peely Wally by Kali Stileman is FAB! I love the name apart from anything else! If you like Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar), you will love the vivid illustrations in this book. Peely Wally is a bird whose egg rolls off the branch and goes on an adventure through the jungle meeting lots of animals along the way. Children can follow the dotted trail of the egg with their finger across the pages and there's a lovely surprise when the egg cracks open at the end (in a lift-the-flap way!). Both my children loved this, especially the three-year-old, and I think it would make a lovely easter gift for any pre-schooler. This is a soft cover book.

World Book Day is a UNESCO-designated occasion to celebrate all the great things that book can give us. It also helps to raise funds for an incredible charity: Book Aid International. They send books to communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, bringing education, imagination and hope to some of those who need it most. On and around World Book Day (Thursday 03 March) there are a number of easy, fun ways to show your support for Book Aid International. They include Meet Talk Give, for book groups, amongst others. Your support can really make a difference, because every £2 raised will send another book overseas. You can find lots more ideas, and see where your efforts will go, on the Book Aid International blog.

This giveaway competition is now closed.


February 24, 2011

Mother? Woman? Both?

I read a very interesting post recently on the excellent Irish site 'The Anti-Room', which asks the question, 'can you be a mummy and a woman? (the question being based on something the writer's four-and-a-half year-old child said).

The basic premise of the article is to ask whether motherhood and womanhood are compatible? The writer suggests not - commenting that as mothers, are woman merely breeders, existing purely for the purpose of raising their young? There have been some vociferous responses.

This got me thinking: do women really have to give up their bodies, careers, financial independence, skinny jeans and festival tickets (based on the pelvic floor/toilet queue issue), just because they become a mother?

I think the reality for many is probably, yes (especially the festival tickets). It is surely a little naive to think that having children will not change you, your body, your circumstances or your outlook on life. I know some people seem to carry on regardless; celebrities in particular, but surely that's not the norm and nor should it be.

Having mulled this over while scrubbing the floor, darning some socks, pandering to everyone else's needs and weeping into my embroidery, I have come to the conclusion that, far from repressing it, motherhood actually benefits womanliness. I've certainly become a more confident woman since becoming a mother and have had a huge number of life-experiences which I simply wouldn't have had if I didn't have children (being vomited on at 30,000ft just one of many examples I could give). I'm probably more interesting, better organised, more resilient, make more of my time, set myself higher goals and am quite possibly a nicer person than before I became a mother.

So, can you be a mummy and a woman at the same time? Absolutely.

What do you think?


February 19, 2011

Daddy....or chips?

This is a sponsored post

Do you remember the ad where the little girl keeps saying, "Daddy or chips, Daddy, or chips...?" I'm not sure which brand of chips it was for, or whether Daddy won, but I remember it anyway.

And did you know that it is National Chip Week in the UK this week? National *what* you say? National 'Chip' Week. I know - me neither - but there is an entire website dedicated to it with lots of photos and 'chip' facts and that bloke who got kicked out of the last series of The X Factor quite early on has something to do with it as well. Anyway, you can check it out in all its 'chippy' glory right here.

The reason I'm writing about chips (which, let's be honest, is a bit of a strange topic) is mainly because I was recently asked to review the new Tefal Actifry. This is a new kitchen gadget which claims to allow you to make 'guilt-free' chips with just 3% fat content. I will admit I was sceptical - we're not really a 'chip' household and of course I never fry anything (ahem), but was intrigued to see if this new machine really can produce home-made chips in just one small spoonful of oil.

It can!

And do you know what, they actually weren't bad chips either. Not quite the same calibre as a proper chip shop chip, but certainly as good as the oven chips I would usually cook. And I have to say, that it's nice to be able to produce chips without setting off the smoke alarm. Or is that just me?

The Tefal Actify works on a timer, so you literally just put your chipped spuds in, add the tiny amount of oil required and leave it to cook away while you do a million and one other things. It can also cook a whole range of other things, including chicken, stir fry, sausages and scampi.

Available from Lakeland and John Lewis as well as other electrical retailers, the Tefal Actifry retails at - brace yourselves - £199. Personally, I think this is a lot of money to spend on a kitchen gadget, but if you're into gadgets, and could see yourself using this regularly, then it's probably going to be a good investment in the longer term. Everyone loves chips, let's face it, so the Actifry seems like a reasonable way to give your kids a treat, without the deep-frying.

One last thought. Daddy or chips? It's a tough one isn't it?


February 15, 2011

Music I want my children to listen to - ABBA!

Voulez vous....a-ha......

Oh, the memories, the blue eyeshadow, the alarmingly tight bodysuit Bjorn was wearing! I was there. I saw it all. Yes, I was one of the very, VERY lucky children to see ABBA live at Wembley Arena on 10th November 1979.

I was 8 and a half. My sister had just celebrated her 11th birthday and her present was tickets to this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime event. I know - my parents were the coolest parents in the world at that particular moment.

We lived in a small village in Yorkshire - a LONG way from Wembley. There is an entire book waiting to be written about the journey from our house to the dizzying excitement of London - let alone the concert itself, which was utterly brilliant.

I vividly remember peering through my dads binoculars (don't ask) to get a closer look. I could actually see Anna's bright blue eyeshadow and the slinky cats which adorned the silky capes they all wore, before ripping them off to reveal the dreadful bodysuits underneath. Yikes! It was an amazing experience and I can still hardly believe we were there!

So, as you can probably tell I am a huge ABBA fan and this is why I want my children to listen to their music. It is, surely, a great musical place to start for any child. My boys have been listening to ABBA Gold since they were tiny tots and we still listen to ABBA regularly in the car. The music is undeniably brilliant and they sing along - probably because they can actually hear the words being sung (unlike popular musical artists these days who just mumble and mutter - moan, moan, grumble, grumble, reaches for zimmer frame).

There have been some great posts written as part of the 'Music I want my children to listen to' series - Ghost Writer Mummy and The Alexander Residence to name but two (apologies if there are others).

So, there's my addition to the mix and I will happily have a heated debate with anyone who dares to suggest that ABBA is not, simply, a musical essential.

In their own words, 'Thank you for the music'.

Grab the badge, and join in.


February 14, 2011

My writing journey: Year 2

Hazel Gaynor
so many little time. Aarrrgghhh.
4 Feb via web Favorite Reply Delete

I tweeted this recently. It really is a very good summary of how I feel about my quest to become a published author. If only I could lock myself away in a quiet room for a year. If only I could rush to the laptop and bash out the brilliant idea for a scene which has just occurred to me while I'm reading the boys a bedtime story. If only I could hire a cleaner and a nanny and a chef. If only I could do all that, I'm sure I would be on my fourth bestseller by now.

But of course, I'm quite aware that these are all just excuses. For any writer, aspiring, or otherwise, juggling real life as you try to create a fictional one is always going to be tough, but when I really put my mind to it, I can write very productively. Last November, for example, I diligently wrote 2,000 words a day for two weeks as part of the National Novel Writing Month. I didn't make it all the way to the end of the month (real life really did take over), but for those two weeks I found the time and the inspiration. (OK, maybe nobody was fed and the house was fit for demolition, but I got lots of words written).

It is almost two years since I embarked on my writing journey; starting this blog and dipping my toe into freelancing waters. I'm really proud of what I have achieved during that time; coming close to a publishing deal twice, writing regularly for the national press, winning some awards for my blogging and reaching the point where I'm just about to self-publish an eBook (very exciting and more on that later). I've had my fair share of ups and downs along the way and have thought about packing it all in and retreating to the comfort of the sofa with the remote control on many occasions, but something tells me to just keep going.

So, I've decided that as well as being the Chinese Year of The Rabbit, 2011 is going to be my Year Of Getting Published. F
ollowing the advice of the excellent Laura Jane Cassidy whose debut novel 'Angel Kiss' is published in May, I wrote the following in the front of my new diary:

'2011, the year I turn 40 and get a publishing deal.'

The 'turning 40' part I can do nothing about; the getting published part is entirely in my hands. Literally.

Throughout the last two years, I have been extremely grateful for the advice and support of a fabulous lady; Vanessa O'Loughlin of Inkwell Writers. Vanessa is the brainchild behind the recently launched; the first national
writing resource of its kind. It is absolutely packed to the rafters with expert advice, author interviews, tips and inspiration. I am delighted to have been asked to contribute to the site and will certainly be following the Top 100 tips for writing fiction as I keep looking wistfully at those words in my diary.

For anyone who, like me, feels that 2011 is the year to finally unleash the writer within, I would highly recommend that you take some time to browse through - I'll see you there (unless I'm at my red carpet book launch!)


Mummy Love Is.....

Mummy Love Is….

  • Sitting with a dead arm for hours because your baby has fallen asleep on you and they are sooooo comfortable you can’t bear to wake them
  • Not eating the last of the chocolate buttons from the easter egg because you know someone small will come looking for them someday soon
  • Getting back out of bed and getting dressed so you can drive to the shop and get milk before the morning
  • Wiping up endless amounts of liquid and semi-solid substances from floors
  • Touching an alarmingly large python to show your child that they are not scary
  • Retrieving a beloved teddy from your sleeping child, washing it, drying it and tucking it back under their little arm before you go to bed
  • Forgiving your child, endlessly
  • Running upstairs to check on the baby the minute the baby-sitter leaves
  • Being the only person in the room who understood what your toddler just said
  • Waking up at 5am on Christmas morning with butterflies because you can’t wait to see your children’s faces
  • Not swearing out loud in front of the children, ever, despite harbouring massive amounts of outrage
  • Gluing a teeny tiny piece of plastic onto another teeny tiny piece of plastic and holding them together for an age because you promised to fix the broken Scoop toy
  • Listening to your child singing a nursery rhyme, which you have sung to them since they were a baby
  • Not eating the last two fancy cupcakes you shared with your girl friends because you know how excited your children will be when you produce them after tea the next day
  • Trawling around the shops on a rainy day looking for stick on goggly eyes because you promised your little boy he could make the thing he saw on CBeebies
  • Trying to write a blog post about your wonderful children whilst running up and down the stairs 11 times (I counted) to re-settle them, fetch more milk, find lost teddies etc etc.
This post was originally written in 2009.

Happy Valentine's Day.


February 9, 2011

No children please. We're business class.

I nearly choked on my cornflakes when I read a piece in the weekend's Irish Times, stating a recent survey which shows that 74% of all business class travellers get annoyed by screaming children on flights (cough, splutter).

It goes on to say that over half the business travellers surveyed want a 'family-only' section on flights where, and I quote, 'screaming children and their parents could be separated from business class passengers.' (spurts tea). One woman even sued Qantas last year after claiming a 3-yr-old screaming child damaged her hearing. The woman was 67.

Well, I've thought about this and have come up with a better idea.

Why not have a caged area at the back of the plane with some barbed-wire and electric fencing where all the 'screaming children' and their parents are corralled and guarded by the SAS just to make extra sure that nobody escapes and starts annoying the poor business people trying to concentrate on opening their tiny packet of butter to spread on their pumpkin-seed encrusted bread roll.

The piece then goes on to say, 'screaming children are not just an annoyance for passengers, but can be a mortifying experience for a child's parents.'

This statement is completely flawed.

It may surprise some business class travellers to learn that screaming children are not just an annoyance to passengers; they are an annoyance to parents too. Yes, really. We find it very, bloody annoying. You see, parents are human beings as well and would also love to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing flight where everyone is on their best behaviour and doesn't hit their brother or wriggle or spill things or throw up all over their mother.

I wonder what the 'business class' travellers have to say about giggly, excitable teenagers, screeching lasses and drunken lads going on stag and hen nights, couples who won't stop snogging all the way to Paris, people who are just a little bit too large for the average airline seat and spill over onto your side, old people who chatter to you about their health problems for the entire flight, or pervy businessmen who try to chat you up.....should we maybe put all of them in the cage at the back of the plane as well? Oh, and while we're at it, why not re-introduce smoking in the back four rows, just to make life really unpleasant for them?

Then again, if a family-only area was introduced, you can bet the parents would be slipping the flight attendants wads of crisp notes in a desperate bid to join the 'proper' people at the front and get away from the screaming kids; their own screaming kids.

What do you think? Is this nonsense or a good idea (the separate area, not necessarily the cage thingy!).


February 7, 2011

Win Liz Earle goodies for Valentine's Day

Oh, Valentine's Day. Here you come again; taking over the garage forecourts with displays of red roses, pressuring people to declare their undying love for each other in a HUGE greeting card and tempting us all with special offers on pink champagne. I'm never quite sure what to do with it all - ignore it completely, hope for a romantic surprise or just sort something out myself. Hmmm...

Well, whatever you're planning to do next week, here's something to think about. How about, instead of celebrating the day by getting dirty in the bedroom, how about celebrating by getting clean in the bathroom? Tenuous, I know, but bear with me.

You see, I have up for grabs a His (pictured below) and Hers (pictured above) set of the award winning Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleansers from the lovely people at Liz Earle. As ever, the products come beautifully packaged and are guaranteed to get you both racing into the bathroom for some steamy cleansing. Phwoar.

I have reviewed Liz Earle products here and here and can honestly say they are among the nicest and most effective beauty products I've ever tried (and I've tried a few over the years, believe me).

So, if you're of the male variety reading this and are looking for inspiration, check out the full range of products and Valentine's gifts at Liz Earle. If you're a hopeful female, why not leave the Liz Earle website open and make loud comments about running out of face cream. You never know....

Or, if you would simply like to be in with a chance of winning the prize, just leave a comment below and the winner will be chosen at random on Thursday 10th February 2011.

Good luck.


February 4, 2011

It's not the winning.....or is it?

I remember my primary headmaster giving us all a pep-talk before a school sports day. "It's not the winning; it's the taking part." I wasn't quite sure what he was on about to be honest and it didn't make me feel any better when he said it again after I'd suffered a crushing defeat in the sack race. Fast forward about three decades and here I am saying those exact same words to my son.

To cut a very long and bizarre story short, he inadvertently ended up in a hip hop dance competition. We thought it was a simple show for mums and dads; turns out to be a proper competition with a clipboard-wielding judge. Gulp.

Resisting the urge to scarper down the fire exit, Daddy struggled to tolerate a nasty hangover and I struggled to contain a tired toddler while the Bigger Boy amazed us all by busting his moves on the dance floor. It was daunting circumstances by anyone's standards (rows and rows of audience, spotlights - did I mention the judge with a clipboard?) and yet he ended up in the final. 'Hurray', we cheered.

He was totally unfazed by the whole thing, until the prizes started to be announced. As the awards for 'under 10's tango' and the 'under 5's cha cha' (goggles in disbelief) were given out, my son's eyes lit up at the sight of the shiny trophies being given to the winners.

Then it was his category and he was given a medal for 6th place - brilliant, 'whoop whoop' we cried from our seats. And then............the overall winner was handed......a shiny trophy.

Oh, crap.

His face crumbled and his lip started to quiver. As he walked back to us, the tears started to flow and no matter how much praise and comfort we offered, all he could say was 'But (sob) I (sob) wanted (sob) a (sob sob) trophy.'

The parenting books don't tell you about all this, do they? They don't come with a 5 point plan for easing the pain of disappointment. So, just how do you manage this as a parent? How do you help your children to overcome heart-breaking disappointment? And how do you shake off those images in your head of your little boy, sad and alone in front of a big crowd, and resist the urge to smother him with hugs and run off to eat jelly and forget it ever happened?

The happy ending to our little story is that despite everything, he went to bed that night clutching his medal and continued to hold it for most of the next day. Maybe my 'It's not the winning' pep talk did sink in after all.

I really hope so, because I don't think I am made of strong enough stuff to go through that again.


February 1, 2011

Can you do nothing for 2 minutes?

I was sent a link recently by the very lovely author and Tweet-aholic Colette Caddle. She thought it would help to calm me down after I had expressed a large amount of outrage at the Andy Gray/Richard Keys football hoo-ha. She was quite right!

The link simply asks you to do nothing for two whole minutes. Just two little minutes. Easy, I thought. Just sit at the desk and listen to the soothing sound of waves and do nothing. Pah.

I tried it. It is not as easy as you might think.

Why not give it a go and come back and tell me how you did.

So, did you resist the urge to click away, refresh your Twitter timeline, email inbox and blog page? Did you feel all these things nagging at you all the time those e-v-e-r s-o s-l-o-w seconds were ticking away.

My reaction surprised me; how easily I became distracted and how hard I found it to just take two minutes time-out; doing nothing.

I now have this link on permanent standby for when I'm losing it with the kids. Well, it certainly beats locking myself into the downstairs loo.

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