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)

October 25, 2011

Pampers and UNICEF - Make a Difference

What would you say if I told you that a baby dies from the tetanus disease every NINE minutes in the developing world?
What would you say if I told you that the tetanus vaccine, which will save that babies life, costs just 4.4p?
What would you say if I told you that by clicking on a website, you could generate the cost of that vaccine and save that babies life?

Here's how you can help - please read on to find out more about the campaign.
For each of the following actions taken Pampers will donate the cost of a tetanus vaccine to UNICEF which will help protect a woman and child still at risk from the disease.
The Pampers/UNICEF Make a Difference campaign was launched to a group of UK and Ireland bloggers in London last Friday. I met some amazing people, learnt an huge amount about the incredible job UNICEF do in developing countries and now I am writing this blog post to ask you to take a couple of minutes to support the campaign.

What is the campaign about?
Since 2006, Pampers has partnered with UNICEF to help eliminate maternal and newborn tetanus (MNT) globally with its ‘1 pack = 1 life saving vaccine’ campaign, which has funded 300 million tetanus vaccines to help protect women and their babies around the world. However, MNT still threatens the lives of 130 million women and their newborn babies in 39 countries around the world and it is those women and babies UNICEF is trying to reach now.

What is Maternal and Newborn Tetanus (MNT)?
Maternal and newborn tetanus, are deadly diseases caused by bacteria that lives on dead and decaying matter in soil, animal dung and faeces, and usually begin with the contamination of an open wound. Newborn tetanus occurs when newborns are infected as a direct result of unhygienic birthing practices, such as cutting the umbilical cord with un-sterile instruments, handling it with dirty hands or treating it with contaminated dressings and traditional substances such as ghee, cow dung, ashes and mud. Mothers can be infected with maternal tetanus during an unsafe or unsanitary delivery. Maternal and newborn tetanus are completely preventable through immunisation and hygienic birth practices.

Hardest to Reach

Although MNT is easily preventable, the reality is that a baby still dies from MNT every 9 minutes and there are still approximately 130 million women and their future newborns – equivalent to twice the combined populations of UK and Ireland – who urgently need to be protected. These women and babies live in some of the hardest to reach communities around the world (i.e. those who live in remote, inaccessible communities, those who live in nomadic tribes, those whole live in urban slums and those who live in countries experiencing civil war) with no access to quality healthcare.

Why don't Pampers just give UNICEF a donation to cover the cost of the vaccines?
By adding the UNICEF name to nappies and baby wipes, Pampers gives the campaign global reach and also helps to put the UNICEF name into people's houses. If the money was quietly given to UNICEF, the campaign wouldn't have the same impact in terms of raising awareness of the issue of MNT and ensuring this gets onto the agenda of governments globally.

So, again, how can you help?
Please take a moment to click on the sites above. It only takes a minute. It's not much to ask really, is it.

For more, first-hand experience of the amazing work being done by UNICEF, please read Tara Cain's very moving account of her trip to Indonesia 'Inspirational People'.

I will also be working with Irish bloggers Lisa at, Sandra at MummyPages and Michelle at New Irish Mammy to raise awareness of the campaign.


October 24, 2011

Fancy dress: to buy, or to DIY?

My son will be dressing up as Harry Potter for his birthday party this weekend. When we first discussed it, he thought this wasn't going to be possible because, as he pointed out, "Well mummy, I would really like to dress up as Harry Potter, but we don't have a Harry Potter dress-up suit."


I proceeded to explain that dressing up doesn't just have to mean buying a ready-made costume from a shop and that you can actually make a costume up from things you have around the house and in the dressing up box. He looked at me dubiously. "Erm, well, OK mummy. If you're sure."

"I'm sure," I said and started rooting around to find anything which might result in him vaguely resembling Harry Potter.

Five minutes and a ridiculous amount of mess later, he was running around the house shouting 'expelliarmus' to his younger brother, as he pointed his 'wand' (aka 'mast from a toy pirate ship') at him. With a pair of black trousers, a plain black jumper, an inside-out cape from a batman suit (OK, we cheated a little there) a pair of old black-rimmed specs with the lenses taken out and my old school tie, Harry Potter was born. With the addition of a Hogwarts school crest printed off the web and a quick face-painted lightening bolt across his forehead, the transformation was complete. And I was actually quite pleased with my creation - far from looking 'home-made' he looked great!

I remember dressing up as Mr Bump for a village fancy dress parade for the Queen's Silver Jubilee (yes, I am that old). My 'costume' was made out of a chicken-wire frame onto which the long blue tail off my dad's stunt kite was wrapped. Add in a few bandages from the first aid box and I made quite a reasonable Mr Bump. I didn't win a prize, but hey, we tried and I'm sure, like me with my home-made Harry, my mum was as pleased as punch as she led her Mr Bump down the village.

Coming up to Halloween, the issue of fancy dress always crops up - the shops are rammed full of perfectly made, often quite affordable dress up costumes which make it difficult to justify going to the bother of trying to lash something together yourself, which obviously won't look as professional. But where's the fun in picking something up 'off-the-shelf'? Much better to make something out of the odds and sods you have lying around the house, don't you think?

Or do you disagree? Are shop-bought costumes just more convenient? Are they an easy-option for busy parents or do you still enjoy making up your own costumes for your kids - cardboard boxes covered in silver foil and all that, or would they be mortified at the thought?!

I'm also ranting about Halloween in general over at Ready For Ten this week - why not pop over and see why it makes my blood boil. Boo humbug, as you might say.

Now 'expelliarmus' - I have a halo to polish.


October 19, 2011

To walk or not to walk? The great buggy debate.

So, we know childhood obesity is a problem and it was reported in the Telegraph this week that the issue of the humble buggy could also now be a contributory factor to this problem.

'Make your 3-year-old walk on short trips', rather than strapping them into the buggy all the time is the advice being given by Health Ministers. And I, for one, say here, here.

I think one of the more depressing sights on our streets has to be the school child, slumped into a buggy which is about four sizes too small for them, dragging their shoes along underneath it while they scoff a packet of Wotsits. It makes me shudder. It's almost worse than seeing a builder's bum. Almost.

OK, we all know how eye-crunchingly frustrating it is to walk anywhere with a toddler. A five-minute 'pop to the shops' becomes a polar expedition, stopping here, there and everywhere to look at this leaf and that twig. And yes, it's sometimes difficult to know what time you'll need to leave the house to allow enough time with a dawdling tot to make sure you get to where you need to be in time. You have to keep your eyes peeled and keep up a constant stream of cautionary advice, 'Watch where you're going,' 'Careful of the cars,' 'You're a bit too near the kerb' etc etc. So, of course, the temptation is to hoist the kids into the buggy so we can go wherever we want, at our own pace and in our own, invariably precious, time.

Both my boys were out of the buggy and walking to the local shops by the age of around two. Of course, for longer trips and busy shopping centres the buggy came in handy, but as far as I can remember the buggy quickly became more of a hindrance than a help, tipping itself over every time someone got out of it (that I do not miss) and anyway the boys went as rigid as iron girders if I so much as attempted to strap them into it.

The buggy is now somewhere shoved into the back of the attic. I'm sure that because I haven't used the buggy for so long, I have put myself through some additional frustrations and done more than my fair share of chiding the boys along to get to where ever we are going, but they are now great walkers (6 hr hike up a mountain in the Lake District at ages 4 and 6!) and, more importantly, they understand the rules of walking near roads and crossing the road safely.

What do you think? Do buggies have their time and place or do you rely heavily on your buggy for a 3-yr-old (or older)? It's an interesting debate and one which I am sure will continue to run for as long as the buggy manufacturers continue to think up ways of keeping us hooked on their products.


October 7, 2011

My Mum's Christmas Cake - continuing the legacy

In the infamous, shouty words of Noddy Holder 'It's CHRIIIISSSSSSSTMAAAAAAS'.

Well, not quite, but it felt like it was getting close when the delicious smell of my baking christmas cake filled the kitchen at the weekend (and whoever said dark rum was only for pirates was wrong by the way - my 4 and 6 year olds were both a little too keen on the smell of the stuff).

Baking the Christmas cake is a very special occasion in our house. Not just because of the tradition of making a wish as we stir the mixture (and the hilarious - yes I'm being sarcastic - mess which ends up all over the floor), but it is a special occasion because the recipe we use is my mums.
I rediscovered her hand-written, dog-eared recipe a few years ago. It was nestled between the pages of her 1964 edition of Woman's Own Cook Book (a book which probably deserves a blog post all of its own). Despite the fact that there is a huge rip in the instructions where the vital information about preparing the cake tin and baking temperature should be, and despite the fact that my husband and two children won't eat the finished cake, I will continue to make it every year because it was a family tradition from when I was a little girl and now, as a mum myself, I will continue the legacy of my mum's Christmas cake. Think of it, if you will, as my own little tribute to the marvellous woman and baking genius she truly was.

Even though it isn't yet Halloween, now is the time to be making those cakes people, and it's also National Baking Week in the UK. So, if you haven't made yours already, here is my mum's recipe to inspire and get you into a Christmas cakey bakey mood.

'Andrea's Christmas Cake'
(make 5-6 weeks before Christmas - with a glass of sweet sherry* to hand)

8oz soft butter
8oz light golden soft brown sugar
4 large eggs/4 tablespoons milk/4 tablespoons dark rum beaten together - total weight of 12oz liquid
12oz self raising flour/1 tsp mixed spice/4 oz ground almonds - mixed together
8oz currants/8oz raisins/8oz sultanas/4 oz glace cherries/2 oz mixed peel/2oz chopped nuts - mixed together

Line 8inch square or round tin with greaseproof paper - bottom and sides of tin
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the liquid mixture and the flour mixture alternately.
Stir in the mixed fruits.
Make wishes!
Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 120 celcius for 4 and a half hours.
Allow to cool in tin.
Remove from tin, prick holes in top and pour over a tablespoon of rum.
Wrap cake in greaseproof paper and foil and place in tin.
Prick holes in top and pour over a spoonful of rum once a week until about a week before Christmas when the cake will be ready for icing. There are no instructions for icing the cake, so like me, you'll have to make that bit up yourself!

*the sweet sherry is optional but adds to the authenticity of my 1980s memories. Feel free to substitute the sherry with red wine, port or whatever takes your fancy. This also helps you to be significantly less bothered about the mess your kids will inevitable make when stirring the mixture and tipping the flour bit all over the floor.


This post was partly inspired by the fabulous 'Little Legacy' started by Penny over at The Alexander Residence. Lovely, timeless things from small, humble beginnings.



October 5, 2011

What books are you reading during Children's Book Week?

With The Telegraph reporting this week that we are in a golden age of children's literature, it would seem that Children's Book Week has plenty of reason to celebrate and be proud!

It still shocks and surprises me when I read reports which provide statistics showing that parents don't read a bedtime story to their children. This has been something we just assumed everyone did as a parent and has been part of our bedtime routine (I say 'routine' with a manic grin on my face) since the boys were tiny, tiny babies. Even though I can sometimes barely keep my eyes open, reading bedtime stories is a great way for everyone to wind down. Our nightly battle isn't so much about brushing teeth, it's about how many stories they can have before the lights really do have to be turned off! The boys (aged 4 and 6) are now able to enjoy a huge range of fiction and non-fiction books as well as picture books and the shelves are straining under the weight of all the fabulous stories we have treasured so far - and will treasure for years to come.
John Lewis has released their Top 10 Children's Books for Christmas to mark Children's Book Week - the list includes some great classics such as The Famous Five as well as modern classics such as The Gruffalo.
The John Lewis Top 10 selection ranges from beautiful sound books to box sets featuring many of children‟s literature‟s best-known characters. “Christmas is not only about the latest must-haves but also the "should-haves‟ - books should be an essential part of every child‟s Christmas,” says John Lewis toys and books buyer Elaine Hooper. “According to a recent Unicef story, children most enjoy spending time with families and siblings. Reading is the perfect way to bring the whole family together. Choose books you know will capture your kids' imaginations and they‟ll want to read them over and over again making books a great
value for money Christmas gift.”

The John Lewis Top 10 is:

1. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes sound book £6.99
2. Jingle Bells sound book £6.99
3. The Night Before Christmas book and CD £7.99
4. The Jolly Postman £11.99
5. Lego Star Wars Ultimate Activity box set £12.99 (exclusive to John Lewis)
6. The Lego Ideas book £16.99
7. The Peter Rabbit Library £19.99
8. Pretty Pink Tea Par ty £19.99
9. The Gruffalo & Gruffalo‟s Child £20
10. The Famous Five 10 Adventures boxed set £35

Special offers from John Lewis this Christmas include a Famous Five boxed set of 10 books at £35, with £50 off the RRP, and a Peter Rabbit Library at £19.95 with £15 off the RRP.

Children's Book Week is an annual event to celebrate reading for pleasure among primary school children. There are a huge amount of activities taking place around the UK to celebrate Children' Book Week. Check out the website for further details.

This isn't a sponsored post - I just love books!!!

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