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)

November 24, 2011

Send a letter from Santa with the NSPCC

The NSPCC are hoping to raise over £1.6million from their Christmas 2011 campaign whicih includes a number of simple, yet effective, fundraising initiatives.

Firstly, the Letter from Santa. This has been running for a couple of years now and is a lovely way to support the NPSCC, and bring a little bit of Christmas magic to the children in your family for a suggested donation of £5. The short trailer below tells you more about it.

Or, why not send a personalised NSPCC eCard with a range of animations to choose from or an NSPCC Christmas Bauble which is a great stocking filler and a nice change from socks, ties and the wrong perfume (sigh).

All these activities will help to raise much needed funds to help vulnerable children across the UK. Visit the NSPCC website to see details of all their Christmas fundraising activities. You can also contact the NSPCC on Twitter @NSPCC.

Thank you.


November 23, 2011

Advent Calendars - Choc or Not?

As Dec 1st approaches, the travesty of modern Advent Calendars will, once again, rear its ugly, chocolatey head and make me sigh inwardly as I leave the supermarket checkout.

Gone, it seems, are the simple, paper Advent Calendars of Christmas Past where you opened a little window and found a lovely picture of a toy soldier or a teddy bear or a robin in the snow. Gone, is the delight of comparing your picture to your sister's to discover that she got a rubbish bauble picture and you got a snowman. Gone is the sheer joy of the Double Window for 24th December which you tried and tried to resist peeking at for the entire month. Gone is the thrill of the Christmas Eve nativity scene which was eventually revealed behind that final, huge window. Gone are these simple, happy advent times.

Now, we have the dubious festive delights of, Peppa Pig, The Simpsons and Ben effing Ten - all with a nasty, cheap chocolate hiding behind the 'window' in a crappy plastic tray which will inevitably be eaten for breakfast because, obviously, the windows are opened first thing in the morning. What, pray tell, is festive about that? Huh? HUH, Tescos, M&S and other offending shops -what do you have to say for yourselves for foisting this annual travesty upon our poor, unsuspecting children? Call me a snob, call me scrooge, call me whatever you like, I would rather consume an entire platter of brussels sprouts than have a chocolate advent calendar in the house.

Thankfully, sense has prevailed among some and there are still a few paper calendars to be found. We have had a UNICEF advent calendar for the last few years - it's a lovely calendar which goes right back to traditions, keeps things simple and does just what an advent calendar is supposed to do - count the days down to Christmas with festive pictures behind each window. We also have a lovely hand-made fabric calendar which, admittedly, does have a little pocket for each day of December, but that doesn't necessarily mean the pockets will be filled with sweets - possibly little notes to the children, or something (when I've got around to thinking about it) but not chocolates every day.

So, who's with me? What's your opinion of the advent calendar - do you choc, or not?


November 21, 2011

Surprise! It's the Best of Britmums Carnival

It's been a while (a year to be precise), but I'm delighted to be hosting the Best of Britmums Carnival again this week. In keeping with the festive season (31 sleeps and counting, people), the theme for this week's Carnival is 'Surprises' which, as it turns out, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes - and, erm, forms.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a post and to everyone who retweeted my Tweets about the Carnival. All that remains is to add a splash of Baileys to your coffee, squirt some cream on a mince pie, sit back and enjoy your fellow blogger's surprises.


First up, we have Maggy from Red Ted Art who offers a lovely way to surprise someone with these very crafty 'No Knit Christmas Stockings' . She also does some surprisingly green washing with her 'Night Time Laundry' tips.

Next is Emma from Mummy...Mummy...Mum who surprised me by sending her Carnival entries before I had even remembered I was hosting one! She tells us about how surprisingly quickly we forget how calm life was before school days in 'The School Run Baby'. From her Science Sparks blog, she also shares a Bonfire Night surprise with her 'Firework in a Glass.'

Luci from Mother Wife Me is a first time Carnivaller and starts her foray into Carnivals with an absolute corker of a post about the mother of all surprises she got from her toddler. Read all about it in 'Surprise - It's a Poo!'

Next, Heidi from Mama Cook shares some surprisingly delicious food ideas for babies and toddlers. Check out her Roasted Courgette Chips and her Swede and Carrot Puree which, she claims, even adults will enjoy - surprised? You betcha.

Cass from Frugal Family tells us about the very sweet and very surprising organisations skills of her daughter in her Proudest Moment.

In a very honest and touching post, Tracy from Green Mums shares her thoughts on how becoming a parent surprised her in many, many ways in 'Well now, that was a big surprise.'

Next to share her surprise is Liz from The Mum Blog who brought a tear to my eye (and restored my faith in the male species!) in the very lovely, 'Thank you, he's beautiful'.

Maria from Tiger Tales shares her thoughts on becoming a mum (and includes some extremely cute photos!) in 'Surprise Surprise!'

Mary from A Small Hand in Mine who was surprised to see her son's classmates wearing their school uniforms with a post about one of those days in 'This morning...'

And finally, I had my own unwelcome surprise recently when my son discovered one of my Grandma's pills and thought it was a sweet. He was surprised to discover that it didn't taste very nice - I was horrified. Read about it here.

Thank you to everyone for submitting these posts which I really enjoyed reading. If you would like to contribute to, or host, a Britmums Carnival, details are on the Britmums Blog here.


November 15, 2011

What is it with ambient lighting and men?

If there is one good reason to enjoy the onset of winter, it is ambient lighting: table lamps, fairy lights and candles. Ahhhhhhh, bliss, relaxing in the cosy warmth of your home while the wind howls outside and the rain lashes the windows.

That is, until your husband gets home.

What is it about the male genetic make-up which prevents them from enjoying soft, ambient, calm lighting and compels them to exist in either absolute gloomy darkness or in the harsh, stark brightness of the 'Big Light'?

Every evening it's the same routine - I go around creating a pleasant, calming mood in the house and he then goes around muttering about too many lights being on and asking what the fairy lights are doing up in October (I personally blame Nigella Lawson for this particular lighting issue - if she can have a fairy light covered kitchen all year round, why can't I?). Then, he switches off all the pleasant lights and turns on a couple of 'Big Lights' which give me a migraine and unsettle my biorhythms.

And surely, there can be no greater disappointment than returning from a rare evening out to find the entire house shrouded in absolute darkness.

'You sure this is your house love?' the taxi driver enquires as we pull up outside.
'Yes,' I sigh.

So much for coming back to a warm, welcoming, softly lit glow through the windows. Oh no - I go inside to find him sitting in total and utter darkness with just the flickering lights from the TV for company.

'Why didn't you turn the lamps on?' I'll enquire, turning the lamps on.
'I didn't need to - I can see fine without them,' he responds.

So, it seems that for my husband, lights are purely functional. They provide light, if any is needed (which it, apparently, frequently isn't). End of. And why, oh why, would you add lots of additional lights when you have one perfectly good 'Big One'?


Nevertheless, I shall persevere with my nightly routine and will continue to switch on my lamps and fairy lights and will light up my Yankee Candles and tea lights and flood the house with pleasant scents and warmth in the vague hope that one of these days, a light will switch on in his brain and he'll 'get' it.

Fairy lights are for life you know, not just for Christmas.


November 11, 2011

Best of Britmums Carnival - call for entries

It's been a while, but I'm delighted to be hosting the next Best of Britmums Carnival on 22nd November.

In the spirit of the build up to Christmas, the theme is 'Surprises'! Whether it's something surprising that's happened to you, ways in which your children have surprised you, ways in which being a parent has surprised you or any other sort of surprise, this Carnival is all about the 'Ta-Daaaaaa'!

Please email entries to me at by 20th November at the latest so I have time to pull it all together and have a G&T.

If you haven't contributed to a blog Carnival before, further details about the Britmums Carnivals can be found here.

Looking forward to reading everyone's posts.



November 10, 2011

A wooden toy is for life, not just for Christmas

Last night, while I mopped up spilt tea, retrieved peas from the bottom of chair legs and muttered expletives under my breath (a regular occurrence at around 5.30pm), the boys found the Smyths Toys catalogue and occupied themselves for a good thirty minutes 'oooooh-ing' and 'aaahhh-ing' at The Stuff. I don't really like them doing this and have motherly-angst that they should be doing something educational like, I don't know, arguing with each other, but it gave me a few minutes of peace and quiet in which to mop, retrieve and mutter so I left them to it.

You see, the problem with a lot of 'The Stuff' in such toy catalogues is a load of all plastic rubbish, quite frankly, which will fall apart within a few hours and which I will spend most of my life putting back together. So, I am extremely keen to tell you about the award winning Le Toy Van Toys which specialise in wooden toys. Proper, quality, well-made, gorgeous wooden toys.

The company offers everything from wooden blocks, to fire engines, play kitchens and balance bikes to suit all age ranges and all price ranges. I challenge any parent not to see something on the site that they would love and the fact that the toys are made using responsibly sourced wood is also a plus point.

We were very lucky to receive the amazing 'Excalibur Castle' to review and I have to say it is one of the nicest toys we have. As with any toy, there is some assembly required, but it's fairly straightforward and after a bit of screwing and aligning, you have this fabulous creation ........

Although the toy doesn't come with any of the figures pictured (which is a bit of a shame and one or two figures included would be a nice addition), this is a sturdy, excellently made, robust toy which cannot fail to excite the imagination of any child - boy or girl. With working pulleys and drawbridge and plenty of corners and levels to role-play scenes with, my boys have adored playing with this. I am sure they will continue to play with it for many, many years to come and I have a feeling that this is one of those toys I could see coming out of the attic and being dusted off for the grandchildren to play with.

The Excalibur Castle isn't the cheapest at just under £50 but I think it's a great investment for a family toy which will stand the test of time.

That's my top Christmas tip for 2011 and for that, I think I deserve a glass of sherry. Cheers.


November 7, 2011

The one in which my son eats one of my Grandma's pills

It's a classic case of mistaken identity and it happened to us this weekend.

Staying at my Grandma's house comes with plenty of hazards, mainly in the form of excessive amounts of lemonade, trifle and out-of-date biscuits, but a new hazard presented itself this time we visited and it took the form of a 400mg ibuprofen tablet. She'd dropped it earlier in the day and placed it on the sideboard. My 4-yr-old saw it and, thinking it was a sweet, popped it into his mouth.

The first I knew, he was spitting a vibrant pink mush out of his mouth complaining that 'this isn't very sweetie-ish'. Alarm bells started to ring and it became clear that he'd helped himself to a tablet. But what tablet and were there any others? Did he swallow any? Had my 6-yr-old eaten anything? Serious discussions were had and satisfied that it was just the one tablet, and that, as far as we could see, he hadn't actually swallowed any, I called NHS Direct for advice.

By this time, all seemed to be fine with my son and Grandma, feeling guilty, presented him with a ginormous bowl of ice cream. So, when the advisor at the end of the phone (going through a routine questionnaire which bizarrely included questions such as 'Did the individual take this in order to self-harm' and 'Has the individual swallowed a coin or battery') asked me whether he was gasping for breath, going limp or blue around the lips, I happily said 'No, he's eating ice cream.' What on earth it must be like to endure those endless questions if your child was gasping for breath, going limp or blue around the lips, God only knows - and I hope I never find out.

The NHS Direct service was very efficient and the nurse called me back within 10 minutes to reassure me that he would not come to any harm even if he had ingested a little of the tablet and that there was no added complication because he'd been taking Benilyn for a cough.

Nevertheless, I put him in bed with me that night and didn't sleep a wink while I watched him like a hawk and wondered why pharmaceutical companies make their tablets in such child-appealing colours. Why not make them a dull grey or something a child would be less likely to confuse with a sweet?

Anyway, it was a lesson learnt for all of us and I would urge any Grandmas reading to take note: keep all medication well out of the reach of Grandchildren - and perhaps ease back a bit on the portions of ice cream too.

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