Sunday, 21 September 2014

Silent Sunday 21/9/14

Sunday, 14 September 2014

House-sharing, OCD and father figures

Next month we'll have been living in this house for three years. Three years! Doesn't time fly?

The reason for buying this house jointly with my younger brother T, who had yet to step onto the property ladder, was purely to make a bit of equity and - after 5 years - sell up and buy our own separate properties.

I'll be honest, the last three years haven't all been plain sailing. It was always going to be a bit of a risk, and plenty of people (including our sister) warned us off, saying it would never work and, my god, there have been plenty of times when I thought they were right. Living with a sibling when you're still kids and growing up in the family home is one thing, but living with a fully-formed adult sibling is quite another, and not one to be ventured into lightly.

And, after so many years of living in an all-female household, getting used to living with a man again
T's tidy food cupboard
T's OCD food cupboard. And in the three
years we've lived here I've never seen him
have a bowl of soup.
took quite a bit of adjustment on our part. Tall Daughter has no memory of her dad living with us (she was only 3 when he left) so for a while she found the new set-up really difficult, and The Teenager took a while to get used to T's extreme tidiness (see photo evidence).  Actually, scratch that, we all still struggle with it.

Added to that, T has some strong opinions on anything and everything you care to think of, and as I'm not short of a few of my own it's led to some interesting times as the Chinese curse goes.

But 3 years on and we're all still in one piece, and better still, we all seem to be getting on really well. Eek, I hope that doesn't jinx it!

By far the best thing that has happened, is that T has become a father figure to my two girls.  He's always been a great uncle to them, but recently I've noticed it's developed into something more substantial.

They look forward to him coming home from sea, enjoy talking to him, they pull his leg, get under his feet when he's trying to do stuff, and seem to spend equal amounts of time laughing or bickering with him.  He, in turn, takes a genuine interest in them, how they're doing at school, their latest exam results (and knows which subjects they worry over) listens to them, gives them advice (whether they like it or not) and is very generous with both his time and money. Oh, and he gives them lifts to and from school/college in his flashy sports car.

Last year there was a lot of  hoo-haa in the media about single parents and the lack of father-figures, and at the time I said that role doesn't have to be filled by the father, and it's true.  In our case, T has stepped up to fill that role and is making a significant difference to the girls' lives.

I'm not sure what'll happen over the next two years but T's role as a father-figure has blossomed at a time when both girls really needed it, and if he wasn't such a grumpy sod I'd tell him how much I appreciate it. But because he's not one for any emotional nonsense, I'll have to hope he picks up my words of appreciation telepathically. Thanks T.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Tall Daughter reviews Coca-Cola Life and Tanya Burr nails.

 Coca-cola Life review

Coca-cola Life review
You may have seen the new green Coca-Cola Life cans in the supermarket recently. They're certainly eye-catching, and walking past the display in a supermarket yesterday I overheard a group of girls wondering what it tasted like.

We got the chance to find out when we were sent a sample to test, along with a can of Classic Coke, Diet and Coke Zero. Fizzy drinks are only ever a weekend treat in our house, so this was a bonus for the girls.

As it turned out, it was (14 year old) Tall Daughter and her friend who did the tasting, which - to make it a fair test - I thought they should do blind.

I put the four different Cokes in anonymous cups (they didn't see the cans, and the classic coke can mysteriously 'disappeared' from the fridge so I bought a bottle for the tasting) and asked both girls to taste them, put them in order of preference and to also guess which was which.

Coca-cola Life review

The results were interesting: both girls preferred cup A (Diet Coke) but thought it was Classic Coke. They also both put cup D (Coke Zero) in 4th place.

The Coke Life came out of it well, both girls said they would drink it, but knew it wasn't their normal 'Coke' choice. I suppose part of it is getting used to a new taste.

I'm pleased Coca-Cola have introduced a drink with less sugar. The new Life is sweetened by stevia, a leaf extract, and has a third less sugar and 89 calories a can. While it still couldn't be described as a healthy option, as a weekend treat for the girls it's a move in the right direction.

Tanya Burr nails review

Tall Daughter is a massive Youtuber fan, so when I asked her if she'd like to review some of the Tanya Burr nail polishes she nearly burst my ear-drums by shrieking "YES!"

I'll be honest, I had no idea who she was so I'll hand over to TD to tell you more.

"Tanya Burr is HUGE on Youtube where she's a beauty and lifestyle guru, and I love her blog too. She makes videos about her favourite beauty brands, e.g. nail polishes and make-up.  She also makes fun videos with her fiance Jim Chapman and her friend Zoella (The mega-star blogger and Youtuber, Zoe Sugg).

Tanya also does meet and greets for fans, but I haven't met her. Yet!

I like wearing nail colours when I'm not in school and the Tanya Burr polishes are all great quality and the packaging is really pretty. They don't take long to dry, and cover well - I have used them with just one coat - and lots of my friends complimented me on my nails and asked about the colours.

There are ten colours in the range and I'd already bought one of the colours before we were sent another four to review, mine is the blue one called Little Duck. The lids were a bit fiddly to get off sometimes, but apart from that I really liked them."

Tanya Burr nails review

So there you have it, two reviews carried out by Tall Daughter with a little help from her friend.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Tessie is ten! Plus 10 reasons to adopt a retired racing greyhound

We've reached a couple of big milestones with our lovely greyhound Tessie. On 1st of July she turned 10 and then 2nd August marked 5 years since we adopted her.

Tessie has been a complete joy since the day we brought her home from the kennels.  We haven't had a moments trouble with her (if you ignore the cake stealing) and I can't imagine life without her, so I thought this might be a good time to give 10 reasons why you should consider a greyhound as your next dog.

1.  They don't need a lot of exercise. 
This is one of the main misconceptions about greyhounds, that because most are ex-racers they need a lot of exercise, when in fact the opposite is true. A greyhound is happy with two 20 minutes walks a day. Of course, they will walk for longer but they really don't need it. 

2. They are low maintenance 
Greyhounds are easy to look after, don't need a lot of expensive grooming and are happy to spend most of their day sleeping.  They also have little or no body odour, which means none of that doggy smell in the house.

3. They are very quiet 
Greyhounds rarely bark, and are very quiet dogs. When we were considering adopting a dog I didn't want a loud, yappy dog, and discovered that greyhounds are one of the quietest breeds. They like to 'roo' when they make a low howling sound, but not very often. Tessie only barks when she needs/wants something - food, a walk, or needs to go in the garden.

4. They are very clean and easy to housetrain
Ex-racers in particular are trained to keep their kennels clean and do their business outside, which makes it easier to transfer to their new lives when they're adopted.  Tessie has been clean in the house since day one.

5. Greyhounds are good with children
They're just as good as any other breed and better than many because of their gentle nature. Plus ex-racers are used to being handled by their trainers at the racetrack and as a result are patient with children who can be a bit rough and tumble with pets. 

When I was thinking of adopting a greyhound, a friend said she was concerned it might be aggressive because they're trained to chase small animals. I promised her I wouldn't let my children dress up as rabbits or hares.

6. Black greyhounds are 'hypoallergenic'
Greyhounds don't have undercoats which means they are less likely to cause allergies in humans, particularly black greyhounds which shed less than the other types.

7. They are loyal, gentle animals
Greyhounds have a very gentle temperament and are very eager to please their owners. They are usually so grateful for a home and a warm comfortable bed that they prove themselves to be loving, gentle pets. 

8. Many greyhounds can live happily with cats 
Despite their high prey-drive and training to chase small furry animals, many retired greyhounds are trained to co-exist with other animals and are safely rehomed to families with cats. The Retired Greyhound Trust will match a greyhound to your family's requirements, and make sure they get the best fit for both you and the hound.

9. Watching them run is a thrill
Greyhounds are the fastest dogs on earth and can reach speeds of 40-45mph. The first time I stood close to Tessie running at top speed was  one of the most thrilling things I'd seen.  To watch her run around me in circles, purely for pleasure, at such close range was amazing, and even now that she's older and runs less and less it's still wonderful to see her run across a field.

10. There are literally hundreds of retired greyhounds looking for their forever homes. 
Racing greyhounds are retired from racing at the age of 5, and even earlier if they are not successful racers, so there are hundreds of them around the country just waiting for someone to adopt them.  If you want an elegant, eye-catching pedigree dog then a greyhound might be the dog for you. 

If you are interested in adopting one of these beautiful animals, please contact the Retired Greyhound Trust who will put you in touch with your local branch.

10 reasons to adopt a retired greyhound

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Fun and flavour with Chewits Xtreme at the Chill Factor-e!

We were recently invited to an exclusive event at the Chill Factor-e near the Trafford Centre, Manchester. It was to celebrate the launch of Xtreme Chewits new pineapple sour flavour, to add the already popular tutti frutti and apple flavours.

We jumped at the chance to attend as not only do we like Chewits, but it's also quite unusual to be invited to an event aimed at teenagers.  Tall Daughter invited two of her friends to enjoy an afternoon of airboarding and extreme sledging, and after being kitted up and following the safety talk they were having a great time on the slopes.

I'm going to let the photos do the talking, but needless to say they all had a great time and even after stuffing their faces with Chewits they used up enough energy to demolish a very nice buffet meal afterwards.


It was lovely to meet other bloggers at the event too: Ally from Messed Up Mum, @GymBunnymum and Jenny from The Brick Castle, as well as their lovely families.

Thanks to everyone at Chewits for organising an  afternoon of Xtreme fun!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The noblest thing you will ever do

Robin Williams in Dead Poets' Society

This morning I woke to the news that the wonderful Robin Williams had died after an apparent suicide.

A hugely talented actor and comedian, he leaves behind a legacy of brilliant performances in films and TV shows including one of my all-time favourites, Dead Poets' Society.

Whatever the reason for his death, one thing is certain - here was a man who despite his talents, accolades and worldly goods, was bedevilled by depression.

I posted a quote this quote by Stephen Fry on Facebook, but despite believing it to be true and wishing people would take every word to heart, my own experience of depression tells a different story.

I have only ever told three friends that I struggle with depression. As in, actually sat down with them and tried to explain the dark moods, the blackness, the despair. Since then, only one of those friends has maintained contact with me.

I get it. Depression is difficult to understand. Why would someone like Robin Williams be depressed? He has more money and fans than he could shake a stick at. And yet, he was.

And it's embarrassing to talk about. I mean, everyone feels a bit down sometimes don't they? Pull yourself together!

Then there's the disbelief that someone is depressed. "But you always seems to happy!" Well, a lot of people with depression are experts at covering it up with a smile. I know, sounds crazy but it's true. How can someone smile if they're depressed? Yet they do.

Something that I'm guilty of doing myself is trying to find a reason for depression, something that has triggered an episode, and I only recently realised that there doesn't have to be one.

Depression is just there, like a rain cloud that passes over a town without warning. A town where people where playing in the park, or had hung their washing out on the line to dry in the sun. A place where one minute it was bright and happy and the sun was shining and now, suddenly, it's pouring with rain.

If anything good comes from Robin Williams' death, let it be a better understanding of mental illness and depression, and that people think about their own friends and relatives who struggle with it and try to understand what they can do to help.

Please, try to help. A text, an email, a phone call. Just knowing someone is thinking about you, it helps.

God bless, Mr Williams. Rest in peace.

Depression Alliance