Wednesday, 30 December 2009

My personal highlights of 2009

This year seems to have flown by, so I thought it might be timely to recall some my personal highlights:
  • my weekend at a Buddhist retreat in the Lake District.  A truly fabulous experience which is now sadly a distant memory.  For a long time afterwards the effects of the time there stayed with me but I need to arrange another visit for a serenity top-up;
  • After years of nagging from the girls I relented and said they could have a pet.  After deciding on guinea pigs we went to choose them from a rescue centre, and blow me but they were so cute!  I hadn't expected to enjoy having them as much as we did, and after looking after the furry little critters for a few weeks it got me thinking about getting another pet;
  • adopting our gorgeous Tess. We got her from the Retired Greyhound Trust, a fabulous charity who work hard to rehome as many ex-racing greyhounds as possible.  Tess has brought so much fun into our lives and added a new dimension to our little family;
  • Going to our usual holiday destination of the Llyn Peninsula in Wales.  We go to the same farm cottage every year and have become friends with the other families (we all book for the same time each year) and the family who run the farm. We've stayed there for the past 5 years and the girls love it so much they insist that I rebook for the following year.  This year The Teenager cried when it was time to leave, she had enjoyed the holiday so much;
  • meeting several other bloggers at the North-West meet-up. It was great to be able to put some names to faces;
  • The Teenager-in-waiting reaching a milestone and turning into an actual Teenager, Harry Enfield stylee;
  • Tall Daughter taking on a lead role in the school Christmas play even though she is very, very shy.  I don't think I've ever been prouder than when she entered stage left and stood on her own, speaking her first few lines, at the start of the play.
So, okay, no major earthshattering events perhaps but all-in-all it's been a good year for us.  My girls are happy and healthy, things have improved for me at work, and we've managed to get through the year without anything too disastrous happening (touch wood, still 24 hours to go!).

I've really enjoyed my blogging year too, particularly getting to know some of the different people who make up the blogosphere.  Thank you to everyone who has read my blog this year, I love reading your comments and visiting your blogs in return.  I hope 2010 brings us all happiness, health and lots of chocolate. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Would you let your daughter sleep at a stranger's house?


 
The Teenager is still in bed.  Last night she had a sleepover with two friends.  One of them, Laura, has been here several times before.  The other girl, Abi, is a 'new friend' of the Teenager. 

Now, tell me if I'm going over the top, but if the Teenager wants to go to a friends for a sleepover, I need to:  a) know who the friend is, b) know who the parents are, or at least talk to them to introduce myself and ask about the sleepover arrangements, and c) be as sure as I can be that she is going to be safe (she was once invited to a sleepover where there would be several teenage boys.....that'll be a no then). 

Yesterday, when Abi turned up at our house for the sleepover it was the first time I'd met her.  Her Mum dropped her off at the end of the drive and drove away.  I have no emergency phone number for her, and neither of her parents have spoken to me or asked me what the sleepover arrangements were.  Is it just me, or is this a bit odd?

Is it normal to send your 13 year old daughter to sleep at a stranger's house without even the most basic checks?  Answers on a postcard please to Paranoid Single Mum.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Blu-ray Film Reviews: G Force, Santa Buddies, Snow White, Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure

We have a bit of a blu-ray backlog, so instead of the usual one or two we have four film reviews for your delectation. Thanks to Katie at Thinkparents for sending them to us.  Here goes:


G-Force
The Teenager: It was really, really good.  I thought it would be babyish but it was very funny, and the fur on the guinea pigs was amazing because it looked so real.  There were some funny bits in the pet-shop, and the chubby guinea pig called Hurley was fun.  I liked the Black Eyed Peas soundtrack too. Points: 5 out of 5

Tall Daughter:  The picture quality was really good because everything was so clear.  I like the film it was really good, and the guinea pigs were cute.  The mice and the ferret were cute too.  It was a fun film and I give it 4 out of 5.

Santa Buddies
I watched this with Tall Daughter, but I was ready to turn it off after 15 minutes when I'd had enough of the creepy cute talking dogs.  So, I'll pass this one over to TD.
TD:  It was sooooo cute! I liked it because I love dogs, and they were cute.  I'm going to watch it again with my friends.  It's a nice film for smaller children too. 5 out of 5.  (Did she mention that the dogs were cute?)


Snow White: Diamond Edition
This blu-ray arrived in a package together with a big bag of sweets, popcorn, and assorted party goodies (thanks Katie!).  TD and I watched it together and I was pleasantly surprised by how much we both enjoyed it.  Even though we've seen it before in its DVD format (and infact this was the first film I ever went to see at the cinema in the 60s) the blu-ray version really brought this classic film to life.  This was the original Disney animated film and it has been digitally remastered to great effect. The colours were vibrant and the sound much improved.  I'd forgotten what a charming, innocent film this is to watch.  Highly recommended.

Tinkerbell and The Lost Treasure
TD:  It was really, really good. I liked Blaze the little bug, he was cute. The characters were good, I liked Terry who is Tinkerbell's friend and I like all of the girl fairies' powers. The colours of the fairies and the sparkly treasure looked really lovely too.  5 out of 5.

So there you have it:  a classic Disney film, some hideous singing dogs, a beautiful fairy and some guinea pigs. What more could you possibly need?

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas


 
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a peaceful and happy 2010.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Enough Snow Already!

We've escaped the worst of the snow in the North-west according to the weather forecasts. Only the other day I was reflecting on how the first fall of snow had made everything look so Christmassy, yet it was still easy to get around.

WRONG!

What's actually been happening is a light layer of snow has fallen each day since Friday and during the sub-zero temperatures overnight that innocent little layer has frozen.  Then covered by another layer of snow, and so on.  The end result is several layers of ice and snow.  Treacherous.

Yesterday I decided to brave the roads and go to the bank.  The sky was blue, the snow and ice appeared to be over the worst of it and people were going about their day without major problems.  Whilst I was at the bank, inside a shopping centre, I took a look around a couple of shops and was in there for 30 minutes tops.  When I drove out of the underground carpark I was shocked to find myself driving through heavy snow, with cars sliding on the roads ahead of me.

Fortunately, I got back safely and parked my car on the - sloping - driveway as usual, although it felt quite slippy as I drove up.

Last night, just after I'd changed into my pyjamas (pink polka-dot brushed cotton if you must know, very glam) my neighbour knocked on the door to tell me my car had slid down the driveway and into the road.   What!???

Cue my neighbour and me (still in my pjs) trying to break up the layers of impacted ice with spades, with only limited success.  After driving the car back up we had to put blocks under the wheels to prevent more slippage. 

Last night I hardly slept. I kept jumping out of bed and running to the window to check the car was still on the drive.  It's still there.

Today's planned activities might have to wait until I'm sure I can drive safely.  Just hope we've got enough food in the freezer to keep us going 'cause the cupboards are looking decidedly bare.  Please send food parcels!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

My Favourite Christmas Song: O Holy Night

I've just read a post by the lovely Linda over on You've Got Your Hands Full about her favourite Christmas song which is The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forget sung by Nat King Cole.  I also love that song, and one of my favourite Christmas CDs ever is his Merry Christmas CD.  It's a great selection of songs by a fantastic singer and during the Christmas holiday it gets played constantly in our house.  It's particularly popular with The Teenager funnily enough, although I prefer James Taylor's Christmas album.

But this is probably my favourite Christmas song and, as sung by the honey voiced Cole, it 's got to be the best version I've ever heard.  Enjoy.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Merry Christmas from the Festive Greyhound (and me)


This is Tess with her winter coat on, which looks quite festive.


This is one of two local fenced areas where I can let her off the lead.  This one is only 15 minutes walk from home so it's perfect for us.  Greyhounds need training to come back to you, because of their chasing instinct (and she is an ex-racer) if they see a squirrel or a rabbit they give chase without a thought for you. This is where I am attempting to train her - with varying degrees of success. This is the only photo I took of Tess running where she is actually in shot!


...but she steadfastly refused to wear the Santa hat.  Spoilsport!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Single Life: The Long and The Short of It

I've recently started noticing an unusual trend.  I'm seeing more and more tall women out and about with shorter men.  Not necessarily short men you understand, but men who are shorter than the women.  I don't know if I've noticed it more because I'm a tall woman myself - 5' 9" in my stockinged feet - or because it's just, well, unusual. 


Of course we're more used to seeing famous couples where the man is extremely rich shorter than the woman,  and perhaps the idea is now filtering down to the rest of us.   But is it becoming less of issue because of couples such as President Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni, or the newly engaged Jamie Cullum and the statuesque Sophie Dahl?  I don't know, but recently I've seen several couples walking hand in hand, or linking arms, and looking very much like a couple where the woman has been significantly taller than the man. 

I'm not sure if I'm just a little bit jealous of these couples because it's something I've struggled with in the past.  All of my former boyfriends, including my ex-husband,  have been taller than me except for one who was - if I wore flats and didn't stand too straight - just slightly shorter than me. But he was also a charming and funny Irishman who dismissed our height disparity with the words "Ah, sure, we're all the same height lying down..." 

Aside from him I've shied away from shorter men yet I'm still not sure of the root of the problem.  My problem. Social conditioning that says the men should be taller than the woman?  Undoubtedly.  My insecurities about being so tall?  Definitely.  Fear of being ridiculed?  Possibly.  The fact that shorter men (along with the tall ones) show absolutely no interest in me?  Ah, yes....

If the situation presented itself would I consider having a relationship with an older man?  Yes.  A younger man?  Yes.  A man from a different background or culture?  Yes, although it would probably depend on the differences between us. A shorter man?  Hmmm......not sure.  No, I am sure - I'd prefer not to.  So what does that tell you about me?  On second thoughts, don't tell me...

I have to also say that my pet peeve is seeing very petite women with extremely tall men - for god's sake, leave them for the tall girls!!  Where's your sense of sisterhood? 

I'll leave you in the very talented hands of Randy Newman who has a more controversial view than me, but all the same I think I should write a disclaimer here - I love short people.  Some of my best friends are short.  I just don't want any short men in my bed.  (Although the phrase 'beggars can't be choosers' springs to mind here.)


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Possibly the cutest thing you'll see today: A Husky Dog Saying I Love Youuuuuuuuuuuuu

This is our current obsession in the notSupermum household - possibly the cutest thing we've seen on Youtube and the subject of our next dog training efforts:



Right, where's Tess....

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A Letter To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self


While I was out shopping today I had a quick look through this book (and later ordered it from Amazon)*.  It's a book of letters written by various celebrities (the ubiquitous Stephen Fry, Yoko Ono, Fay Weldon, Joanna Lumley, Rolf Harris and loads of others) to their sixteen-year-old selves.  It's an interesting idea and caught my imagination, so much so I thought I'd have a go at it myself. 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear 16 year old Me,

I know you don't weigh yourself right now, because you are tall and slim so it makes you look like a beanstalk (just ignore your brothers when they say that, they'll get bored of it one day) but as you get older you will become tall and fat and that's much harder to deal with.  Start weighing yourself now and do something about it when you see when the extra pounds appear.  Look after yourself, because guess what?  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  Yup, the buck stops with you. 

Enjoy being tall.  Wear heels more often and don't slouch.  People will look at you for all the wrong reasons for slouching, but for the right reasons for your height.  And I know you won't believe this but short people will be envious of you in the long run, honest.

OK this is a biggie: Dad will never be proud of you.  Nor will he ever be impressed by anything you do.  Accept that now and you will avoid a lot of heartache in the future.  And while I'm on the subject of Dad get some counselling or therapy about it - it might help you to avoid picking the wrong type of men to have doomed relationships with.  Mum, of course, is a different kettle of fish altogether.  Cherish the time you have with her - learn from her, talk to her about her childhood more.  And ask her to write down all her best recipes - one day you will kick yourself for not thinking of this!

One day there will such a thing as laser eye surgery - get it done as soon as it comes out and don't wait until your forties.  Of course it will be expensive but it'll be worth every penny.

Don't play it too safe - take the occasional mad risk, or do something outrageous.  In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter what other people might think.  Go on, you know you want to.

Don't believe a man when he says he is separated from his wife, he probably isn't. Or that his wife doesn't understand him, because she probably knows him only too well.   And don't believe him when he says he is only going on holiday with her for the sake of the kids.  He's not. 

Never, ever marry a man who doesn't respect his mother.  The way a man treats his mother is the way he will treat you one day. Although hang on, you will end up having his two daughters who will bring you a great deal of happiness, so go ahead and marry him. But follow your instincts and chuck him out three days after your second baby is born instead of waiting for another three years.  You'll manage better on your own. Trust me on this one.

Learn to swim!  It'll make such a difference to your summer holidays. 

At 16 you'll be thinking of the type of career you should do in the future and believe me you'll wish you'd spent more time thinking about this. You will spend so much of your life at work that it should be something you enjoy doing. Don't take any notice of the careers advisor who is a completely short-sighted, but well meaning, traditionalist who thinks girls can only be nurses or secretaries.   Look carefully at your options or you will spend the next 25+ years floating from one thing to another before finding the thing that you are really good at:  working with children.  Think about teaching, because one day you'll realise how satisfying it can be, but also investigate how to become a child psychologist.  One day you will wish you had.

I hope you learn to like yourself more, because deep down you're a good person.  Good luck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What would you say to yourself at sixteen, knowing what you know now? 

* Proceeds from the book go towards the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Giving Thanks

Although Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday, it doesn't mean us Brits don't have a lot to be thankful for - myself included. I'm thankful for:

  • my two beautiful, healthy daughters.  Real blessings that I hope never to take for granted;

  • my own good health - apart from the dodgy back, that is;

  • good friends, some of whom I have known for 30+ years with hardly a cross word between us;

  • a job I enjoy, and colleagues I consider to be friends;

  • a sense of humour, which gets me through the tough times;

  • the blogosphere - who knew blogging could be so therapeutic and enjoyable?

  • the comfortable life my daughters and I enjoy.  This is real comfort that money cannot buy - but from knowing that we are loved by each other.
Wherever you are, whoever you, are enjoy this day of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Take My Hand: A Song to Support Abused Women and Children


Tomorrow (Wednesday 25th November 2009) the UK national charity Women’s Aid is celebrating 35 years of working to end violence against women and children by releasing their first charity single, ‘Take My Hand’. The song has been written especially for the charity to help them raise vital funds to support abused women and children. The single, which is being released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is sung by 13 year old classical singer Olivia Aaron, with Natasha Benjamin, a real-life survivor of domestic violence. The song is based on the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, ‘Sonata Pathétique’ and its lyrics are an expression of the emotions experienced by children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid Chief Executive, Nicola Harwin CBE, said:
“Take My Hand has been written especially for Women’s Aid and reflects the words of families that have survived abuse. The song reflects hope for a future free from violence and we hope it will reach out to those affected by domestic violence as well as the wider public. We want to raise awareness of the support available and raise vital funds so that we can continue to provide these services.”

Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women at some point in their lifetime and recent statistics from the Women’s Aid Annual Survey show that last year an estimated 18,000 women and 20,000 children lived in refuge accommodation in Women’s Aid’s national network of services.

The launch of Take My Hand on the 25th November marks the beginning of Women’s Aid’s activities to mark the ’16 days of Action’, where the charity will ask the public to help them take action against violence against women and children. For more information on the ‘16 Days of Action’, go to http://www.womensaid.org.uk/.

Natasha's story:
‘I was only with my boyfriend for three weeks when he started to become verbally aggressive. The first time he got aggressive I thought I must have said something that upset him and he went mad. He started throwing things at the walls, even a wine glass that had red wine in it. As I left the room he continued to throw things after me and a glass plate just missed my face. The first time I did try to get help I was told to leave him, but it was not that easy. When it happened again I told no one, firstly from sheer embarrassment, and later from fear.
One night I woke up with his foot on my face and my boyfriend saying he was going to stamp on me. I had to sleep in contact lenses as it was a common occurrence for him to wake me up with demands or threats. I was so afraid of not being able to see when the assaults took place as I might not be able to get away.


I experienced a severe form of domestic violence that also included a range of abuse, from controlling where I was and what I did, to pulling my hair, to eventually strangulation. My daughter witnessed the abuse and we were both very frightened of what would happen. I was only with him for six months where he nearly killed me.


I stayed in a Women's Aid refuge which provided us with safety and which gave us the support we needed to rebuild our lives. I am singing on 'Take My Hand' to not only raise vital funds for Women's Aid but also to provide a message of hope to women and children currently living with violence in the home - thanks to support services provided by Women's Aid there is hope for a safe future free from fear.’
To buy Take My Hand for just 79p, please go to www.womensaid.org.uk/takemyhand

This is a charity very close to my heart. Please, please support this very worthy cause.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Things my daughters cannot do: part one


This post by the fabulous Tessa Scoffs made me laugh out loud, especially as I had had a major tantrum about the very same thing the day before.  It got me thinking about the other simple tasks that seem to have eluded my darling daughters. I'm not talking about making a cordon bleu meal, or shampooing the carpets but simple tasks.  Why can't they:
  • unplug a phone charger from the wall.  They unplug their phones from the charger and leave the charger plugged in - it's a fire hazard, but they still don't get it.   "OMG! Stop nagging me Mum!"
  • put dirty clothes in the laundry basket even though it is right outside their bedroom doors.  Noooo, the bedroom floor is much more suitable.  "I'm waiting till I have a few that need washing?"  What?
  • put the lid back on the jar/milk/butter/toothpaste, etc.  "Uh, give me chance will you?"
  • close a drawer (they seem to have conquered opening them, but the final act of closing is just Too Difficult) "What?  I was going to!!!"
  • hang up their coats.  On a coat peg, not the back of a chair please.  "But I'm going out again..." yeah, tomorrow perhaps?
  • talk instead of shout.  "She/you/they ignore me unless I shout."
  • empty out their school lunch boxes before the contents start to fester.  Oh how we love to find smelly food in them on  a Monday morning...  "It's not my fault, you didn't remind me."  Arggghhhhhhh!
  • put the butter or milk back in the fridge. "I forgot".  Again.
  • Rinse a glass or cup out instead of using a clean one each time they want a drink.  "What, you want me to get, like, germs?"
  • Put their shoes away in - guess what? - the shoe cabinet.  "But I'm going to wear them again!"
Oh, I could go on. And on. And on. 

Is it just me?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Things you don't want to hear on a first date

There's a very funny list in the Timesonline of things you shouldn't say - or don't want to hear - on a first date.  Here are a few of them, the longer list is available here:

“I can’t wait to blog about this tonight…”  
“This may sound like a platitude…”
“The pills I’m taking don’t let me think thoughts like that…”
“Sure, it looks like a wedding ring…”
[Proffers photograph] “This is my car/ex-partner/pony…”
“I’m a Sagittarian who is curious about life…”
“Here are my children. Say ‘Hello’, children…”
“It’s not a current restraining order…”
“My therapist always says…”

“You look really familiar. Have we…?”
“Mr Whiskers is so talented…”
“This is great, but I need to establish you’re disease-free…”
“Jesus told me I’d meet someone…”
“Your aura has so much anger…”
“My parents are going to love you…”
“The thing is about being an alpha male…”
“Sure, it looks like herpes…”
“I love you...”

It's been a loooooong time since I went on a date but things that have been said to me on a first date include:
 
"I can offer you three hours of non-stop sex....."  (no, I didn't take him up on his kind offer)
"I'm still in love with my ex-girlfriend...." 
and finally,
"My wife divorced me for unreasonable behaviour...." (reader, I went on to marry, and divorce, him.  I know, I know!)
 
OK, your turn......promise I won't tell anyone.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Do you cook the same meals week in and week out?

I heard about an interesting food survey today. It suggested that most Mums (no mention of Dads I'm afraid) end up cooking the same meals for their families on a regular basis. In fact it goes as far to say that most Mums rely on just 9 different meals which they serve up time and time again.

I know that it's definitely true for me, because like most people I'm a) often in a hurry and sometimes need a quick meal solution; b) I have two fussy eaters to cater for and I try to avoid making different meals for everyone; and c) if I try new meals on my two girls they usually turn their noses up at it - "what's that? Can't we have a Maccy D?"

According to the survey, carried out by Merchant Gourmet, the most popular meals cooked on a regular basis are:

1. Spaghetti Bolognese
2. Roast dinner
3. Shepherds Pie/Cottage Pie
4. Pasta dish
5. Meat and two veg
6. Pizza
7. Casserole/stew
8. Sausages and chips/mash
9. Indian/Curry

My list looks slightly different, and these would ony normally be cooked in autumn/winter:

1. Scouse - I use my Mum's recipe and it cheap, healthy and the girls love it.  Yum!
2. Nearly Cottage Pie - The Teenager likes a lot of mash and just a bit of the mince, the Tall Daughter likes a lot of mince and just a bit of mash (did I mention they are fussy?)  so instead of cooking it in the oven, I just dish it up out of the pans and call it this.
3. Tuna Pasta - quick and a favourite with all of us.
4. Pizza
5. Chicken Kiev, jacket potato and veg
6. Spaghetti bolognese
7. Homemade soups - current favourites are tomato and red pepper; leek and potato; bean soup; vegetable mulligatawny.
8. Fish cakes and chips -  cooked straight from the freezer
9. Lasagne

In really desperate measures I will even take the girls to the McDonald's drive-thru and where they can get their junk food fix - but I do this reluctantly and only when time is really at a premium, or we are on route back from somewhere and I haven't got the energy to cook a meal. 

I occasionally cook different things but only if I know they are dead certs to be eaten. New recipes with unusual ingredients don't get a look in I'm afraid, nor do recipes that start with an instruction such as 'peel and chop 6 tomatoes'.....forget it!

Is this survey right?  Do you rely on the same meals for your family, or are you an adventurous lot and think nothing of rustling up a banquet every night?  Do tell...

Monday, 16 November 2009

How To Giftwrap a Goat


Christmas is coming and most of us have started buying presents for friends and family.  But what do you get for the person who has everything?  We all know someone who is really difficult to buy for, or maybe they just don't need anything else.  Perhaps you want to give a gift that is not only quirky and different, but it will make a different to someone's life?  Well, it's always worth looking at charity websites for gift ideas with a difference.

The £15.00 it cost us for the goat will have benefitted a whole community overseas.  The Present Aid site explains it like this:
"A goat is a great gift because it produces milk for families to drink, and provides income when sold.  In Burundi, 'goat banks' provide farmers with an opportunity to invest in the future of their community. A group of farmers are given three goats, two female and one male.
Each member of the goat bank agree to provide food and shelter for their animal, and that they will pass on one of the kids from the first 'next generation' to the next member of the group. This revolving fund ensures that a whole community benefits from one goat."

Last year my colleagues decided not to send Christmas cards to each other, but to donate the money we would have otherwise spent on a charitable gift that would make a difference. Amongst the things we 'bought' was a goat and a few ducks from the Present Aid website.

As a long-time supporter of the NSPCC I was pleased to receive an email from them recently asking if I would consider mentioning their Christmas ideas.  One of the gifts they are currently promoting is a brilliant idea: a letter from the great man himself, Father Christmas:

"The NSPCC’s Letter from Santa fundraising initiative gives parents, grandparents and anyone else the chance to nominate someone special to receive a magical letter from Santa for a suggested donation of £5. The letter is personalised with the child’s name and age and is sure to confirm that Santa will be making his usual stop in the child’s home town to wish everyone a merry Christmas. The letter is written in a hand script font and is beautifully illustrated on quality colourful paper. The envelope shows that it’s been safely delivered through ‘express Rudolph Mail’. "



So not only did we not have to worry about recycling all of the unecessary Christmas cards we send to people we will see over the Christmas holidays, but we knew our money had been spent wisely, and we're planning to do the same again this year.
Not only that, but when you get to a couple of days before Christmas and you realise you've forgotten to post a card to cousin Hilda in Australia why not send her an NSPCC eCard instead?  Or perhaps you just want to make a donation
Cancer Research UK also have plenty of Christmas card and gift ideas on their website.  And if you're just not sure what to buy me, I'd love one of these Scottie Dog Hot Water Bottles, so cute! 

There are plenty of other charities worth supporting at this - or any other - time of the year, but these ones in particular are close to my heart.  Happy shopping.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

I've Survived a Double Birthday Sleepover!

I mentioned in my previous post that The Teenager-in-waiting became a fully fledged Teenager last week, but what I didn't mention was that Tall Daughter also celebrated a milestone birthday in the same week:  she reached double digits when she turned 10. 

Usually, we have a whole weekend of celebrations with two separate sleepovers and various friends and family members dropping in to see the girls, but this year I just didn't have the energy for a whole weekend of it so I persuaded them to have shared sleepover and party on Saturday night. 

We spent practically the whole of Saturday tidying the house (why, when it would be a tip again?), shopping for party food,  blowing up balloons and decorating with banners.  The girls had invited a total of 10 friends and they were all due to arrive at 5pm. 

When the doorbell rang at 4.40pm I was a little surprised that it wasn't one of the party guests, but my ex-mother-in-law in floods of tears, sobbing into a tissue. 

I should just point out at this stage that my ex-husband's family are what is known as Hard Work. They could cause trouble in an empty house, and are known for their dramatic tendencies.   Don't get me wrong I like my ex-mother-in-law and she's a doting Grandma to my two girls, but her timing could have been better and I  have to admit to being a little irritated by it.   She knew that the girls - her granddaughters - were having a party on Saturday night - and she chose that night to visit us in tears. 
So, in between getting the food ready and making her a cup of tea, I heard of how she had had yet another row with her other son (not my ex).  It's a tale I've heard numerous times before and no doubt will hear again, but one I'd rather not hear about. 

Anyway, after a cuppa and sympathy she was on her way home again and the party commenced.  It was good fun, albeit a little chaotic, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I even managed to get a decent night's sleep even though I could hear whispers and giggles long into the night.

This morning we had a houseful of girls in their pjs playing hide-and-seek before sitting down to a breakfast of cereal, toast, fruit and pancakes.  It was lovely to hear them all sitting at the table laughing and enjoying themselves and by that time it was even better for me because I knew they would all be going home soon!

By 11.30am most of the parents had collected their daughters and taken a piece of birthday cake with them, although one piece of cake went missing but the crumbs were tracked to the dog's bed. 

The party stragglers were press-ganged into helping to tidy the house (again) and after two cycles of the dishwasher, a binbag full of wrapping paper, some serious vacuuming and cleaning by 1pm it was back to normal. 

So it's all over again for another year.  Deep sigh of relief!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Teenager is no longer 'in-waiting'

Yesterday was a milestone in the notSupermum house.  My first-born child; my angelic little baby girl that was; my gorgeous, feisty Teenager-in-waiting turned 13.  Yep, she is now a fully fledged Teenager! 


And just to remind us all of how funny Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager was, I had to include this which is eerily true to life:



It still makes me laugh, and I've got my very own Kevin now!


Happy Birthday Sweetie x

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I've Had a Facelift

Well, not me exactly...although God knows I'm getting close to the time when I could do with one....but the blog header.   Thoughts?   

I love it, and it was all arranged for me by that lovely Tara Cain at Sticky Fingers.  Now, I won't hear another word said about her...

Thanks Tara!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Thoughts for the day


1. My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't.
2. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

3. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.
4. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
5. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.
6. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.
7. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
8. Ham and eggs...A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
9. The trouble with life is there's no background music.
10.  God must love stupid people: He made so many of them.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lest We Forget



LAST POST
by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.


If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now to die and die and die.


Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.

You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.


There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queueing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.


You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

It's Not Goodbye....more like Au Revoir


Things are getting a bit out of hand in the notSupermum household.  There are stacks of paperwork waiting to be dealt with and filed or binned; a growing heap of ironing that's so big it's threatening to take over the spare room, no, the whole house; a pile of unread books by my bedside; letters that need to be written; small DIY jobs waiting to be finished and Tess my wonderful greyhound needs two walks each day.

But instead of doing some of these things I'm spending my time - far too much of my time - blogging.  I'm an all or nothing type of gal, and at the moment it's all about blogging.  It's become an obsession rather than the hobby it started out as, and I'm spending hours browsing and reading blogs, writing comments and looking for ideas for blog posts.  It's all too much.

More importantly, my Dad is still in hospital and that involves daily visits; the Teenager-in-Waiting is sick and need attending to; and I'm in the midst of a major work issue which will involve me appearing at an employment hearing in the near future. 

All in all, it's a busy and quite stressful time right now.

So....something's gotta give, as they say, and I think it's going to be the blogging for a while at least.  So, it's au revoir - auf wiedersehen - bye for now.  But in the immortal words of Arnie, I'll be back!

British Mummy Bloggers NW meet at MOSI

Last Sunday I decided to go and meet some fellow bloggers.  Fellow North-west bloggers to be precise. 

Amy from And1moremeans4(who will have to change the title again when she gives birth to the latest addition) had arranged for Silver Cross to sponsor a meet and greet at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, or MOSI to its friends.

I arrived on time and made my way up to the Loft restaurant where the meet was being held, and started looking for likely looking people.  What do a group of bloggers look like?  In fact, what is the term for a group of bloggers?  A post of bloggers?  A web? I don't know, but anyway I recognised Sandy Calico straightaway from her blog photo and so I knew I was in the right place.

It was a bit odd meeting people who were not completely unknown to me, but were in effect strangers.  A bit like meeting a minor celebrity I imagine, you know details of their lives without ever having met. 

We had a nice lunch and a natter before Phil and Larissa from Silver Cross gave us the low down on their new range of prams and soft toys.  The soft toys were lovely, but I have to admit the prams were of little interest to me as I am thankfully past the baby stage.

I took a few photos and with permission from the individual bloggers I'm posting them on here.  Unfortunately, I managed to delete some - don't know how or when - but I clearly remember taking some photos that are no longer on the camera.  Sorry if you're not in these ones then.


A brand new 4 week old baby belonging to All Grown Up
(and yes, I got to hold her for a while!)


Josie, Ant and Kai from Sleep Is For The Weak


Kath, Stu and CJ from Parklover


Amy, Charlie, Jessica, Isabel, Emilia and baby Evelyn from And1moremeans4


Laura and her four blonde girls from The Wife of Bold
(plus CJ from Parklover)



Sandy from Baby Baby was there with her son Presley

Lindy from Squidgyboo was also there, as was Sally Whittle (Who's The Mummy) and her lovely daughter Flea.

It was great to meet everyone! 

Monday, 5 October 2009

Proof - if proof were needed - that I am indeed An Unfit Mother

The Teenager-in-waiting has been diagnosed with swine flu, and the Tall Daughter - who was sent home from school this morning - is also looking decidedly porcine.  I went to the hospital to collect the Tamiflu medication and was given strict instructions to confine the TiW to her bedroom until the most severe symptoms subside which could take up to five days.

Who said there were no good points to swine flu?

Anyway, the TiW was tucked up in bed with a drink, her mobile phone, the house phone (which has an intercom button on it), a box of tissues, and some magazines.  She also has her laptop, her music centre and a television with a DVD player.

But, horror of horrors, she doesn't have Sky TV in  her bedroom!! 

"...but Mum, I'm going to...like...miss my fave programmes..."

I'm not sure how I'm going to live with the guilt but I'll battle on.  I'm expecting a call from Social Services any minute.  The next 5 days are going to be hard, pray for me.

UPDATE - Even more proof that I'm An Unfit Mother:  the poor TiW is very poorly and really suffering with this horrible swine flu.  She really doesn't feel well, and I'm up and down the stairs every few minutes checking on her. I feel guilty now.  But then that is part of being a mum isn't it?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Things We Don't Want to Hear: Mummy, I've Seen a Boy's Willy

This afternoon, after school, Tall Daughter and I took Tess out for a walk.  On the path in front of us was a crude graffiti drawing of a penis. 

TD (aged 9) asked:  What's that supposed to be?
Me:  It's supposed to be a willy (yeah I said 'willy' instead of penis, so sue me).
TD:  *giggles*  I've seen a boy's willy and it didn't look like that.
Me:  WHAAAAATTTTTTT!
TD: Yes, I've seen Harry's willy.
Me:  *Deep breath, deep breath*  Who. Is. Harry?  (In the short time it took her to answer I wondered how long it would take to get a shotgun license).
TD:  He's Jane's grandson. (Jane is my ex-husband's fiance)
Me:  Deep sigh of relief when I remember that Harry is only 7 months old......

Phew.....


Monday, 28 September 2009

Review: Ecover Cleaning Products

I occasionally get asked to review products on here, but only do so if they are of particular interest to me. The only items I've reviewed on here so far have been the Disney blu-ray films courtesy of Think Parents, but I'm happy to do more if they appeal to me.  Just in case there are any PR people reading this, I'm up for anything involving chocolate, copious amounts of wine and weekends in posh hotels - preferably all at the same time.  Ahem...

When I'm not touting for freebies, I try to be ecologically sound.  I recycle as much as possible; I take old clothes to the charity shop rather than throwing them away; we turn off all electrical items at the mains rather than leave them on stand-by and when I buy new goods I try (financial limitations withstanding) to buy the most energy efficient ones I can find.

So when I recently saw a request on British Mummy Bloggers for people to review the Ecover cleaning products this seemed like a good one to do. I've used Eco cleaning products in the past but found many of them to be a bit hit-and-miss, so I was interested to read that the Eco products I would be reviewing have been found to be 'as effective as the petrochemical alternatives'.


Last week, after a frustrating few days when the delivery company kept ignoring my instructions to leave the goods with a neighbour, I opened the big package to find a green plastic trug (made from recycled bottle tops no less) full of cleaning products. There was also a pair of Traidcraft rubber gloves to use when testing the chemical products which also came in the trug, and eco cleaning cloths. Now I was ready to test.

  • First up was the Ecover Power Cleaner versus the Cillit Bang Power Cleaner Degreaser. I thought it might be an idea to test this on a dirty, greasy oven hob and by sheer coincidence found an absolutely mingin' one in my own kitchen. Fancy that?! (Kim and Aggie would have been agast...) To make sure it was a fair test I used the same type of cleaning sponge for each products, and spent 5 minutes only on each side of the hob - even though it needed longer...oh, the shame.  The Cillit Bang was used on the left hand side, and the Ecover on the right hand side. I've never been tempted to buy Cillit Bang products in the past because the ads always put me off with their boast of  being so powerful that I imagine plants, animals and small children will be damaged by its fumes. That didn't happen thankfully, but I can confirm that the Ecover product performed as well as the Cillit Bang cleaner. Not only that, but the eco cleaner had a pleasant smell unlike the chemical smell of Cillit Bang.
  • The Ecover Window & Glass Cleaner also matched the effectiveness of the Mr Muscle Window Cleaner, although perhaps the Ecover product had the slight edge.  It was less streaky and again, the odour was preferable to the chemical cleaner.
  • The Ecover Multi Surface Spray Cleaner was also as good as the Flash Multi Surface Spray.  It worked well on kitchen worktops, paintwork and sinks.
  • The Ecover All Purpose Cleaner v the Flash All Purpose Dilutable.  I cleaned the kitchen floor with these (my house has never seen so much cleaning in one weekend).  Once again the Ecover product was the winner for me, as not only did it clean really well but I knew I wasn't emptying a bucketfull of nasties down the drain and into the waterways afterwards.  No contest.
Plus points of using Ecover products? 
No nasty chemicals - all the cleaning properties are from plant and mineral ingredients with a handfull of fairy dust thrown in for good measure.  OK, I made the last bit up.
Kind to skin - I get eczema on my hands, and usually have to wear rubber gloves for cleaning but when testing the eco products I am pleased to say I had no adverse reactions to them.  I did have an adverse reaction to the cleaning though, and had to have a sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
They actually work!  - I like to do my bit for the environment but like most people still I want the eco options to be as good as the standard ones.  Well, these are.  Result.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Could you, would you, use The Ladybag?

We all know how efficient Germans are, and even though it seems like a cliché they really are that efficient.  I feel able to speak with some authority on the subject because I worked as an au-pair in Germany for 2 years when I was younger (that's another story...) and they are nothing if not pragmatic.  I knew the Germanic way of life was getting to me the day I waited for a train and complained to the guard when it was a whole 2 minutes late.  I know, and I'm from the land of British Rail or whatever it is now, where you're grateful for the train actually turning up on the same day. 

Along with being stereotypically practical and pünktlich Germans are also often labelled with other characteristics, such as being humourless.   I'd have to say no to this, although it can take months of practice and a following wind to get a laugh out of a German. And what about them being the most unsexy nation in Europe....er, quite possibly.

So I wasn't so much surprised by the recent promotion of The Ladybag®, more astonished it had taken them so long to spring it onto a bemused world. 


The ad is beside itself with excitement: The Wait Is Over - The First Pocket Urinal for Women!  And you didn't even know you needed one did you? Well, you did and here it is.

The Ladybag contains a gel which can absorb up to 2.2 pints of liquid (ewww...) and can be disposed of easily and without harm to the environment.  "It can be used in cars, or to avoid dirty toilets or at open-air festivals when you don't want to queue. You can just nip round the back of the toilet and use this," Eva Tinter, who invented the Ladybag, told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

"There's never been a product like this in this form."  You don't say!

The ad continues:  You can use the ladybag® while standing, sitting or squatting. For clean hands once you're finished, a moist towelette is included. Convenient and clean, from start to finish.

I mean, I get see the point of it and I'm sure it has some very practical uses, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy any.  But that's me. What I want to know, dear readers, is whether you will be buying the Ladybag for long car journeys or for when you daughters get caught short?  Do tell, I'm all ears....

P.S.  There is, of course, a male version of the bag.  The Roadbag is already quite popular in Europe and has sold over 400,000 units.  But then men are more anatomically convenient than women aren't they?  And more gross....

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Over The Top? Moi?

I've been tagged by Very Bored Housewife over in deepest Catalonia in Spain,  who sent me this award.  Thank you!  VBH is a newly discovered blogger to me but I will be making regular visits in the future. 

I also received the same award from the fabulous, all-singing-all-dancing Emily at Maternal Tales.  Emily caused much hilarity in our house recently when she posted a photo of her daughter's poo.  No, really, I'm not making this up...go and have a look for yourself, it's true! Thank you Emily, for the award and the laughter!

The rules for the Over the Top Award are as follows:

Use only one word to answer the following questions. Copy the questions and change the answers to suit you then pass it on.

1. Where is your mobile phone? Kitchen
2. Your hair? Messy
3. Your mother? Missed
4. Your father? Hospital
5. Your favourite food? Seafood
6. Your dream last night? Vivid
7. Your favourite drink? Cider
8. Your dream/goal? Fulfilment
9. What room are you in? Dining
10. Your hobby? Sleeping
11. Your fear? Disability
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Alive
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren’t? Patient
15. Muffins? Chocolate
16. Wish list item? Holiday
17. Where did you grow up? Liverpool
18. Last thing you ate? Samosa
19. What are you wearing? Pyjamas
20. Your TV? On
21. Your pets? Cute
22. Friends? Loved
23. Your life? Good
24. Your mood? Tired
25. Missing someone? Mum
26. Vehicle? Scenic
27. Something you’re not wearing? Bra
28. Your favourite store? Online
29. Your favourite colour? Red
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Yesterday
32. Your best friend? Unsure
33. One place that you go to over and over? Work...
34. One person who emails you regularly? Brother
35. Favourite place to eat? Home

 
I'm going to throw this one over to my blogging twin Tessa Scoffs who can fit a lot into a few words, so let's see how she does with this!  Go Tessa!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Wordless Wednesday, even though it's only Monday....

I'm in love.....

.....come to Mummy




Image of Green & Black's Raisin and Hazlenut Chocolate from here - you can also order from the same website, which is handy if you want to send me a bulk delivery.  Address on request.  No questions asked.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Whodunnit?

Dear Members of the Jury, I submit for your consideration evidence of the damage to my property.
Exhibit A: hole dug near garden boundary (possible escape route?)
Exhibit B: Mud and holes where grass and plants used to be
Exhibit C: Even more damage:  holes were lawn used to be
The Suspect
You, the Jury, are asked to be lenient with this first time offender.  Bear in mind she comes from a good family and is suitably remorseful (look at that little face!)  Thank you.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Being a Single Parent part 4: The positive side of raising children on your own

I imagine this post title may have come as a surprise to some of you - how on earth can there be any plus sides to being a single parent?  What about the financial struggles, the fatigue, the loneliness....well, yes they are still there, but it's not all bad. Very little is said about the advantages of being a single parent, but believe me they do exist.  I've mentioned the good points of single parenthood before, but I'd like to add to those.

  • When you're the only adult in the house, you make the rules.  Your word is law.  Well, that's the theory anyway.  Of course, as your darling offspring approach adolescence they will challenge your rules and try to introduce their own.  I have always been fairly strict with my girls having routines - for example bedtime, bathtime and mealtimes - it's a survival method so that everyone knows where and what they should be doing.  They also can't play one parent off against another "But Daddy said I could..." because there's just me.  And in this instance, it works.
  • You don't have to hide the new clothes and shoes you bought at the back of the wardrobe, before bringing them out later on and saying to your bemused other half "oh no, I've had these for ages". 
  • When your children are praised for their behaviour, manners, being a genius, etc. you can take all the credit for yourself and admit that actually, you're not doing a bad job on your own.  Society is often too quick to criticise single parents for most of society's woes, but some of us are doing OK thank you very much.
  • Wardrobe/closet space. This is important stuff here! If you're in a marriage/partnership think of the wardrobe/closet space you currently have.  Got that in your head?  Now, double it.  That's what happens when you're a single parent, and should not be dismissed as unimportant!   I get all the clothes hanging space in the wardrobe, and all of the drawers are mine, all mine too! 
  • You form an unusually strong bond with your children.  Now, I'm not saying for one moment that two parent families don't but as a single parent you have to involve your children in some of the family decision making.  My daughters are aware that we only have so much money, that I can't be in two places at once, and that I get tired.  So they get to help me decide what is important, and what our priorities as a family are. It's not all plain sailing but they are learning to take some responsibility for what goes on in their home.
  • You learn skills that may have passed you by otherwise, and so do your children.  As mentioned previously I'm a dab hand at assembling flat-pack furniture but so is The Teenager-in-waiting!  She is my assembly buddy and we do the jobs together.  Apart from the finished product she is also learning about team work, saving money and taking responsibility.  In addition, I can do most of the smaller DIY jobs myself. 
  • If you're lucky enought to have an ex who takes the children for alternate weekends, that gives you some free time!  I managed to get through 6 years of single parenthood before my ex started taking the girls for regular weekends, but now he does take them it's a very welcome break for me.  Two whole days of...well, whatever I want!  
  • You, and your children, learn about resiliance.  My motto is 'What doesn't kill me makes me stronger' and it's served me well so far.  I tell my girls that every experience - good and bad - is there to teach us something, and it's up to us whether we use those lessons wisely or not.
  • And I suppose the best part of being a happy single parent is that the children are living in a conflict free home as opposed to an unhappy one with two warring parents.
  Can any other single parents reading this add any of their own benefits?  I'd love to hear yours.