Saturday, 31 December 2011

Goodbye to 2011

Photo courtesy of my brother.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My Christmas in tweets.

21st Dec: It's not a good sign when you agree with everything on The Grumpy Guide to Christmas is it?

12yo is in the kitchen making cupcakes. The Teenager is at another party, and the hound is asleep at my feet. Life is pretty good right now.

22nd Dec: POA for today: breakfast, walk hound, wrap presents, paint bedroom ready for decorator to wallpaper tomorrow. Better get a move on.

Worst thing about being a single parent: you don't get a present from your husband/partner. Best thing? You get to buy yourself a present.

23rd Dec: So glad I've done my food shopping, all the supermarkets will be like hell with the lid off today and tomorrow. 

I feel obliged to tidy the house. Damn servants taking Christmas off again. 

24th Dec: Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Is anyone else watching the lovely Nativity drama on BBC1?

 Awwww, that's so sweet. I really miss when my girls still believed. It really changes things. Enjoy their innocence x

 the Teenager is still sulking about the fact Santa isn't real, she says it ruined Christmas when she found out.

I think I'm going to have to lock myself in my bedroom and wrap the girls' presents, cos they won't go to bed until late tonight.

25th Dec: It's Chriiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaassssss! Merry Christmas everyone. My girls are still asleep, so sitting here having a quiet cuppa.

Bloody hell, my ex-husband has just rang and wished me a happy Christmas. 

Turkey's cooking, girls are at their grandparents, just talking to my cousin in Oz on Skype. A good day so far.

Absolutely stuffed after a lovely dinner, listened to Mickey Bubble's Christmas CD and had a quiz. Nearly time for pudding :-)

I want to watch The Gruffalo's Child but my daughter is insisting on watching a rerun of a Friends episode. 

Highlight of our day so far: daughter doing the worst ever charades mine for Harry Potter. Truly awful/hilarious.

26th Dec: Got an email wishing the notSupermum team all the best. Erm..that'll be me and the dog then?

Our real christmas tree hasn't shed any needles at all. NONE! Must just check that I didn't buy an artificial one by mistake.


Do you have any tweets that sum up your Christmas?

Friday, 23 December 2011

My blogger CV

Okay, Jay and Tara have been throwing their weight around asking us to write our own blog CVs - so I thought I  better do mine before they slap the back of my legs. Plus I'd also like a blogger calender which I remember being a chaotic but hilarious part of Cybermummy.

Reason for blog name: notSupermum? Because I always seemed to be saying to my demanding girls "Just a minute, I'm not supermum!" Geddit?

How long I've been blogging: I started around June 2008 purely as a hobby. After years of keeping a written journal I liked the idea of this new fangled style of journalling.

I deleted most of my posts towards the end of 2008 after a minor panic over whether my ex-husband would find it but then restarted it with all personal details kept anonymous.

Blogging has changed a lot over the last couple of years, but I still enjoy it and have made some truly lovely friends - you know who you are. I've had a couple of times when I've considering giving it up in the past, but now it's an important part of my life. I love blogging.

Most popular posts:
The good, the bad and the single parent
My mood board for 2010
My family's recipe for Scouse

Inspiration for blogging: everything really, although this is a vague thread of being a single parent throughout the blog. The rest of it is about life, home, my daughters, my dog, friends, films....nothing specific. In fact I'm constantly amazed that people actually read all this nonsense - so thank you!

Blogging plans for 2012: more of the same nonsense I'm afraid, although because we've just moved house I'm planning to do regular updates on how we're decorating and furnishing the place and doing the garden. I also really want to do regular recipe attempts.  I say attempts because I'm not a brilliant cook, just an average one, and sometimes things go awry, but I'll still include them. Nigella I am not, although I do have a big bum like her.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas in the new house

The first time I came to view this house one of the things I liked was that there was an ideal spot for a Christmas tree in the living room. Funny how those sorts of things make all the difference.

Well, we moved into this house at the very end of October and now we're going to be spending our first Christmas here.  And yes, there is a Christmas tree where I thought it would go.

This is the first year for a while we've had a real tree.

The Christmas cactus
Every year we make a display of our Christmas cuddly toys
but one of the Rudolphs always goes missing....

Merry Christmas from our house to yours, hope it's a good one!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Britmums Christmas Carnival

About a hundred years ago I offered to host one of the regular Britmums blogging carnivals, and at the time the 20th of December seemed a loooong way off. And yet, here we are - we've already had snow here and it'll be Christmas in a few days.

So, without further ado I present some humdinger blog posts, so why not make a cuppa and enjoy a mince pie (or two) while you read them. We've got crafts, songs, traditions, a bit of reminiscing and the odd (very odd) present idea.

Curly Mum is getting a bit stressed in the run-up to Christmas. I wonder if the secret stash of goodies will be safe behind the sofa? Let's hope so.

Perhaps Elinor Wilde has the answer, with her 5 Steps to a stress-free Christmas. I'm taking notes...

Mammasaurus offers us her version of the Ultimate Christmas Song with possibly the cutest video clip you'll see this week.

The very talented Maggy at Red Ted Art shows us how to make gorgeous little walnut babies. I take my hat off to you Maggy, you're a genius.

Looking for a Christmas present that's just a little bit different? Cocktails at Naptime have just the thing, including yodelling lederhosen and dolls that look like a demented David Lee Roth. No, really it's true.

I don't think you can beat giving a homemade present at Christmas, and Nova at Cherished by Me has a recipe for Chocolate Coconut Truffles which she'll be giving to some lucky person.

Laura at Adventures of an Ordinary Parent has had a busy year! Not only has she had extensive building work on her house but she's had a baby, but finally she's looking forward to Christmas. Have a wonderful Christmas!

When you have lots of visitors it's good to have some homemade cakes to offer, so how about a Christmas Angel Cake recipe? Here's a very colourful one at Here Come The Girls.

I'm not very good at last minute cooking or baking, but when the Domestic Goddesque has to make last minute treats she doesn't panic - oh no, she does something very clever with chocolate digestives and makes Christmas pudding biscuits. I, on the other hand, would just shove the packet of biscuits into the child's school bag and hope for the best.

Life, Ninja Killer Cat and everything else reminisces about a fabulous trip to Lapland and has lovely photos of reindeer, huskies and smiling children. What a wonderful memory for her son to have.

What will you be doing on Christmas Day? Nicki at Curly and Candid knows exactly what she'll be doing, and it sounds so good I'm thinking of inviting myself along for next year!

Liz at the Mum Blog is in Christmas denial. I hear you Liz, and I wonder if it's something that happens when our children don't believe anymore?

Victoria at It's a Small World After All is enjoying being home for Christmas after spending last year visiting penguins.  I wonder if they sent a card this year?

Madamding is enjoying listening to Christmas carols and I must admit to having a soft spot for O Holy Night - and this version is particularly lovely.

If you prefer something a bit different, then Kelloggsville might have just the song for you with 'Zat you Santa Claus?

Sandy at Baby Baby is getting all crafty on her blog and shows us how to make a very attractive Christmas wreath. If only I'd read it before buying one!

And Super Lucky has compiled a list of Christmas competitions for children - that should keep the little ones busy over the holiday!

At The Life and Times of the working Mum, Laura tells us about some of her Christmas traditions which she hopes to pass onto her son Leo.

I used to love it when my daughters wrote letters to Santa, and on The Anamumblog there's a very sweet one from Miss N, and his reply! Now that's what Christmas is all about.

I hope you enjoy reading them all, and perhaps finding some new favourite blogs to follow.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

On becoming a recluse

I think I'm becoming a recluse.

Not out of choice you understand, it's because I can't face social situations.  I'm fine if it's home or going to visit someone else because that's usually a more relaxed situation, but as soon as it involves getting dressed up and going 'out' out, then I start panicking and thinking of ways to avoid it.

Last week I had a great weekend and genuinely enjoyed having friends over on Friday and then visiting friends the next night.

This weekend was the Christmas staff night out and I started dreading it this earlier this week. Of course, it didn't help that I didn't want to leave Tall Daughter home alone (the Teenager was going to a party) and the only person who could look after her was my ex-mother-in-law who didn't want to stay late. That meant I could only go for the meal which meant driving myself there and  back and not drinking. Not the end of the world, I know, but it's a pretty miserable night when you have to leave before everyone else while they're having a good time. It's not the first time I've had to do that, afterall it's difficult to get childcare sometimes, but having said that I am the original party pooper. I've never been into late nights and prefer to go home early.

As it turned out it started snowing in the morning so by early evening there was thick snow everywhere and I really hate driving in snow, so it was easy for me to cancel. It was a huge relief to cancel it but even so, I felt like I'd let my work friends and more importantly, myself, down.

I don't remember when or where this fear of social situations began, but it's fair to say that I've never been a party animal. Even so, I've used to enjoy going out with friends and meeting new people but that seems like a long time ago now. I bet most people just think I'm a miserable cow and that's why I don't go out and maybe they're right.

I think one of the main thing that puts me off is the need to get dressed up. I just never look any different because I put absolutely no effort into it. I just don't know how to do it anymore - how did I lose the ability to get dressed up for a night out? I'm so overweight I can't get anything remotely nice to wear, and compared to my colleagues who all look amazing when we go on nights out, I just look like I'm going to work in a slightly smarter outfit than usual. It's a huge part of the problem.

I don't get that many invitations to go out, but it's hardly surprising that the invites dwindle as time goes on.  Who can blame people for not inviting me out? I make excuses as to why I can't go - some genuine and some down to my crushing lack of confidence in social situations.

I don't know how to break out of this, although sometimes I just feel like retreating even further into my reclusiveness.  It's easier not to have to deal with it all but I worry that I will end up with no friends and so it has become something that needs to be dealt with. I have no idea where to start.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

My Top 5 Christmas films

I love watching films, and Christmas films in particular are best watched at...erm, Christmas. Who knew?

Anyway, because I know you hang on my every word and just because I like making lists (it's therapeutic. What?!) here's my top 5 Christmas films.

The Holiday (2006)
I only saw this for the first time a couple of years ago but it's already one of my must-see Christmas films. Okay, so it's got Jude Law in it but even he is bearable in this and I love Jack Black and he's playing a straight(ish) role (well, for him anyway. 

White Christmas (1954)
C'mon, it's not Christmas without watching this one! I'm a huge fan of film musicals, and I love, love LOVE this which has to be one of the most famous Christmas films. It's musical perfection, and the combination of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye is one of the best film partnerships ever.  There are so many great song and dance sequences but one of my favourites has got to be this one - Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen dancing - and just look at how small her waist is!

The Family Man (2000)
Nicholas Cage plays a man who appears to have everything but essentially has nothing. Nobody loves him y'see? So an angel gives him a chance to see how his life might have been had he made different choices. Sounds familiar? Well, it's a modern day version of It's a Wonderful Life and (whispers) I actually prefer this one. See what you think.

Elf (2003)

This has become a Christmas classic, and rightly so. Funny, charming and heartwarming - just the way Christmas films should be.

Scrooged (1988)

Bill Murray is a modern day Scrooge. I think that just about covers it. Hilarious, and Bill Murray is fantastic as always.

Do you have a favourite Christmas film?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas giveaways: 3 software packages from MAGIX

It's that time of year again, and because you're so lovely I've got some Christmas goodies on offer.

For bloggers, having a tip-top, trouble free PC is important and so I was chuffed when MAGIX, a provider of multi-media software, contacted me recently. They have very generously supplied not one or two but THREE different software packages for your delectation. I haven't had a chance to use my copies yet, because shortly after moving house my own PC died a death and I've been using my Macbook so this information comes directly from the MAGIX website. See what you think.

The first one is the Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 7 which is an all-in-one for photo editing, illustration and desktop publishing.  You can edit different project using just one program and export them for different purposes, for instance image files, PDF files in printed form, etc.

We store so much personal information, photos, videos and music on our PCs and notebook computers but there's always the risk that they will be damaged by viruses, hard disk damage and accidents. PC Backup  offers a simple and reliable solution for backing up your data, and preventing permanent data loss. This is a good one for all of us who KEEP FORGETTING TO BACKUP!  

PC Check & Tuning is the all-round solution for maintaining and speeding up your PC.  It will ensure that problems and weaknesses with the system are identified and fixed in one step. The software will make it easier for using PC games and surfing t'internet and will help to return your pc to its original speed. Sounds fantastic!

If you fancy winning any of these, please leave a comment to say which one you would like and why.  I'll pick one winner for each on Sunday evening 18th December. And the winners won't need to wait for the postie to arrive with a parcel either, because MAGIX have sent me the download codes which will be sent to you by email for immediate downloading!  That also means that you can enter the giveaway from anywhere in the world. How cool is that?

Good luck!

Please note that these packages are not Mac compatible.

UPDATE - Sunday 18th December:


The Xara Photo & Graphic designer ~ Liz Burton 
PC Back-up ~ Grr
PC Check and tuning ~ @asrielrusdyawan

Congratulations! Please send me your email addresses and I will email the link and licence number to you. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A quiet weekend. Not.

I've just had one of the best weekends I've had in a long time. Both of my girls were at away for the weekend, so it was the first time I'd had a free weekend for months. Now as you know, I'm not one for parties, staying up late or drinking too much but this weekend I managed to do all three and then some.

First of all, on Friday evening eight of my colleagues came over to my house for a belated birthday party/housewarming/early Christmas party. We had such a good time!

It was ostensibly a Cheese and Wine evening, but somehow it turned into a wild dancing party. Hey ho.

After everyone arrived I gave them a grand tour of the new house, then it was time for a quiz. Once they'd split into two teams (I was the quizmaster) they chose unspeakably rude team names which I can't bring myself to repeat on here but caused much hilarity when they had to shout it out before answering.

After that there was some dancing followed by more competitive dancing when we started using Dance Central on the Xbox Kinect - and let's just say, I've got some moves for an old bird :-)

Before I knew it, it was 2am and I'd had far too much to drink, but bloomin' heck we had fun.  It was almost worth the hangover I had on Saturday morning (and afternoon) *cough*

On Saturday night I travelled north to stay with two very good friends. I love going to visit them because not only is J the most fantastic cook but they're also terrific company and just the perfect hosts. AND their house is gorgeous. I felt so incredibly relaxed there, and really enjoyed seeing them both again.

So, now it's late on Sunday evening and I'm feeling pretty tired. But very, very happy and content. I really do have some fantastic friends.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

More dispatches from the chalkface: Jesus, vegetables and venison

During a lesson with year 1 children, I read the story of the 3 wise men and how they brought gifts to the stable. The children were then asked to choose their own gift for the baby Jesus.
Lucas: I'd give him £50.
Me: Why would you give him that?
Lucas: (pointing to picture of Jesus in the manger) "so he could buy a new bed."

As part of a lesson I took a selection of vegetables into class and talked to the Year 1 children about them and how they were grown. The children then had to draw a vegetable and write something about it. One boy, James, said "I'm drawing a drip". The teaching assistant asked him what he meant and he repeated it "I'm drawing a drip...look, like that one!" - and pointed to a leek.

And it's not just the children. Recently when we were talking about recipes in the staffroom, a colleague was confused about what mutton and veal were until another colleague explained. Later, when someone mentioned venison she piped up: "Ah, I know what that is - it's meat from a snake!"

Thinking outside of the (x)box: the future of TV

I travelled to that London on Sunday to attend an event hosted by Xbox to learn all about their latest Xbox Live innovation. It was, how shall we say, interesting.

The words bizarre, surreal and downright bonkers spring to mind but we were told it was all designed to make us think 'outside of the box' and it did that in spades.

I'll give you a little taster of what we experienced. We were invited to the Supperclub in London.

Where we were shown to our beds....

Then a leather-clad minx starting dancing to the Avengers theme tune.

..before she started playing her electric guitar with an angle-grinder, as you do....

Next up was a tall drag queen who undressed down to his shorts before 'showering' and then doing acrobatics up and down the shower curtain. Got that?

Note the rubber duck on the mat
All of this was going on whilst the music from Psycho was playing, and when the stabbing sound came on he started spurting 'blood' from his mouth before falling to the floor. He was dead for a good while before getting up and walking off.  It was sort of Psycho meets Cirque du Soleil in a dress.  Then, the food....

Mmmmm...macaroons. Look nice don't they? What if I told you they had fish and seafood fillings? Bleuugghh!  

Followed by our real pudding served in a cat-food bowl. Nice.

All washed down with a glass or two of prosecco. Well it would be rude not to.

As you can see it wasn't your average Sunday afternoon, not by a long chalk.

So, why did we need to think outside the box? Because suddenly the box that 57 millions users worldwide have is about to be upgraded for free.

With the new Xbox 360 experience, entertainment is now more intuitive with the launch of Bing on Xbox, which  lets customers search entertainment services on Xbox using.... their voices

Last year, Kinect for Xbox 360 revolutionised controller-free entertainment by letting you use your body and voice to play your favourite games and entertainment, turning you into the controller. This year, the power of Kinect combined with the search intelligence of Bing is turning your voice into the ultimate remote control. With Bing on Xbox, you can use your voice to effortlessly find the games, movies, TV shows and music you want and discover the best offerings on Xbox LIVE, by simply saying what you’re searching for. You say it, Xbox finds it. It’s that easy.

From Christmas, in addition to offering the best blockbuster and Kinect games, Xbox 360 consoles are set to deliver live and on-demand TV shows, movies, videos, sports, music and news, becoming the best device to experience all your entertainment. TV and movie fans can instantly stream live television via our current UK TV partner, Sky, as well as enjoy a variety of fantastic content from the likes of AlloCiné (Screenrush), blinkbox, Channel 4, Channel 5, Crackle, Dailymotion, LOVEFiLM, MSN Video, MUZU.TV, YouTube and Zune, as well as, in 2012, the BBC.  

About Xbox LIVE
Xbox LIVE is the online entertainment service for your Xbox 360, connecting you to an ever-expanding world of games, movies, TV, music, sports and social entertainment. Xbox LIVE lets you play the best games, enjoy one of the world’s largest on-demand libraries on any console, listen to millions of songs and share the fun with friends around the world. Xbox LIVE is also the exclusive home of controller-free online entertainment through Kinect, making your Xbox 360 more intuitive and interactive than ever before. With an active community of nearly 35 million people across 35 countries, Xbox LIVE, together with Xbox 360, provides you with instant access to the entertainment you want, shared with the people you care about, wherever you are.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Christmas is the perfect time to think of others

Christmas is all about family and children and for most of us it's a time of celebration and fun. But not everyone is as fortunate and so I make no apologies for writing this blog post - these charities deserve our attention and you might not realise how easy it is to support some very deserving children,  even some of the stuff we do everyday - like buying shopping, watching telly and washing the dishes - can help. Don't believe me? Read on.

Together for Short Lives is the only charity representing the estimated 23,500 children and young people across the UK who are unlikely to reach adulthood, a fact that I find incredible. The charity works to ensure that every one of these children and their families get the best possible care and support whenever and wherever they need it.  

You may have seen the very moving film about the Lloyd family on the X Factor results show last Sunday. I watched it and really felt for the parents of the three boys, Dan, Tom and Sam who all live with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Their parents are full-time carers to their boys and live with the knowledge that their only children are unlikely to reach adulthood. How they find the strength is beyond me, but for them it's a daily necessity and - I'm sure - a labour of love.
But providing care - often 24 hours a day, seven days a week - can place families under enormous emotional, physical and financial strain. Relationships can suffer; careers may have to be abandoned; well brothers and sisters can feel left out; and normal family activities become almost impossible.

Together for Short Lives is there to help. It could be as simple as signposting a parent to a place that can take care of their ill child while they take their well sister to Brownies, or providing them with a ‘family companion’ booklet to help families work through what to expect, and where they can find help. 

The X Factor Charity Single ~ Wishing on a Star ~ is available to buy here or from any high street store including M&S who feature it in their Christmas tv ad, with all proceeds going to this very worthy charity. There's also a free X Factor partypack available for the final.

The profile and funds generated by the X Factor single will make such a difference to this critical work. Please be generous in your support. 


Since 1949 SOS Children has been working to ensure that children who have lost their parents through conflict, famine, natural disaster, disease and poverty - can enjoy a family life.  SOS Children's outreach support includes education, vocational training, medical care and community development programmes.

SOS Children are currently building a new Children's Village in Chipata, eastern Zambia, where poverty and disease have left thousands of children completely alone without parental care. The new Village will provide a safe home for vulnerable children, as well as a school and medical centre for the community.

Sales of Nouvelle Soft toilet roll are funding the construction and maintenance of a much needed toilet and sanitation block for the school, which will drastically improve hygiene and comfort for generations of pupils to comeAccess to clean water and adequate sanitation are critical in tackling factors related to child mortality and survival, with an estimated 4.8 million Zambians living without access to clean water and 6.6 million lack access to sanitation.

I often buy Nouvelle toilet rolls because they're made from recycled paper and I'll definitely look out for their special packs over the next few weeks. We all buy loo roll, and that's how easy it is to support this great initiative!

The Fairy and Make-A-Wish Foundation partnership is now in its 8th year and aims to help dreams come true for children across the UK. 

According to research by Make-A-Wish at any one time in the UK there are around 20,000 children and young people with life-threatening illnesses and this year, with the help of a network of supporters and dedicated volunteers Make-A-Wish has granted wishes for over 750 of them.  

Whether their wish is to become Prime Minister for the day, take part in a helicopter rescue or ride a bicycle around the garden the charity can make if happen.

You can help by buying the special packs of Fairy when you're out shopping and also by 'liking' the facebook page. For every person who likes the page Fairy will make a 50p donation to Make-A-Wish (up to a max of £20,000). Now how easy is that? 

Need a kick up the backside? Watch this.

I've been sitting at home today feeling a bit sorry for myself because I have a cold and I'm a bit achey. Poor me eh?

But then I received an email this morning which felt like the equivalent of a kick up the backside.

The email contained a link to this 90 second clip about Jonathon le Galloudec, a young man who was shot in the spine whilst serving in the army in Iraq in 2007. At the time he was told by doctors that his injuries were so severe he would never walk again, but his determination has astounded everyone and not only is he now walking but he has taken on a challenge that most able-bodied people would find difficult. Incredibly, despite being left with spinal injuries which impede his walking, he has successfully attempted the 17,590 feet climb to Everest Base Camp alongside his father Steve who is also ex-military, and he has done all of this for a charity close to his heart.

Jonathon's chosen charity, Help for Heroes, clearly means a lot to him as it supports members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded in service. Their work is invaluable at the moment as this is the tenth year of our forces serving in Afghanistan. His trip has been sponsored by Energizer and you can make donations and see how he got on during his expedition via their facebook page or through the Help for Heroes donation website.

Please take the time to watch the short video about this very modest hero and take part in a short survey for a chance to win an iPad2.

If nothing else, please watch the video and prepare to feel very humble.

This is a sponsored post

Monday, 28 November 2011

The day I realised I was allergic to Virgos.

I had a chuckle today when I read this news story about a Japanese company that refuses to employ 'Virgos and Scorpios.'  It reminded me of the fact that I have a very developed allergy to Virgo men. No really...bear with me.

Years ago when I was single (without kids) I used to read my stars on a regular basis. There were certain astrologers that I thought were pretty accurate, and I'd pour over their annual predictions for the year ahead. I even used to tear the page out of the magazine they were printed in, and stick them inside my kitchen cupboard door, the one with the mugs and cups.  So every time I made a cuppa I could check when my year was about to improve or bite the dust.

I also had a book about my best matches for love - actually I still have it in an unpacked box somewhere - and would read it carefully whenever I met a new man.

I don't bother with astrology much these days, although I do like to think I can spot certain star signs personalities. Oh you know,

But there's one sign that I have developed a real allergy to (don't laugh, this is serious stuff!). I can't be doing with Virgo men.  This isn't a random discrimination where I decide that men born from the end of September to late October are all bad'uns, no, this is based on my own personal experience.

Just look at the evidence.

I've had three major relationships in my life, and they've all been Virgos. And all have ended badly.

Not only that, but I've had flings short relationships with other Virgos, which had varying degrees of success, but generally the evidence points to the fact that I should avoid Virgo men.

But the buggers seem to like me.

When I first met my ex-husband I'd just ended a long relationship with - guess what - a Virgo, and I asked my ex what his star sign was. He muttered something about not believing in that sort of thing, and somehow changed the subject. It was only some time later, when it was already too late,  that I discovered that he was a Virgo. Damn.

Clearly the fearless, good-natured Sagittarian (me) is not suited to the pernickity, humourless Virgo*. Maybe that's one of the reasons I don't bother with men anymore? Only the blummin' Virgos are interested in me, even though we go together like oil and water.

So these days I avoid cats, grass, feathers and Virgos.  They're all bad for my health.

*Female virgos are not included in this description. Obviously.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Nine years on.

Nearly nine years after my ex-husband left, and after all of those years of being a single parent, of managing and getting on with life, I thought the difficulty and aftermath of the divorce had been dealt with. And then I realise that it hasn't been.

I wish my girls had been left untouched by my divorce from their dad. I wish I could smooth away the pain they still feel after all these years.

I hope that one day they'll come to terms with it. I hope the scars will heal and they can live their own lives without fearing it will be filled with disappointment.

I want them to be happy, to find love and nurture it. I want them to love someone without our divorce casting a shadow.

I wish I could make the hurt go away.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Idealo Christmas Stocking Challenge

Idealo is a UK based price comparison website and in the run-up to Christmas they've carried out some research about the amount parents spend on their children's presents.  They found that since 1995 the amount increased from £75 to £164 in 2010, that's an increase of a whopping 64% (including inflation).

I'm sure a lot of the increase is caused by higher prices and the trend is to buy more expensive gifts these days such as electronic goods, but even so that's a huge hike in costs. And what with all this recession malarkey and times being tough £164 is a big chunk of most people's total Christmas present budget.

So, Idealo set me a challenge: could I buy the perfect Christmas stocking for one of my daughters for the 1995 budget of £75? Well, I thought it could still be done so I set off on my mission. All of the items for the stocking had to be bought online and although they didn't specify that I had to use the Idealo website,
it made perfect sense as I could find the best prices at the press of a button. Armed with my 12 year old daughter's Christmas list here are my choices:

Marshmallow Skye by Cathy Cassidy. My daughter has read all of Cathy Cassidy's book and this is the latest one so it was an obvious choice.

This Cath Kidston manicure set is cute and practical at the same time. I love the design, and I'm very impressed by the quality. As my daughter is a huge fan of anything Cath Kidston I'm sure she'll love this.

These might seem like a bit of a cliched Christmas present, but as my daughter has specifically asked for these Me to You slippers who am I to argue!

Just lately she has been doing a lot of drawings and mentioned a few weeks ago that she'd like some good quality coloured pencils, so these Staedtler ergosoft pencils seem ideal and I thought a sketch pad might also encourage her artistic leanings.

And finally, I loved this lovely silver chain heart bracelet. I think the design of this bracelet is pretty timeless and as she's a very girly girl it's just the sort of thing she wears.

I'm very pleased with my haul and think I managed to get some real bargains and spent just under the £75. I do a lot of my shopping online, it's quick and easy and if you know what you're looking for it's ideal - and there are no queues!

Disclosure: For review purposes I was given a budget of £75 to buy these gifts online.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Are you a Miss, Mrs or Ms?

I am a Ms. Have been since I first heard of the term in the 1980s and have kept it ever since. Single, married and (happily) divorced I have remained a Ms.

To me, it seems like such a sensible term of address - men are always Mr so why not have a single term for women too? Do we really need to know the relationship status of a woman before addressing her correctly? No, of course not.  If I'm writing a letter or email to a woman and I don't know which form of address she uses I automatically opt for Ms. It's simple, and it means she could be married or not.

Many people think that by having the title Ms that I'm a raving feminist, and they'd be partly right. I'm proud to call myself a feminist and don't see it as a dirty word.  I'm a feminist but don't rave on about it. I just happen to view equality as a right, not something to be embarrassed about.

I have a (male) colleague who really emphasises the Ms when he addresses me in school, turning it into a Mizzzzz almost as though it's funny in some way. Whatever. The children usually call me Miss and Mrs (as they do with all female staff) and I don't make a big deal of it, but occasionally when they ask me what Ms means we'll have a little conversation about why I use it. To them, it's not a problem and neither should it be.

In my early 20s I worked in a male dominated industry as a project manager and remember being asked to leave a meeting at a car company because 'this is a male only meeting'. I sat in the corridor outside the meeting room and my colleague, a man, had to keep coming out to ask me the answers to their questions.  Can you imagine that happening these days? No, and quite right too.

I'm glad my own daughters won't be exposed to that sort of discrimination in the workplace, and while things are far from perfect it's still miles better than it used to be. My girls,  who are 12 and 15, see equality as their birth-right which is a massive change from I was their age. I still remember when single women couldn't get a mortgage without their father's approval, and it was considered odd for a woman to keep her own name when she married - even though it's tradition rather than law that dictates it.

Don't get me wrong, I have no objection to other women using Miss or Mrs but Ms is a perfectly acceptable alternative and we should be free to use the one we prefer. So, which one are you? (Apologies to any men reading this, but I don't suppose you use any of them).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The one where the Teenager throws a party

Gueоrgui / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The Teenager turned 15 at the weekend and of course she wanted to invite a group of friends over for her birthday. She usually invites a few girlfriends for a sleepover but this year she wanted to invite a mixed group of boys and girls for a party. Hmmm....

I suggested she should make a note of who she wanted to invite and then we could sort something out, however when her list of her 'closest' friends came to 25 we had a slight difference of opinion.

After a few days of tantrums and crying about how unfair life was (and that was just from me) she finally compromised - a word she was previously unfamiliar with - and reduced the numbers to a mere 14.  So, we drew up a shopping list and I outlined a few rules: I would be at home during the party, and they all had to leave before 11pm.

The big day arrived and I was quite nervous about it if I'm honest because even though I'd met quite a few of her friends individually I wasn't sure about having a teenage party in my (new) home or how they would all behave when they were in a group. I had visions of walls being spray painted and drunken teenagers puking all over the carpet. But, I'd promised a party and so I bought plenty of pizzas, hot-dogs, crisps and fizzy drinks and hoped for the best.

I needn't have worried.  They were a lovely group of friends and it was great to see them all enjoying themselves (and without alcohol too!).

As I was preparing the food one of the boys came into the kitchen and thanked me for inviting everyone to the house, and later on after all the food had been eaten (and my God, teenage boys can eat for England!) another boy thanked me for putting on so much food.

Towards the end of the evening two girls came into the kitchen to ask me for bin bags because (wait for it) they were all cleaning up the living room!  By the time they'd all gone the house was pretty much back to normal.  I was pretty impressed!

But apart from the noise - and it did get very noisy! - they were no trouble at all.

It was really reassuring to meet them because now I know who the Teenager is socialising with I'll feel much happier knowing she has such sensible, considerate friends.  She's made very good choices when it comes to her friends - I'm so proud of her.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Further attempts to save money ~ uSwitch

I'm always trying to save money and over the past couple of years as bills have increased along with everything else (except my wages) I feel like I'm on a crusade to claw back as much money as possible from these huge conglomerates taking my hard-earned dough.

One of the things I've done is to try and reduce the amount of petrol I use, so I changed from a people carrier to a smaller car and I also went along to a recent Shell event where I was taught how to drive more efficiently. Since that event I've increased my miles-per-gallon rating by 2.5 miles which might seem a small amount, but I see it as one in the eye for the petrol companies!

The other thing I do, on a regular basis, is to try and get my bills down by as much as possible. I have no loyalty to any particular bank when it comes to reducing my outgoings so I change credit cards regularly to take advantage of 0% balance transfer rates. It's easy to do, and means that my target of paying off and cutting up my credit card will come sooner rather than later.

Another big outgoing is gas and electric bills, and if the last couple of severe winters are anything to go by I need to get my winter fuel bills down without being completely cold and miserable, so when I want to compare energy prices I use the uSwitch website. And before you say it, yes this is a sponsored post, but I've been using uSwitch for years so I'm more than happy to recommend it to others.

If you have a look at the website you can check and compare all sorts of different tariffs for utility bills, insurance and credit cards. Go on, you'll thank me for it.

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Friday, 11 November 2011


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Remembering my Great Uncle Danny who died in the Battle of Jutland in WWI, and my Granddad Jim and Great Uncle Robert who gave their lives during WWII.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Build-a-Bear Workshop and BBC Children in Need

One of the drawbacks of my girls getting older is that we no longer visit Build-a-Bear Workshop, which is a shame because we all used to love going. Not only is the process of picking and making your own bear a lovely experience for children but each time we've visited the customer service has been top-notch. It can be a little on the pricey side, but I think for special occasions it's a nice treat so I'm more than happy to promote their latest campaign to support this year's Children in Need appeal.

Pudsey and Blush fans are able to make their own BBC Children in Need mascot at any of 55 Build-A-Bear Workshop® stores across the UK with £5 from the sale of each Pudsey and Blush Bear going directly back to the national charity Appeal.  An additional £1 from the sale of the t-shirt, slippers, pyjamas and dress will also be donated back to the charity.

In 2010, Build-A-Bear Workshop donated a bear-illiant £135,000 to BBC Children in Need through the sale of Pudsey and Blush Bear and this year they’re hoping to do even better with the addition of new clothing for the furry pair. Every penny raised helps to make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people right here in the UK.

You can support the cause by purchasing a Pudsey or Blush Bear from any Build-A-Bear Workshop store nationwide or from the company’s website at

Pudsey Bear retails at £15; Pudsey Bear t-shirt at £5; Pudsey Bear Pyjamas at £10 and the Pudsey Bear slippers at £4.50 each. Blush Bear retails at £15; Blush Bear t-shirt at £5; and the Blush Bear dress at £10 each.

This is NOT a sponsored post!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The best and worst of times

We're very nearly packed up and ready to move, but not before going through every single one of our belongings and deciding which ones are worth taking with us. A process that is both comforting and unsettling.

Sifting through children's books, games and toys that my daughters used and enjoyed has been bittersweet. We found their once favourite dolphin swing-seat at the back of the shed and a discarded bag of bath toys in the airing cupboard. Looking through their favourite story books and remembering how they would play for hours with certain toys has evoked so many happy memories, but has also emphasised the fact that they are growing up and there is little room in their lives for toys these days.

Yesterday we took a car load of toys, books and games to our local charity shop and said goodbye to part of their childhood.

It's been comforting to look at, and handle, things that evoke happy memories - reminders of my parents, my late brother's harmonica, well-read books with inscriptions from friends and mementos of holidays and special occasions.

Then there is the emotional charge attached to bits and pieces that were collected with my ex-husband. Some remind me of a happier time when we first moved into this house and we were full of plans for a future together. We visited a reclamation yard one weekend, it was a warm, sunny day and my husband was carrying our then toddler daughter around the yard on his shoulders. We went into a covered area and found and old church pew and knew we wanted it for our kitchen where it still resides. We still love the pew and it'll come with us to the new house.

Then there's the bulging file of paperwork relating to our divorce and the nasty aftermath, most of which will be shredded before we move.

We're all excited about moving house and for my two girls it's the start of a new adventure. This is the only house they've ever known, we moved here when the Teenager was just 6 months old and her sister was born 3 years later.

For me, it's that fresh start I've been longing for. I've been feeling for a while that change was on the horizon and this feels like it. I'm excited.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tesco Mobile phone giveaway

We've had a few hiccups with mobile phone bills. Like the time The Teenager phoned her best friend on her mobile for a long, long, long chat and ran up a big bill. She used up all her minutes and so everything after that was an extra charge and I didn't find out until the bill arrived at the end of the month.

Or what about my friend whose son ran up a bill of over £800 with his first mobile phone by using it to surf the net. He didn't realise he would be charged for it on his tariff. Ouch!

With exactly this sort of thing in mind, Tesco has just launched their capped mobile phone tariffs, which allows the bill payer (otherwise known as The Parent) to keep phone bills of the user (otherwise known as the teenager) under control.  This would be really useful for an older teenager who is surgically attached to their phone or, as in my case with my younger daughter, a child who's just started at secondary school and is getting their first mobile phone.

The tariffs allow full control of spending and so take away any worries about unexpected bill surprises. The main features of the Tesco Mobile Capped contracts are:
  • ensuring your monthly bill is never more than the cost of your tariff;
  • this is done by fixing your tariff so you can only use your inclusive minutes, texts and data;
  • the ability to top-up your account with a pay-as-you-go top up if you run out during the month;
  • the choice of capping any contract on any phone across their whole range, a unique offer in the mobile phone market.

To celebrate the launch of their new contracts, Tesco is offering a fantastic new LG Optimus 3D phone to one lucky person. To be in with a chance of winning just leave a comment telling me what money saving tip you would hand down to your kids. Please also leave an email address or twitter name to make it easier for me to contact you. Simples!

Closing date is Thursday 27th October 2011, and the winner will be notified the next day.

Terms and conditions: Open to UK residents only. There is no cash alternative. Only one entry per person. The prize will be sent directly from Tesco.

Disclosure: I have received a shopping voucher from Tesco in return for this post. 

UPDATE: the winner of the LG Optimus 3D is Alison M (@ali991). Congratulations Alison! Please email me with your details.