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