Monday, 10 November 2008

WHATM with us

Ok I wanted this blog to have some memoir elements and everybody changes so much, so forgive me while I have a little ramble about my lovely family.

My darling Eleanor is 13 months and she is doing lots of very cute things at the moment. I am going to try and list as many as I can think of!
  • Nodding enthusiastically when you suggest something she could have/do (and she understands the options mostly!)
  • Funny glottal/nasal sounds like her own language. N-hn. A-ghm.
  • Spending ages playing with a ribbon or a bit of cloth, putting it over her head and stroking it, admiring how she looks.
  • Unpacking all the cloth baby wipes from the zippy bag and loading them all back in. Maybe giving the floor a little wipe with one along the way.
  • Brum-brumming a little toy car along.
  • Lovingly hugging a teddy or dolly and patting it for comfort.
  • Getting herself from sitting position on the floor to standing by pushing up with her hands.
  • Standing for a couple of minutes at a time, with no help.
  • Taking steps while holding one hand.
  • Blowing her nose very effectively (self taught!)
  • Eating lots of chunky food with her hands but also being very persistant when trying to use a fork or spoon, which she does very well.
  • Drinking a small amount from a lidless cup without spilling it. She can also sip from a straw.
  • Pulling the Wii steering wheel out and making driving actions.
  • Zooming from the floor to the windowsill, upon which she stands waving madly at squirrels and the rabbit.
  • Saying "Da" when she wants something (sometimes accompanied by a nod)or exclaiming "Dere" when she is facscinated by a picture in a book or on the tv.
  • Rocking on her caterpillar rocker, stacking rings, lifting the flaps and turning pages on books.
As for my other babies, well:

Daniel is doing really well with all of his school work. However he loves art and will draw the most realistic and fantastic pictures of dragons, knights, under the sea scenes, aliens, pirates, helicopters and invention type machines, you name it! For a 6 year old I think he is really talented (but then I'm biased! He is also doing drama at the moment at Helen O'Grady which allows him a creative outlet- it's much more let's get dressed up as monkeys as opposed to singing lessons and montages- very him. He's also recently joined Beavers which is currently in the magnificent Victoria Baths of Restoration fame, one of my favourite places! The club is held inside the gala pool itself, as there is no water in there. The kids all love that!

Amy, bless her, the sensitive one. She is so funny and confident and bossy and intelligent, but she is also a self conscious little thing, more so now because of her hearing aids which were fitted in early summer. We are blessed to have been introduced to NDCS who have helped us with all sorts, from filling in DLA forms to giving us all the background information on how and why she has only recently been diagnosed with severe deafness, due to the progressive condition she has. She has coped fantastically with having the aids fitted but they do pose their own problems as the sound is a bit surreal. It broke my heart when she marvelled at being able to hear raindrops though! She has just signed up for guitar lessons at school so we are hoping that will give her a cool hobby to focus on, as well as being an avid bookworm. She is amazing with her reading, her writing too. She gets it from me I'm sure.

Victoria, I am worried about that girl. She is an angel! Maybe I have horrific memories from my teens and how much I used to backchat my parents. But she is lovely. Polite, charming, thinks nothing of sitting with one of the little ones playing a game. She's just joined a running club as she is a great little athlete! London Olympics here we come. Oh I did catch her doing something shocking last weekend: cleaning her room. Now she DOESN'T get that from me!

Michael. My handsome and witty stepson, and no he wouldn't mind me saying so. Currently wowing us all with excellent history essays and brilliant coursework marks. He is in year 11 now so a busy year at school! Still playing for Cheadle & Gatley on a Sunday (when he is not injured- he takes after his Dad!). Favourite hobby, arguing with Victoria with comebacks that tend to start with the word "basically..."

My dearest husband Jason. I am going to gush now but he is truly wonderful! He gets us all to school/work every morning then comes back, walks the dog for 2 hours usually with Eleanor on his back, makes the lunch, puts the washing on and dries it all, tidies and cleans, collects us all from school/work, supervises homework, then cooks the tea! Every day! I hate being at work but it makes it so much easier knowing that my family is being cared for so excellently. And he still finds time for plenty of cuddles too.

And finally me. When I say I hate being at work, I hate the fact of me being a working mum, but I am actually (shock horror) enjoying my job at the moment! Ok so I am so busy it is unreal, and I never ever take a break, not even for lunch, but I am doing what I love best and that is implementing new things and improving the way we do stuff. I have introduced an SMS (texting) service into school and it is making life much easier, plus the parents seem to like it. I am also working with the deputy on a big attendance push, which is all about working with statistics and figures and working SIMS to the bone to give me the reports I want. Inbetween all this I am still working on achieving the Financial Management Standard in Schools which involves a silly amount of paperwork but I am getting there!

Outside of work I am teaching myself to sew, via trial and error mostly. I am thinking about getting a bit fitter and maybe losing a little weight but on the other hand I am a nursing mum, if I can't be fat now then when can I? I am also looking forward to Christmas, with lots of shopping still to do and not many ideas, but at least we can afford it this year! I am also loving catching up with extended family on facebook from far and wide.

And that is about it!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

How could I resist?

Going to see Mamma Mia before it finished on the big screen that is! I have been trying to get and see it for a while, first a friend's birthday bash was cancelled and then the girls from work were supposed to go but didn't get round to it in the end...

So who better to come with me than my beautiful daughter!

And we loved it. Meryl Streep was amazing in it as was Julie Walters, so funny. Both of us were singing away too as Abba Gold has been a staple in our house for some years now. I sobbed all the way through the part where she helps her daughter get ready for her wedding. Amy saw and squeezed my hand, it was very touching and apt.

We felt so grown up being in the city centre on a saturday evening too. And very overdressed (I was the topic of much amusement in my wooly hat amongst the skimpily dressed Printworks' clientele).

When is the DVD out? Put me down for one!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Tapas night in 45 minutes

I had a "what shall we have for tea" night last night. The kids were at mums and The Man at football so I had a tinker about and came up with this, made entirely of storecupboard things and fridge staples (ok the chorizo was a lucky find!)

Chorizo and Red Pepper casserole

Fry 1 sliced onion in olive oil, add 2 crushed garlic cloves and a sliced chorizo sausage (about 6-inch piece). Then add 2 small red peppers, cut into chunks, and 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder. Then addd a splash of port (red wine would be fine) and bubble for a minute or two before stirring in a tin of chopped tomatoes (reserve about a fifth for the potato dish) and season, adding chopped fresh parsley if you have it. Empty into a lidded casserole dish and cook at 175 for 30 minutes.

Patatas Bravas

Wipe the pan and fry a quarter of an onion in olive oil. Stir in 1/2 tsp chilli powder and the rest of the tin of chopped tomatoes plus salt and pepper. Set aside for reheating later. Wipe out pan and add a little olive oil and a couple of potatoes which have been cubed into 1cm pieces, skins on. Sautee on a low heat for around 15 minutes then stir in some garlic butter (butter, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, s&p). Serve with the chilli tomato spooned over.

Saffron rice

While the potatoes are cooking add a teaspoon of unflavoured oil to a lidded pan. Add some chopped green beans or frozen peas, a quarter of an onion finely chopped and a teeny pinch of saffron, and 100ml (by volume) of rice. Toss in the oil then add 200ml of boiling water and a pinch of salt. Stir once and cover, cook on a very low simmer for 15 minutes.

Fragrant veg

Chop half and onion, slice a courgette and some mushrooms. Cook in a little oil until softened then add a splash of white wine and some thyme, plus s&p. Cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid has gone then pop a lid on the pan while you are serving everything up.

Put everything into little dishes and serve with crusty bread or garlic bread.

I was going to take a photo but we ate it all! (The leftover chorizo dish went on baked potatoes for a filling lunch!)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Green shoes

Thought I would share a pic, which ties in with my shoe "fetish"! I bought these a couple of years ago for a wedding and haven't really worn them since, but tried them once or twice for work recently as we have had some mild september days. I think they are keepers not flingers! They are surprisingly comfy too as they are very soft leather.

New Sling!!

This is my brand shiny new Zidee Podaegi, created by the very lovely and talented Jeanette at Tiddlybums
This is the fabric close up, and is has gorgeous pink silk on the reverse!

I'm heading into Manchester tomorrow so look out for me there, i'll be walking with a swish I reckon!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A disappointy sort of day

My day didn't quite go to plan really!

First Michael was meant to be playing football but had pulled his hamstring running with J the day before, so he was realy fed up about that.

Then my plans to meet up with a friend to talk about sling shopping went pear shaped, mostly because I am a scaredy cat on the phone and stupidly relied on emails to arrange times etc. Of course I forgot that she would be out all day and so not check said emails. Doh!

As a result we ended up dropping Victoria off a whole 20 minutes early home, because we were out and about, which was a first for J in his 11 years of seperation from his ex.

Then we went to pick up Amy from her friends house but there was no-one in! We managed to find them eventually but had to do a bit more driving around. It gave J the chance to show me a few houses around Heald Green that he had been eying up on the internet. I am not the remotest bit interested in moving house you understand. But he is having his annual rant about it going downhill around here etc etc. So I play along but am quick to point out the dodgy brickwork and the too-small back gardens (or what you can see of them from the road).

Once back home I dig out the Ikea catalogue and the tape measure. It has been our plan for a little while to sort out storage in our bedroom and I have been lusting after the Pax installation with all the swizzy storage bits inside. We would get a huge mirrored door and an oak one to match the Ikea bed we bought last month. But to my frustration I found the ceiling is too low where the bay window roof overhangs, by a hair's breadth. The pamphlet says we need a min ceiling height of 202cm for the 201cm wardrobe but we only have 201cm for quite a lot of the space where the run of cupboards will go.

So, do we look for another fitted affair elsewhere; buy a more freestanding option (which we have now together with all it's wasted space round plinths and legs); or take a stanley knife to our bouncy bedroom carpet and MAKE it fit- my personal favourite. But DH's response to this idea- "we won't be able to take it with us if we move."


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Punctuality rant

How hard is it to be punctual? Ok I am not the most organised of people and can sometimes be a couple of minutes late when meeting friends, but at least I apologise and appear suitably rushed and flustered.

As the person in charge of administrating attendance at school it is my job to make sure all the children are in school on time, and to check up on any who are not. Being new to this side of things, I went on a training course today, and I have to admit I'm a little overwhelmed. Put the marks in wrong, or in the wrong order and it is deemed illegal. Giving a child the wrong absence code could amount to fraudulent activity by the school and accusations of cooking the books to get the figures above the required percentage. And the timing of latecomers is crucial- any latecomers after 9am are classed as "unauthorised absence/missed session". Furthermore, it is a requirement of my job to immidiately telephone any pupils that have a missing mark once the register closes, in the interest of child welfare and safety. This in itself is a long winded job, one which would be made much easier if a) parents phoned when their kids were sick/at the dentist/moving house and b) if they actually got to school on time.

Sadly it is the same faces on a regular basis that miss the register. I am torn between giving them a ticking off or welcoming them with a "glad you are here" face. I usually go for the latter as I realise it is not usually the fault of the children. But you know, I would much prefer it if the parent didn't skulk behind the gate whilst ushering Tillybud inside, but instead just held their hands up and said "Sorry, we missed the alarm". Which in fairness, some do!

But the worst offender has to be that of the late after schoolers. Most nights there are one or two littlies still waiting 15 minutes after the bell goes for hometime. However tonight, one little poppet was not collected until 4:25, an hour and ten minutes after the bell went and 25 minutes after my official clocking off time. Just across the playground there were also children still around, only they were paying £6 each for the priviledge of After School Club care. We had desperately tried to ring someone to no avail, and had comforted Poppet when she thought mum had disappeared of the face of the earth. But no thanks nor apology were pro-offered for the school's (ie my!) goodwill here.

And so I was late for my evening meal, late for my baby's post-work breastfeed, and late seeing my poorly big girl who had been crying for her mummy all day. And J was not pleased. "If only you could be on time" he sighed as he dished up claggy pasta. I wish.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sassy Secretary Shoes

As I am now officially back at work proper I have been revisiting my dressy wardrobe. Bizarrely my feet seem to have grown a little as my black heels no longer fit. What a shame- new shoes then!

I tried loads on and none were quite right. I was having a Blow the Budget day too but even my special favourite shoe shop Office failed to deliver. I was edging towards the shoe-boot but all I tried were too high, uncomfy or toe-pinchy.

Until I found these:

Best of all they are really comfy too! I am just getting used to what sorts of outfits I can team them up with. I think I need to get me a wintry but short skirt as I have lots of funky tights that would go.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

6 week hols part 3- eh, calm down it's only a Yellow Duckmarine

We managed to fit in a last minute summer holidays day out to Liverpool, somewhere I have a realy fondness for due to being involved with English Heritage which was in turn involved with a lot of the World Heritage Site enscription, Capital of Culture Stuff and much more. The region had it's own sub-group, the aptly named HELP project (Historic Environment of Liverpool Project). I learnt so much about the place from my colleagues and so I thought it was about time I had a proper visit, other than for work or shopping.

We had a brilliant time! We went to the Tate after moseying round the Albert Dock for a while (I had to laugh when my friend informed her daughter that this was where This Morning is filmed- she didn't know it had transferred to London nowadays!). I liked the Picassos especially, but I wasn't sure about the piece of modern art which was a flourescent tube penetrating a mattress adorned with wire coat hangers and light bulbs. There was a great art space for the kids though and we hung out there for a good hour.

We then went for a ride on the Yellow Duckmarine- an amphibious vehicle which takes you on a tour of the city and then splashes into the Mersey via the Dock. We saw all the sights, Paddy's Wigwam (also known as the Roman Catholic Cathedral), the Chinese Arch, The Ropewalks area, The Liver Birds and the new Beatles hotel (where the tour guide joked that although most rooms were £500 a night, you could have the Ringo one for a fiver). The kids really loved it and although it was a bit pricey you were on the vehicle for a whole hour and the guys on there made it really fun. You can see the reflection of it is this pic:

We were sadly too late to visit the Firefighters' Olympics which were being held at the Echo Arena that day. As you know I am a huge lover of sports and it had nothing whatsoever to do with men in uniform showing off their hose skills.

We rounded off the day with a drink in the Beatles Story Museum cafe. I could've stayed all day and was like a giddy child looking at all the memorabilia in the gift shop. Amy bought a cool Yellow Submarine design writing set, meanwhile I was coveting a gorgeous bag which I may have to order online.

I already want to go again! Next time we will look round the Protestant Cathedral which was immense and maybe do the Maritime Museum. Reckon I will schedule it for the next Firefighters' event.

Friday, 12 September 2008

6 week hols part 2- Agatha Christie and Clotted Cream

Our holiday this year took us to Devon. I have never been to the South West before so I was really excited! I spent a whole week beforehand writing lists about what list I needed to write, before meticulously packing for the seven of us (well ok J did his own, sort of, and the step squidges brought a lot with them from their mums). We looked a bit like the National Lampoons when setting off as we had our cases on the roof wrapped in tarpaulin, alas no trendy roofbox. Still, it was easy to spot our car at services, being the only one with a bright blue parcel atop.

Eleanor made it very known to us that she did not appreciate being in the car. I ended up sitting in the middle row inbetween 2 carseats for the full 10 hours, punctuated by much screeching and V-Tech plinky plonky noises.

We stayed in caravan which was really nice and spacious, in fact it had more seating than our living room, which was good and facilitated plenty of Olympics watching! The place we were staying at was called Challaborough Bay (foreground above), which was adjacent to Bigbury-on-Sea and Burgh Island, shown on the left above, a little place that was cut off at high tide but that featured a nice Art Deco hotel which apparently was used a lot by Agatha Christie. Sadly you weren't allowed up close unless you were staying there, but we did climb to the top of the island for some wonderful views, once we had battled with the swarms of flying ants!

Some Burgh Island themed pics: On the way, us at the top, Dan looking at the view back down, paddling by the sea tractor, the Island cut off later that day.

We had decided to have one big day out. We had heard lots about Paignton Zoo so we headed there. It was brilliant! We found a little viewing platform at the back of the apes area and had our own private viewing of some Orangutans and Gorillas, who both decided to put on displays for us, the latter trying to chuck stones and sticks at us and beating his chest cartoon style. I think it must be something to do with J, maybe he smells a bit animal, a tiger peed on him once at a zoo.

J Connecta'd up watching a gorilla, I wanna be like you-oo-oo, you don't scare me!

We had ok ish weather and did lots of playing on the beach. Daniel bought a body board and spent hours in the water, while the others dug a giant hole and then had us all taking turns to jump it. That game went really well until Michael decided to stay in the hole whilst Amy jumped, Evil Kneivel stylee over both. Needless to say it went a bit pearshaped when Amy lost her nerve and didn't quite make it across. Oh how we stifled our giggles while doling out sympathy in equal parts to the injured children.

Some beach pics:

After a great week, with clotted cream on toast for breakfast just because we could, we had a last minute day out in Dartmouth, which I loved, we were sad that we didn't have more time! We managed to get some pictures by the quayside. The eagle eyed amongst you will note my lovely Podeagi, only borrowed, but hey it had mermaids on it so went with the maritime theme of the town:

All in all, a lovely holiday!

6 week holidays part one- Manchest-ohh

So mum took the children away to Wales for a couple of days so me and J went sightseeing in Manchester! We live just a mile from the city and every now and again we go as tourists- no shopping or errands, just walking and looking. Well ok we did sneak a pint in by the canalside in Castlefield. Here is a pic of my lovely hubby posing in from of the Beetham Tower, note my pushchair making a rare appearance! This weather was the nicest we had all summer.

Another Manchester day took us to babylovesdisco at the Urbis. It was really good fun, the kids loved it and we will be looking out for the next one which will be in a real nightclub! Hurray for the smoking ban. Best of all we got 2 free pairs of babylegs from one of the Arts About Manchester people who thought Eleanor was cute dancing with her big sister. Here's a pic of the mosh pit.

Sigh, I love this city, I do.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


Oops it's been a while! After I promised (myself) that I would blog at least once a week. To tell you the truth, I've been sulking. I typed up a long post including a recipe for my anniversary dinner of baked cod in pancetta with garlic potatoes, green veg, roasted vine tomatoes and pesto dressing, but I blimmin lost the post! I stupidly pressd ctrl + a instead of shift + a whilst typing and promptly selected then overtyped all my work. I realised immediately and realised that there is an autosave thing on the bottom. But how to revert back to what was saved- clueless. So I pressed the red x and went on facebook instead.

I do have pics to share, from our lovely Devon holiday, and some of baby squidge getting all big. Heck I might even post the recipe if I am in the mood.

But not tonight- I have an outfit to plan, revolving around my posh new shoes.

Until next time x

Monday, 4 August 2008

OK so we didn't get the barbie out

But we had delicious burgers for tea nontheless!

Mum, Dad and teenage baby brother came over from Wales to visit, and although I was originally planning to make my famous African Lamb Casserole/Curry I chickened out at the last minute fearing they may not like it. So I reshuffled my meal plan and made
Jamie Olivers "Feed the family for a fiver" Lamb burgers
which were very delicious! I didn't do the carrot salad thingie though, just paired it with some romaine lettuce and sliced red onion, plus the chorizo garnished wedges which were tasty!

As I ducked out a bit with a very non-showy-off tea I thought I'd make a nice dessert as I know my mum is a big fan of a proper sweet. Not like me who cracks open the Aldi Wacko bars. I made a really delicious plum and chocolate clafoutis from a recipe book Mum bought me. It was goood! It had a gorgeous, rich, slightly gooey texture which contrasted beautifully with the sharpness of the plums. I'll be making it again (although J grumbled as he thought I was doing his favourite plum crumble).

In other news, I am getting my hair done tomorrow, yippee. Amy is at the hospital for a review of her hearing aids, now do I tell them that she keeps "forgetting" to wear them? Am I a terrible mother for not even noticing until I try and call her in from playing outside? Later in the week we are delivering the two of them to mums so they can have a mini break at Grandma's by the seaside. During those few days I am going to pretend I like being child free, whilst being secretly consoled by the fact that Eleanor is too little to join them and so will be at home, no doubt charging about on her little hands and knees and hopefully not bashing her head against anything as she practices standing up.

Ah, the carefree summer holidays.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Eek there are two of us!

I got a private message just now on MSE, congratulating me on my new relationship and that they were so glad Stephen and I had hit it off! There was I, getting flattered, but a bit of searching gave me the answers. There is someone else on that forum with the name squashy too, only capitalised!

I better hope Jason doesn't read my inbox...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Our Girly Weekend!

As a briefly mentioned in my last post-cum-rant, this Sunday we ventured to deepest London for a bit of a jolly!

Having made a sensible decision to leave boychild at home with Daddy we set off on our arduous journey via coach from Manchester at a scary 6:45am. Armed with a huge bag of snacks, lots of little squeaky rattly toys and a brave heart I kept everything crossed that the 5 hour trip would not be too fraught. My angel baby was a star and spent most of the journey asleep on my chest, making it nigh on impossible to read my girly magazine but hey I'm not complaining.

We arrived and I hit the tube station like a true pro, armed with my oyster card and marching along to the correct platform, dutifully keeping right on the escalator. I would have passed for a true cockerny if it wasn't for the giant rucksack on my back and the fact I forgot to take my shades off on the underground.

We finally hit the place to be, Conway Hall and its much anticipated Summer Sling Show, to shamelessly quote from someone else's musings, it was like a parallel universe where wearing your baby is the norm. Heaven. If it hadn't been so hot that is.

Dazzled by the array of beautiful things to buy on the many stalls I stumbled back outside to recline in the shade of the leafy square outside, where I met some old friends for the first time. If you use forums you will kn0w what I mean; it is so lovely to just slip into a conversation with somebody who you have known for such a long time but have never seen face to face. There were lots of cute children, gurgling babies, pregnant bumps of varying sizes and a fetching array of crocs too. I could have stayed all day but soon enough the show was coming to an end so it was time to head off- not before I purchased a delicious leafy green wrap (a Hoppediz Lima) for a bargain £40.

So we all headed for the tube, meanwhile helping one of the littlies, Eden, conquer her fear of the dreaded escalator. Wow it was hot down there- the effects of the ice cold caramel frappuccino consumed en route had long worn off.

I soon parted company with my fluffy friends and began my search for our hotel. I was ready to escape the heat by this point and was so pleased when the sanctuary of our little room beckoned. Alas, we opened the door to a blaze of heat, so warm that I had to double check the radiator to make sure they hadn't left the central heating on! Never mind we had a little plug in fan, and erm, a window that opened a couple of inches. Well I wasn't expecting the Ritz what with it being Travelodge but I would have hoped for a teensy bit of air con!

There was only one thing for it- I ran a cold bath and the three of us dived in! If it wasn't for our rumbling tummies we could have stayed in it all night! So we got dressed and dried, Amy neatly hanging her things in the closet, me chucking my stuff in a heap in the corner, I was too hot to care about creases.

Half an hour later we were in Regents Park lounging by the boating lake, whilst Amy practised her handstands, then Trafalgar Square posing for photos, then taking a seat in our prebooked (read: stick a pin in a website) pan-asian restaurant, which was tres posh, but good value and had an Amy-friendly set menu. I had tempura veg followed by a gorgeous thai green chicken curry with coconut rice whilst Amy had sticky BBQ ribs then teryaki salmon, eaten obligingly with chopsticks (mostly). They were very accommodating considering they weren't really set up for families. There was no high chair but I improvised with my shiny new wrap!

We walked off our meal via Covent Garden where we watched a great street artist (although the balloon swallowing was slightly scary!), Eleanor loved it and was grinning at all the people around us and clapping hands at the right moments. She is well trained for 9 months. We hunted to no avail for a nice ice cream shop on the way home then got back to our room which we hoped had become cooler by dusk. Sadly it wasn't to be! One cold bath later the kids were fast asleep on the admittedly very comfy double bed. I was also soon in the land of nod to the hum of the pedestal fan.

The next morning I was up with the cockney sparrows, showered and dressed before the girls stirred. We enjoyed a nice breakfast- still too hot for a full english and sadly lacking in proper coffee- then chucked our things back in the bags and set off for the piece de la resistance of our trip...Hamley's toy shop! We watched lots of very well rehearsed sales pitches for some wonderful but expensive toys, Amy was particularly taken by a foil sticker set at £19.99 but knew she hadn't brought enough pocket money for it, and she happily accepted this fact without pestering for a loan as I had expected! Result! She eventually settled for a pair of Hamley's brand bootees for Baby Annabell and a Sticky Mitt ball game. She even bought candy canes for everyone back home!

So onwards, with a quick stop off at Regent Street Boots where I had hoped to use my advantage points to treat myself to an outrageously expensive Chanel lip gloss, sadly they didn't have a Chanel concession- harumph they do in chavvy old Manchester! I settled for a can of cooling water spray which proved extra useful throughout the day- more so than the lip gloss would've been I'll wager. Humming Abba tunes to myself we arrived at Waterloo and moseyed over to the London Eye which wowed us, what a feat of engineering! I wish we could have afforded to go on but my sling stash is clearly much more important. Speaking of which, my new Lima Hopp was proving to be a gorgeous investment, so comfy!

Amy had a little play in the park next door before I explained that we would go for a walk along the Thames and maybe cross the river to find somewhere for lunch. Only Amy decided there and then that she was scared of bridges and that it was her holiday and so I couldn't make her go! The psycho-analyst in me saw straight through her faux-phobia which seemed to me to mirror Eden's genuine worry from yesterday. However it wasn't so much the whinge that got me it was the finger wiggling indignation and the "you can't make me" attitude. I called her bluff and said that we would have to go straight to Euston then as all the fun stuff was the other side of the water, but she called mine right back with a "fine then".

I rolled my eyes and strolled while wondering what to do next. I loved being in London, walking by the Thames, seeing the Houses of Parliament and St Paul's, I found it hard to be mad. I was just mad however at missing the "This Morning" riverside broadcast. I had been hoping to throw eggs at Ruth and Eammon, ah well. I gave a consolatory wave at the one-way glass just in case they were filming a piece to camera for the next show. We stood and watched the sand sculptors on the South Bank then crossed at Blackfriars bridge, Amy strangely forgetting her mysterious phobia.

Next on the agenda was Kensington High Street. I thought I would see how easily I could mingle with the hoi polloi in my Primark gear. I failed miserably, I think it was beacause my nursing bra was showing over the neckline of my overstretched tshirt. Or the fact I didn't have my Chanel lip gloss on maybe. Admitting defeat, there was only one obvious choice for lunch: McDonalds. McHappymealed up we shunned Harrods and chose instead to walk to Kensington Gardens via the breathtaking Church Walk and the beautiful St Mary's church. We found an optimum spot in the park, under a tree by the drinking fountain, and let our heavy bags go. Eleanor enjoyed being unwrapped for a while and took great pleasure in waving her little shoes around (remind me again why I bothered to bring baby toys?). Amy and I chortled at the Sloane Rangers walking their little poodles in their six-inch heels, watched some big kids have a giant water fight and joined in with a mini one of our own, and played catch with her new toy, which I have to say somewhat burst the "Hamley's- finest toys in the world" bubble after the little ball fell to pieces during the game.

Not to be disheartened, we reapplied the factor 50 and pressed on to the other side of the park for the spectacular Princess Diana Memorial Playground aka the Big Wooden Sandy Pirate Ship. Eleanor was flat out by this time, as was my poor mobile phone and its built in camera (curse you battery draining bejewelled game!). Amy played, I skulked under a shady bush with my feet in the hot sand and dreamed of the Caribbean and Johnny Depp.

We had a couple of hours before our train home was due out of Euston and I realised that in our rush to get to Hamley's for opening time I had forgotten to go to the FastTicket machine at Marylebone Station by the hotel, a plan that in my wisdom was put in place to avoid any last minute flapping about. Hm. After a bizzare dispute with the ticket officer about why my Oyster appeared to be out of credit despite me putting on an initial £10 in order to cover 2 x daily travel passes at £4.80 per day, and his requirement that I top up by 80p in order to get a cap applied, I hopped yet again on the sweatbucket of a tube all the way back to the station that had been our first port of call that morning. Tickets painlessly printed, I asked at information about how to get from there to Euston via another route but the tube which would have meant travelling southwards on the Bakerloo line to change at Charing Cross for the Northern line, bringing us back to the north side of the city (see I know it off by heart now!).

Upon the gentleman's advice that it was a mere twelve minute stroll from Marylebone, we trotted in the direction of Euston. Twenty minutes later we were barely halfway there, shattered, hot and blistery of feet. We spotted a bus stop and eagerly checked the timetable- yes a bus would be along any moment! Our dreams of arriving in comfort were soon crushed though- the blimmin Oyster card didn't work again (no idea where my cap went!). Poor Amy was nearly falling asleep as we continued to walk, until I decided to abandon my grudge against TfL and its unfathomable ticketing, feeding the next bus ticket machine my last two pounds cash and hopping aboard the first bendy bus.

On the journey home aboard the relative luxury of a Virgin Pendolino, we munched on M&S junk food for our tea: pain au chocolat, watermelon, poppadoms, pasta salad and cheese, and reflected on a really lovely couple of days. We had seen lots of sights, made good friends, bought some nice things and had lots laughs together.

Still I couldn't wait to get home to my own lumpy mattress and my lovely guys at home, to the cooler, Pennine sheltered air and water that doesn't make your hair go all scratchy.

And I am off to Boots on Market Street tomorrow for that lip gloss.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The award for non-customer service goes to...

Virgin Trains!

What silly people they have in their email response department. I'll explain.

Timetable in hand, I decide to check out the cost for me, girly and baby to go to London for the Summer Sling Show and a bit of a jolly. As it is reasonably affordable with a railcard I decided to book a cheap room for us so we can spend a little free time there on Monday too. But yesterday I attempt to actually book pay for the train and the 0844 from Manchester to Euston has vanished! In fact all the direct trains for the whole weekend have gone! More annoyingly, there are no service disruption announcements on any of the train websites. I hear on the grapevine talk of strikes. So I emailed asking sbout the missing services. 5 emails later (asking me to clarify this and that, one nugget of information at a time) I receive this fantastic reply:

Thank you for writing back to us.

I am sorry to know that the available train service is not up to your satisfaction.

However, the train service at 0844 is not available due to some reasons. No direct train is available for your journey.

The train which does not passes through Sheffield departs Manchester Piccadilly at 0953 and will arrive London Euston at 1436 hours.

If you wish to reach London Euston before 1200 PM and do not wish to go via Sheffield, you may board the train at 2100 hours on 26th June, 2008. However, this route is not convenient for you with two children as it covers foot and tube journey also.

For further details about 0844 train service, please contact the customer relations team of CrossCountry at 0870 010 0084, as the day to day operations related to trains and station are handled by Train Operating company.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate in contacting us.

Kind regards,

22/07/2008 07:27 PM
Why is there no direct train? As I previously mentioned due to my deaf child and small baby I cannot transfer trains. The sheffield train is too slow and would make us late for the event we are booked to attend. I will now have to cancel my holiday. Will Virgin pay me my out of pocket expenses for my non-refundable hotel booking and my event ticket? I am not happy! What is the reason the service isn't running as per the timetable?

So they suggest I travel overnight and hang out at train stations until dawn? Well at least the time will pass quickly as there are three changes on that route. Genius.

You know, if from the beginning they had just said, Really sorry but there is a strike on, it's out of our control, that would have been acceptable. But the rubbish they are coming out with is frustrating beyond belief!

Looks like I will have to hitchhike if I am still going to go, else get the bus. Sigh.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

OK so I finally succumbed

...and bought meself my very first pair of crocs! I was firmly on the "ugh they are ugly" side of the fence for a long time but I bought some primark specials (ie copies at £4) a couple of months ago and had to admit they were quite comfy. But of course I said to myself I would just wear them around the house. Oh ok maybe out and about when in my scruffs. And go on then I would put them with jeans and a flowery top for the casual without trying too hard look. And I guess at work no-one would see them under my desk, so they'd do if I was in a hurry.

Anyway today I promised my step daughter a little trip to the shops to get her some bits for summer for our house. We braved Primark and got her a few nice clothes, some essentials and some shoes, and a few things fell into my basket from the ladieswear section by accident. I was smitten by a retro looking mac in teal with a little print all over, only I couldn't try it on as I had Eleanor wrapped. Sadly it is going back as it makes me look like Jeff Capes in drag. They had some lovely little dainty ballet pumps at £4 a pair, and I couldn't choose, so bought three colours! I got some other bits too and I am very pleased to announce that I am officially a 14 waist again (we won't talk about the top half).

I have also come to the realisation that my gorgeous sandals are ready for the bin and had decided to buy some replacements from a proper shop, ie not Primark. I tried on loads in Clarks but couldn't get away from the Hush Puppy look which although comfy isn't really me. The trendy shops like Faith were no good for me either as their ranges are either wafer thin on the sole or huge and wedgy, neither of which is much good for babywearing. I moved swiftly past the Birkies with a little sniff, because I can't wear them due to tres dodgy alien like toes.

So I was about to throw in the towel as we had traipsed round Manchester all day with THREE full primark bags, but I thought I should pop in Next to see if they had any baby socks. I cringed as I went through the doors as I realised today was 5am Summer Sale Madness in there, but resolved to march head first straight to the baby department. Well ok, I suppose I could have a quick glance at the shoes...

And there they were. Winking at my tired feet across the crowded store. Genuine Maryjane style crocs in grape. Comfort? Check. Trendy-ish? Check. Non-old-lady style? Check. Colour not boring black? Check. Adaptable to many outfits? Check. Price? £15- you betcha! Check, check, checkout!

So yes, I who guffawed at those plastic clog footed, am now the proud owner of a genuine pair. And the new slippers I bought in Primark? Still in the bag!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Posh Beans on Toast

Thought I would post a recipe that I put together. Lovely as a lunch, or use as a chunky pasta sauce. It would also go nicely as a side for meat or fish. Good for BLW as it is chunky! The beans are fiddly but fun to do and the rest only takes 5 minutes.

Posh Beans on Toast (serves 2)

10 pods of broadbeans (approx)
1 slice of bacon, chopped or 1/2 tub pancetta cubes
1/2 an onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 a courgette, sliced
4 med-large tomatoes
4 slices of buttered toast to serve

1. Remove the broadbeans from their pods (or get the kids to do it!). Cook beans in boiling water for 4 minutes then drain and cool in a bowl of cold water. When cold, pop the skins off each bean to reveal the bright green beans inside. Discard the skin. This can be done in advance.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan to a high heat then fry the bacon/pancetta pieces until crispy. Turn the pan down to medium.

3. Add the onion, garlic, courgettes and broadbeans to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Roughly chop the tomatoes into chunks and add to the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes until tomatoes have softened and released their juices, ie the mixture is quite wet and saucy. Check seasoning, I like a good bit of pepper but salt is usually not needed because of the bacon.

5. Spoon over the toast and enjoy!

I am sure it would be just as lovely with the bacon left out, or bulked up with more courgette to go further for example.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

A tough day as a nursing mum

Yesterday was a day that I have been dreading for some time: my first real day back at work. I'd already been in for a few meetings and things but this was the real thing! The gods of good timing were fortunately shining upon us as it just so happened to be sports day, so my newly appointed stay-at-home-husband would be able to hang out in the vicinity for the morning, watching the two middle squidges skipping, jumping and running. I was hoping I could just take my breaks at breastfeeding time instead of over lunch, and just sit on the sidelines of the sports day with all the other parents. But it did make me wonder about how this would go down.

I was worried that others might view my nursing as a nuisance. That the children in the playground should be protected against seeing something so vile and disgusting as feeding a baby when it is hungry. True, may of the children in our great city have never seen a bare breast except for the ones in page three of Daddy or Grandad's newspaper. They may have grown up in families thinking that breastfeeding is something exclusive to wierd hippys with no sense of the modern world with it's "conveniences" like powdered cows milk and nice silicone and plastic bottles (which of course have to be carefully sterilised). But I feel like this: Yes of course formula has its place, but shouldn't we be teaching our children that nursing our babies with what god provided us with is the norm?

I so want to continue feeding for as long as possible despite me working, as I truly believe that every drop of the stuff counts. Colleagues have tried to reassure me that she will be ok on formula as it is more or less the same, just as good etc, but the fact is it is not. Formula might make their little tummies equally full but it does not protect against bugs, help digestion and growth by tailoring the nutrients in each feed, combat athsma and excema, reduce the risk of SIDS, help guard mum against breast and ovarian cancers, and baby against obesity and high cholesterol in later life, heck it is not even free nor is it on tap at the right temperature as and when required!

I was so happy a few weeks ago when a foreign-tongued lady, Russian I think, guided her two toddlers over to me in the health centre waiting room, so they could look at the baby nursing. It would make my day if the same thing happened in the school playground.

(P.S. When I googled "benefits of breastmilk" two of the top links were from the pages of Aptimil and Cow and Gate making a vain attempt at comparing artificial milk to the real thing. Is it any wonder the UK has hangups?)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

High days and Holy Days

My beautiful girl made her First Holy Communion on Sunday. Now I don't really go in for this deep religion malarkey but I will admit to having a little tear in my eye as my oh so grown up daughter glided like a swan down the aisle, complete with plaster cast accessory, leading the whole class into church. Maybe it was the cost of the dress that did it (I was going for the "ballerina" as opposed to "mini-bride" look and my purse sure took the brunt of my fussiness! Amy fell in love with the one in the window and that was the one we went for). I had packed her off that morning to MILs to get her hair curled with strict instructions "Not to let Nanna anywhere near you with her makeup bag" whilst I tried to find an outfit that wouuld co-ordinate with one of the slings in my collection. Thank goodness the step squidges had brought outfits with them as I was none too pleased at my darling husbands early Sunday morning googling to try and ascertain if he had time to nip to next for a new shirt and tie before the ceremony started. I'm afraid Daniel came last on the list as he ended up with a thrown together checked shirt and jeans combo, a decision I later regretted as the photographer invited us all for a nice family snap in the school hall before we went in.

The service itself was nice, lots of lovely hymns that I pretended to know. Ah well, at least I have got some of the responses down to a tee now so I look slightly less conspicuous. Peace be with you. (See?!). Despite Amy's initial worries about lisping her way through the reading through missing front teeth, and losing the little wafer down the hollow of her plastercast, she did just beautifully.

And we went for the obvious choice for celebratory food: Chinese Buffet City of course. 17 spare ribs (seriously!) and a big bowl of strawberry ice cream later, she was full and happy and remarkable un-ok-sauce-covered so we went back home for more treats. Super Mario Kart Wii races!! Amen to that.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Oh my aching muscles

Ouch. Today I Raced for my Life. No really, it actually felt as if I was going to die at one point. I figured that as I was so pregnant last time I did it (see pic!), this time would be a cynch. Ok so I am probably carrying a bit of extra weight which didn't help. But my nice friend Nicola promised to buddy up with me as we set off, to keep the morale up. I am sure she only chose me so she would look extra gorgeous and skinny, not that she needed to mind you! At 1k as I struggled to speak through my heavy breathing she chirpily informed me that she does aerobics 4 times a week and power walks for arond 30 mins per day. Yikes I thought, why was it that I didn't train again? Well fair dos to her as she stuck by me and my semi jog right the way round until I ordered her to run free for the last 500m after which she zoomed off with her head held high. I was just about to give up and lie under a tree when I spotted Jason and his oh-so manly rainbow motif umbrella waving at me from across the field. So I picked my feet up and gave it all I had, which admittedly wasn't very much at all by that point. I figured the faster I ran the less actual time I would have left to endure this hell hole. Anyway my final time was 41 minutes which I was really pleased with as it was a personal best for me! And even better news, I managed to raise around £80 for Cancer Research which I did in memory of my Uncle Ray (RIP).

Next year I am wearing Eleanor for security. Against the people wot make me run.

Hi and Why

Hi indeed! And why? Well I spend so much time looking at other peoples interesting and sometimes mundane bits of waffle, that I thought it was high time I contributed some of my own. Should anyone wish to read about a 30 year old, attachment parenting, cloth nappying, co-sleeping, breastfeeding mummy to 3 squidges and 2 step squidges, who also listens to lots of music, watches jeremy kyle and other trashy tv, loves to be inventive in the kitchen and eat lots of nice stuff, whilst being a senior school administrator and being blissfully in love with my stay at home dad/taxi driving husband, then they can indulge to their heart's content! Welcome :-)