Saturday, 31 December 2011

Yummy? Mummy? In the Winter? YES!

How on earth can we be yummy and still be a mummy in the winter! 

Happy New Year! 

The cold spell continues (though so far without the dreaded  's' word!) and the school run is fraught enough, without the added pressure of looking good whilst doing it! 

And so, as my last post of 2011 I want to share some pictures with you.  These are real mums on a real school run, doing what they do best, looking yummy despite the weather in the last month of 2011!

I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, as previous posts will testify.  But even with a camera phone, the smiles of these mums is clear to see.

If you have some similar pictures of mums doing what mums do best, (no smut please; you know what I mean!)  Email them in and we'll perhaps display them. 

We need to remember that we are all yummy, regardless of celebrities trying to persuade us that we can't step out of the door without 5 inch heels and a designer buggy.

We need to remember that it's only 5 degrees Celsius out there, and it's nigh on impossible to find winter coats that keep us warm but also make us look red carpet ready.

We need to remember that its a miracle if we even remember to put our shoes on after the children have ran us ragged from 5am until school drop of time.

We need to remember that simply brushing our hair some mornings is a major challenge.

We need to remember that we face similar challenges to millions of other mums, that we are not alone, that we have friends, family, children who love us.

We are yummy mummies!


Even this dodgy looking one in the bright blue coat!

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Parking on the Pavement - A hazard for pedestrians, and not so yummy!

This week my hubby and I strolled out for a walk and came across a lady stood still on the pavement, her guide dog not moving beside her.  A car had driven across the pavement to get onto a drive, but because the drive already had a car on it, the car had simply stopped across the pavement.  Clearly the guide dog wasn't sure what action to take.  The only way past was to take the owner onto the road, around the bumper of the car, and back up onto the pavement.

Being pretty considerate as a family, we, of course, stopped and asked if she needed help.  My hubby offered his arm and led the lady around the car.

Just over a year ago I had a little rant on this blog about cars parking halfway on pavements.  Drivers were parking half on pavements in a suburban area of Nottingham where the roads were perfectly wide enough for cars to park both sides of the road and not infringe the pavements. But of course they did; because a large proportion of drivers park their cars where is convenient for them and in a position they feel most protects their vehicle.

This means that "avoiding potentially being clipped by other cars on the road" trumps "blocking the pavement to such an extent that a pushchair (buggy) or wheelchair can't get past without stepping onto the road to get around the other side of the vehicle."

My feeling about this issue was exasperated when we came across this poor lady this week.

I was struck again by the blinkered nature of the human species.  Because, if I'm honest, I'd never considered the impact that this particular parking method would have on the blind.  Just like I'd not considered the impact on those with pushchairs until I myself had one.

What is amazing, is that this kind of parking, halfway on the pavement, is only technically illegal in London.  The  Pedestrian Liberation piece on this subject is particularly useful for guidance on the relevant rules and regulations.

In this particular case though, the car appears to fall foul of the Disability Discrimination Act, in that disabled people should not be discriminated against in accessing everyday goods and services.  Like the pavement!?

I wish I had thought to take a picture.  But I was so amazed, I didn't even think of it.

It turned out that the car was parked on the drive NEXT DOOR to the house that this lady lived in.  Her neighbours, knowing her disability, hadn't considered the impact the obstructive parking would have.

Her neighbours!

I'm now speechless.

*   *   *

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Why do cars  park on the pavement?

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Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Tupperware is NOT just for food!

I absolutely need more Tupperware.  Not for food, but for toys.

I use Tupperware for food all the time.  Batch cooking is definitely a good plan when you have two children under 6 years old, so the freezer is full of various labelled up meals - bolognese sauce and lamb hotpot are the current favourites.

But at this time of year, when you are desperately trying to work out where all the new stuff is actually going to live on a daily basis, Tupperware is used for toys.  Honestly.

Got a new dolls head for hairdressing practise?  Great.  With all the accompanying hair slides, brushes, tongs, bobbles and ribbons?  Pop them into a Tupperware box.  Nice and tidy.

Got some new jigsaws?  Lovely!  Nothing beats jigsaws inside on a cold winters day (except maybe a quiet glass of sherry and "It's a Wonderful Life" on the TV). 

But if it's a child's jigsaw (a Disney princess one for example) I bet the box came with more than one jigsaw actually in it.  Fine until you take them out of their plastic.  And then those dots on the back of the pieces are only of help if you haven't got at least six others with the same dots already! 

Tupperware saves the day again.  Nice and neat. 

It's handy that the local Chinese takeaway delivers its food in perfect size plastic boxes.  I don't even need to buy new!

Monday, 26 December 2011 My humble words on a different site today!

My humble words will also be appearing on the Frothers: Too Many Cuts site today on the "First Day of Christmas my trust love gave to me: a useless Labour Party."

The Frothers site is a new website set up in response to the huge response a post on the Mumsnet parenting forum who said that she was "rather cross with the Government messing with the good stuff"

The site's aims are to:

- to open the general publics' eyes to the injustices being created by the government

- to inform those who are facing cuts about their rights

- to link with other activists and charities, in order to put pressure on the government
Click here to find out about Frothers. Follow at @TMC_Frothers.  And it's #Frothers on Twitter!

Click here to see my first post for them.

Christmas Eve Eve Fun!

So it's Christmas Eve Eve (That's the day before Christmas Eve - just to be clear!) and the children are having a whole day out with Grandma and Grandad to go to the pantomime.

My hubby books the day off and we spend the whole morning screwing.

The first screw was a bit tricky.  It wouldn't go in.  But in the end a bit of fiddling did the trick and in it slid.

After quite a few more screws, and three hours later, we were getting blisters.  So we had to have a lie down on the bed we'd just made.

But it wasn't all that comfortable to be honest.  Our old mattress was too big for the bed, so I braved the awful rain and dangerous driving conditions on the M1 to travel 30 miles to IKEA and back to collect two new mattresses.  Very comfortable they are too.

It's a good job the eldest appreciated her new bed that Santa delivered early whilst they were at the Panto.

Apparently it was too big for his sleigh.  I can't imagine how hubby and I missed him.

Too much screwing I guess!?

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

January Sales?... have already started!

So when do the January Sales start?

I thought I'd do a quick list of dates for your diaries to pick up a few bargain outfits, but the first couple of high street shops I checked already appear to be in full sale mode.  It's no surprise.  The high streets appear to have been desperate for our custom.  My inbox has been full of daily reminders of how much I could still save and get my goods before Christmas.  But now that option is dead.  No more deliveries can be guaranteed.  And I am preparing to hit the sales after the big day.

So what can I expect?  More of the same by the looks of it, and hopefully even more!

Next have everything half price or less

Clarks have up to 50% off  selected styles

Debenhams already have up to half price on thousands of items

La Senza already have a half price sale on

River Island is already in sale mode

Miss Selfridges already have up to 70% off selected items

Gap already have up to 60% off selected items

House of Frazer are equally already in sale mode.

John Lewis's sale starts online at 5pm on Saturday 24th December (That's Christmas Eve!) and in shops from Tuesday the 27th December.  This was the only site to show a clear date for the crazy shopping to begin.  I do so love them!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sexy Thermal Underwear!? The search continues....

You'll be pleased to hear that I haven't abandoned the cause.  I am still on the search for sexy thermal lingerie.  In my original post I gave a few stockists for you to try.  Here are a few more.

The best so far come from Marks and Spencers (M&S). I can't believe this is the case and am gutted I haven't found anything better, but despite my childish need to rebel against the store my mum used to buy my pants and vests from, they do indeed do comfort very well.

Coming a close second are  My new favourite on line store for all things pretty and girlie.  When you buy from this store the goods come lovingly wrapped in tissue paper.  Lovely.

Finally John Lewis are fighting their corner.  I hadn't thought to search their site until I was reminded of their greatness by their recent Christmas advert.  A quick search later and I realise they are giving M&S a run for their money.

The thing is... although all these thermals look comfy, the general consensus by manufacturers seems to be that a little bit of lace round the neck of a camisole is all we need to turn warm comfort into sexy.

It's still not really doing it for me.  And I'm not alone.  There is even a facebook group called "Lap dancers are needing sexy thermal lingerie".  Whilst I am not a lap dancer, I empathise with their plight.

It's so bad I couldn't even find an appropriate picture for use with this post! 

Come on you manufacturers!  Get working on it!

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Friday, 16 December 2011

Wearing Pyjamas on the school run - I'm not proud

OK, I admit it. I didn't technically get dressed this morning. But I stress the 'technically'. It's not like I had my best lingerie on; baby doll nightie's don't sit well with blue noses in this wintry weather, and I wouldn't want to freak out the local Lollipop man.

But I did leave my comfy Canterbury of New Zealand jogging bottoms on. I didn't bother with a bra, and with my big blue coat, snow boots and scarf, who really noticed?

I though I said in the title that I'm not proud, actually, I have realised that I am pretty proud of myself.  Obviously not for helping the cause (it's definitely not one of my yummiest mummy moments, particularly as I haven't yet mentioned that I didn't even brush my hair. OK, I'm ashamed at that bit. I apologise profusely and ask for Santa's forgiveness).

I am proud that, by getting my daughter to school on time, despite appearances, I put her education before my vanity. And frankly, I think I consider that fairly yummy in itself.

What do you think? Is it ever OK to be so ungroomed at the school gate!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

How to entertain the in-laws this Christmas!

So here's a little advice to help you keep the in-laws and everyone else happy this Christmas (and out from under your feet!)  Some tips to keep the in-laws entertained and ease your hosting duties, sorted by individual 'type' for your convenience.

For the Travellers   
They are always abroad, or planning their next trip.  They are astounded that you haven't been to the Yemen.  Watching TV with them is a constant stream of "oohhh, we're been there, haven't we dear."

Ensure to obtain a small stock of up to date travel brochures (the more unusual the better) before their arrival and leave them on the coffee table for them to 'accidentally' find and spend the next hour browsing through together (hopefully) whilst you get to listen to your new Buble album. (Or is that just me?)

For the Sports Fans
Always dissecting the last game and planning strategies the players should adopt for the next., whether it's football, rugby, golf, tennis or athletics....
Entertainment (indoor): 
Check the BBC Sports page before their arrival to ensure you can make a couple of relevant comments (good for brownie points) and to check the Christmas fixtures.  Those that are likely to be on the TV will be highlighted on there.  For double points, suggest they watch it (whilst you catch up on the latest Sky shows news with your sister.  (Or is that just me too?)) or ask them if they've remembered to record it and offer to do so.

Entertainment (outdoor):
As above, but book tickets for a Christmas match and either send them, or go with.  A bit of fresh air and shouting is good for bonding as long as you remember some sweets!

For the Brainiacs   
Constantly doing crosswords, playing scrabble or watching quiz shows.

Entertainment (Techie / to leave you free):  
Get Scrabble downloaded onto your ipod/iphone/ipad and show them how to play against the computer and where they can help themselves to drinks/nibbles.  Ideally, don't hear from them again for the next hour.

Entertainment (Non-techie / to leave you free):  
Buy a couple of bumper puzzle books - possibly even as a Christmas present for them.  They'll feel obliged to sit down and do at least some!

Entertainment (for you to join in):  
Get 'proper' Scrabble out.  Or any other brainy board game like Monopoly, Game of Life, Cranium etc... Or for real techies - pop the ipad on the table for the board and play your tiles on your own iphones/ipods through the wi-fi.

New Grannies-in-laws
You've just had your first child, and the mother-in-law is testing your patience?  Providing unrequested advise at every opportunity?

Entertainment:  Ask them how they dealt with weaning/teething/sleepless nights when they first gave birth to your partner.  Then ask them what worked, what didn't and what they'd change in light of your different situation (working mum vs stayathome mum?  married vs single?  new guidance on sleep patterns etc)

If you remember that you aren't saying you will actually follow this advice, you could find that you either;
  • get them talking so long you can multitask;
  • find out something you can actually use;
  • bond a little (dare I say that!?)
Suggest she might want to take darling grandson/daughter out for a walk in the pram after dinner.  All go; or say you'll stay home and do the washing up whilst everyone else goes (dishwasher and glass of wine anyone?)

For all

Allocate responsibilities for everyone.  If you have guests for Christmas dinner, ask the in-laws to provide and sort out dessert for example.  (Oh, and if you can, make clear what time the invitation is for and until so that no-one outstays their welcome)

Stock up on fruit juices as well as alcoholic beverages, crisps, oranges, nuts, chocolates, or any other appropriate Christmas snacking fair you know will go down well with your audience.  Then ensure the produce is easily available for everyone to help themselves!

Get a selection of newspapers and magazines in for browsing (see above headings).  There are always moments when the family can't think of something interesting to say to one another!

Try and avoid having the TV on (let them know before hand) on Christmas Day until a specified time.  And even then, you'll have to manage expectations.  Perhaps just don't bother and revert to playing board games (see Brainiacs above!)  Or have a rota for 'choices'.  Perhaps one hour each!

Please feel free to add more tips below!

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Che-re-is-te-me-as: Why Phonetics can only take you so far.....

"Two-thirds fail new primary phonics reading check" announced the BBC yesterday in response to the publication of the results of the pilots of the new phonetics screening check for 6 year olds that the Department of Education officially announced the introduction of yesterday.

The BBC pointed out that 32% of pupils taking the test failed it, and went on to express the view of the General Secretary of the National Society of Headteachers, Russell Hobby, who said that "large numbers of teachers who used the test during the pilot found it...less useful than their existing means of diagnosing early reading ability."

I was upset by my initial reading of the story, as I couldn't make sense of the statistics as the BBC went on to say that the test results were inconsistent with the results of national curriculum tests which show that 8 out of 10 children in England routinely meet the levels expected of them at age seven and eleven.

I studied statistics at school, at university, and as part of my chartered accountancy qualification.  I know how statistics work and how easy they are to manipulate.  But because I am particularly interested in teaching my children to read well, I thought I'd delve deeper in to this story to understand the discrepancy.

It turns out that it's pretty simple.  The new test only tests the 'method' the child is using to decode words.  It tests whether the prescribed 'phonetics' system is being used.  It includes non-words, to ensure that the children  literally read sound-by-sound the word in front of them regardless of whether the result is a word they recognise or not.

Of course you will get inconsistencies in results.  Because straight away you could have children that will 'fail' to decode non-words using this system.  That can read perfectly fluently and enjoy stories, but are confused and thrown by these words that they have never seen being presented out of context.

So as a tool to check if the 'system' is being used, then it will probably give correct results.  But to use the new screening test as a tool to present children's ability to 'read', that would be a mistake and would provide unhelpful results.

All children learn in different ways*.  Learning in context is really important.  My daughter will get stuck on a word, and her method for decoding it is to continue reading the sentence.  She'll get to the end of the sentence, and based on the context of the story and the letters she can see in the problematic word, she can 'work it out'.

Assuming that 'just' phonetics will create better readings is a blinkered, naive, potentially dangerous view.  People are not all the same.  People do not learn the same.  One 'method' will work for some and not for all.  Learning methods should be tailored to the individual child, not enforced on all.

Besides, using phonetics alone, without context, would give a very strange version of the word "Christmas" now wouldn't it?

The BBC News report can be found here.
The Department of Education website detailing the introduction of the new test and the associated materials are here. 

*I learn through visualisation, meaning that even now, in my late thirties, I still picture a chocolate cake in my head when I'm doing fractions so I can 'see' the fractions and percentages involved.  (Being an accountant, that probably explains my almost constant chocolate cravings at work!)  My husband tends to learn 'rote', that is, you tell him something and it sticks.  He doesn't necessarily need to work it out again in future instances, he just 'knows' it.  A big difference between us is memory function.  My visualisation technique works fine and enables me to work out things through logical steps, seeing the results.  That is until I am asked to do mental arithmetic that requires breaking down the workings in to more than say five chunks, because my short term memory is so shockingly bad, I will have forgotten what answer I got to the first chunk by the time I get to the last chunk.  And so I have to write a lot of things down.  Step by step.  That's me. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Christmas Bad and the Portrait Ugly!?

Christmas has definitely arrived at our house.  The 'Santa Stop Here' sign is outside, the tree is up, lights are on, and Christmas cards are appearing randomly on shelves.  But I still haven't found a suitable card display technique that doesn't involve banging nails in the wall and doesn't involve blue-tac.

And although my effort at capturing our tree isn't too bad (?), after receiving Joanne Mallon's tip following my last post, I jumped straight into Android market and downloaded myself the Colour Touch App that appeared after searching for 'Hipstamatic' in an attempt to improve my pictures.  And literally one minute later I had created.... well.... this.    
Appropriate caption anyone?

OK, maybe I shouldn't have tried to photograph myself!  

The app is actually very straight forward and good for quick edits (turning colour into black and white, sepia etc with one click).  So thanks Joanne!

But I think a bad picture will always be a bad picture!  I'll start working on the basics first shall I?

Joining Mumsnet and learning a lot!

Last week I became a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network (hence the shiny new badge appearing on this site!).  I am still excited and nervous.  Despite jotting down the odd thought on this blog at random intervals over the last couple of years, I have not really thought that much about being a 'blogger'.  I guess I didn't want to be defined by any particular stereotype;  I just wanted to share a little and hopefully bring about the odd smile or two.

So now that I'm officially a member of a larger blogging network, full of experienced (and famous) bloggers, I am feeling somewhat meek.  I am not sure if my words can stand up alongside blogs by the likes of David Miliband and I notice that all the bloggers in the network seem to know each other well, and have a raft of shorthand abbreviations that they use which require a dictionary to decipher.  I suppose that's the same in any organisation or occupation - jargon is used as part of the bonding of the group.  So it's not a problem; I just need to keep reading and work it out I guess.  Like any new girl.

Having said that, my first foray into the bloggers forums seems to have gone alright and people have been very nice to me.  Thankfully.  (Still feeling meek here - like the new child in the playground hiding in the corner, wanting to make friends but not sure how!)

One of the great things about the Bloggers Network is that it introduces you to other Blogs.  Much like learning how to paint requires a study of other painters, I think learning how to blog well requires a study of other blogs.  I have discovered a lovely blog by Emma Lee-Potter, who really does know how to write (and has published four books to prove it - I'm a little jealous, but in a good way!) And another by ATOMum called 'Attempting the Ordinary' which makes me smile.  Hopefully their good example will urge me to try harder!

I have noticed though, that some of the most appealing blogs to read using a computer (laptop/netbook/ipad etc) are those with good artwork and photography.  The eye likes the colour!  But, when surfing through blogs using a smart phone or ipod, the small screen means that it's preferable to see summaries.  I guess this is where the creation of Apps comes in.  (By the way Mumsnet - Keep working on that App for Androids won't you!)

So it's all given me a lot to think about, since I am a hopeless photographer!  Luckily, I can at least download some free photos off the web to Christmasify my blog this month.  You never know, maybe I'll get snapping away myself in the new year!

The downside of all this is that I am spending far too much time with my nose stuck to my phone reading the active conversations in Mumsnet Talk.  My hubby will just have to watch the footie instead of having a chat! (Hmmm - I don't think that's good relationship advice...!)

Keep voting in my 'How much will you spend on the Children this Christmas' poll.  (you'll need to switch from mobile web view to full screen to do this... sorry!)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas at Clumber Park!

Regular readers will know that we are National Trust members in our family (despite the fact that I'm sure we don't get value out of it, as pretty much all the six or so sites within driving distance of us are all over 30 minutes drive away, so it requires a full day usually to take advantage.)

However; when I received this season's 'Christmas what's on' guide I was struck by the number of Christmas activities taking place at National Trust properties.  Since we've not previously visited Clumber Park then it was top of our list.  Being members, entry would be free.

The mistake we made was 'not' to rush when we planned to go on Saturday.  If you are a mum you probably find yourself spending most of your time desperately trying not to be late (or is that just me?), so I made a conscious effort to relax yesterday and decided to do some chores first.  Apparently Father Christmas was going to be in attendance at Clumber from 12noon until 5pm, so when we finally set off at 2pm I wasn't too worried.  I figured we'd join the queue for Father Christmas first and still have some time to play on the park (assuming there was one... it was a good bet, and there was) before it got dark.

We arrived at 3pm after a 40 minute drive.  I feel that I need to stress this bit quite a lot, so I'll say that again.  We arrived at 3pm.  A good 2 hours before Father Christmas was, we were led to understand, due to finish his meet and greet for the day.  Firstly there were no signs showing us where to find him, so I had to ask a passing Elf.  (stop sniggering!).  The Elf wasn't too helpful.  He pointed me towards a corner where he thought there would be a member of Elfing staff selling tickets to see Father Christmas, but when he noticed that his colleague was no longer there he just shrugged.  So I tried a member of the National Trust staff in the main shop who didn't know exactly and pointed me towards the Toy Shop.  (I was getting worried by this stage...)

When I arrived at the Toy Shop my request was met with that expression... you know the one... the expression that says "I'm-really-sorry-for-what-I'm-about-to-say,-less-so-for-you,-than-for-me,-for-having-to-say-it-and-making-2-under-5yr-olds-cry".  And of course that it the essence of what this lady said.  That Father Christmas tickets were sold out.  Already.  Well I welled up.  I couldn't face telling the two girls who were looking at me with worried expressions, the eldest more so, who had caught the meaning of the conversation already.

But my hubby is a clever man.  And so he quickly said. "But is there anyway they can just see him quickly simply to give him their letters.  They brought their letters to give him personally and we've come a long way."

Hurrah!  This was a request that, after the lady rushed off with her walkytalky and returned, could be met.  We would have to be quick she said.  But yes, they could hand in their letters and say a quick hello.

Afterwards the girls were, of course, ecstatic to have seen Father Christmas in person, to have given him their letters and a kiss, and had a picture, and to hear from his (more) helpful Elf that they were indeed on the good list (a very impressive large Christmassy book that looked suspiciously like a dictionary in disguise!)  while they waited in the queue.

The lady, back at the Toy Shop, was still apologetic when we returned there to buy a treat each for the girls and she apologised for not being able to do more, which was nice, but I wasn't sure what more she meant.  The girls got exactly what they came for.  They didn't need to sit and chat with him for ages.

And so, my conclusion is this.  If you are responsible for arranging a meet and greet session for the white bearded fellow, don't worry too much about how much time the children get with him.  Price it sensibly (I think £5 maximum, but less would be more enjoyable for the parents), and ensure to have a very helpful Elf with the 'Good list' book talking to the children in the queue to cleverly extend the experience.

And for good measure throw in a Snowman and walking Christmas Tree wandering around outside with the actual Christmas tree to have their pictures taken with the children.  My youngest cried when we had to say goodbye to the Snowman.

Worth a visit.... but get there early.  We couldn't join in with the wand or lantern making either - as they'd ran out at about 3pm (typical!)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Thermal Lingerie!? Hot vs Hot?

Hot (Sexy) versus Hot (Warm and Cozy)

This week the temperature has suddenly dropped.  Our central heating has jumped into action and my skin is already starting to dry out when faced with such a radiator warmed atmosphere and sudden plunges into 5 degree Celsius weather when stepping outside.  (Find winter skin care tips and beauty bargains here)

And I am faced with an ultimate challenge.  A challenge which, two years ago, contributed to me starting this blog in the first place.  The challenge of being yummy.

It's cold.  At 11pm it's particularly cold because our heating is programmed to turn itself down to 10 degrees Celsius (frost protection) on the assumption that we are usually tucked up in bed by this time, with appropriate quilts, blankets and hot water bottles as required.

So how do I get sexy, or even begin to feel sexy, when the only nightwear that appears to exist for this time in the year is the most unflattering kind ever!  And not only are the pjs that are available not particularly sexy unless adorning model size women; on me, who reaches the heady height of 5 foot 6, standard sizes look ridiculous after a couple of wears, as the legs creep up to hover around my ankles.  I look like the most un-sexy individual you can imagine.  Wrapped up in ill-fitting pjs and an over sized thick woollen dressing gown.

So I figured I'd do a search for "thermal lingerie".  I thought that it must exist...  I assumed it includes lycra, and probably still leaves the legs to fend for themselves.  But maybe, just maybe, I could get hold of a comfortable nightie or slip that includes a bit of that fabulous technology that makes it warm.

My favourite site (La Senza) quickly returned a 'zero' result to my search.  The top result on Google was SkiMania, a site, which as the name suggests, provides thermals for use whilst skiing, not for turning up the heat in the bedroom, unless you are into black ill fitting all-in-ones.   

I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the offerings at Belladinotte  who have thermal camisoles that actually also include a touch of lace.  Page dutifully bookmarked.

But that was it.  I rejected the next 10 offerings off Google and was unsurprisingly fed up.  It cannot be that hard (and won't be with these being the only offerings) so why is it so difficult?

When La Senza release a range of nighties, pjs, corsets that all include the word 'thermal' in their description then sign me up.  I will be first in the queue.  Until then.... well.  I'd better fill the kettle for the hot water bottle and plan not to get out of bed....

Anyone know any other suppliers?

If you like this, you can follow the continued search for sexy thermals here.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

How much will you spend per child this Christmas?

Click the appropriate box to our Christmas Question over to the right!  Join our poll.  Go on.  Be honest!

Public Sector Strikes - From a 5 year old's view point!

So I spent a good 10 minutes on Wednesday morning explaining to my 5 year old daughter that only half of her school was open.  That her class was still attending school, but that it would be a lot quieter because some classes had to stay home.  That the reason for this is because adults, when we are not feeling happy about something, don't cry and scream like babies.  Instead, one way we can let our bosses know we are not happy is to not go to work.  And another thing we can do, on the day we don't go to work, is to stand outside work with a big sign that tells everybody why we are not at work.  That way we don't have to scream and shout.

I did explained all this because I wasn't sure if there would be a need to cross a picket line to get into the school (what with only half the classes being told to stay home, and the other classes being required to attend).  And I wanted her to understand a little about the protests.

I also explained that the reason the teachers weren't happy was that they didn't think they were being given enough money for the work that they did. (I know that's not technically accurate in this case this week, but you try explaining pensions to a 5 year old - I know I didn't fancy that digression!)

My daughter was, in the way that children with fresh, open, non-cynical, clear eyes can be, utterly eloquent in her response to this explanation.

"But Mummy...." she said, with a confused expression.  The expression that I've seen before, when I've said something particularly silly.  She said:

"In this world, you don't always get what you want.  You have to be happy with what you have."

Perfect summary if you ask me.  My work here is done!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Winter Skin Care

So back to the main purpose of this blog, which was to help all us mummy's be simultaneously yummy.  It's not an easy task at this time of year, when the heating systems are turned on, windows are closed and the falling temperatures outside strip our skin of moisture.  So it's moisture we need, and lots of it.

For the face, I swear by Clarin's Extra Firming Day Cream (and the matching night cream!)  50ml will set you back £46 (

But I have been somewhat ensnared by Clarins products having tried their great samples (Just pop into Boots and ask if you can try out a couple of products. Our local store is usually very accommodating, and they certainly get enough sales from me as a result!)

For other great products at more sensible prices try one of these great offers.  These are products I have in my trusty bathroom cabinet and love, many of which are currently reduced.

For Body:  

For Hands:  I swear by - 
For Lips:

I get all of my beauty gear from either Boots or the local Pharmacy, Lloyds, so those are the suppliers I've linked to here.

Please note that I am completely independent in my recommendations of goods, services and suppliers, and am not paid to recommend highly any particular product, service or supplier.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Christmas Assembly Confusion! You need to take 'what?' to school?

My eldest girl (5 yrs) came home with instructions yesterday.  
Mummy.. she said in that slightly irritating whiny way that 5 year olds have perfected and which you know will precede a question that involves you doing something, or that presents you with a new complicated job to do.

Mummy…….. I need a costume for school for the Christmas assembly

OK luv, what do you need? I say overly cheerily to suppress the groan that is threatening.

I need a quilt, mummy

A quilt?  I frown.

Yes she says seeing the doubt in my eyes and nodding her little head furiously.   A quilt.  Obviously I am doubtful.  I have an image in my head of a small child swamped with her winter quilt, over her head, wrapped around her like Marys shawl in the nativity, a large belt strapping it all together Ahhhh... I think I may be on to something.

Is it to dress up as Mary?  Or a Shepherd?  I ask thinking Ive worked it out But shes not at all happy with that suggestion and I can see very quickly that she is disgusted with my apparent stupidity.

NO Mummy   At one point I think shes going to tut at me and she says very slowly and slightly loudly. We have to dress up like the Countries. 


Yes Mummy. I can tell shes getting exasperated now.  So I need a quilt.  Like they wear in bonny Scotland…………

And so it transpires that the children have been learning about the Olympics and are doing a Christmas assembly on this subject, in which my daughter is supporting Scotland.  I am not sure which made my laugh more in the next 10 minutes until I finally came up for air, the quilt or the fact that my daughter had used the word bonny.  A word we have never used in any context previously before!

Thinking about it though; itll be harder to get hold of a kilt for this assembly than it would be to supply a quilt, so maybe shes on to something!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Christmas budgets: How much 'should' you spend?

I've been thinking alot about spending recently.  This is to be expected in the run up to Christmas, especially in the current financial climate.*   My hubby and I have set ourselves strict budgets, as we did last year, and although I feel somewhat cruel monitoring our spend so closely, it is unfortunately the way it has to be to ensure we don't end up in debt.

But, through casual conversations with other mums, I have realised that everyone has 'completely ridiculous different' ideas as to how much they should spend on their children.

So it got me to thinking.  What is an appropriate total spend per child for this magical day?

*Translation:  cash-strapped, debt-ridden nation, that spent far more than we could afford and are now having to pay for it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Great Gift for New Dads

I have just discovered a great gift for new dads.  The Daddy Diaper Changing Toolbox!  It's from America, but they do free shipping to the UK.  The inventors, Valrico residents Chris Hatzfield and Julie Etzkom, came up with the idea at their third baby shower, where Chris noticed that all the focus was on showering the new mum with gifts.  What about Dad?

I agree, and with baby showers taking off in the UK, it's a great idea to shower both new mum and dad in helpful gifts in preparation for their new arrival.

The kit includes; among other things, a mask ("toxic fume filter"), goggles, a poop poncho, tongs, ear/nose plugs, pacifier (dummy, or "scream plug"), baby wipes, diaper, bio hazard bag and rubber gloves, among other things.  Check out the link above for full details.

I have to say though..... nose plugs?  Are we saying that dad's are really that wimpy!?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Today's Lesson Learnt..

It's not a good idea to walk to school if you haven't left extra time to put on the required coats, hats, scarfs and gloves.  My eldest arrived at school a good five minutes late this morning to an empty playground.  The secretary did a marvellous job of not looking too disapproving and I scuttled off like the failure of a mum I must be.

My excuse (if needed) and reason for feeling more smug than embarrassed is this:-  we walked.  A greener, healthier method than driving.  Less stressful too...IF you leave enough time!

Note to self: - when it snows sleep in coat, hat and scarf or leave house before 8am!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Thinking of trying out ZUMBA?

This week I decided I needed to supplement my one hour's worth of exercise per week (Tap class) with something a little more aerobic.  And since Zumba appears to be where it is at these days, then Zumba it was.

Frankly it didn't matter which days of the week I could fit it in, nor where I lived.  There are Zumba classes at four different locations within a mile radius of my house.  Where ever there's a sports centre, leisure centre, village hall, school hall, dance school or gym, you will find a Zumba class.

After a quick Internet trawl of the website I found local instructor Lucy Perry's profile. This looked like an instructor I could get along with.  She's an ex-contemporary dancer (as am I), and a quick phone call later, which turned into a 10 minutes chat, concluded that we would indeed get along.  So off I trotted.

Zumba is a 70% Latin based workout, 30% dance based (at the discretion of the instructor) workout.  We did a bit of an Irish jig for that section.  I couldn't stop smiling!

If you are looking for an effective aerobic fitness programme that is a lot of fun, then Zumba is definitely for you.  But be careful not to take the claims at face value and be realistic!  Some sites claim that you can burn 1000 calories a class.  That's as maybe, if you leap about with the same enthusiasm and energy as the instructor.  More likely you will find yourself in a class of 'marchers' who step instead of jog, waft their arms out instead of punching, and skip instead of jump.  These people may well become very disillusioned at the success of the class if they are searching to loose weight, because they are too busy being self conscious to really let themselves go.

Me?  Well I'm a realist and not at all worried about what I look like in class.  I gave it my all, came out with a face as red as a tomato, my hair plastered against my neck, panting heavily.  It was great fun and my aim is to get fit and have fun, so I will definitely be returning!

Another great more detailed review of Zumba can be found at

Click here to find your local class! and to read more about it.

Have fun!

How to: change a nappy!

There are many many things that no-one tells you before you give birth to your first child.  There are many more things that no-one shows you before you give birth.  Mostly because those who have given birth forget what it was that they didn't know beforehand!  It's such a fast learning curve.

I do remember not having the first clue how to change a nappy (diaper- for you folk across the pond) and having to actually ask the nurse in the hospital what to do.  So, with the help of a dolly that is unfortunately covered in face paint, (and that's a dolly, not a baby.  I do so hate it when women refer to dollies as babies, and it can be dangerously confusing for young children with new siblings), so with the help of a dolly, a dolly-size nappy (for ease of demonstration) and a baby size nappy (so show you how the elastic on them works), here it goes..

1.  Be Prepared

Ensure you have got everything ready.  If you are using disposable nappies with wipes, then you need a couple of clean nappies within arms reach (sometimes one isn't enough - I'll get to that in a minute!) You also need your packet of wipes open already, with one wipe already sticking up ready to grab (it's not as easy to get those things out of the packet one handed, especially if it's a new packet).  Finally you need your nappy bag/sack ready and "open", so that the used nappy can be dropped straight into it.  (A nappy bag/sack looks much like a sandwich bag, but is generally scented and degrades faster than other plastic bags making it a good plan to keep odours at bay in the short term and to protect the environment in the long term.)  Make sure the bag is within your reach, but out of reach of the baby!

Those of you sticking with the washable reusable nappies will need a couple of clean nappies ready and a safe place to keep the dirty nappy until the washing machine is next turned on.

If you are avoiding wipes and prefer cotton wool and water, then you'll need a bowl of water and some cotton wool balls within arms reach.

All of you will need a changing mat on a flat surface.  Changing tables are good to start with, but be wary of them after a few weeks.  You can't step away from them at all, as you can guarantee that the day you do will be the day your baby decides to roll over for the first time ever.  You don't want them rolling off.

2.  Establish the Damage!

The first job is the disposal of the old nappy.  With your baby lying flat on their back on a changing mat, release the sticky tabs on either side of the nappy one at a time.  Whilst you do the second one, ensure to hold the front of the nappy still.  You don't want to release it until you are absolutely ready.  This is because, both boys and girls have an early tendency to wee the second the air gets to their bottoms.  In the case of boys this is often straight up into the air, right where your head is!  The best plan is to lift the front of the nappy gently upwards, peeking under to establish what damage you are facing, but keeping good protection between the two of you.  Lifting the nappy slightly in this way will, as I said, often cause a further wee.  So I often used to wait in this position for a moment, talking to my baby and letting her kick her legs a little.

3.  Disposal

After a minute or so, holding the babies ankles with one hand, use the other hand to gently wipe the front of the nappy down the bottom (from front to back), pushing the front piece of the nappy against the back piece.

This 'folds' the nappy, keeps any contents covered up and out of reach of any loose kicking feet, and provides continued protection under baby in case of further toileting! 

You then need to wipe the area clean.  I did this, at least to start with, with the old nappy still in it's folded position.  This enabled me to slot any used wipes into the edge of the nappy.  Wipe gently and carefully (with either wipes, or warm dampened cotton wool balls (not hot!)).  You should always wipe from front through to back.  This is particularly important for girls, who could get infections if poo is wiped into their 'front bottom' (to use my 5 year old daughter's terminology!)

Once you are happy the area is clean, remove the nappy entirely and place into the nappy bag/sack or nappy bin for washing.

Many disposal nappies now have a handy tab on the back of them.  I didn't know what this was for for ages!  If you pull the tab it releases a strip of sticky tape that you can use to wrap around the nappy holding it closed.  It's very useful!

Finally wipe clean any other area you may have previously missed.  If your child has done a poo, ideally the poo should be deposited into the toilet before you then put the nappy itself into the nappy sack. (I appreciate this won't always happen, particularly if you are nowhere near a toilet at the time!)

This is a good time, if you can bear it, to leave you baby without a nappy on for a few minutes.  The air will reduce the risk of nappy rash, and baby will enjoy a good kick unhampered by a nappy.


4.  Round 2

The difficult bit is putting a new nappy on in such a way that it a) doesn't fall off the second you pick baby up, and b) doesn't leak.

Leaking nappies are caused by three things.  Either the nappy is too big for baby, and therefore you can't get a snug enough fit to avoid leaks.  The nappy hasn't been put on correctly and therefore doesn't have a snug enough fit to avoid leaks.  Or the nappy is too small for the volume that baby is now producing, meaning no matter how snug the fit is, it will still leak.

The answer is fairly straight forward.

If you look carefully at the disposable nappy design you will notice that there are two elasticated sections.  Just like pants, the elasticated section on the inside (that I am pinching in this picture) is supposed to fit snugly around the top of babies legs without it being folded over or crumpled.  To check this, simply slid your finger around the nappy at the top of the leg to ensure the elastic is placed correctly.  For washable nappies, it's a case of practising with your folds to ensure a snug fit.  I haven't used washables myself, so if anyone has any pictures to help demonstrate the folding, please send them in!

And finally, those sticky tabs or safety pins!  I've seen babies nappies done up so tight the poor baby has cried from tummy ache.  In my experience the sticky tabs may touch each other in the first few weeks for newborns, but generally speaking, after that, there's usually a gap between each tab of approximately a finger width.  You can check the tightness in the same way to check is a skirt fit you correctly.  Again, simply run your finger around waist between tummy and nappy.  You should be able to do this comfortably, yet snugly.  You'll then learn, throughout the day, if you did it too loosely or not!

And there you have it.  Do that 10 times a day for a couple of weeks and an expert you will be!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Potty Training - How to?

Our youngest daughter is being an absolute trouper at the moment.  She has stopped wearing her pull up nappies during the day.  And although I have had to deal with a fair few accidents.  I strangely get the accidents when we are at home and not when we are out and about.  Perhaps because I am overly conscious of the need to visit a toilet whenever there is one nearby when we are out, but at home we just kick back and relax and everyone forgets to go.

Either way, she's doing much better than her sister did at this stage in the process and I put most of that down to the age that we've done it.

Our eldest started Nursery at 2 1/2 years old.  Nursery, at that time, required children to be, wherever possible, toilet trained.  So we attempted to stop wearing nappies and placed a potty in the corner of the room when she had only just turned 2.  It was quite hard work.  She regularly had accidents at Nursery, which went on for months.  And having a portable potty didn't seem to help, as there was no requirement for her to 'hold it' long enough to walk through to an actual toilet.

With our youngest I deliberately waited until she was nearly 3 years old.  And although she hadn't started telling us she needed to go, we found ourselves with three clear days at the end of the summer holidays when her sister was off on a vacation with Grandma and Grandad and I was off work.  So I thought I'd give it a whirl.  The pull ups came off, and I began to ask her regularly if she needed to go. Though I don't subscribe to the "put them on the potty every 15 minutes" method.  Come on!  You're bound to get lucky doing that.  No one learns anything and it's frankly a pain.  Do it at sensible times.  Often if your child eats and drinks when you do, your schedule will be not far off hers!

I quickly discovered that she always needed to go half an hour after having a drink, and then again 10 minutes after that.  The regularity of it helped me, and her.  But when I took her to Nursery that first day in September I was under no illusions that she'd be able to stay dry all day.  She'd managed it at home really quickly (and surprisingly), but there'd be too many distractions surely?  Apparently not.  The first few days at Nursery she came home dry.  I was amazed.  We have had accidents, but they are less than once a day.  And she's improving all the time.  And strangely she's only now starting to shout out "I need a wee-wee" when she disappears into the toilet, rather than just going.  This helps (as I often need to run to the bathroom to check that the step is in the right place for her to get up, and the child seat is on.  It seems that she was ready to get on with it, but wasn't interested in telling us before now!

My recommendation is not to rush.  Leave 'toilet training' as long as you can.  Don't feel pressured to do it.  After all, is not you that's doing it, it's your child.  Let them tell you when they are ready, and it'll be far easier than you'd expect.  Or at least leave it until they have half a chance, as many children simply don't have that kind of control physically until they are at least 2 and a half, if not older.  The worst move is to do it too early and end up upsetting your child, who will try there best, but just not be able to comply.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Yummy Mummy's Diary

Sept 27th 2011

Weight: Over 11 stone (rubbish).  Alcohol: half a bottle of Rose (not bad - still made me slightly squiffy as not eaten much).  Number of times checked clock so not late for school pick up: 78.  Number of jobs on To Do list for today: 12.  Number of jobs completed off To Do list for today: 1.  Calories:  Not counted as suspect too many for family of four not just me.

6am: Dragged self out of bed and managed to shower without crashing into anything.  Eyes still not open during morning coffee. 

6.15am:  Manage grunt of welcome to hubby and children.  After pause to consider how rude I seem manage faint apologetic smile.  Note to self - ring bank later to pay credit card bill.

11.30am:  Fourth coffee of the morning is sooo good.  Am feeling positive after meeting with techy guy who taught our team how to make use of things like 'naming cells' and 'macros' in Microsoft Excel.  Emotions swung from indignance at cheek of anyone thinking I wouldn't know such basics, to sheer wonder at the time I could be saving for more coffee and biscuits.  Realise haven't been utilising proper reporting tools to their full effectiveness and feel quite excited about it.

11.31am:  Realise that reporting tools are being upgraded and new knowledge may be worthless before had chance to show off. Chunter to self at desk causing some disconcertion in colleagues.  Remember to ring bank but realise not lunch yet, so can't make personal calls.

4:00pm:  Have frustrating afternoon not accomplishing anything on To Do list and forgetting to ring bank.  Rush home to do it, but forget as soon as in door.

5:00pm:  Can't get online as need to renew various techy packages on system first that I don't fully understand.  It takes far longer than you'd expect having watched computers on telly, but first sip of wine takes the edge off the frustration.  Happy that hubby is home early.  Think will ring telephone banking later.

7:00pm: Got kids to bed early and hubby at Gym so start on mumschores.  Kettle on.  Washing on.  Check if computer update has finished yet (no).  Ring telephone banking and manage to sort out bills.  Hurrah! Can tick something off the list.  Tidy playroom after tripping over toys.  Empty school bags.  Read school letters and made notes in diary to remind self to: dress up eldest as an explorer on Friday for school (and take £1), complete a drawing to be turned into Christmas Cards (profits to school), sort out a harvest festival box (not too big).  Then, refilled school bags. Checked reading books, library books, pe kits, spare pants etc all packed.  Hung up earlier discarded coats.  Drank rest of glass of wine and another cuppa.  And a cake (homemade!).  And considered a biscuit.  Was strong and distracted self with emptying the washing machine.

8.00pm:  Couldn't sit on sofa without another glass of wine and a packet of crisps and realised my mother always eats crisps at night.  Am turning into her!  Mild panic followed swiftly by thought that it wouldn't be all bad.  Mum's alright afterall!

9.00pm:  Loosing magnificantly at scrabble.  Last go the best I could manage was 'Oil'.  Well what are you supposed to do with a Q, L, and a selection of vowels of which U was conspicuous by it's absence? 

9:08pm:  I strongly feel that the world is playing tricks on me.  4 Os?  Come on!! 

9:09pm:  Apparently OOR is a word.  Don't know what it means.  But it's been accepted.

9:15pm:  Just remembered I haven't practised spelling's with eldest for weekly test on Friday.  Never mind.  Have two more days left.

9:16pm:  Gaah!  Spilt wine. 

10pm:  Am gggooin to bedddybyyessss.  Nott hapyyyy.  Lost Srccaabbel.

Hmmm.  Finished reading Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason today too.  Was marvellous.  Fabulous.  Love it.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Back to school! Aaaaagggghhhh!

I always thought that my children would go to school to learn how to read, write, count, solve problems and generally become more intelligent than me. I never quite realised how much homework is code for mumswork.

Cheeky Monkey number 1 is starting her second year at school. This bizarrely puts her in year 1 (I thought they taught them how to count?) We've had to buy a homework book off the school for £3.50 which you can't do the homework without (so someone can count). She now has a weekly spelling test of words that it's up to me to teach her. And I thought that I paid taxes to fund teachers to do the teaching for me?

So now I have mumswork. Hopefully it'll make friends with mumschores and mumscleaning and they'll all sod off to the pub and leave me in peace?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The New Ellington - Any good? A great location for a romantic weekend away?

Feeling in need of a break?  Managed to get babysitters for an overnight stay?  Looking for somewhere to go? 

We don't do Travel Inns or Premier Lodges when we have the opportunity for a weekend break.  A 2 night weekend break.  On. Our. Own.  It's a rare opportunity.  A chance to splash out and enjoy being us again.  So with that in mind we generally do splash out and try a different hotel every time we head to our favourite weekend break destination, Leeds.

We like shopping, but rarely get the chance to shop on an actual street instead of online.  So if we are going to be browsing for treats, or looking ahead and getting a couple of Christmas presents.... come on you know you've already started thinking about it, September or not... then it's Leeds we head to.

It's a once a year trip normally and this year we picked The New Ellington.  A hotel due to celebrate it's first birthday next week, located 2 minutes walk from the train station (we always get the train and I don't do long walks) and just a 5 minute walk into the centre of the Victoria Quarter (shopping heaven).

I'm writing this blog sat in an Executive Suite with the Rugby World Cup on the TV, sipping complimentary sparkling water, having had a gorgeous in-room breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, cornflakes, coffee, orange juice, toast and marmalade and a selection of fruit.  The rooms are large, well presented, clean and well stocked with everything you could possibly need.  From the coffee machine, kettle, fridge, complimentary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and milk, a hairdryer, shampoo, shower gel, Molton Brown body lotion, in room safe and an iron and trouser press should you need it, the rooms provide that comforting feeling of luxury.  The knowledge that if you need something, the staff will be only too happy to run around and sort it out for you.

They even lend out DVD players and pre-loaded Ipods, so that you can watch a film or listen to music in the comfort of your room should you wish.  That's if you've managed to read the selection of current magazines provided.  Not the type of magazines you'd find at your local dentists' surgery. Definitely not. No 'TV Quick'. No 'Hello'. No weekly gossip.  The magazines we found provided for us were none other than 'Vogue' and 'GQ'.  There were others, but I was too distracted by the fact that I was reading 'Vogue'.  Me.  Reading 'Vogue'.  OK, looking at 'Vogue', since you have to turn between 50 and 100 pages before you get to anything resembling an article that requires reading.  But even so, it was fun feeling all Sarah Jessica Parker for a couple of days.  Even if I couldn't afford anything in it!  

And finally of course, they provide the all important (these days) free broadband connection.

Only one minor downside.  Breakfast was confusing.  The room service menu doesn't have a price on it.  The book it refers you to doesn't have a price on it.  And then when we went for our restaurant-based breakfast there was not nearly enough orange juice on the buffet, it wasn't clear if you could help yourself to the buffet or if you'd get charged separately for it, we had to ask for toast twice before it arrived after we'd finished our cooked breakfasts, and the preserves are in a large pot on the buffet, but there's no pots or other similar devices to put it in to take back to your table.  The absolutely gorgeous American Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup made up for it.  But it's worth noting in advance that you'll need to be clear what you do, or don't want, for breakfast!   

Other than that minor irritation, which I'm almost tempted to delete for fear of putting you off a hotel that is definitely, definitely worth a visit, the hotel was brilliant.  I'm gushing somewhat, and so apologise.  But I suggest you take a look at this hotel when planning your next break.  They know what good service is.  And that's rare.

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