Friday, 7 December 2012

Question time

When I saw that Ben at Mutterings of a fool had tagged my gorgeous friend Corinne at Motherhood Journeys in a meme I hoped she would tag me - and hurrah horay, she did! I'm a bit thrilled. 

Their answers to the questions below made me guffaw so pop along to their blogs too and take a look for yourselves - and in the meantime hopefully I can at least get you to crack a smile.

Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?
I do the majority of my blogging at the kitchen table, when I'm pretending to do housework. My rule for housework is that nobody is allowed to be in the room I'm cleaning. I claim that it's because I need them to be out of the way or I can't clean efficiently. It's really because I spend a lot of time sitting and drinking tea, watching Eastenders on iPlayer, and hardly any time at all doing ACTUAL housework. If you've ever been in my house that's probably obvious. 
I don't even LIKE Eastenders. 
Sometimes I do it on my iPad from the bath. Where I'm pretending to wash myself.
What books were your childhood favourites?
I was crazy about the 'Little Women' books - I remember my Mum taking me to get them - she was really excited, because she'd loved them when she was young - and I was turning 10 so she wanted me to have some really good books. We got a beautiful box set of the whole collection, with a fleur-de-lis design in various pastel colours, and I clutched it like it was made of gold all the way home. 
I tried reading it right away, but got a bit freaked out by how BIG it was, and went back to reading my staple fall back (Mass murder and ghost stories, and Stephen King's back catalogue...I was an odd child) then tried again a few months later - and was hooked. I still am now, I can re-read those books over and over and be transported into the lives of the sisters. 
I followed those with 'A Little Princess' which might actually be the greatest book I've ever read, ever. My friend got me a lovely copy for my 18th birthday that I still treasure. 
Have you ever googled yourself and been surprised at what you found?
Googling me brings up some unpopular chick from 'The Apprentice' a few years back. Her website is ugly. 
What is your favourite time of day and why?
There's a magical time between six thirty and seven PM. The boys have been fed (which is always traumatic) and haven't quite hit that hellish half hour before bed - but are instead playing beautifully in the bath, all giggles and bubble beards, and they're hilarious, beautiful and clever and it's wonderful.
I prolong it for as long as humanly possible, until the water is getting cold, because the time immediately AFTER the bath usually involves someone crying - often me. Why can't they just stand STILL and get their PJ's on before someone pees on the floor?! 
Who would play you in a movie of your life?
Um.........that chick, from that film, with the boobs on her. That one. You know who I mean. Has a face. I'm rubbish at names. 
One material possession I could not live without?
My car. That's a pretty big one - but it represents so much. I didn't pass (or take) my test until I was 27 and pregnant with our second child. I have at times in my life been stuck in a wheelchair, bedbound and unable to walk (a lot of those were in pregnancy) and was at risk of not being able to walk now if things had gone wrong, so independence is a big deal to me - and we live in the sticks these days, so having my own car, not relying on a ride from anyone else, but being able to get myself and the children from place to place on my own schedule and without being dependent on anyone is amazing. 
That and my toaster pockets. Don't judge me.
Have you ever been naked in public?
No, never naked. I've been in public LOADS of times, but generally I've been dressed. There have been some wardrobe mishaps, like short dresses and big winds, or getting soaked through in the rain and my blouse going see through. There was also that incident on the tube, and that one time I flashed my bra at my headteacher. But not naked. 
What/who/where was your first proper kiss?
His name was George, he was a third year and I was a second year. He had nice hair, bad breath, got snot on my face and came out a year later. I like to think it was because I was SO bad at kissing. I never improved after that until I met my husband, because I hated kissing, being scarred by that first experience, and avoided it as much as possible. That was quite easy because I was a VERY ugly teenager. 

That was fun! 
I now tag SonyaCisco because I started reading her blog recently and she's funny, and she once spotted me in town and tweeted it like I was a celebrity (but didn't come over and say hello!) 

Flashback Friday

This week there's no theme for Flashback Friday - so I thought I'd tell a story. 

Once upon a time there was a young couple, with a tiny little baby. The young family had moved a long way from home and had very little furniture - but discovered that the local dump was, somehow, a magical source of almost free furniture that could be scrubbed and polished and made nice(r, marginally) for next to no money. 

The family found, at this dump, a dining table and set of six chairs that they paid less than ten pounds for, altogether. The chairs had ugly brown fabric on, so the young woman got some nice blue gingham fabric and recovered them, and painted the wood a nice bright blue. They were great, aside from the small detail that the backs of the chairs pinged out every time someone leaned back in them. 

The table was super too, if you ignored the fact that the legs kept falling off if you put too many things on the table top. 

The young woman, who had insisted on getting this table and chairs, kept saying she would fix these problems and her husband was very patient with her, even though she never delivered on this promise. 

One day the family went to the dump to get rid of some of the other clutter the woman kept bringing home, and there she saw it. The Chair. Not just any chair - quite possibly the ugliest chair that had ever been seen. Chunky, brown, upholstered in something that looked decidedly like a carpet in a retirement home - but super, super comfortable. 

The men at the dump only wanted a pound - but said that it wouldn't fit in the family car. 

The young man said that the chair would not fit in to the family car. 

The young woman insisted that she could, in fact, get the chair into the car - and that if she could, he HAD to buy her the chair. 

So the young man agreed to this deal - and stood back, with the men from the dump, to watch her try and fit the chair into the car. 

The young woman tried it one way, then another way, then yet another way - and the chair wasn't fitting into the car. She was determined not to be wrong, as this fills her with The Rage, and with her audience muttering and smirking she could feel her temper building as she was adamant that this chair WOULD FIT in the car. 

Eventually, with a smirk over her shoulder, she lined the chair up in the front seat (which was fully reclined, to make space) and gave one final thrust to shove the chair the last couple of inches in order to close the door. 

The front leg of the chair, with perfect comedy timing, smashed a perfect circle through the no longer perfect windscreen of the no longer perfect family car. 

Silence. A moment of stunned silence. Then a slow clap, from the men at the dump. She looked at her husband. He shook his head. Arms folded, a look of resignation on his face, he just shook his head. 

"Just get in the car"

They drove home, to echoing guffaws from the men at the dump, with the chair leg poking through the windscreen. 

To top it all off - once the young couple got the chair home, it wouldn't fit inside their house. With a small fisherman's cottage, with a tiny porch, the chair was too big to fit through the space, and would not - no matter what - fit inside the house. 

The young man wanted to smash the chair into tiny little pieces for causing so much trouble. The young woman insisted they kept it - and promised to re-cover it and make it beautiful, and find a way to get it inside the house. 

Almost a year later the couple moved, and the chair - which had been stored in a shed on an allotment for that time - came with them. For another year it sat in the new flat. Regularly the young man asked when the young woman was going to re-cover it and make it nice. The young woman promised she would soon.

They moved house again - and the chair came along. The young man wanted to get rid of the ugly chair - but the young woman again insisted on keeping it - it comes with a great story, after all, and man is it comfy! She promised that she would re-cover it with nice fabric REALLY SOON. 

We've lived here for eight months. I still haven't. Oh, and it cost over three hundred pounds to replace the windscreen...

But it's a great chair! 

I'm linking this post up the the Flashback Friday linky - because the stories there always make me smile, as do all the posts on Lauren's blog. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Cinder Toffee

We, like many families, are properly skint this holiday season, so I'm looking for ways to make special treats and extras for the family that won't break the bank, but will make us feel thoroughly festive and spoiled. 

One of the things I have long wanted to try was cinder toffee - apparently a simple beginners confectionery if done properly (and as my great grandmother was a confectioner I kind of hoped the genes were strong and that my luck would hold out.) 

I googled around and found a great article in the Guardian that not only gave the simple recipe, step by step, but also explained in passionate detail how and why the magic happens to create the wonder that is this particular treat.
(this image is from The Guardian and remains theirs - mine is not quite so perfect!) 

So, armed with this article, the ingredients, and a confectioner's thermometer that set me back around three pounds on eBay, I made my first attempt.

The recipe and step by step instructions are below. 


100g caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Equipment needed:

Confectioner's thermometer
Large, heavy bottomed pan
Tray lined with greaseproof paper


Put the golden syrup and the caster sugar into your large pan (it needs to be big because it will bubble up to a much larger volume later) and stir over a low heat: keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

Once it's dissolved stop stirring and leave on the heat until the mixture reaches 145 degrees C. This is important so make sure you have the confectioner's thermometer. There are all kinds of tricks and tips on the internets for working out if you hit the right temp if you don't have one, but it's better to have one.

*Decide that you can hurry this process by turning the heat up.

*Wonder if you ought to be concerned that the pan you picked is, actually, TOO big and the mixture doesn't cover the whole base.

*Think it's probably going to be ok if you just VERY QUICKLY run for a wee whilst it heats.

*Grab the huge pan of burning sugar from the oven top, dump it in the sink, turn the tap on full, turn off your smoke alarm and open the kitchen door to air the smell and smoke out. 

*Begin again from the start. It apparently DOES matter that you heat it slowly, that the mixture covers the base of your pan, and that you stay close through the process.

*Stir your sugar and syrup in the pan for five minutes.

*Wonder why the hell it isn't liquifying yet

*Wonder what that horrible smell is, then realise that you turned the wrong bloody hob on and your pan is still cold, whilst the hob with no pan on is burning hot.

When you've reached the right temperature add your bicarbonate of soda, remove from the heat and stir in quickly, then as it bubbles up like a volcano pour it rapidly into your greaseproof paper lined tray.

*Realise too late that you didn't line the tray. Put the pan down for a minute to do that. Stir it again, making sure you pop most of the bloody buggering bubbles trying to get it into the tray before it sets.

*Realise that you ruined this attempt too, by squishing all the BLOODY BUBBLES out of it, which are the WHOLE SODDING POINT of cinder toffee.

*Begin AGAIN.

Leave your cinder toffee to cool completely, then break (or cut) apart into small pieces. 

These will keep in an airtight container for a week or so.

*Hahahaha, as IF they will - eat them NOW before your husband gets home from work! 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A magical moment

Today I had a moment. A perfect moment. That's all you need some days, and I got it. 

I had my moment sitting on my sofa (which, and I will never admit this to my husband, is VERY uncomfortable. I can't admit it, because I literally took an axe to his old sofa and insisted we got this one...) and Midget Gem was sitting on the floor playing with toy cars and singing 'Twinkle Twinkle' (which I have a video of Jellybean doing at the same age) and it made me see how much they've grown, and what wonderful little boys they are. 

Then Jellybean came over for a cuddle, and told me I give him the best cuddles of all the cuddles in the whole wide world of cuddles. 

I did melt a little bit - I think I might be the luckiest person in the world. 

It just hits me, sometimes, that I made these people - whole, real people - and they're not part of me, or part of my husband (well, they are, but you know what I mean) they're all new. Brand new, whole people with real ideas and real imaginations, and they make me laugh with all the silly things they say and do. 

I know I'm not the only Mum in the world. I know I'm not even the only Mum who ever feels like this - but blooming heck, these boys. I can't believe that I'm a real Mum, that I really get to have these children, and I feel so blessed. 

They are glorious.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tuesday Tales - A link up

Tuesday is now the day for Tuesday Tales - a story your child created and told you, told to the internets at large. 

I'm very much enjoying the stories that Jellybean is creating at the moment and thought I'd share - and it made me curious about hearing the stories other people's children are coming up with too! 

So here, for your reading delight, is Jellybean's first story. 

The Jungle 

Once upon a time, there was a jungle, but there were no animals in it. 

The animals were wild, and they were wild animals. 

One day the animals went and went and went and went, until they made a car.

And then they drove all the way back to the jungle.

And that is the end. 

Now I don't know about you, but I thought it was enchanting.

Why not post your own child's story, take the badge below, and link up to share? I'd love to see it. 

Tuesday Tales Tell me your tales
and link to share

Magpie Monday

It's that time of week again, where I get to celebrate my addiction to buying tat treasures that we have no place for and which I justify by explaining they were bargains from charity shops or car boots - this thriftiness does, in my eyes, save us many many pounds. My husband insists we'd be rich if I just stayed away from those places - but hey, there's money rich and there's stuff rich, I know which I prefer ;-) 

So last week, on a little foray into the nearest twee town, I popped in to my usual haunts (I avoid some charity shops in the town because they only PRETEND to be charity shops, and are actually just shops, full of new things, which is CHEATING) and immediately spotted these. 
I like the designs, and I like cups, and I was intrigued by the lids - so I went over to inspect them further. 

Inside they have built in strainers, and the lid doubles as a little stand for these - so you can brew a fresh cup of proper leaf tea whenever you fancy without having to make a whole pot. 

So not just pretty, but useful, an item that we'll use quite a lot (being poncy tea and coffee drinkers in our house) and an absolute bargain at just two pounds each. The lady behind the counter was surprised because she literally put them on the shelf just as I entered the shop! 

If you've picked up any thrifty treasures this week link up to the glorious Magpie Monday link up and show us your wares! 

Fabulous books for kids at Christmas

I am thrilled that my boys are as interested in books as my husband and I always were - their collection is immense, and not only floods far outside of their bookcase but is stacked under their beds, fills a chest of drawers and is precariously balanced in piles in the playroom - but still they are eager for more.

So for Christmas and birthdays I always make sure there are at least five new books per child - which we read over and over and over. As they get older the selection changes, and I can now consider making a little space by taking the board books for babies away and donating them to charity and I can enjoy choosing more books with real stories. 

Jellybean is beginning to recognise words and learning to read is great fun for him and for me, and Midget Gem prefers books with more words and real stories now because we can talk about what's happening rather than just the one word/image per page board books he was getting before. 

So when we got a parcel from Top That Publishing with our latest books to review we were very excited - age appropriate, excellent quality and adorable illustrations are the norm with TTP books - so we were excited to see what would come. 

Our all time favourite book, not just from Top That, but EVER, is When I dream of ABC - and we also have the When I dream of 123 - so When I dream of Christmas was, of course, going to be a hit! 

With lots of funny, rhyming descriptions of all things Christmas and, of course, stunning illustrations, the boys ask for this book again and again. They sit by our tree - which we put up embarrassingly early this year - and talk about Santa and being good, and all the presents they want to give to people (not just receive!) and it really gets us all in the festive spirit. 

If you're looking for something different to the traditional Christmas eve read (we aren't the only family who have special stories for that, right?!) this is perfect. 

The next book in the parcel was a Froobles title - "Little Jack Potato and the big surprise"

I've got to say that I'm not the biggest fan of the Froobles titles - we've got a few already, as Jellybean seems to really enjoy them, and we have the app - on which we have this title, voiced by Johnny Vaughan, so Jellybean knew the story already, which meant he loved it. 

I don't think the stories are as strong as other books we've had from Top That, but as Jellybean regularly asks for the books I would say children really enjoy them and they're very reasonably priced - and all the titles come with stickers on the back page which is always a big hit! 

The final book we received this time was another from the Froobles range - but this time is an activity book - Things to make and do - and I will again be honest and say my heart sank when I saw. Not because I don't like to do activities and crafts with the kids - I LOVE doing that - but because I've never found a book like this that was age appropriate before with crafts my children are old enough to actually do. 

This time they really can! The crafts and activities are so simple - but would also entertain older children (well, they entertain me, and I'm a REALLY old child) and I was so relieved, and pleased, that we could really use the book. 

There are loads of stickers included in the book to use in the crafts included - and there are a lot of ideas to occupy busy little minds and hands on rainy, cold days! 

I will be blogging more later in the week with more details about some of the crafts inside, and our own versions of them, but in brief there are painting crafts, fabric crafts, making crafts, thinking crafts, indoor and outdoor inspired crafts and lots of things to learn. 

In conclusion, this book is wonderful - utterly brilliant and a bargain, and really usable with crafts that my toddler can join in with as well as challenging enough to entertain the pre-schooler, and fun enough for me to do even if they wander off...ahem...

*disclosure* these titles were sent to us for free to review, all views and words are my own and are honest

A Jazztastic blog post

I seem to have done a lot of posts in recent times about Jellybean and his comedy moments, his naughty moments and his school work - but I thought it was time we had a post all about my Midget Gem, the little Jazzmonster who charms everyone we meet. 

This little poppet is a real ray of sunshine. He isn't as forward as his brother, but he's always got a smile, he's cuddly and affectionate and wants to hug and kiss all the time. He loves snuggles, loves his big brother, and likes to play with balls and soft toys. 

He carries around teddies and calls them his baby - he has no particular favourite, but instead loves ALL the babies, and likes to give them kisses and tell me all about them. 

He is a little flirt, and charms people everywhere we go by being a cheeky, smiling little boy, and blowing kisses. He lights up as soon as he sees a camera and, even if he's mid tantrum at the time, beams a big grin and shouts "Cheeeeeeeese".

He looks very like my big brother did when we were little - all big blue eyes and fair hair, with a smile for everyone. His personality is like his Daddy - happy, cheerful, friendly and affectionate, sensitive and kind. Actually, that's like my brother too! He's like a combination of all their best parts. He likes to check everyone is happy, and will give cuddles to anyone who looks like they aren't. He likes to shout 'I love you' in a sing-song way and gives big, sloppy smooches.

His favourite games are hide and seek or anything to do with balls -football, tennis, catch, so he's brilliant with our new puppy because the puppy will fetch his balls back and Midget Gem throws them as hard as he can. He's already better at football than his older brother (and his Daddy and I) and will be excited next year when his big uncle Paddy takes him to a proper football match. 

He gets shy and looks hilarious when he tries to avoid making eye contact but is peering up at you through his lashes trying to see if you're still teasing him, and he can throw SPECTACULAR tantrums - proper laid out on his front kicking his feet and banging his hands - and this is usually because of something like me saying no more biscuits or no more yogurts - he LOVES his food (which is why, with 22m difference, there's less than 2lb between him and his older brother I guess!) and if he gets tired it's like a switch from my angelic little poppet to a clumsy, shouting lump of muscle! 

He's just an absolute delight - he is great company, and very funny and gorgeous. I adore him madly, and am so pleased that he popped along as a little surprise. 

He was magically made on our wedding night, or on our honeymoon, and was born on Valentines day - and we joked that he was the love baby. His personality really backs that up though - he is just love, for everyone and everything. He makes everyone smile and nothing makes him happier than giving out another hug and blowing kisses, even to total strangers. 

I love my Midget Gem.