Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Year Of Happy

Last December I wrote this post about my plans and resolutions for 2011. A month later I reviewed those plans here and it wasn't pretty.

I haven't fulfilled many of my resolutions but I want to focus on what has been positive about this year, rather than the stuff that hasn't been achieved.

Tidgy turned one year old this year and after the worry of his suffering with reflux and lack of growth he is doing much better. He has become a lively little chap with a brilliant personality.

Girl is enjoying school much more and is knuckling down. She loves writing and spends every spare minute writing stories. She impressed her headteacher so much that she was given a special notebook to write her stories in. I was so proud.

Middle started school in September and has settled in tremendously well. He's doing fabulously well with his work and learning. He appears to love attending and it's allayed many fears we had in the run-up to September. His behaviour appears to be better for the most, and when he was assessed at the Children's Development Centre he was regularly complimented on his behaviour, attitude and personality. He still has bad days and when they are bad they are almost unbearable but they are less frequent. We've been given lots of tips and advice on how to deal with him so hopefully things will improve.

We were very grateful to have the support of a Homestart volunteer for a couple of months. Pauline was fabulous and although she wasn't in our lives for long her weekly visit became my lifeline and gave me a much needed break for an hour or two. The children took to her instantly and we were all sad to see her leave us once Middle started school.

After the worry about hubby's job throughout the early part of 2011 it was such a relief to find out he still had a position. 

My cousin's son was born and in a lovely coincidence he was born on our late Nanna's birthday.

As regular readers and twitter followers will know, my sister has been through months of tests for cancer. She was thankfully given the all-clear a few days before Christmas and it was a huge weight of our shoulders. The poor girl went though so much.

I've thoroughly enjoyed blogging in 2011. Until the latter months of 2010 I was blogging intermittently but now I'm churning out all manner of crap most days!! I'm regularly saying how cathartic it is and it's saved me from insanity....just!

I've been lucky enough to meet some lovely tweeters this year, one of the most important to me being Jane Cole. Jane and I each had a story to tell about dating on Nick Pandolfi's Valentine's breakfast show on Town 102. Mine was the romantic, successful date (ending in marriage and 3 children) and Jane's was from the nightmare angle! We started tweeting each other and in May I attended her new Pyjama Drama classes with the children and our friendship has gone from there. She's brilliant with the children and they adore her. She has also been a fantastic listener to my woes. Through Jane & Pyjama Drama I found my sponsors for CybHer and I've also helped Jane out at a couple of baby events. It's been a pleasure to help and the children usually tag along as they love handing out balloons and leaflets!

I've also met some lovely ladies through the Waterfront Book Club and co-founded the Waterfront Film & Theatre Club (based upon one tweet!) I don't get to attend either as much as I'd like to but when I do go I really enjoy it and love those couple of hours being Heidi, not Mummy. I was asked to facilitate a session a couple of months ago and although it was nerve-wracking it was a great achievement for me to get through it.

My hobby of writing has taken off, surprisingly in my opinion. When I started blogging I never dreamed that I'd be asked to write for someone, especially for publication. As well as guest blog posts I have had 2 articles published in CheekyBoo! magazine and I wrote for Suffolk Days when it launched in November and I'm touched that Linda has asked me to write another article for the February issue. I also write bi-monthly for the Kiddicare blog. I enjoy writing but I personally don't think that it's anything of worth. I just ramble on and on.....

On a few occasions this year I have been asked to talk on local radio, mostly about issues from the perspective of a parent. We were all interviewed about anger in families and it was quite a funny experience. It's always an honour to be asked, even if they are probably only asking me in desperation!!

We've had the pleasure of some great days out thanks to competition wins and blogging events but one of the biggest highlights has to be Harvest at Jimmy's Farm where we got to meet Mr Tumble. I honestly think that I was more excited than the children. 

So, that's a whole lot of positivity for me. Forget the failures, concentrate on the good stuff...

What have been the highs of 2011 for you?

Happy New Year All. I hope 2012 is a great year for you xx 

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Review: Cars 2 Lego sets

Middle loves Disney Cars and he loves playing Lego with his Dad so he was very excited with the 3 sets of Cars 2 Lego he was sent to review.

We were sent Flo's V8 Cafe, Big Bentley's Bust Out and Tokyo Pit Stop.

Hubby wrote the review as he was the one that built the sets with Middle:

My son is not quite 5 years old and has a very short attention span, so when I saw the size of Flo's V8 Cafe and the massive Big Bentley's Bust Out Lego sets I was wondering if it might take us a calendar year to complete the construction of the sets.
I was certainly looking forward to it though!
The instructions for each set were very clear though, although not suitable for a 4 year old without supervision.  The pieces were in numbered bags and the instructions very clear about which bag to open. 
We soon got into a routine... All the bits out on a tray, Dad getting the required bits and passing to Middle with instruction on what to put where, Middle building it.  Occasionally Dad's instructions were not quite clear enough and bits had to be replaced but all in all it went very smoothly.
A stress free experience, which isn't always something you can say about time spent between Middle and Dad!! Each of the big sets took about 2 to 3 hours from start to finish, including the large number of cars that had to be made.  The cars were very realistic and took about 15 to 20 minutes each to make, which was a good timescale for a 4 year old to keep focused.   All the pieces were included (I always fear missing bits!!), and Lego include a few spares of the very tiny pieces just in case they get lost!  Thankfully we didn't lose any and we now have a small pot of extra bits to add into Middle's wider lego collection.
The large constructions are made in a way that makes them fairly robust and we barely had any need to rebuild after bits fell off.  Dad particularly liked Flo's V8 Cafe, where the set includes the ability for cars to be propelled forward by a firing mechanism.  Middle preferred Big Bentley, where the cars could push out the face of the Big Bentley clock.
All in all this is probably the best 'toy' we have had in terms of creating quality time for Middle and Dad.  We both really enjoyed working together building our lego creations, and it gave mum a bit of piece and quiet for a few hours too!  Although it is suitable for ages 7-12 (Tokyo Pit Stop ages 5-12) I would thoroughly recommend this for children aged 5 to 7, who are Disney Car fans and who need an excuse for spending some quality time with dad. 
Big Bentley's Bust Out
Playing with Big Bentley's Bust Out

Flo's V8 Cafe

Car wash from Flo's V8 Cafe set

Tokyo Pit Stop
I often think that Lego sets can be expensive for what they contain but I was really impressed with these sets. Hubby and Middle certainly had a great time building and playing with them and they look fabulous. The cars are really sturdy, which is great with a heavy handed child, and the larger two sets had lots of interaction. These got a big thumbs up from Middle...and Dad!!

Check out the Lego site to see more of their products.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

All I want for Christmas......

A few weeks ago all I wanted for Christmas was for my sister to have the all-clear after her cancer scare. She was given the all-clear last week and I was SO grateful.

I could now ask for an iPad, an iPhone, a day at a spa, lots of money, a new wardrobe, the perfect figure and so on.

Right now, all I ask for is that we can be living in a damp and mould free house by next winter. It's been 6 years and we're still waiting...

If you could have ANYTHING, what would you ask for this Christmas?

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Stupid Santa

Last year we made a visit to a Santa's Grotto. It was the first time we'd taken the children to see Santa because up until then anyone in costume freaked them out.

It was a beautiful Narnia-themed Grotto in a Norfolk garden centre. Girl decided against going in so Middle went in and he patiently queued with Daddy for 45 minutes. He told Santa what he would like for Christmas and came out with a present. All was well. Girl then changed her mind. She and I then went in and fortunately only had to wait 25 minutes. 

She went into Santa's room and spoke to him and then he asked the question that every Santa asks..."What would you like for Christmas?" Girl replied "A puppy" I was prepared for this and we'd explained to her many times that we couldn't have a puppy because a) we rent and it's not allowed and b) I don't have the time to look after a puppy as I'm already busy looking after the guinea pigs she nagged for but has nothing to do with!

What I wasn't prepared for was Santa's response "Well, I don't think I can get you a real puppy but I can get you a toy one. Would that be okay?"

Cheers Santa. We hadn't bought a toy puppy. You have now promised my daughter something we haven't got for her.

Cue a mad dash to the toy shop 2 days before Christmas to buy a toy puppy. It was played with for a month or two and now sits in her room gathering dust.

We are planning to visit Colchester Zoo tomorrow as we won a family ticket. Included with the tickets is a visit to Santa's Grotto. Do I send hubby in just before to brief him on what to say?

This morning Girl has written a NEW wish-list (give me a break!!) and has included things never mentioned until now. Eek! We have bought and wrapped everything now so I've just got to hope Santa doesn't put his boot in it...... 

Has Santa ever caught you out?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Adventures in babysitting...

Do you remember that film from 1987?! 

I'm hoping that it WON'T turn out that way tonight!

Tonight we are employing the services of an official babysitter for the first time. She is the daughter of Girl's Brownies leader and she regularly babysits for other families. She has first aid training etc. We met her properly a few weeks ago when she came to meet the boys and see the house.

The children got on really well with her and Middle was instantly at ease, which is always good news where he is concerned.

In the past we have used hubby's parents as babysitters but there have been increasing times where I've had to cancel my plans because hubby is working late, working away or has a governor's meeting and obviously they are more important than book club, film club, PTA meetings or social gatherings (note the huge dollop of sarcasm with that statement!)

When Girl first joined Brownies a note came home offering L's services so I discussed it with hubby and we decided that it would be good to have someone else available to look after the children, especially when his parents were unavailable or they'd had the children a lot and we didn't want to take advantage.

I think we're both comfortable with L looking after the children and Middle and Girl are old enough to be able to help her out if she needs anything while she's here.

Tonight she'll only be looking after Tidgy so once he's in bed she shouldn't need to do anything else. I have drinks and snacks ready (thanks to tweeters helping on that score earlier!) and I'll probably text her while we're out to check all is well (how often is too much? Is once an hour acceptable?!) and I think I'm happy with leaving Tidgy with someone other than family. The first time is always the hardest.

When I told my mum yesterday that we're using a babysitter tonight she looked horrified. I'm surprised that she didn't call Social Services in. I had to really convince her that we were doing the right thing by the children and even now I'm not confident that she's happy about it. She even said that had she have been off work she would have done it, but she lives an hour and a half away!

I've been trying to think about why she reacted like that. Looking back at my childhood I don't ever remember being in the care of a babysitter. I don't recall my parents going out together without us. Although in the summer months my Dad worked until 11pm or later I always remember Mum being there, rather than someone else. Family lived over an hour away and I can't remember friends of the family looking after us. 

When I was a teenager we were latchkey kids for a lot of the time but that was when both parents were working rather than socialising.

Does that mean my parents NEVER went out as a couple?  Hubby and I don't have regular nights out but we still manage to go out together and have separate social lives as well. It would have driven me crazy if I was always with my children, especially as I'm a full time Mum! 

I believe that it's important for both parents to have time out from the children and to have time together.

Did your parents socialise without you? Did you have a regular babysitter? 

Ten on Tuesday No11

The lovely Rachael from Cutsie Cutsie is featured this week.

1.Who are you and what do you do?
Hi! I am Rachael and I am the creator of Cutsie Cutsie. We produce handmade and personalised scrabble art creations, framed and made with lots of love! We help you create the perfect gift for you and friends, and are the perfect personalised gift for weddings, birthdays, christenings and the family home. We can do three different sizes, and in three different colour frames (cream, black, dark wooden) and put alot of love, care and effort into making everyone as special as possible.

2.How did you get started? I did my own little one for my wedding day –‘Love Story’ and ‘Wedding Day’ and got so many requests, I thought I better allow others to have them made for them! I love scrabble and anything a bit different, so loved the fact my little pieces of art were popular and people loved them as much as I did! I also was heavily pregnant with Jasper and needed something to keep my mind active!

3.Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Surrounded by babies.....don’t tell my husband that! I would love to say in 5 years time I can be running this business full time and using people in the community to help me. I am very passionate about working with people with a learning disability, and previously worked in a youth club for 5 years for young adults with a disability. I would love to bring them into the business and give them work experience, and also show their skills off. Maybe they could then have their own stalls at events and it might spark their imagination off into other avenues! I would love a crafty type business where others can have fun and scrabble art is a strong part of it. 

4.What do you like to do in your spare time? Well, at the moment I don’t have any! But I love having a *hot* cup of coffee (being a mum, we all know that never happens), and also going out with Jasper. We go to Baby Senses Toddle Talk on a Friday with Ann and love it; and we also hang out with Jaspers friends Dylan, Elliott and Layla – all beautiful kids with amazing mothers. I also would be lost without these mums as they have supported me throughout having Jasper and doing Cutsie Cutsie.

5.What was the first film you saw at the cinema? Oh wow – I think it was the Goonies! I still love that film....that was my first (I think!) or at least the one I can remember. I also remember seeing Scream when I hit about 18 and being terrified but not admitting it to my mum (who told me I would be!). I love the cinema, especially the pop corn!

6.What is your favourite song at the moment? Ooooh I adore music and am very musical, so I have a few, but I love ‘Moves like Jagger’ as I HAVE to dance to it. Plus it would certainly get me on the dance floor at any time, place or hour! I also love Adele, but I have to be in the mood to listen to her. LOVE Ed Sheeran, beautiful songs with lots of meaning. 

7.Could you describe yourself in 5 words? 
Mad, Bubbly, Happy, Hardworking and.........Mummy! (I love being a mummy) 

8.What was the last website you visited? I was last looking at for phone reviews as I am going to get an upgrade as my phone is dying....a good site with the latest techy bits on it!

9.What has been your most embarrassing moment? Ha ha, when Jasper was very young, I was breast feeding, and the door bell went – yes I opened the door, signed for a package and closed it again completely topless! My poor postman who I still see today never said anything (bless him!). 

10.Which 4 people, dead or alive, would you invite to dinner? James Dean (because he is talented and simply beautiful, I would sound good as Rachael Dean...!) Eva Cassidy (Love her music, beautiful voice), My hubby (as we never get time anymore to sit and eat together, and he is my best friend) and the Barenaked Ladies (so they could sing ‘If I had a million dollars’) to us!

Thanks for answering these questions Rachael. I love The Goonies! I can highly recommend an HTC phone. I have a Desire and it's the best phone I've ever had. I use my phone A LOT so it's been well and truly tested to it's limits.

I feel embarrassed enough when I answer the door to our postie with my pjs on and with unwashed hair so I'd be mortified if he caught me topless!! 

Monday, 19 December 2011

What are you reading? December

Realisation has dawned on me that I haven't done December's book post. So here it is.....

Better late than never...!

I finished the book below this month. A funny and poignant read. I highly recommend it, especially if you're planning on a long car journey with young children.

Review: Jack & Holly pre-school dvds

'Welcome to the wonderful world of Jack and Holly'.... and my children definitely agree with that!

Jack and Holly were created by husband and wife team, Jezz and Julianne at Blockhouse TV. After a considerable amount of research and help from pre-school and primary school specialists they developed Jack and Holly, best friends and an antidote to what they call 'e-numbers for the eyes' pre-school media products.

We were sent Jack and Holly's Christmas Countdown and Cosmic Stories to review and they arrived with perfect timing. Middle was ill and unusually for him, stuck to the sofa for 2 full days so he jumped at the chance of having something new to watch.

Developed by parents and teachers the Jack and Holly dvds have fun, animated short episodes designed to educate and entertain pre-schoolers. Each dvd runs for approximately an hour.

Christmas Countdown is ten episodes listing Jack & Holly's favourite things about the festive season. Girl & Middle have really enjoyed watching it and singing along.

Cosmic Stories is Middle's favourite as he studied space and planets last term. Through watching the 7 episodes your child will learn facts about the universe, the moon, solar system and more.  

The dvds are aimed at pre-schoolers but even though Girl is 7 and Middle is nearly 5 they have been captivated and ask to watch the dvds before bedtime every night. 

I don't mind them being watched before bedtime as they're not brash, overly noisy and certainly not 'in your face' as some children's dvds can be. They're almost soothing to listen to and the characters are rather lovely.

Tidgy is a little too young to understand the information but he loves snuggling up next to his brother and sister on the sofa while they watch them together.

These get a big thumbs up from the children.

There is a downloadable workbork to accompany the dvds which can be found on and all of their products can be found on Amazon

You can also follow Jack and Holly on twitter

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Top 12 Christmas Hates

In a recent survey of 1000 people satnav company Tom Tom found the Top 12 Christmas hates:

1 TV schedules
2 Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer
3 Traffic jams
4 Shopping
5 Relentless festive music
6 Writing Christmas cards
7 Eating/drinking too much
8 Drunken office parties
9 Realising you need to diet in January
10 Driving to the in-laws
11 Stupid jumpers
12 Spending time with family.

Right now, I hate that BBC One advert with the likes of David Jason, Bruce Forsyth, Graham Norton and Guy Henry (who?!) telling us to 'Consider Yourself One Of Us'. I liked it at first viewing but now I'm just irritated by it. Bah humbug!

Can you add to the list? 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Froobles

Back in September I reviewed two Froobles books. You can find the original post here.

These stories were very popular with my children and I am pleased to announce that the Froobles App and ebooks have now been released on iTunes. Two of the ebooks are available to download FREE for a limited time.

This from Top That! Publishing:

Breaking news! The new Froobles Apps have been released on iTunes!

Little Jack Potato and the big surprise, narrated by Johnny Vaughan, is available to download for free here:
Froobles App

Chloe Carrot and the greedy witch, narrated by Denise van Outen, Orlando Orange and the big, scary bear, narrated by Reggie Yates and Tessa Tomato and the rainforest rainbow, narrated by Edith Bowman are available to buy via in-App purchase.

Along with the celebrity narrated animated story, the Apps feature the ebook, a Froobles theatre where children can make their own movie featuring Frooble characters, a colouring book and fun educational games and activities.
Readers can download two of the Froobles ebooks, Apps Apple and the Tooth Fairy and Ozzy Onion and the noisy dinosaurs, for free for a limited time only. Alongside this, the new enhanced audio ebooks with celebrity narration can be downloaded for a discounted price at £1.49.

All of the Froobles ebooks and enhanced audio ebooks can be viewed here:
Froobles ebooks

This morning we lost something and I panicked. We lost one of Tidgy's dummies somewhere between home and school.

It's not the first time it's happened. He regularly hides them somewhere in the house or throws them from his buggy or car seat and we're forever retracing our steps or turning the living room upside down knowing one is in there somewhere!

I've lost count of the times we break out into a sweat because we're down to just one dummy and we rush out to buy replacements.

I have nothing against using a dummy for your child. I'm all for parents making their own decisions and choices. Each family is different and so is each child. Girl had a dummy for just one day when she was poorly after an immunisation and never wanted it again but Middle had one until he was 3. A friend's daughter had high dependency on dummies and didn't stop until she was at school. 

I look back at photos of Middle now and feel that we should have stopped him needing a dummy much earlier. We were filmed at the zoo for the Heart fm website and all the way through he is sucking on a dummy at 2 and a half. He looks silly, in my opinion.

Middle was a difficult toddler and we literally used the dummy to keep him quiet and settled, to pacify him, but looking back WE were the ones dependent on it. The thought of him not having a dummy filled us with dread. How would we keep him quiet? We resolved to try and then we'd give in because he was ill or I had a migraine, or some other daft excuse! 

With his 3rd birthday approaching I decided we had to stop his/our dependency on dummies. We told him that he was going to be a big boy and big boys didn't need dummies. Hubby wanted to keep one, just in case, but I knew we'd back down so I cut them all up and binned them.

He gave them up in an instant. I wish we'd done it sooner. So that's why, after losing yet another of Tidgy's dummy, I am determined to wean Tidgy off dummies soon. He's 19 months now and as well as losing dummies I've had to bin 2 this week because he has bitten through the teat. I will explain it to him as best as I can but he won't understand as much as his brother did at the age of 3. 

When Mother in law looks after Tidgy he only has a dummy when he's having a nap and he rarely wakes in the night looking for his dummy so I know that he can do it, and so can we. 

At what age did you stop your child having a dummy? Was it a battle of the wills?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ten on Tuesday No 10

This week features Wendy @wendyfizzwig from Ipswich24 mag.

1.Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Wendy Cook and I run a company called Fizzwig Designs with my partner Mark Keable. Fizzwig Designs produces the popular monthly magazine, Ipswich24. It was quite scary taking the plunge to become self employed but I'm so glad I did. It's great being your own boss, it is very hard work, but so rewarding. I really love what I do and the interesting people I meet-every day is different!

2.How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Blimey, this is a hard one-Passionate, creative, loyal, funny and untidy! 

3.What do you like most about the area you live in?
I love living in Ipswich, there are some great places here, and within a half hours drive you can be in beautiful countryside or on a fantastic beach. We have everything in Suffolk, I think we are very lucky. 

4.Which 4 people, dead or alive, would you invite for dinner?
Boudica, so I could find out how the Iceni really lived, Albert Einstein as I think he would be really interesting, Professor Brian Cox as I know that would create some great conversations with Einstein and Anne Boleyn as I’m sure there was much more to her, than just being one of Henry VIII wives. 

5.What was the first record you owned?
The first record I ever owned was ‘Little White Bull’ by Mike Reid, it was brought for me one Christmas as a gift (I was about 5!).  The first record I brought was Soft Cell – Non Stop Erotic Cabaret.  I’m still a big fan of the 80s and I do a Show for Ipswich Hospital Radio on a Sunday evening called the 80s hour.

6.Any embarrassing moments you’d care to share with us?
Well, it took me eight attempts to pass my driving test! I had two abandoned, one of which was because I knocked a woman off a bike!  We’ll she didn’t actually fall off, but she did wobble quite a lot.  I was doing a hill start and was terrified I was going to stall the car or roll backwards, so I was revving the engine like mad, thinking ‘whatever you do don’t stall on this hill’.  I took the hand break off and shot out of this junction, and as I did my wing mirror caught this poor woman’s handle bar.  The test was stopped there and then and I was left with the car, whilst the examiner took the car keys and walked back to the test centre… I was mortified! 

7.What would be the top 3 things on your bucket list?
I’d like to swim with dolphins, I like the idea of white water rafting, but I’m not sure I would be brave enough to do it. I learnt to horse ride in my twenties, and I’ve always wanted to ride on a ranch in America and help round up the cattle.

8.What is your favourite tv programme?
I love reality TV, sad I know, but I just can’t get enough Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celeb, etc.  My favourite is Big Brother – and I have been the BB correspondent on Town 102 with Craig Stevens.  I also never miss an episode of Eastenders.

9.Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
I don’t really have time for Holidays but I have always wanted to visit Norway, to see the Northern Lights.  I much prefer to go sight seeing than to lay on a beach, I soon get board sunbathing, so anywhere with plenty to do that’s not too hot!

10.Do you prefer a night in or a night out?
I’m more of a night in girl, however I do love the theatre, so I’m probably a bit of both – Although pubs and clubs are really not my thing!

Thanks for answering these Wendy. Well done for persevering with your driving test. I think I would give up after the 3rd!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Thank you!

I just wanted to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone that has helped me through the last few weeks. I'm a terrible worrywart and the situation didn't look very positive at all for my sister, especially with us both googling every symptom she had and reading nothing but worst-case scenarios! 

I am so very pleased, and relieved, to announce that she got given the all-clear this morning. She has to be extra vigilant from now on, but that's no bad thing. We all should check ourselves regularly.

I felt helpless, worrying about her from afar but so many people were sending such kind, caring words of  positivity. I am truly touched and am sending each of you a virtual hug of gratitude.

Thank you.

Review: Christmas Fair 200 XXL puzzle from Ravensburger

The next puzzle we have been sent as part of the Ravensburger Puzzle Club is Christmas Fair. This puzzle is suitable for ages 6 and up.

Girl hasn't done any puzzles with any more than 100-150 pieces so I was interested to see how she would get on with this one.

Using the Ravensburger Puzzle Store we sorted the pieces into edges and different areas of the jigsaw by putting them into the sorting trays of the puzzle store. Once we'd got the edges into place on the board we were soon on a roll.

The picture is a quaint and colourful Christmas scene and reminded me of Where's Wally as there was so much going on within the picture! This did not hinder Girl's ability to put the puzzle together though. There are children on a merry-go-round to spot, Santa's grotto, Santa's sleigh and his reindeer, carol singers and a build a snowman competition and many other things to look at. It's a really lovely puzzle for children and families and when we'd finished Middle came along to have a look at the picture and was able to test his observation skills by taking in all that was going on in the scene.

The puzzle is made of thick, strong cardboard and the pieces were of a good size. Not too tiny for little fingers. We weren't in a rush and we finished it in just under an hour. Girl did have some help from me but if she had been left to her own devices then I am confident she would have been able to finish it.

We can definitely recommend this for children and their families. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Let's talk about depression....

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my battle with depression and I was overwhelmed and amazed by the support I received. I was also over the moon that others could approach me with their story. Some publicly, some in private. It made me happy, in an odd way, that people felt that they could talk about their depression because of my post.

I could not envisage how much positivity could come out of one post but in finding my courage to talk publicly about how I struggle, it gave others a voice.

That's one of the aims of the Time To Change campaign.  They want to end mental health discrimination, empowering suffers to be able to talk about their illness.

Since my post I have read many other brilliant, honest and often heartbreaking posts on depression. I wanted to share this one from EDP columnist Steve Downes as it reiterates my feelings about getting depression as an illness talked about but it's written more eloquently that I could ever put it.

As a journalist for almost 20 years, few news items surprise me. But when I heard last Sunday that the Wales manager Gary Speed had died, I was genuinely taken aback.

Just 24 hours earlier I had watched him on Football Focus, laughing, joking and seemingly happy and in control.

We might never know – and it is none of our business – why he decided to take his own life. But we do know that, out of this awful tragedy, some good has already come.

First, it made football fans stop for a while and consider how unimportant are their petty feuds and rivalries when compared with real issues of life and death. The moving tributes at many grounds in the last week showed that the majority of fans are level-headed and compassionate.

Second, it has given a great deal of publicity to the issue of mental illness – in particular, depression.

There is no evidence to say that Mr Speed was depressed, although I strongly suspect that it played a significant part in what occurred. But his death has breathed the oxygen of publicity all over a subject that still remains too much of a taboo and too little understood.

Those who follow my column closely (yes, Mum, I do mean you) will recall that I have written about my own sporadic struggles with depression.

There is no need to go over old ground, but suffice to say that the bouts are unpredictable, of varying depth and always utterly terrifying.

And they occur despite the fact that I have a wonderful family, great friends, a job that I love, live in Cromer (the nearest place to heaven on earth) and have no obvious reasons to be hounded by the Black Dog.

Judging by the debate that followed the death of Gary Speed, many people still do not understand the unpredictable nature of this hateful beast.

Depression is an illness, not a weakness. It is not always dependant on external circumstances, and is no respecter of social status or financial security.

Consider the fact that 10 current professional footballers have sought help for depression since Mr Speed’s death. All young, wealthy, successful men - but still dogged by mental illness.

Look at the wonderful Stephen Fry, who is comfortably the most entertaining and erudite man that I have ever seen. He has everything – including devastating, dark bouts of depression.

Then there is Stan Collymore, who had a riches-laden football career and is now a successful radio pundit. But a few days before Mr Speed’s death he posted the most moving and heartbreaking blog that I have ever read, written from the depths of despair as he lay debilitated by depression.

I hope that Gary Speed’s death will usher in a new age of understanding, and trigger more tolerance towards those who deal with depression.

And I hope that those who refuse to get it, never come face to face with it in their own lives. However irritating their crass comments can be, this is something that I would not wish upon anybody.

Life is getting more complicated, more pressurised and more difficult to handle. I believe that more and more people will suffer from depression in the future.

“Pull yourself together” is not a prescription that will help. To be able to pull anything, you need to have energy.

Instead, I would urge everybody to “pull together”, showing understanding to those who suffer and taking some of the strain to help them trudge towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Review: Pirate Captain dressing up from Letterbox

Ahoy There Me Hearties!

For a couple of land lubbers Girl and Middle love Pirates and they enjoy dressing up for role play so they were very excited when Letterbox sent us some Pirate Captain costumes for them to try.

Courtesy of Letterbox
The costume is well-made and looks really smart. Supplied is the grey velour jacket with striking gold trim, Jolly Roger hat and red trousers which have boot-style bottoms to complete the look. We've struck gold as we've bought pirate costumes in the past but none of them have looked this impressive. They're also machine washable which is very convenient as most dressing up costumes are sponge clean only and my children wear their costumes a lot.

Middle is wearing the size 3-5 years and Girl is wearing the 6-8 years. The trousers had plenty of room for growth. The only thing we did find was that you would probably want to add a white vest or t-shirt under the jacket as the white insert wasn't quite long enough to cover their stomach.

This gets a big thumbs up from us and we think it's perfect for your little aspiring Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard.

The Pirate Captain costume is available from Letterbox for £25.00 and the Pirate Sword (shown in the top photo) can be found here

At the moment Letterbox have a promotion running with 15% off orders of £60 or more. Great offer in time for Christmas so get yerselves to or you'll be made to walk the plank!  

*We were not paid for this review. Two costumes were supplied for us to test and review. All views are our own.

**Huge apologies for the pirate talk. I just couldn't help myself!! ;)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ten on Tuesday No9

This week it's the turn of the lovely, talented and very busy Georgy, also known as @RandomHousehold on twitter.

1.Who are you and what do you do?
I'm Georgy but my blogger alias is Random Woman. Not so much of an alias now!  I'm a Mum, a freelance writer, a blogger, an actress, a broadcaster, a comedy historian and now a business woman with my new web content and PR work ! Spread as thin as Marmite me!

2. How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
Flippant. Playful. Creative. Naughty. Sensitive.

3.Which part in a film/play would you most like to play?
Doing amateur theatre means I've got to play loads of great parts I'd probably have never played as a professional actress.  But I have a deal with a friend that he'll direct me in the stage version of Shirley Valentine before I'm 45! 3 and a half years to go!  

4.Who would you choose to play you in a film?
I'd love to say Rachel Weisz but that's just delusional. It'd more likely be Dawn French or Liza Tarbuck for looks and build. Sally Lyndsey is a cracking actress she'd be good, she'd get my sense of humour.

5.What is your biggest pet peeve?
Novelty books like Crap Towns or 101 Things to do with a Dead Cat. I've got enough clutter in my house without thoughtless tat like that. I love books and they are an insult to the printed word.

6.What would be the top three things on your Bucket List?
In no particular order

1) To get the sitcom/comedy drama I'm writing commissioned

2) To see my little boy grow into a happy, healthy, young man
3) To go round New Zealand in a camper van with hubby (I haven't told him that one yet!)

7.What's your most embarrassing moment?
I don't embarrass that easily but I embarrass others all the time., especially Hubby! We were once at a book signing and wine tasting event Hubby had organised with the wine writer Malcolm Gluck. I got a bit tidily and asked him, "When you get home after a days tasting and have a glass of wine with your dinner, do you take a sip, forget you're not still at work and gob it out onto the carpet?"  With a face of stone he replied "No. I've never done that!" My friend and I thought it was hilarious but Hubby wanted the ground to open up and swallow him.

8.Which 4 people, dead or alive, would you invite to dinner?
The playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourne, who I think has influenced and changed modern theatre the most in the last 40 years.

Stephen Fry, because I believe he is this generations Noel Coward, and a fascinating contradiction of wit, intelligence, humour and yet with deeper issues of depression and bipolar.

The singer Beverley Knight because not only has she got the most amazing voice and stage presence but she is an incredible charity worker too and has volunteered for Christian Aid in Brazil and recently went to Malawi looking at HIV projects for them. A really inspirational woman.
Eric Morecambe. He was and still is the ultimate comedian and entertainer but what isn't as well known is he was also a writer. He kept a diary, had written two children's books, one novel and had started another when he died. i wouldn't ask him to "perform" I'd want him to relax and talk about his love of words and language both in comedy and on the printed page. Maybe if he'd done that more we'd have had him for a little longer. I would secretly hope he'd got a paper bag in his pocket though for my all time favourite visual gag.

9.What was the last book you read?
The House By the Sea by Santa Montefiore. It weaves two stories together beautifully. One from Italy in the 1960's and the other in the present on the Devon coast. The author is actually Tara Palmer -Tomkinson's sister but she uses her married name. I'm reviewing it for a magazine in the new year.

10.Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
My favourite city in the world is New York. I've visited twice and had the best time. I loved America in general and want to take the boy there when he's old enough to really take it all in.

Thanks for answering these Georgy. It seems that New York is a favourite for a lot of people. I agree with you about Eric Morecambe. He'd have to be one of my dinner guests. One of my favourite sketches was The Breakfast Sketch, superbly choreographed to 'The Stripper'. 

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