Monday, May 30, 2011

The perfect pair...

If you follow me on Twitter (thank you) you may remember me recently lamenting the sad demise of my favourite (read ONLY) pair of blue jeans. My trusty pair of Joe Browns, slightly stretchy, mid blue flared jeans bought not long after the Little Man was born and I knew there was no way I'd get into my pre-baby jeans THAT summer. I never dreamed that three years down the line I'd still be wearing them - and with money being tight (much like my old jeans) I stuck with the one pair and hoped they would be all I needed to see me through the post-baby flabby bit.

Hah! Sad, deluded fool that I am...

Poor old jeans have been worn on almost constant rotation with one other pair of black jeans for three years and have finally given up on me, wearing through several places pretty much simultaneously :(

So the search was on for a new pair. Money is tighter than ever so they had to be cheap(ish). I wanted a well fitting waist - low risers are out, the muffin top needs no encouragement. I wanted washed out, mid-blue colour (can't stand that 'new' denim look). They need to be practical enough for every day but ok to dress up a bit too. Most of all I wanted to feel GOOD in them.
I found what I hoped to be the perfect pair from a mail order company, ordered a couple to try, and fortunately found what I was looking for without too much trouble.

Very nice, but really that's hardly worthy of a blog post, you mutter.

Fair enough but these jeans not only fit - well and comfortably - but they are a size 16!!! That means I am one size closer to the pre-baby jeans. And for me that is BIG (or rather 'not as big as I was') news!

Anyone who - like me - has a wardrobe full of 'I will wear them again one day' clothes will understand.

Walking the Green Lanes...

"Do I belong to some ancient race?
I like to walk in ancient places.

These are things that I can understand..."

'Sell Out' The Levellers
 Levelling the Land 1991
 Many years ago, when the Little Man was not even the faintest twinkle in my eye, before I met his Daddy, when my life was just me and the cat and no complications, I used to love taking myself off into the woods and just walking. Following the old footpaths and trails that meander through the Forest with no apparent destination in mind (although I'd usually end up in some pub or another...).
These days I just don't have the me-time to do these things but thankfully,  now the Little Man is getting older and able to walk further my Forest ramblings look like making a welcome return.

Yesterday we took a stroll down to Nonny's house. Rather than being tied to the main road (the pushchair route) I decided to leave the buggy at home and go across country...
Across the meadows...
The long grass swayed in the wind and made a lovely 'whoooshy' sound!
 Along the Forest paths- many of these footpaths are roughly 'paved' (more cobbled) have the remains of drystone boundary walls on either side where they have been in use for generations
 The bluebells are all finished now but there are plenty of other woodland flowers to see like these gorgeous (and poisonous) foxgloves
 Not to mention some amazing trees. Although parts of the Forest are now filled with quick growing pine and spruce that provide an income, much of the deciduous 'ancient' forest remains.

Walking the Green Lanes takes a bit longer than using the modern paths alongside the roads, but the journey is more pleasant by far. We are much more inclined to take it at our own pace...

 ...plenty of time and opportunity to chill...

And to top it off - here is something we would have missed. 
A whole meadow full of horses and their foals. That really made the Little Man's day. And mine!

I know I have said it before, and I will probably say it again, but we are incredibly lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The search for style...

I think the hardest thing I have had to come to terms with as a mum has been the total change of my body shape.

Ok, not being allowed to sleep in till midday on a Sunday has been pretty hard to deal with too, but I'll get over it...

So back to body shape... It's changed. Things aren't where they used to be. Mostly they have been covered up with  layer of blubber - there are soft, squishy bits where there never used to be and as for my boobs - well you know, small boobs really aren't so bad. I used to be able to go bra-free without attracting too much attention but these days I require a full-scale scaffolding system just to keep them in place!

But the worse bit by far is my tummy.

In the old days (B.C. before child) I was a proper pear shape - slightly bottom heavy with curvy hips and a waist that went right in! And it was level with my belly button. Muffin top still happened but I could almost eliminate it by standing up straight and sucking in a bit! I could almost get away with wearing a bikini in public.
Now I still have a waist but it seems to have risen a couple of inches and only shows itself to the world when the boobs are hoisted up and the Gok Wan slicker knickers come out of drawer. Most of my excess couple of stone seem to be on my tummy transforming my pear shape to an apple shape. I simply cannot wear the same things I used to wear and whilst I plan on losing at least some of the flabby stuff eventually, right now it's in the way and I am utterly clueless on how best to dress to hide it...

Which is where iStylista comes in. Imagine having a virtual stylist and personal shopper tailored to your body shape, build, colouring and even face shape - just key in a few details about yourself and a 30 page guide giving you essential, sound fashion advice on styles and colours to suit you is yours to download and refer to whenever you need it. Plus you can opt to have regular e-mails with selected items picked just for you sent to your inbox to help you decide what to spend your hard earned cash on.

I thought I would give it a go and now have a palette of colours to work from, key shapes to look out for and some style tricks to take the eye away from the bits I don't want you to see and focus on the bits I DO want to show off. Some of it I already knew, some of it surprised me and I was pleased to learn that I am one of the lucky ones who CAN wear black (just not top to toe and not to the exclusion of everything else...)

I found iStylista via Mummy Central and for a short time they have teamed up with iStylista to offer their readers a free style guide (worth £30) so why not pop along and try it out.

Meanwhile I shall be looking out for that perfect wrap around top and some cute wedge sandals...

Peter Rabbit™ Organic Juices Review

The Little Man and I are always keen to try something new and when these lovely juices from Peter Rabbit™ Organics arrived yesterday morning we couldn't wait to get stuck in...

The juices are completely organic (you can read all about their values here ) and contain nothing more than water, organic fruit concentrate and a little extra vitamin C. I have always tried to avoid giving the Little Man squash drinks - not because of the sugar content (although that is a little worrying) but more due to all the other additives the manufacturers feel it is necessary to add, particularly artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Generally at home I give him diluted (about 50/50) juice but when we are out and about it gets a bit harder. Most fruit juices available in single serving cartons are undiluted and that's really not ideal for little ones - both for their teeth (yes natural sugars found in fruit juices are just as bad as 'added sugars') and their digestive systems. Peter Rabbit™ Organic Juices are come in handy 150ml servings and are diluted perfectly for little ones.

So what do they taste like? Well the fight was on for a taste of the Pear juice - I managed to get a sip before the Little Man snaffled the lot and it was a lovely, crisp pear flavour. I was allowed to have the Apple and Blackcurrant which I found very refreshing, with quite a sharp blackcurrant taste - children used to the sweetness of squash may not go for this - but again Little Man loved it (yes I let him have a go...)
I am saving the Apple and Grape juice to throw in my handbag when I go and pick him up from nursery - these small size cartons are perfect for that!

My only criticism of these particular juices would be that while they are perfect for very little ones, they are little on the small size for a thirsty toddler. A larger, 250ml size carton is available in slightly more sophisticated flavours (the Summer Berries one sounds particularly good!).
The packaging is lovely with a slightly retro feel and features the instantly recognisable Peter Rabbit, the straws are good quality that don't bend when you try and pierce the foil seal and they are extendable so they don't get lost inside the carton whilst your little one is trying to drink. All in all a great product and I will be looking out for their fruit purees to try too!

Peter Rabbit™ Organic juices are available from the baby aisle of all good supermarkets and organic food specialists and are also stocked by Toys R Us and Mamas and Papas and have a rrp of 55p each.

Many thanks to Peter Rabbit ™ Organics for letting us try their new fruit juices - they were sent to us for free but all words, opinions and pictures are my own.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An adventure wherever you go...

 I don't drive (can't drive or at least never got round to learning...) so me and the Little Man walk everywhere. Until recently the Little Man got a ride in his pushchair but over the last few months I have been leaving the buggy at home and encouraging him to walk. This is mostly successful, although I do seem to end up giving him a piggy back half the way home (Uphill, with a rucksack full of shopping too. I should be so fit!)

To encourage his walking we have a number of different ways into town. There's the straightforward 'down the main road' way for when time is short or I just want to get it over with. There is the 'round the back' way - fairly self-explanatory. And then, when there is time to kill or I sense the Little Man is in need of a little extra encouragement, there is the 'Adventure Way'.

Of course it helps if you have a friend to share the adventure with so let me introduce you to Mr T Dinosaurus...

Ok, we are going on an adventure!
He gets a bit heavy after a while...
Obviously dinosaurs like to jump in big muddy puddles too...
He's not being rude, he's eating the wind. It tastes of apples and pears and strawberry milk. Apparently.
Mr T gets very excited when he gets a go on the 'Trolly Dash'
You can't expect to be carried ALL the way Mr T!
...and finally a lesson in letters...

It must be great being three, there is a whole world of adventures waiting to be discovered :)

This post is being entered into this month's Tots100 Blog Hop

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hello Poppy Cat!

Nick Jr are very excited about their latest offering for pre-schoolers, a fabulous animated adaptation of the award-winning 'Poppy Cat' series of books by Lara Jones. Voiced by the extremely talented Gavin and Stacey star, Joanna Page, Poppy Cat is a brand new TV star in the making! Joanna says she really enjoyed the challenge of playing the character of Poppy Cat
"...because she’s strong, she’s determined, she’s not scared of anything, she’s very brave, she’s lovely and kind, she’s not selfish, she looks after her friends and she doesn’t back down from anything..."

Poppy Cat and her friends, Alma, ZuZu, Owl, Mo and Egbert solve problems, over come fears and learn about the value of friendships whilst having all sorts of fantastical adventures in magical places. Poppy Cat is the natural team leader and with a wave of her patchwork bandana provides whatever transportation the friends need to get going - car, boat, submarine, plane, rocket or hot air balloon. The characters are each well rounded with their own quirks, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. Most children will find themselves identifying with the characters instantly and relating to their experiences with ease. Each episode is 10 minutes long - perfect for a pre-schoolers attention span -
and absolutely captivated my Little Man. Within the first couple of episodes he was hooked and has watched several episodes I have saved on sky+ for him over and over again!

To celebrate Poppy Cat's TV debut, Nick Jr sent us a lovely pop-up book 'Poppy Cat's Dream' and now the Little Man has got to know the characters so well he really enjoyed the book too, as you can see here...

'Poppy Cat' is currently showing on Nick Jr at 10am on weekdays


Silent Sunday

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Summer Cupcakes

Those lovely people over at John Crane are about to release a fabulous new toy. High Tea Shape Matching will appeal to little darlings (and their mummies;) ) everywhere. To celebrate this release they are running a fab competition giving you the chance to win Tea at the Ritz! They have also been asking bloggers everywhere to talk cupcakes. Well go on then, twist my arm...

Here is the recipe for my favourite cupcake creation - inspired by Mint Choc Chip Ice-cream!

You will need for the cakes:

4oz/100g butter
4oz/100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs (preferably free range)
4oz/100g self raising flour
Vanilla essence
50g dark chocolate chips (optional)

for the icing

4oz/100g butter
8oz/200g icing sugar
peppermint flavouring
green food colouring
chocolate sprinkles

pre-heat your oven to approx 160/gas4 and put some cupcake cases in a bun tin ( I use silicone ones that are reusable and ridiculously pretty to boot )

Cream together the butter and caster sugar till light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla essence. Then sift in the flour. You can add the chocolate chips now too, if you are using them.

Drop spoonfuls of mix into the cupcake cases and then pop them into the oven for about 12-15mins

Lick the bowl out :) (or more accurately let the Little Man lick the bowl out...)

For the icing cream the butter then add the icing sugar, a splash of peppermint flavouring (to taste) and a few drops of green colouring - we are aiming for a delectable pale pistachio not Kermit green, ok?

When the cakes are cool, slice the tops off to even them out if you have too, pipe the icing in swirls and sprinkle with chocolate flakes to finish.

Refridgerate to chill the icing for an authentic 'mint choc-chip ice cream' taste.

Enjoy x

ps Best eaten the same day - but there won't be any left over. Trust me.

pps You have until the end of July to enter the High Tea Shape Matching competition :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#TheGallery - Mustachioed

I must admit when I saw Tara's prompt this week I panicked slightly. Mustaches. Hate them! Especially those primped and preened ones that the owners are so obviously proud of. Uughhh!
I have nothing against facial hair per se, indeed a bit stubble can look undeniably sexy and I do rather like Captain Jack Sparrow's goatee ensemble. But the Tom Selleck look really doesn't do it for me...
And whilst I fully appreciated the sentiment behind last years 'Movember' campaign the sight of all those attempted 'mustaches' (facebook was awash with the things) was enough to make me shudder uncontrollably and arm myself with a Gillette or two just in case they turned feral...

So asking the OH to grow a quick 'tache for me to photograph was out of the question and grabbing an eyeliner and decorating the Little Man's face for the sake of my blogging kudos seemed a bit, well, wrong...

But I really couldn't miss the Gallery two weeks in a row! (Technically I DID do a Gallery post last week but thanks in part to my disorganisation and major BLOGGER fail, it didn't get posted til Friday so counted only by the skin of it's teeth...)

And besides there's a competition involved this time. With a prize!!

So here we have our take on 'Mustachioed'. Not hairy, not scary, and the Little Man really enjoyed it :)
If you want to see much, much more facial hair pop along to Sticky Fingers right now. They are taking over the interweb!!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What I am reading in May...

Have just discovered a lovely meme hosted by Jules over on her fabulously named blog 'I need curtains for the window in my head'. She wants to know what we are all reading each month. Click on the button at the end of this post to find out what everyone else is reading and for more info if you want to join in :)

There is definitely an ancient feel to my reading material this month!

First up, indulging my inner geek with a fabulous book by historian Bettany Hughes that I found in my local library. 'Helen of Troy. Goddess, Princess, Whore' looks at the historical/archaeological evidence from Bronze Age Aegean in the search for the 'real' Helen - the high-born princess whose unrivalled beauty has made her an icon. This is a really detailed look at what life for Spartan woman over 3000 years ago would have been like and will be a great resource for the novel I am working on chronicling the life of another fascinating heroine from Greek Mythology - Medea. Might have to get this one for the shelf...

From Greeks to Romans and I have treated myself to the paperback edition of 'The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles' by Rosemary Sutcliffe. We went to see the new movie version of this story recently as the Other Half's brother is in it (he is one of the original Ninth Legion soldiers that survived in the wilderness and fought to reclaim the Eagle. Quite strange seeing someone you know so well on the big screen :) ) The movie was very good of course, but I was left with the need to re-read the original story. I think I was about 12 when I read it last time and my recollection of it is slightly different to the movie version...

What are you reading?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Magic Beans!

For all of you wondering what we planted in yesterday's Silent Sunday picture - they are (according to the envelope my mum gave me) a runner bean variety called 'Wisley Magic'

I have been meaning to get the Little Man into planting seeds rather than just throwing mud around and what better place to start than with Runner Beans. I mean they look fab (sorry got to show off this picture again...)

...and once they get going there's no stopping them. Not only that once they have climbed their way up the bamboo cane wigwam I WILL construct when necessary and start flowering they look pretty fab again. Plus there will be a food to harvest at the end of it (though if truth be known I am not the world's biggest fan of runner beans...).
If anything is going to ignite his interest in things green and growing, I figure it's gonna be these 'Magic Beans'.

And if they don't work we can always fall back on that old favourite - Sunflowers!

Needless to say, planting seeds can only hold a three year old boy's attention for so long. Now we have to wait for the shoots to appear...

But we are in the garden and thankfully three year old boys are very good at finding other things of interest when the mummy-led entertainment gets a bit boring...

Yup... bugs! *shudder*

We will keep you posted on the Magic Beans progress. In the meantime I need to research runner bean recipe ideas just in case we do actually get enough beans to get excited about!

Friday, May 13, 2011

#TheGallery - Just Chillin'

This week's theme for The Gallery is 'Chilled Out'. Typically my contribution is late. Partly because Blogger broke and partly coz finding time to do anything this week has been a nightmare! I am at the moment feeling anything but 'chilled'...

There are many advantages to running your own business. The final decision is yours, there is no jumped up manager telling you what to do and, in theory, you can work the hours you choose.

In theory.

In practice that often means working all hours under the sun and getting very little time off! This means any days off we do manage to arrange as a family are extremely precious and, as much as I would just love to spend a day in the sun, reading a good book, sipping something long and cool, when you have an over-active toddler with a zest for life it's just not possible. Mores the pity.

Last Wednesday was Little Man's third birthday. I arranged for cover at the shop so Daddy could have the day off and we decided to celebrate in style with a trip to the seaside. It wasn't the most relaxing day out ever - first we missed the turn off the motorway and when we did get there the tide was so far out we couldn't actually see the sea! (This is a recurring theme at Weston super Mare).  But we had fun - just Mummy, Daddy and Little Man. And a day of fun, forgetting for a few hours the stress and worries of day to day life, just enjoying each other's company and going with the flow is about as chilled out as we get these days :)

Of course if you really want to chill out properly you need to take a lesson from the Master of Chill...

...and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done :)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Here's a synopsis of a well known storybook I bought for the Little Man the other day :

'after escaping from a hot oven, our hero runs for his very life, being chased by various villagers and farm animals until he comes to a river. There he is tricked by a wily old fox who carries him across, apparently to safety, before eating him.'

Scary stuff eh? It is, of course, The Gingerbread Man and this particular version is beautifully put together by those fab people at Ladybird. The 'Well-loved Tales' collection were a big part of my childhood reading adventure and I felt it was time to get some traditional stories to balance his current 'Aliens love Underpants' obsession. This little series has been developed for little ones and is aimed at 2+ year olds. I let him choose which stories to start with and as he was already familiar with the 'Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!' line from nursery it was a dead cert he'd pick that story.

What I didn't realise was that he wasn't familiar with the ending...

He woke up around half one this morning, crying his eyes out and babbling about the fox 'eating me all up'! Now I know he's a smart lad with a very active imagination but he is at an age where his understanding of everything is very literal. 'It's only a story' just doesn't wash with him yet. The Gingerbread Man is as real to him as Mummy and Daddy, as is the threat of being eaten up by a sly old fox...

So what do I do? Shield him forever from the horrors of traditional fairy tales? Or explain that as the Gingerbread Man is made of gingerbread and, therefore, meant to be eaten, he was actually being very naughty running away...

It's a dilemma.

I am really not looking forward to explaining the other book he chose - Three Billy Goats Gruff. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... (pun intended)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Graze with me...

I'm a grazer, I could quite happily nibble on bits and bobs all day long. Give me a buffet and I am in heaven! So when someone on my Twitter timeline first mentioned Graze boxes - little boxes of healthy, yummy snacks, delivered to your door - I must admit I was intrigued enough to give them a go...

The Graze website is really easy to use and gives you lots of scrummy looking snacks to rate. You can enter any ingredient you don't like (I'm really not a fan of strong chili ) and they will allow you to 'bin' any recipes that contain them. Based on your preferences they send a selection of four different snacks.

So this is what you get...

A cute little 'letterbox friendly' box, made sustainably sourced and totally recyclable card and ridiculously pretty on the inside :) Your four different snacks in little sealed containers and a personalized info booklet with all the nutritional information and use by dates. Oh, and underneath the tray there is a napkin and, if you are lucky enough to get olives (as I did a couple of weeks ago) a little wooden fork to eat them with.

This weeks selection included pistachio nuts - mmmmm I lurve pistachio nuts, a lovely punnet of dried goji berries, cherries and organic apricots(cutely named 'love mix' ) and containing 2 of my 5 a day according to the nutritional info! There is a 'new' recipe called 'Chedder Gorge' which is basically crackers, salsa sticks and cheesy cashew nuts - what's not to like? And finally natural vanilla seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a vanilla and honey glaze. Now I'm a big fan of the 'savoury seed mix' and not sure if I would like a sweet version but they were scrummy and incredibly more-ish.

So have I tempted you yet?

If you would like to try a Graze Box for yourself you can get one sent absolutely FREE. Just visit and enter the code M1Q9TWD3 when you sign up. You can have your Graze box sent to your home or your work place and you can cancel further deliveries easily if you're not convinced.

For everyone of you that signs up with this code I will donate my 'feed your friends reward' (£1 off next Graze delivery) to the Graze School of Farming in Uganda a fantastic Charity that educates villagers in sustainable farming and helps them get their farm up and running. Every penny donated is spent helping these people help themselves.

Please note this post has not been sponsored or endorsed by Graze in any way. I have been receiving Graze snack boxes for a while and just wanted to share with you :)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Potty Training (part two) - By George I think he's got it...

You may remember, just over a week ago I blogged about how we were taking the plunge and letting the little man go nappy free during the day (Potty Training - part one) Well despite my initial trepidation it has all gone swimmingly well!!
I think the sticker chart had a lot to do with it (what is it with little kids and stickers?)
That and his eagerness to please. "Are you happy now mummy?" is one of his most well used phrases - which makes it sound like I am a miserable old bag most of the time.
I'm not.
But I digress...
"Are you happy now mummy?" he says as I praise him for being a good boy for asking to go to the bathroom BEFORE he wet his pants... "Yes, darling, I am very happy." "oh goody" he beams "Can I have a sticker now?"

And that pretty much was that.

Still the occasional accident but he is learning to recognise the feeling of needing to go and when he says he doesn't need a wee, he really doesn't.

And mummy really is happy now.

p.s. You may notice that one column on the sticker chart is empty. That's the 'I did a poo on the toilet' column. And no he hasn't yet. So we still have a little way to go...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

#TheGallery - April

Having a bit of a photo blog week this week. Partly because I am too busy to sit down and write my usual essays and partly because I have taken sooooo many lovely pics in the last few weeks.

This weeks prompt for The Gallery is simply APRIL. It's been a fabulous month, the weather has been amazing and the cold, grey winter seems a distant memory. My garden is flourishing ( a little too vigorously for me to keep up with it, if truth be known!) and so are the fields, footpaths and hedgerows around the Forest. So to celebrate all this wild abundance I am blogging weeds...ahem...wild flowers in all their glory :)

I can't do a post about flowers in April without adding two very beautiful but poignant pictures.
A couple of weeks ago we said goodbye to Owen's Nan, Mrs Trudie Sheppard. An amazing woman, disabled from birth but with a tenacious character and a zest for life that carried her through 90 years. She did not let her disability hold her back in any way and spent her retirement campaigning and fundraising to provide a dial-a-ride service and day centre facilities for elderly frail and disabled people which culminated in the building of Sheppard House in Newent and earned her an M.B.E.

She will be sadly missed.

A Birthday Tea

This week my little man celebrates his 3rd birthday.
Now I could go on about how the time has flown and how he is growing up so fast etc etc.
But I won't.

Instead, here are some pictures from his birthday tea with family and friends in Nanny and Grampy's garden.

Opening pressies - OMG it's a picture with me in it! I am so sorry...

Getting the hang of this 'unwrapping' thing now...

See, Paige - this is how it's done...

Off for a wander around Nanny's garden


fun and frolics in the garden

A friendly, completely non-competitive (honest, guv) game
of footie - AKA Boys will be boys

more ball games

Time to go home now. Thank you for coming to my party!

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