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Friday 16 December 2016

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Diamond

Hoping for a Christmas or New Year marriage proposal? Does your other half need a not-so-subtle nudge in the right direction?

Will you be the one doing the knee-bending? Want to make sure you're savvy enough to put any swindlers off trying to sell you a Christmas cracker prize? 

Or maybe you just feel like treating yourself to a bit of diamond-based 'frosting'?

Luckily, there exists an internationally recognised system for grading diamonds, developed by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), which can help you distinguish between a rock that demands a 'yes' and bargain basement rubble.

Read on for my guide to the '4 Cs': carat, colour, clarity, and cut

Thursday 15 December 2016

The Sisterhood of Motherhood

I have a female cousin who is ten years older than me. By the time I was at an age where I might have been interesting enough to talk to, she'd already flown the nest and was busy being a proper grown-up. I, meanwhile, only had maths homework and the dilemma of whether to wear blue or lilac eyeliner to contend with.

It was a shame, but that was the way the cookie crumbled.

As I grew into my late teens and early twenties, I saw her more frequently. My Christmas visit to my parents house inevitably involved some sort of get-together, her family and mine. A few drinks out at a local pub maybe, or a glass of homebrew at ours. Well, the time it takes Mum to make it, it would be rude not to, right?

Saturday 3 December 2016

This Part-timer is Revolting!

I do like to try and find the humour in whatever I write about. It does us good to laugh, doesn't it? But sometimes, just sometimes, I have to be serious, even if the subject topic itself is laughable.

I was recently made redundant after six years at the same company. It didn't take me long though, to crack on with trying to find a new job. I sent off a few applications and, a few days ago, had my first chat with a recruitment agent. 'Anthony' was very nice but I have to be honest - I came off the call feeling pretty miffed.

At my now previous company, I was incredibly lucky in that after having Little O I was able to return to work on a part-time basis, whilst still remaining at the same experience level. I am grateful for that.

However, now that I find myself on the market again, I realise what a pot of poop the part-time job market actually is.

I'm not going to blow my own trumpet here. This isn't the place for me to be dropping my CV. But I do have a bloody good degree, and since qualifying as a CIMA accountant five years ago, have accumulated some pretty impressive industry experience. Plus, according to Anthony, I'm a 'great communicator', which is reassuring in more ways than one.

So there must be jobs a-plenty, right? Hundreds of employers looking for someone with my skills and background?

On a full-time basis, yes. Part-time? Not so much.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Mummy's quick guide to keeping chickens

We first decided to keep chickens because, quite frankly, I was a bit bored. You might ask why I didn't get a dog or do some grown-up colouring or something. Well, my parents have kept them for nigh on thirty years so it wasn't completely doolally for me to decide to do it.

If you're thinking about keeping chickens, there are plenty of websites that give you in depth how-to advice on the A-Z of chickens. I'm just going to give you a few pointers that I've picked up in the six years we've kept ours, and over the lifetime my parents have kept theirs.

1. Decide what you want them for

Get pretty ones if you want pretty ones, but my family and I have tended to prefer the Warren Hybrids or Light Sussex for their excellent laying credentials.

Sunday 13 November 2016

The First 'I Love You'

There are many phrases it must be quite pleasurable to hear in life. Like 'I do' and 'you're beautiful' and 'hello, this is the National Lottery - you've won a million pounds.'

I am lucky enough to have heard the first and the second. Sadly not the third.

Of all of these though, the words I think each and every one of us want to hear most are 'I love you.' And how sweet it is to hear it from your own flesh and blood, your own child.

I have waited a long time for that moment.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

The Day 'We' Made Apple Pie

Today, I made an apple pie, with the 'assistance' of my three year-old. I know. Brave.

My neighbour had kindly passed on to us a bag of apples and so had my mother-in-law, so I was keen to use them in some way before they turned brown. Admittedly, I didn't make as big a dent in the pile as I'd hoped, but it was a start. I may make jam with the rest.

I chose to follow a basic double-crust pie recipe which mainly exists in my head, but is loosely based on a number of recipes I've picked up from perusing the jumble of books that reside on my dresser.

Saturday 15 October 2016

I'M A SURVIVOR - Kicking the KIT days ass

I was reminded, very recently, how much of a jungle the working world is. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed popping into work to 'keep in touch'. It was great to see my colleagues, the new revamped offices and to catch up on the latest news. It really is amazing how quickly you slip back into the routine of it all, even in just one day.

However, I must tell you that going into the office after nine months away afforded me a whole new level of appreciation for the following items:
  1. flat shoes
  2. low lighting
  3. dull surfaces

Thursday 13 October 2016

Footloose and Toddler-free: Mummy's 'Day Off'

I am my own worst enemy.

When I have a day without my adorable, yet inexhaustible, toddler, what happens? I want to spend the day tiring myself out.

It's ridiculous, isn't it? 

When the funded childcare hours finally kicked in and we realised we could keep Little O in nursery two days a week, even whilst I was on maternity leave, I was thrilled.

Two days! Two whole days to myself. Well, not exactly to myself, as I still have Baby R to look after. But, I reasoned, I can pop him on the floor and he'll waste twenty minutes amusing himself with a balloon and a mega block. It's not rocket science with a baby his age. Especially the second time round.

Late Monday afternoon, I realise that such a day is nigh and a warm glow, like a ray of the Majorcan sun, passes over me. I smugly consider the ten hours of potential sofa-lounging that exist a mere snooze away, save for the intermittent feeding and changing breaks of course. 

But what happens? 

Thursday 6 October 2016

Baby talk: A minute in the life of an 8 month old

Baby talk: a minute in the life of an 8 month old
I have no idea what's going on. 

I swear, one minute I'm sitting happily in my highchair, the next - I'm flying through the air. I wish she would decide on where she wants me.

Hang on, are those are my toes?

I want that sock. 

Out of my way, woman! LET GO! I promise, if you don't let go of me, I'm regurging all over that nice top you put on specifically for Nana's visit.

Hmm. It doesn't taste as nice as rusk, but I reckon if I keep shoving stuff in my mouth, it won't be that long before I get fed again. Maybe I'll add in a loud wail for good measure.

She's putting me down. Where the hell am I now?

Sunday 18 September 2016

Eeny Meeny Miny... Me?

"Enjoying your coffee?"

I look up from my phone and re-cross my legs at the bar in Frankie and Benny's.

I'm alone, but it's okay. Having had an afternoon 'off' from parenting, I've rejoiced in the freedom of catching a movie and am now enjoying the prospect of finishing a hot coffee before heading home.

The waitress parks her tray on the bar and smiles, as I nod enthusiastically.

"Yes thanks."

Something about the question unnerves me. Had it been followed with "so, what do you do," I'm not sure how I would have answered. If I was still commuting to the office five days a week, the answer would have been straightforward. But I'm not. Technically, I'm still employed, but what I do now is far less easy to describe.

So what am I?

Thursday 15 September 2016

The Pre-pregnancy Pep Talk

parenting advice
This one is for all of you out there thinking of starting a family. You've seen the Pampers adverts. You've cuddled your friend's baby when they're all squeaky clean, fed and bursting with baby giggles. You've done all that and thought, I want that. I'm ready. Bring on the sleepless nights and leaky boobs because it can't all be that bad.

And it's not. You're correct. But if you think you'll just be a little bit busier than normal and you can get plenty of naps in 'cos babies sleep all the time, right? Wrong. You're part of the way there but listen up, folks, because I'm going to be honest with you.

Your life will never be the same again.

No, no. You're not listening. I want you to bring your face as close as you can to the phone or tablet or (if you're rocking vintage tech) the PC. You need to be so close, your eyes start to cross.


Right. Now you're paying attention, I'm going to relay the three things I personally wish someone had told me whilst I was working towards getting sprogged up. They are rather general, I grant you, but are meant with the sincerest of intentions and I hope they prove useful.

Friday 19 August 2016

When you're more 'dressing gown' than 'dressing up'

As someone who was still getting ID'd at thirty years of age, I give myself permission, from time to time, to act like my mother.

Hence, it's ten to nine in the evening and I'm in my pyjamas already. Actually, if you want the truth, I was in my pyjamas twenty minutes ago and have been thinking about the moment I could put them on since three o'clock this afternoon (its been one of those days). I'm sitting in bed cocooned in my fluffy dressing gown, accompanied by a small drop of Jack Daniel's Honey.

Little O has been particularly trying today, not helped by the fact that my red-cheeked baby has been getting some gyp from his emerging gnashers. Much as I thought I'd nailed it the other day, the self-appointed 'Supermum' status doesn't last long and that tiara slides off darn easy these days.

Ah well. Some you win, some you lose. I mean, how do you explain electrocution to a two year-old? 

Sunday 14 August 2016

10 things I learnt from my Dad

Mummies get a lot of press. After all, they are the ones that have to push us out at the end of a tough nine months, and recover from the physical aftermath. 

But Dads are just as important. And no, not just for pocket money and lifts in the car. Here's 10 things I've learnt from the first man in my life, my Dad.

1. How to wire a plug and change a tyre

To be fair, my Dad is an electrician, so I reckon I'd have to be some sort of freak of nature not to have picked up some kind of basic knowledge along the way. Not that I'm about to crack open our fuse box and start re-wiring the house - I'm not a complete idiot.

Saturday 13 August 2016

The Feeding Games

Fussy eaters
It's a hard enough job being a mum, but when you can't even find a chippy that does decent gravy, you know you're in trouble.
Not only that, but the job of Mum also requires that you put yourself last. Always. I'm not blaming anybody. I knew this was what I was signing up for, following that third glass of red wine back in January '13.
And it's not just the kids I have to take into account. I have a husband whose 'dislike' list includes, but is not limited to: lamb, baked beans, meat on the bone, round roast potatoes and fish (except for battered cod, fishcakes, fish fingers, lime and chilli cod goujons and the occasional salmon en croute).

Sunday 24 July 2016

Poo-mageddon: the end of the world as I know it

I have poo in my hair. I have POO in my HAIR! And it isn't even my own poo, not that that would necessarily mean an improvement in my situation.

There is also poo on the floor, on the bath, on Little O's hands, his legs, and guess what, a small amount on the actual bloody potty.

This was not the plan. This was not supposed to happen. And somewhere in the midst of this carnage, my brain is trying to fathom whether I can call this progress. But before you call for the men in white coats, please let me provide some context.

Little O isn't potty trained yet. Despite me putting it off and putting it off, it's something both S and I know we need to get onto.

Thursday 21 July 2016

What I Really Do All Day

It is morning and the boys are awake, therefore I am awake. I suffer from some sort of cave-woman instinct that means if I can hear them, I can't go to sleep. I think its purpose is to make sure they don't run out of the cave unobserved and get mowed down by a Stegasaurus.

My first task is to get them both dressed. Then, after breakfast, I help Little O build a tunnel for his Grandpa Pig train. I'm just placing - err, I mean, helping Little O place the last brick, when I realise I'm still in pyjamas, I smell like Cheerios, and we need to leave for his class in twenty minutes. So with superhuman speed I get washed, dressed, slap some blush on, and change two lots of nappies.

I pack Baby R's emergency milk and Little O's drink into the changing bag. Upon my suggestion that shoes should be donned, Little O decides wellies are a suitable alternative and conducts a fire-fighting rescue mission around his chair in the kitchen, spreading breadcrumbs of mud in his wake. I bundle Baby R into his car seat, pressing his musical toy to distract him from straining to watch his big brother. Some brief toddler-wrangling ensues and somehow I manage to get everyone and everything into the car.

Sunday 10 July 2016

5 Things I Hate About You

5 Things I Hate About You

I hate the way you make me cry.
My makeup runs, but I know why.
The pride within swells up, and so
I guess it's that which makes me glow.

I hate the fact I get no sleep,
I lie awake with thoughts that keep
Me worrying that you're OK.
Yet you're sound asleep, a world away.

I hate the fact I cannot drink,
It makes me stop and sigh and think:
I have to be up, there's just no point
And the parenting job should be joint.
Fair's fair I guess, and anyway,
Morning's the best time of the day.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bedroom...

Little O transitioned from a cot to a proper bed surprisingly well, back in September. However, he's currently suffering from a bout of separation anxiety. This means bedtime is now a combination of a battle of wills and playing the waiting game until he falls asleep. Even if that's half past eight, nine o'clock, or quarter to bloody ten.

I'm unsure whether anything has caused this sudden sleep regression or not. It only started a couple of weeks ago so I'm loath to think it has anything to do with the arrival of Baby R. He could be experiencing a developmental leap, or just simply being a giant pain in the ass. Who knows. All I do know is that this isn't the first time and probably won't be the last, so all S and I can do is weather this phase until it passes. That's what my sensible, rational head is saying, anyway.

My knackered, and frankly ravenous, head is reminding me that it's nine o'clock, I haven't eaten for five hours and there's a Papa Johns with my name on it just waiting for my call.

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Hand-me-down Humdingers

I wouldn't say my parents are hoarders but, OK yeah, they're hoarders. At an amateur level at least. With my dad, it's spanners and screws and stereotypical man stuff. And Mum? Mum has an inordinate amount of tupperware. It's just not natural. However, I am willing to overlook it due to the fact they fed and clothed me and, let's face it, are the reason I exist and all that.

And it did come in handy when the boys came along as they kept hold of lots of stuff from my childhood. And when I say lots, I mean LOTS. Suddenly, all this stuff appeared from their attic: books, toys, cot, playpen, mobiles, blankets, dolls, jigsaws, even unopened packs of Terry nappies.

It is nice to reminisce, especially when I can snuggle up with little O or baby R and read them the stories I was read when I was their age. Of course, these books are several decades old and I have to admit that some of the content is quite questionable. And that's putting it nicely. Still, I can strategically place a hand over some images or skip a page if necessary.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Confidence Trick

I'm not shy. Nevertheless, throw me into a crowded room alone, or ask me to give a speech in front of a hundred people and, guaranteed, my cheeks will turn red quicker than you can ask 'what's wrong with your face?'

The same thing can happen at my Lindyhop classes once the taught class has finished and the floor is opened up to social dancing. Faced with the prospect of having to follow my leader instead of a routine, it's pot luck if I manage to relax enough to make that connection, to feel the subtle pressure from the leader that signals to a follower how to respond. 

I may not necessarily become tomato-cheeked, as my nervousness is more likely to manifest itself as a tangle of arms or an awkward twist of fingers (though hopefully not as an elbow to the face). And to be fair, that's not always to blame. Sometimes my frame needs work, the lead is too weak so the connection isn't there, or one or both of us are just so knackered we can hardly keep our feet moving to the rhythm.

Friday 24 June 2016

The Eczema Factor

Little O has mild eczema. I blame S as it's his dodgy genes that passed it on. And that's dodgy genes, not jeans. S's jeans are not in the slightest bit dodgy and could be deemed, dare I say it, fashionable, especially since I came along.

But anyway, I digress.

Eczema in toddlers
I took Little O to the hospital this week as he had an appointment with the specialist doctor. Fair do's, they've thought it through very well in the children's department. They have plenty of toys and there are gizmos on the walls to play with. There's a touchscreen with games and a telly in the shape of a robot as a last resort.

Its a good thing there was so much to entertain Little O because his appointment was delayed by an hour. An hour! And do you know why? Because someone else turned up an hour late for an earlier appointment. Excuse me, but if I showed up that late for an appointment at the GP or the dentist, or anywhere else come to think of it, I'm pretty certain I'd be given the heave ho and told to re-book.

Sunday 19 June 2016

The Great Escape (to Odeon)

One massive benefit to having my baby on formula is that it doesn't have to be me that feeds him. It mostly is me, to be fair, but the point is it doesn't have to be. And that means I have the opportunity to enjoy some necessary me time.

S is great. As far as husbands go, he's awesome. I know some husbands who have bugger all to do with the main responsibilities of caring for a child but mine, he is hands on. And the best part is, he's hands on because he wants to be. He feeds, changes, plays, disciplines, cuddles...everything. And he's fantastic at it. To be honest, it's a reflection of our marriage - we are a partnership and try very hard not to take each other for granted.

For example, if he wants to spend an afternoon playing cricket despite being out at work all week, that's no problem. He's a grown-up and as such can make his own decisions as to what's right and fair. If I put myself in his place, I wouldn't want to be told what I could and couldn't do. I would like to be trusted to do the right thing and I trust him to do the right thing. That thing being, similarly, if I want to get out of the house for an hour or two (or maybe three) - by myself - that isn't a problem for him either.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Sorry I'm late... but I had a baby

So the good news is that the little smiley face turned into baby R! I freely admit I am completely in love with the little blighter but in the beginning though, I have to be honest, it was hard. And I don't just mean the exhaustion from sleepless nights, tantrums from an attention-seeking toddler and everything else that goes with having more than one child to be responsible for. I mean it was hard for me to accept the step up.

Of course, here was this beautiful little human being gazing at me with his huge blue eyes, fluttering those long eyelashes (that he got from his father by the way, not me, worse luck) and the love just flowed. There's no doubt about that but - I think what I'm trying to say is - I really struggled to feel like a mother second time round.

I have no idea if it was the fact that so many people, mainly those I'd remained friends with from my antenatal group, had said that the second birth was so much easier (and it wasn't) or that I expected things to be easier because I 'knew what I was doing' (hah) or that I put so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mother and hide from everyone the fact that it wasn't easier, it was horrific, and I didn't feel like I knew what I was doing, at all.