Monday, 31 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday

Time to plan those meals again! We're just recovering from half term; in fact, the children don't actually go back to school until tomorrow, but I'm planning a quiet day as we've had a busy week and we could do with some down time.

No special theme for the week; just a few things we like with the odd twist on old favourites. A few are from the Netmums "Feeding kids" book which I've had for a few years and find really useful for family meals, especially in the colder parts of the year. Honey and mustard pork rears its head again, because Monkey insists on having it every few weeks as he absolutely loves it. Seriously!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Confidence trick - update

I can't believe it was only two weeks ago that I blogged about my concerns about Missy Woo and her occasional lack of confidence with her reading. Typically, and pretty much as often happens, things got better by themselves without much intervention by itself. I had some great comments on here and on Twitter about her. Eventually, I decided to speak to her teacher about it after school one day and she told me she'd got a special book out for her to try that week in addition to her usual book as she felt she needed stretching. Missy Woo loved this as she told me she knew she was the only one who got this treat. We read some of both books together at home and she was way more confident.

Since then, she's got better and better. She loves to write, even if her spelling is not 100% - we've started the Christmas lists, which are a hoot to read, and over the half term, she's written notes to her friends and a list of all her classmates' names. They weren't all correct but we sat down together and I wrote some of them out the right way for her, rather than tell her she was wrong.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stopping the scratch

Missy Woo doesn't like headlice either
Apologies now if this post makes you itch. (Also, apologies this is another review but I'm on a bit of a catch up this week!) But it's time to talk about the one subject that the minute you start thinking about it, you just have to scratch. Headlice.

I got through my school years without headlice but I grew up in the time of the nit nurse, who would regularly check hair for signs of infestations. Strangely enough, there wasn't a huge problem with them then. Things are very different now.

We got lucky in Monkey's first year and weren't bothered by them, even tho we had a couple of notes sent home to warn us to check. Nada. The fact he has quite short hair probably is a factor here.

Then Missy Woo started school. Her hair is much longer, but we've always made sure it's tied back or in a plait. Then, one day, she came out of school with her hair down and I knew we were in for trouble. Her "bobble" had come out and she hadn't asked the teachers to put it back in. Within a week, I found headlice on her. At the time, I just had one of those combs and then spent half an hour combing through her hair to rid her of them. Now, her hair is like mine - fine but lots of it and it's a nightmare to comb through with those damned combs. I did my best but I wasn't sure that I had indeed got them all.

A week later, I collected Monkey from school and was waiting for her to come out when I spotted something on the crown of Monkey's head and I knew he'd got them. Probably from her. I'd been scratching all this time too, but I have to say, I never actually found them in my hair. I resorted to a shampoo that got rid of everything but oh boy, it was hard to use. Just to make sure, I put it on everyone in the house so that we were sure that we weren't passing it between each other.

Since then, (touch wood) we have remained louse free. I explained to the children how headlice can pass between children so they know that putting heads together can transfer headlice and I check as often as I can.

However, I've been trying out a product that could be a useful weapon to keep them "nit" free (I know that is not the right term, but it sounds better that way. It's called Linicin Prevent Spray which you just apply to dry hair in the mornings, and - although I don't understand how - it makes your hair invisible to head lice for up to 7 hours, so pretty much the length of a school day. I've been applying it to Missy Woo's hair and so far, so good. The spray is colourless and doesn't have a strong smell, plus it's completely non-toxic and insecticide free. The only problem I had is it made Missy Woo's hair look a touch on the greasy side, which I guess comes from the castor oil in the spray.

We've certainly not had any problems with headlice but then, we have not had any dreaded notes in the school bags, warning of further infestations. Yet. They are as inevitable as requests for donations for school events. Let's hope it stays that way. If you do get unlucky, Linicin have a 10 minute shampo and a 15 minute lotion that will rid you of the little blighters.

Right, I'm done now. You can stop scratching.

(I was sent a bottle of Linicin Prevent Spray to review and I have not been paid any other compensation. All words and opinions are my own and I have not been told what to write.)

Getting in the Hallowe'en spirit

Hallowe'en has changed a lot since I was a kid. I remember learning about witches and making pictures but trick or treating was a strange custom they did in the USA when I was small. I think I was pretty grown up before I even heard of it happening here, but it seems like it's the norm these days. I'm really in two minds about it - I think it can be great fun for children and I don't mind joining in if the children are just out to get as many sweets as possible - that'll be my two then - but I don't like the ones that are quite obviously out for money and are vaguely intimidating if you don't offer coins. I mean, what the hell? I am not made of money. There are times I've sat in the living room with all the lights off in the front of the house and ignored the door. Yes, I know, I'm a killjoy - what of it?

The children love Hallowe'en. A couple of years ago, they got to go trick or treating for the first time, round at some friends who live on an estate where nearly everyone does it. Their friend's dad dressed up in an inflatable pumpkin and I don't think I've ever laughed so much in my life. My friend and I trailed round the estate with 5 children under the age of 5, knocking on all the doors. The children got so many sweets, they lasted until Christmas! They've been to Hallowe'en parties and the school, not being religious, holds Hallowe'en discos as fundraisers just before they close for half term.

This year, I've been sent a few things for Hallowe'en next Monday. I can't decide if we're going to go trick or treating as it's a school night but we have plenty of things in now to be able to mark the occasion. First, Poundland set me a Hallowe'en challenge to see how much I could buy with £10 vouchers that they kindly sent me. They were especially generous because somehow, I also got an envelope full of Hallowe'en tinsel, deely boppers with spiders, a witch's hat, a themed wine "glass" and some frog's leg sweets!

So, off to the local store we went. The children loved that they could choose things and actually buy them. (Can you tell I'm Mean Mummy?) We got:

- 2 flashing ghost lights
- 2 Simpsons Hallowe'en mugs
- Skeleton party straws
- Critters party decorations
- Jewelled ring
- 3 packs of Hallowe'en sweets

As the Hallowe'en items apart from the sweets were on 6 for £5, we had a pound left over. What did we buy? A book on times tables, at Monkey's request. Seriously! Poundland have pretty much everything, including some costumes in the smaller children's sizes, masks, all your partyware, sweets and decorations. We're sorted now for Hallowe'en; I might actually bother to answer the door to trick or treaters this year.

Something else we have been sent are a couple of items to try by Dr Oetker for a spot of Hallowe'en baking. They've sent me a bat cookie kit and some gel food colouring. I'm thinking of using the gel colouring to make a Hallowe'en version of my Neapolitan marble cake from last week for the day itself but we've made (and, er, eaten!) the bat cookies. The kit contains everything you need to make the cookies apart from 85g butter. You just rub the butter into the mix and bring it into a ball, then roll it out and use the bat cutter to cut out your shapes. I think my butter might have been a bit too soft as the dough was very crumbly. I tried bunging it in the freezer for a few minutes which helped a bit but my, it was fun trying to keep the shapes intact and onto the baking sheet.

Once the cookies were baked and cooled, there's also black writing icing to draw features on your bat. We've all had a go - and I discovered that writing icing takes a bit of warming up to work properly and you need to be slightly patient with it to get your designs drawn. I think my husband found his calling and did the best design on the bat:



(The upside down ones are mine, and the children's efforts are on the left hand side!).

As I said, the cookies didn't last very long - we had an afternoon cuppa (milk or juice for the children) and they were gone! They are shortbread like in texture: I made 8 whereas the pack said it made 6, but I thought the thinner ones were better as they were crisper. I would have rolled the dough out thinner had I been able to roll it out better so 8 is probably conservative.

I may not be a huge fan of Hallowe'en, but I think we're all more in the spirit of it this year.

(I was sent the items mentioned above by Poundland and Dr Oetker and I have received no other compensation. All opinions and words are my own, and I retain full editorial control.)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A trip to the National Railway Museum

The Duchess of Hamilton
Our busy half-term weekend continued on Sunday when we were invited to York to visit the National Railway Museum. We were there as VIPs, which actually was rather lovely. That meant for us that we had access to their car park, which at £9 a day, is quite expensive but then, it is York after all. If you're on a budget however, York has numerous park and ride sites around the city and it's £2.30 return per adult to travel, with up to two children under 16 travelling free per paying adult. The children, Monkey in particular, would have preferred to go in on the bus as they are bendy buses, which convinced him that we were, of course, in Barcelona. Nice logic, but I think the weather was a bit cool in comparison with Catalunya.

Once at the NRM, entrance is free for all, although you can buy a guide costing £5. As VIPs, this cost us nothing, but I must admit, I didn't have chance to read it until we got home because I was on my own with the children due to husband working, and needed eyes in the back of my head! Some activities cost extra but we had vouchers to cover the cost of them as a VIP group.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday - the half term version



Yes, it's half term but you already knew that, didn't you? The children are off school and off on adventures. We've already had one or two and we have a few more lined up for them. One of them is the children are going to Blackpool tonight to stay with their grandparents so they can go see the illuminations. We're off to London on Friday too. I'm trying to ensure we eat well but some of the time, cooking might not be top priority. I've been asked to provide carbs as my husband is in his final stages of preparing for a 3 day run along the Ridgeway in November and is doing some long runs. It's also high time I started breaking out the slow cooker a lot more so a couple of slow cooker dishes make it in this week.

Here's this week's meals anyway.

Monday - Salmon pesto pasta
Tuesday - Lightly spiced slow cooker beef with mash
Wednesday - Mexican Ranch style eggs
Thursday - Slow cooker lamb curry with naan
Friday - Leaving free
Saturday - Bacon and pepper frittata
Sunday - Roast chicken

Now all you have to do is tell me what you're having this week, then pop over to Mrs M's blog to check out the other entries in this week's Meal Planning Monday.

And happy half term!


Sunday, 23 October 2011

In which Netmums send me behind enemy lines

I've been to hundreds of football matches. I reckon the tally is into the two hundreds, but could be more. I had a season ticket at football for 6 years, right until Monkey was born. I have been to away matches too and as I started going to matches in the 90s, I've been to some right holes. Things have changed considerably over the last 10 - 15 years.

Since having the children, my attendance at matches has been a lot more sporadic, mainly due to finances. One of my first posts on this blog was about taking Monkey to his first ever live match. His second was to Wembley! Last year, he had a season ticket for Blackpool, which amazingly, was free for him as he's under 8. He's even been to the Nou Camp in Barcelona and we've taken both children to an England U21 match at Deepdale. We're not afraid to take children to football and have generally had good experiences.

When I heard that Netmums were looking for bloggers to review events in the Family Football Festival, I was interested but sadly, Preston weren't on the list. However, we then discovered that one of the matches was Huddersfield Town v Preston and as the children had been pestering me to go to a match again, I volunteered to go and review, even if it meant I had to sit in the home end. I warned the children we would have to keep quiet if Preston scored.

Having read fellow bloggers' reviews and hearing about their experiences, I was quite looking forward to it. Keen to make a good impression, clubs have been welcoming them with open arms and showing them the best they have to offer. It was certainly a great day for going to a football match - dry, clear and neither too warm or too cold. Perfect.

Terry the Terrier
I went to the Galpharm once or twice in the years BC. The stadium announcer said it was ten years since we last played each other, so the ground was still the McAlpine then. As an away fan, I thought it was quite a nice ground but I didn't have children then, which can alter your perception.

We got to the ground after navigating some odd diversions around the town. The nearest car park was permit only but the staff allowed me in to get to the ticket office to collect my tickets because there appeared to be no other way to access the ticket office. Alarm bells started ringing when I noticed that we were in row YY of the stand. Never mind... I took the children back to a local pub to get them lunch, whereupon we became stymied by the service which took 15 minutes to produce 2 iced lollies for the children's treat. I had been intending to park there (and note, I do this at Preston and am happy to pay if necessary) but I was warned it was not allowed. Even though the car park looked nowhere near full and there were no clamping signs up, so I decided not to risk it because of being with the children.

So, we get back in the car, and I try to locate parking. Well, let me tell you, parking was a nightmare. Other bloggers visiting other clubs were offered parking spaces and it would have been lovely to have been offered it here. I fully accept that real families visiting wouldn't get offered this normally so we got to experience what any family would, and it wasn't pretty or enjoyable. I drove down a road signposted for stadium parking but every car park was either permits only or was full. A retail park was nearly empty but big threatening signs bode badly for clamping and after driving around for another 5 or 10 minutes, we finally found a space of sorts at the bottom of an industrial estate which was 10 minutes away.

By the time we were back at the ground, it was twenty minutes before match time. I looked for the family festival activities but saw none, which is odd as I approached the ground on the side of the family stand and you'd think they would be there, but no. We saw the club mascot, Terry the Terrier, and a lady offered the children "Let's kick racism out of football" stickers, leading to an interesting conversation with the children about what racism was. As we walked in, Monkey said to me in a low voice, "Mummy, stand up if Huddersfield score." Bless.

Those steps
We had to go up a number of flights of stairs to get to the family stand. There was a lift, but it said it was not for public use. Nice. But that was nothing compared to what greeted us when we walked in to find our seats. Really quite steep stairs, with no handrails. Family friendly? Hmm, not sure about that. It really struck me as odd, given there are stands which are less steep around the ground. And I've been closer to the pitch at the Nou Camp!

I began to doubt that we had been put in the family section, so much so that I asked the family in front if it was. The look on their faces suggested they agreed with me in a kind of resigned way. I mentioned the football festival to them and they said they had seen a penalty shootout competition if you approached the ground from the other side. This couple had very small children with them and I noticed they left early which meant they had time to walk their children down the very steep steps slowly without being knocked over. The fear of falling is very real - Missy told me she nearly slipped as we descended the steps for half time, but luckily by then, we had reached the small section that had handrails and she was able to grab it to stop herself falling.

Some football! Yes, we did see some, played by Huddersfield mostly.
Onto the match. Oh dear. I don't think I can look at the highlights, PNE were that awful, but it was a pretty good game, which I would have enjoyed more had I been a neutral. And for the record, I never did stand once when Huddersfield scored. Three times. And I had to keep quiet when we did get a consolation, then nearly score a second. Monkey got right into it and clapped and cheered like he was a home fan. That child doesn't care who he supports. Turncoat!

Missy enjoyed the football.
The stand didn't seem family orientated at all, although I believe they may have given away a lot of tickets to schools for this match. There were a lot of adult only groups around us. The group at the back were constantly told to sit down and I was constantly on watch in case any swears came our way. They didn't; at least I don't think they did. Missy still doesn't totally get football - she spent some time during the first half doing her sticker book!

At half time, we went to get a drink. At £5.60 for a bottle of Diet Coke, 2 Capri Suns and a packet of crisps, I found it extremely expensive and certainly not something families would indulge in regularly, especially as none of it is particularly extravagant.

When we returned, I managed to find some spare seats a bit lower down so we didn't have to climb those steps again. The benefit of being higher up was we were shaded longer from the sun but as the sun descended, it got in all our eyes, even with sunglasses on. The second half was better for me because of the goals and it did look for a while like we were getting right back into it, but when we didn't, I made sure we left early so we didn't have to deal with the stairs in the post-match scrum. I noticed that most of the families with small children did the same. Monkey and Missy Woo did behave really well and they seemed to enjoy themselves.

As a parent, however, I didn't. I really wanted to have a great time and I think the Family Football Festival is a great idea. I praise the Lord that I didn't tell the children there would be lots to do, because if there was, it was well hidden. The family stand is not really family friendly at all, given there are other parts of the ground that could better serve families with younger children than that stand, which must have some of the steepest steps I've had to climb in an English football stadium. I cannot understand it - it's almost like whoever designated that for families has either never had small children, or has forgotten what it was like to have them. What also seems strange is allocating someone who is coming to do a review centred around your family friendliness tickets right at the top, like it was some kind of afterthought. That said, if that is how they treat paying families, then I guess we got the full experience. I have tried looking on the club website to see if there is any information that I might have missed but there is precious little there directed specifically about families.

All in all, it led me to conclude that Huddersfield Town pay lip service to being family friendly rather than actually going all out to be properly attractive to families. That is a damned shame - the younger you get fans involved, the more likely it is that they will keep coming. And with people being short of money these days, clubs are going to have to offer wonderful, value for money experiences if families are going to spend their cash on a football match. I'm really sad that I've had to write a negative review because I love football and I want families who haven't experienced a live match to give it a try because, when it's good, it's thrilling, captivating and fun. I really hope that someone from Huddersfield Town reads this review and takes on board what I have to say - I am happy to talk to them further if they wish. And I am not writing this because my team lost. The die was cast before a ball was kicked and this review would have been no better had PNE won, even though I would have enjoyed the game more. I'd take my children back to the Galpharm, but I'd stick to the away end this time. I went behind enemy lines - and I felt sorry for the enemy.

Finally, if you do think about taking children to a football match, I have some tips for you.
  • Take a small rucksack, filled with small (silent) toys or books and perhaps an iPod or portable radio as younger children will get bored, even if it's a great match. 
  • Taking your own food and drink would not be a bad idea either. Most clubs allow it to be taken in.
  • Wear layers, lots of them. There is nothing worse than being cold at a match.
  • During winter, always take hats and gloves. It will be dark before the end of a 3pm kick off, even if it is a nice day.
  • Check your seat is fully under cover or you could get wet. In most stands, the front few rows can be exposed to wet weather. 
  • Whilst front row seats sound fantastic, small children often can't see much from ground level. 7 to 8 rows back allows children a better view of the game as a whole. (Edited to add - seats right next to an aisle are also a good idea, so check where the seats are going to be before you buy!)
  • Try and give yourself as much time as you can to get there. 
  • Toilets get busy at half time so pop down early if you can, especially if you have recently toilet trained. 
I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network. I am paid an expenses fee to cover my time but Netmums have no editorial control whatsoever about what I blog about. Being a member of the Netmums Blogging Network means that I get to try out products and brands and get my expenses covered but that I retain full editorial integrity.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Neapolitan marble cake - a touch retro!


This week has been National Baking Week so we've all been baking, haven't we? Well, I have. I made an apple crumble on Monday for dessert and even though I do say so myself, it was gorgeous. And then, I had my first Clandestine Cake Club experience. Click on the link if you want to know more, but basically, people bake cakes (sometimes fitting a theme) and turn up at a venue - sometimes people's houses, sometimes a local coffee shop - with their cake and possibly a guest, drink coffee or tea and eat cake. What is not to like, I ask you?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Life Circle - Goal Setting and Week 4

Life CircleBeen a bit of a hard think this one, but here are my goals based on what I've learned from these exercises so far.

1. Lose weight - to reach a size 12 by Christmas.
2. Earn £300 per week within a year.
3. Complete redecoration and repairs on the house within 18 months.

They are a slight mix of things but looking back, they really reflect what I want to focus on for the moment. They are all medium term goals. I've not listed any longer term goals, because personally, I think it can be a mistake to have too many goals that you feel you're working on all at once, as there is a danger of feeling overwhelmed. I'm committed to these goals, although these goals may need some refinement.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Toyologist Competition - Win a Pinypon Giftset Travel Pack

This month's competition is a lovely toy for little girls. The Pinypon Travel pack includes 2 dolls, a poodle (cos it's the Paris version), over 30 accessories and 3 postcards. It's worth £11.99 and suitable for ages 4 and over.

If you want to enter to win and already follow this blog, leave a comment below and tell me, as this toy is travel-themed, what your favourite place to travel to with children is. Don't forget to leave a valid method of contact - either email or twitter ID. I've had to redraw prizes before now because people don't respond.

If you would like a second entry, which is entirely optional, then tweet "Fancy winning a Pinypon toy for your little girl? Enter @kateab's competition like me! http://bit.ly/qTxYUf" THEN leave a separate comment to say you have done.

Don't forget to like the Toys R Us UK Facebook page (not a condition of entry) - it will keep you up to date with new reviews and competitions.

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below, saying what is your favourite place to travel to with children along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win.
An additional entry can be gained by tweeting as stated above.
Please ensure follow this blog via RSS, email, Facebook or Twitter.
Maximum two entries per person - multiple entries will be discarded.
The prize is a Dyson Pinypon Giftset Travel Pack (Paris).
The competition closes on Tuesday 25th October 2011 at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address and contact telephone number within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn. The prize will be sent out by Toys R Us after 1st November. UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.

Good luck everyone!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday


Last week did go vaguely to plan although Saturday got swopped to Sunday thanks to Monkey going to his friend's for tea. The toad in the hole and cheesy fish pie was lovely, as was the butternut squash and coconut curry.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Confidence trick

It's fascinating watching your children growing up and watching their personalities develop. The differences between the two are amazing. Where Monkey is volatile and will blow up over the slightest thing sometimes, Missy Woo is calm and relatively pragmatic.

There is one area where I spot a difference in their personalities and it slightly disturbs me. It manifests itself largely when they practice their reading at home with us, and I wonder if it is noticeable at school.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Life Circle - The Life Plan and Week 3

Life Circle So, this week, we're all writing our life plans. I'm going to share with you as much of mine as you will read. Remember, it's our ideal lives we're talking about so it's all going to be good, right? Right?!

Starting from furthest away, we'll start with five years from now. By then, Monkey will be 11 and Missy Woo 10. Monkey will have just started at high school, one that we believe is right for him. Missy will be in Year 6 and due to follow her brother the following year. (And yes, it's my life and I've started talking about my children; they are an important part of my life).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

My collection

When I was prompted to think about this, I thought I was averse to collections and collecting. This goes back to when I was about 10 or 11 and my mum was friends with a local hairdresser who I sometimes "babysat" for. (I'd be upstairs in their flat, watching her daughter, whilst she was downstairs in her salon.) She was a strange personality, and quite snobbish - which is some going for a hairdresser who lived above her shop. When she gave me this book - I can't remember the occasion - she told me, "I want to see something good out of this." My mind froze as to what I might collect but the book was pretty. I never started a collection. At home, a terraced house lived in by 6 people, there just wasn't the space to collect things endlessly, certainly not of any size. I may have dabbled in stamps at one stage almost as a rite of passage, but I could never say I actually collected anything. Mary would probably have not been best pleased but I'm not sure I cared.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday


Well, as you know, last week I tried out one of the 5 for £20 evening meal plans that Sainsbury's have been promoting. I thought, before I went on to what we're eating this week, that I'd talk about how it went.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The breakfast of princes (or princesses...) You could win one too!

I'm a stickler for breakfast. I do not understand how anyone can not eat it - even if you're not feeling hungry, you can still manage a little something, can't you? We tend to give the children cereal these days because they get toast at school at break time (provided I remember to pay the toast money and not walk off and go to Manchester with the envelopes in my pocket, realising just as my train arrives in the station. Ahem.) Cereal is quick and it's cheap, but it doesn't add to their 5 a day, does it?

Princes sent me a lovely breakfast box last week full of lots of tinned fruit and their fruit juices and some other goodies. Of course, why didn't I think of adding tinned fruit for breakfast? It's great because it doesn't go off like the fruit in your fruit  bowl can and it works out cheaper. Using tinned fruit takes me back to my youth so it's kind of nostalgic about it. It turns out my husband loves the pear halves - and as most pears go from rock solid to beyond use in a blink of an eye, they are about the only way you can use pears consistently. The children love fruit juice with their cereal - which can also count as one of their 5 a day. 

When the hamper first arrived, the children were very excited to see what was in it. As always. Monkey, whose reading ability is coming on leaps and bounds, read the tins as "Princess" so I had to tell him the correct name. Hubby later confessed to me that he always used to think they were called that!

You might spot in the hamper something that looks like a watch. It's a heart rate monitor. Princes sent me that as a bit of an experiment to test my heart rate during the morning routine including the school run to see how stressed I got during that time. Now, I am lucky in that my husband works shifts and does the school run for me quite a bit, thus removing the stress of that time on those days but on other days, I fly solo and it can be stressful if one of the children decide they are not playing ball. 

I monitored my heart rate during the school run for four days over the last week. I found that my average heart rate during that time was more than 35% higher than when I'm resting and relaxed - although admittedly, some of that could be explained by walking and general movement, but the shocking thing was how high my heart rate could get. The highest it got to was 214 bpm - shouldn't I be dead? Admittedly, that was the day I was off to London to the MADs almost straight after the school run and at least one point, Monkey had a tantrum. One of my other days was the same morning I was being interviewed on the radio - but I made sure I didn't put my heart monitor on until after the interview! I'll be very interested to see the results for the other mums taking part in the experiment. 

And now, you've got the chance to win a Princes breakfast box too. It won't include the heart rate monitor but it will include a set of six bowls and six tumblers, table placemats, an alarm clock, a colouring book to entertain the kids, a relaxing candle for the mums, money-off coupons and, of course, a range of Princes canned fruit – including grapefruit segments, peach slices, pear halves, fruit cocktail, pineapple chunks and mandarin segments – and Princes pure juices.

To be in with a chance of winning, leave me a comment below and tell me about your most stressful moment on the school run. Please ensure that you're following the blog via RSS (orange jellybean), email (red jellybean), or facebook (the darker blue jellybean!) and that you leave me a valid means of contact  = either email address or twitter ID. 

Terms and conditions

To enter, leave a comment below as specified along with a valid contact email address or Twitter ID, which will be used to contact you if you win and follow this blog via RSS, email, or Facebook.
One entry per person - multiple entries will be discarded.
The prize is a Princes breakfast box.
The competition closes on Friday 14th October at 8pm.
The winner will be drawn at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be contacted that evening and asked to provide a postal address within 48 hours or the winner will be re-drawn. UK entrants only.
There is no cash alternative.

Good luck everyone!

(Princes sent me a breakfast box and a heart rate monitor. I have not received any further compensation and all opinions are my own.)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

My radio debut. Not quite a radio star.

Quick blog post before bed!

I was invited to be interviewed over the phone to talk about blogging on the local radio station, BBC Radio Lancashire. It all came about when they started following me on twitter and I made a funny comment about them wanting to find out what bloggers got up to in their spare time and that actually my life was dull!

The next day they DMd me and asked me to call them. Before I know it, they're asking me to appear on the radio the next morning. I accepted and then thought "What have I done?"

Anyhow, I got up early the next morning and they rang me a few minutes before. I was only on air talking to Graham Liver for about 5 minutes and I don't think I made a fool of myself. I got some good feedback on Twitter from my followers anyway.

If you want to hear it, the programme is on iplayer until Tuesday 11th so you can listen in here. I'm on from about 85 minutes in. I still haven't listened to myself back as I hate listening to my voice, but apparently I'm posh. Really? I love that I got introduced as a Lancashire-based author. It made me sound important!

Listen in if you fancy. But I'm a radio star now. (Not)

Life Circle - Week 2

Life Circle Time to set another task! Boy, that has come round quick. I hope you found doing the Wheel of Life useful last week. The comments I've received suggest that you did and hopefully it identified some areas for you to work on. Thanks to everyone that took part and hello to those who are reading but not necessarily taking part. Although it helps to do all the tasks, you don't have to take part in everything and I really won't mind if you join in later or for a particular task. If you can offer other participants support and constructive comments, I know they will appreciate it.

What we are going to do this week is think a little longer term. We're going to work on the start of a Life Plan. Now, even to me, that sounds horribly organised and a bit control freaky but trust me on this. It won't be the 43 page life plan document that I saw a woman appearing on a television programme referring to a few years back. It will be what you want to make of it, because this is YOUR life.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Are you still watching this space? My night at the MADs and THAT dress!

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's four whole days since the MAD Blog Awards ceremony in London and I've neglected to show you my dress and tell you about my big night out.

So I arrived in London at lunchtime and checked into our hotel before going for a group tapas late lunch. It was a bit rushed as they didn't seem able to cope with large numbers and then Nickie told me that the hairdresser was due to arrive back at the hotel. We found the hairdresser hanging around outside and I went off to have a quick shower whilst he did the hair of my roommate, Lindy. The hairdresser,  Adam from Electric Hairdressing, dried and straightened my hair and generally made me look presentable once I was dressed in my lovely dress. When he was done, I barely had time to do anything because it was time to get cabs to the awards ceremony at Talk Talk's Customer Experience Centre in Soho.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Meal Planning Monday - the 5 for £20 edition!


Time for a different style of post this week again. I'm testing out one of Sainsbury's 5 for £20 meal plans this week. The idea is that the meal plans will provide 5 family meals (for 4) for just £20. Seems amazing in the times we're living in, doesn't it In order to prove it, Sainsbury's have sent me a £20 gift card to give it a go and see how I get on.

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