1. Car Boot Sale!

    Saturday, June 30, 2007


    Despite the weather, we had a really great morning at a local car boot sale! It was just a small, simple one in the car park of our local community centre, but we bagged some great bargains, including this hat and coat for my little Angel:




    They're pure wool, absolutely gorgeous! And the best thing was that they were only 20p, for the set! Can you believe that?

    I also found some bargain books: The Cat in the Hat (and also his return), and Sarah Waters' Night watch in hardback for me, which were only 10p each. We went with a pocketful of change and only spend about £3 in all, though we all came back happy!

    When the weather is warmer, we sometimes go to the major car boot sales out in the country, which can take hours to walk around! These sales are such a good place for bargain buys: we've built up a huge collection of Disney videos this way as they're usually around 50p each (whereas new ones are upwards of £10 in the shops), and always look out for mirrors, beautiful vases, fittings and other household stuff that we can buy for next to nothing.

    If you ever fancy trying a car boot sale yourself, here's a few tips to get the most out of it:
    • Wear old shoes and trousers: car boot sales can be very muddy!
    • Have lots of loose change. When things cost 10p, you don't want to ask for change from a £20 note! Also, it's easier to barter when you have the right money!
    • Barter for everything! There are no fixed prices at car boot sales, and sellers almost always tell you a price higher than they will accept (even if it is already cheap!)
    • Take carrier bags, as sellers often run out!
    • Go very early if you want to find the best sales. Later in the day, such treasures will have already been snapped up!
    • Go quite late if you are looking for cheap bargains: as sellers are packing up, they are much more likely to sell you that beautiful green glass vase for 20p when their earlier asking price was £2!
    • Similarly, going on a day when the weather's bad will help you bag the bargains, as sellers just want to get rid of their stuff and go home!

    Car boot sales are great for buying kids toys too. Last year, money was a bit short so we went to the sales just before the kids birthdays and found loads of great stuff they wanted which we otherwise couldn't afford. Clothes in every shape, size and design are found in plenty, so if you don't mind laundering second-hand clothes, there are designer bargains galore.

    If you want to find listings of car boot sales in your ares, try CarBootCalendar.com which features all major UK car boot sales, flea markets and antiques fairs. Friday Ads also have regular listings of such sales and you can narrow your search by postcode.

    An alternative, If you prefer to keep your boots clean, is to visit visit ibootsale from the comfort of your own home! You can even list items for free if there are things lying about at home that you want to get rid of.

    Do let me know if you're a lover of car boot sales too by leaving your comments below. And if you're a CBS virgin, why not go out and visit one with the kids? It's a very cheap day out!

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  2. My dyskaryosis treatment

    Friday, June 29, 2007
    A while back, a routine smear showed that I had abnormal cells: a pre-cancerous condition called dyskaryosis. I panicked at first, as I'm sure many women do when their smear results show abnormalities. After all, we don't often discuss our private female parts!

    I was more than relieved to learn that dyskaryosis is not cancer, merely a condition which could become cancerous if left untreated for a number of years. Ten to fifteen years, as the doctors explained, though of course I wasn't taking any chances! I was referred to the hospital for a colposcopy (a detailed examination of the cervix) in order to find the most appropriate course of treatment. For me, this meant removing the affected cells using a treatment called diathermic loop: where heat is passed through a loop-type instrument to cut away the bad parts and cauterise the skin to prevent bleeding and infection.

    It may sound painful, but believe me it wasn't! I had my treatment yesterday, and I wonder now why I'd got so worked up about the treatment in the first place! After the initial consultation and explanations, the treatment itself only lasted a matter of minutes and I barely felt a thing. Just a little aching and light headedness. I still ache a little now, and was told to expect some bleeding for the next few weeks until all is healed. No tampons, bubble bath or sex for a whole month, but this is a small price to pay for peace of mind, I'm sure!

    For the next few years, I'll need smears more regularly than usual, just to make sure the problem doesn't return. And if it does, early detection will ensure it is most easily treated!

    Most instances of cervical cancer occur because women have "slipped through the net" and haven't been screened as regularly as they could be. So, if it's been a long time since your last smear, please do yourself a favor and have one done. I know they're not pleasant and most uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I'm sure you'd prefer to know you are healthy, or discover a small problem which can be easily treated, than leave it too long and discover the worst!

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  3. The great Sheffield flood...

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    This video may give you an idea of the great floods we have been experiencing here in Sheffield. My family and I have all been very lucky: our homes and businesses have escaped most of the flood damage and danger. For those whose homes have been wrecked by the bursting rivers, and those families tragically devastated by death and injury, I offer my heartfelt prayers.

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  4. Tasty Tuesdays: Quick Kiddie Carbonara

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Continuing my Tasty Tuesdays series of quick, simple dishes, I'd like to present you with a really easy recipe my kids love to eat: Quick Kiddie Carbonara. Okay, so it isn't strictly carbonara since it doesn't involve making any tricky sauces, but it's fast, fun and good for them. So why not give it a try?

    Here's what you'll need to serve four hungry people (halve these amounts of you're only cooking for two):

    • A packet of spaghetti (or your preferred pasta)
    • Four rashers of lean bacon (we use turkey bacon instead) chopped into bite sized pieces.
    • A cup of grated cheddar cheese
    • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
    • A knob of butter (or a drizzle of olive oil)
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    And here's how to make it:

    1. Boil your pasta as directed (the time will change depending on the type of pasta used)
    2. Fry the bacon in just a little oil until they are cooked. You could grill them, but be sure not to make them too crispy!
    3. When the pasta is cooked, rinse with hot water from the kettle, drain and transfer to a big bowl.
    4. Add a knob of butter (or a drizzle of olive oil), the mayonnaise and chopped bacon rashers. Mix well. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. You could always omit this step for the kids, and season only the grown-ups portions instead!
    5. Share between four bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Enjoy!

    You could make varieties of this using different ingredients instead of the bacon. We've tried and tested canned tuna and cooked chicken breast, which are also heartily enjoyed in this recipe. The kids love to help me cook this as it's simple enough for them to do a lot of the preparation themselves!

    Next week, I'll be posting a recipe for us parents to enjoy. In the meantime, why not have a look at previous Tasty Tuesday recipes for more simple recipe ideas?

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  5. Things to help you feel better on a rainy day

    Monday, June 25, 2007

    Here in Sheffield we've had the worst rainfall in many years. We've been issued severe flood warnings, rivers have burst their banks, traffic is at a standstill, and several people have been hospitalised due to the floods.

    But it's not all doom and gloom! Safe at home we've been devising a list of things to do on a rainy day, to help you and your little ones feel much more cheerful amidst the rainclouds!

    Here's what we've come up with so far:


    • Find an old shoe box and fill it with bits and pieces from around the house (scraps of paper, magazine cuttings, unused fabric, feathers, stickers, etc.). Let the kids decorate the box with all the bits and pieces you've found. This can become your "rainy day box"!

    • Get dressed up in all your waterproofs and wellingtons, then have fun splashing around in puddles!

    • Venture into the back garden to find snails. The kids can have great fun seeing how many snails they can find, comparing the shells etc.

    • Find some pictures or postcards of warm sunny locations and make a collage.

    • Then, the kids could get dressed up in summery clothes and pretend they are on holiday instead!

    • Create a rain-themed karaoke with any "rainy day" songs you can find (eg: "singing in the rain", "When it's raining it's raining", "Sunshine on a rainy day"). Or just sing nursery rhymes about the rain instead (Mama Lisa has some great ones here)

    We've stuck this list to the inside of our "rainy day box" with room to add more as we think of them. Then next time it rains, we can be sure the kids won't be bored!


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  6. Introducing Blogger Buster

    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    I love blogging, and since I've been asked so many questions about the customisations I made to this blog, I decided to start another: Blogger Buster!

    My new blog is solely about blogging, featuring posts about customisations, domains, SEO, widgets and loads of other blogging inspired posts. I'm no expert at blogging, but I do like to help others out when I can, so my posts are about things that I've tried and successfully accomplished myself.

    You can see my new blog here:


    Please let me know what you think, or if there's a specific blogging question you'd like me to try and answer in a post!

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  7. I wish he'd thought of that in the first place!

    Saturday, June 23, 2007
    I'd almost finished decorating the bathroom. Three weeks, it has taken me to get most things done, since I only had an hour or two at a time, when Little Angel wasn't around to put hand prints all over my newly painted walls. All that was left was putting up the waterproof paper on the back wall.

    Then Hubby Dearest had a brainwave: "I think we should move the sink and the radiator around." Yes, it was a good idea: the sink was underneath the window, so we couldn't have a mirror on place for shaving/make-up and the like. Great, fair enough. Except this means that I have to redo most of the painting again, once the walls have been re plastered!!

    And he did it, which surprised me immensely since we're also creating a "patio" on the back garden, and I didn't think he could manage two major household projects at once! So now I'm almost back to where I started, and need to do all the painting again. At least the layout looks miles better than it did! What's more, Hubby has finally become interested in the finished look: he's chosen some bathroom cabinets and fittings for when it's all complete, and has even bought the floor covering I had my eye on!

    Thanks, darling! I do love you, you know :)

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  8. Can your household become 90% greener?

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Over at Simple Living, Miranda, Sharon and other participants have set themselves a very honourable task: to cut their personal carbon emissions by 90% of that of the average American: the approximate amount people in the rich world need to reduce by in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

    Anyone can join in this task by linking to the Simple Living blog or commenting on their posts. Their blog features loads of great energy saving tips which not only help save the environment but will also drastically cut down on household and utility bills too! What a great idea!

    The goal is to cut down to 90% of the average American's emissions over the course of a year (or your country's average emissions if you don't live in the US). What with our family's reduction on amenities and such lately, I do believe that we're already below the UK average, though I'll certainly be reading through Simple Living's advice to see what else we can do to reduce even more. It would certainly be a difficult feat for us to reduce by 90%, but as the video shows, there are a great many ways we can help protect the environment simply by making different choices about the way we live our lives.

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  9. My Blogging Story!

    Thursday, June 21, 2007
    Chili over at Don't Try This At Home, has passed out an invitation to all bloggers to write their own blogging story. And lately, blogging is something I love to talk about at every opportunity, so I just couldn't resist writing my own! The story is based on a series of questions about how you began blogging, your motivations and readership. Once you've read this, why not hop on over to read Chili's post and see what others have to say too? I've found some really great reads from her Mr. Linky...

    Anyway, here is my own blogging story:

    How did you start blogging?

    I "discovered" blogging a little over three years ago, when researching material for a creative writing project. It was Blogger's caption: "Push button publishing" which inspired me to read more. Then I realised that I could actually write for the web, that anyone could (and perhaps would) read what I wrote. And comment on it. And link back to me! In effect, discovering Blogger was like opening a can of worms: I immediately became addicted, started my account, and created my first blog: The Urban Kunoichi.

    After a little while, I realised there was much more to blogging than a Blogspot could (then) currently offer, and so I migrated over to Wordpress, and bought my own domain. Now, of course, Blogger is a much better blog hosting company, which is why my two new blogs are hosted over here. More about that later...

    Did you intend to be a blog w/a big following? If so, how did you go about it?

    To answer this, I'd have to say that I hoped to be a blog with a reasonable following, but in no way expected that I would be. In fact it took quite a long time to get a regular readership, and even now, my oldest blog doesn't have too many subscribers, though it does receive quite a few hits from search engines.

    In regard to my two newer blogs: Glamumous! and Blogger Buster, then the answer is "yes": I did set up these blogs to attract a readership. These days I know a little more about blogging, web design, SEO and such, so I've implemented some tactics such as joining blogging communities, posting daily, and giving a lot of link love to other blogs I admire.

    I want to write posts that people want to read! This is especially true of my Blogger Buster blog, which is all about blogging, and my way of sharing the knowledge in this subject with others who might need it. I love to help others out, and blogging is my favorite hobby!

    What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?

    My goals for my old blog were simply to write on subjects I enjoyed writing about, and to have my posts read. I think I achieved this to the extent I was willing to push it at the time.

    With Glamumous, my plans were somewhat different: this blog is more personal: it's about being a wife and mother, keeping house and family and staying sane. As well as attracting a readership, I wanted to have an outlet for my feelings at a time when I was feeling somewhat confused about what I wanted from life. Although I'll never talk in my blog about those issues which concerned me as I started to write, I do honestly feel that writing Glamumous has helped me feel better about myself and change the things that needed it.

    Blogger Buster can be seen as an offshoot of Glamumous: after a few of my Custom Blogger posts attracted some attention, I began to realise that writing a blog about blogging would be a great way to attract a readership, and a way to help others by sharing information about the tips and tricks which have helped me. Blogger Buster is a very new blog, and only time will tell if I am successful at achieving my goals!

    Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?

    The answer above may well answer most of that question! But there is one more thing I may as well add. A few weeks ago, I discovered Dooce (you know, the blogger who became infamous when she was sacked for blogging about her colleagues?), and something I read in her "about" section really caught my attention: her blog generates enough from advertising to support her and her family! They don't have to go out to work, and can still pay all the bills, keep a beautiful house, maintain a car and probably go on holiday too!

    I know it's about as likely that I'll ever be able to do that as winning the lottery! Yet it gave me hope that if my blogs become popular, my ads may pay off a little bit so I might be able to afford the odd weekend away, or a pair of shoes I don't actually need!

    In the meantime, I know I'll need to put in a lot of hard work!

    What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?

    Put lots of link love out there; read other people's blog's regularly and comment on them; write for your readers if you want them to come back. And if you ever plan on having a custom domain for your blog, do it early on! Otherwise you'll have to try and let all your readers/blog rings/directories/etc know your new blog address, and it can be a real drag!

    Do you make money with your blog?

    At the moment, I make pocket change from the Google ads on my oldest blog (just about enough to cover the hosting fees!), but as yet I haven't made anything from Glamumous and Blogger Buster. I would like to though, and have already put the ads in place because I wouldn't want them to "suddenly" appear!

    I do try to make the ads relevant to my readers though! On Glamumous, you'll find more affiliate links, since the Google ones didn't match up to my expectations (probably because it's still so new!), and I'm still working on those at Blogger Buster. After all the hard work and effort I put into my blogs, I don't think it's a sell out to include ads; if they even pay enough to cover their domain registrations and a Starbucks coffee every now and again, I'll be a very happy bunny!

    Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?

    Hmm, tricky question. My sister and Dad know about my blog and sometimes read it. Hubby Dearest knows I run websites (as he explains it), but doesn't really know much about blogs or blogging. He doesn't seem particularly interested in reading it, probably because he doesn't spend a fraction of the time online that I do! One thing I ensure each time I post is that no-one (including myself) would ever be offended or troubled by what I write, either now or at any time in the future.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any friends or family who blog (though I am still trying to remedy this!). I would like people I know to be more interested in blogs, especially mine of course, but it seems that "blogging" isn't yet a growing trend in my social circles.

    What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?
    1. Write about the things you enjoy writing about, be it your family, your favorite hobby or your latest business venture! If you enjoy your subject, you are much more likely to stick at it, write better posts and attract a readership through your passionate writing!
    2. Don't expect to be a success straight away! For a blog to become popular, it needs lots of hard work, time and effort before a readership will arrive! Don't be put off if it takes months or even longer for your blog to attract subscribers! It took me a long time and many mistakes to realise this.

    I hope you've enjoyed reading my blogging story. If you want to join in with the carnival and write your own, head over to Chili's blog to read more about it, and submit your post to her Mr. Linky!

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  10. Living room or lounge: what's yours?



    I have to ask this, as it's starting to become something of an issue in our house: does your home have a "living room" (a communal area complete with a scattering of toys and kiddie stuff) or a "lounge" (mum and dad only; kids are virtually banned; the room is tidy).

    We don't have much of a choice here at home as our house has only two bedrooms: a smaller one for the boys (my son and stepson) where they keep their computer games, toys, books and all, then the "master bedroom" (I hesitate to call it such!), where Hubby Dearest and I sleep, keep our stuff, and also share with Little Angel and my step-daughter. There is no space in either room for Little Angels huge chest full of toys, her amazing collection of beloved cuddly things, her rocking horse or anything else.

    This all lives in our "living room" instead.

    I don't mind this too much while Little angel is young, but Hubby dearest really hates this setup. He wants the room where our sofa lives to become the "lounge": no kids, no toys. A place where we can relax at the end of the day and not have to thoroughly tidy up beforehand! He complains that guests must think we have a messy house because of the toys in there. I assure him that people understand: after all, we have children, and children play!

    Eventually, we both agree that the bathroom will migrate to the lower portion of our bedroom, and the old one will become the (perhaps a little small) girls room. And there will live the toys, the cuddlys and all their other stuff. But for this, we have to wait: we're still renting from the council, and until we either buy this house or persuade them to do the work for us, we have to live in this scenario.

    I would really like to know how you other mums and dads organise your living space: do you have toys in the living room, or are they relegated to the bedroom? Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a playroom, where the kids can play without fear of making a mess? Please leave your comments below. Any suggestions for creating a temporary harmony amidst these toys would be much appreciated!

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  11. We did it! Finally, the potty comes into action!

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    I'm SO thrilled! My little Angel has used her potty for the first time this morning. And not just a pee-pee, but a poopy too!

    We've been trying for weeks to get her interested (and willing) to use the potty, and until today it just hasn't worked. She'd sit for ages on the potty while we read books, played games and such, yet as soon as she realised she needed to go, she'd scream for a nappy to be put on, and refused point blank to pee where we wanted! Wet pants didn't work; neither did "going to the toilet with mum".

    So I was so surprised when she came to tell me there was poopy in the potty, especially as she'd taken off her own nappy and purposefully sat down!

    What happened? Why did she suddenly change her mind? I really don't know, and wish I did so I could help other mummies in the same position. After lots and lots of praise I only hope she'll do the same next time. We're a long way off from establishing the habit yet, I know. But what a breakthrough!

    Hooray!!

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  12. Tasty Tuesdays: Tunisian Koucha

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007
    This is one of the easiest Tunisian dishes to make. At least, it is the way I make it; it's one of Hubby Dearest's favorite meals and since he's never complained, it must be good. Especially when you consider he was once head chef in a leading hotel...

    (Please note; there is no image of this dish yet as I haven't cooked this for a little while. I'll post an image as soon as I can get one!)

    Koucha is traditionally baby lamb slow baked in a stoneware oven with rosemary and other herbs. But don't worry: in this recipe we wont be attempting anything nearly so complicated! My version of Koucha is made with small pieces of lamb shoulder, potatoes, onions and a tomato sauce instead, baked in the oven until all the flavours blend; the meat is cooked and it tastes delicious. Want to know how it can be made quickly and easily? Read on...

    Here's what you'll need to make enough for four people:
    • Four pieces of lamb shoulder (enough for a portion). Ask your butcher to chop a shoulder for you if you can't find it already portioned.
    • A clove or two of garlic
    • Olive oil
    • One can of tinned tomatoes
    • Tomato puree
    • 2 Large or four small potatoes
    • 2 Medium onions
    • Salt and pepper
    • A handful of fresh rosemary (or about 1 heaped teaspoon of dried rosemary)
    • Four small earthenware dishes (or small oven proof casserole dishes)

    And here's how to make it:

    1. Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
    2. Rub the lamb portions with a clove of garlic. Place in the dishes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on chopped rosemary, salt and black pepper, and a little chili powder (depending on your taste).
    3. Peel the potatoes and halve; rinse then add a portion to each dish. Peel the onions, halve and add half an onion to each portion.
    4. Add a tablespoon of tomato puree and a heaped tablespoon of chopped tomatoes, plus a little of the juice. Cover with aluminium foil and cook in the oven for about an hour, until the lamb is cooked and the potatoes are soft.
    5. Before serving, give the dishes a little shake to help blend the tomatoey sauce, and turn out onto plates. Garnish with chopped spring onions and fresh parsley if desired, and serve with crusty bread (this dish is traditionally eaten with bread instead of knives and forks!)
    6. Enjoy!

    I hope you like this recipe too! This will be the last Tunisian recipe (for now), but I will continue this feature of easy meal ideas every Tuesday.

    For more Tunisian recipes, try these earlier posts:


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  13. To my Little Angel on your first day of nursery


    To my Little Angel,

    This morning you were so excited: it's your first day of nursery school, and you just couldn't wait to go and play with the yellow teapot and paint Daddy a picture of a pussycat! Since we went for a brief visit last week, you haven't stopped talking about "nursery school" to anyone who would listen: even strangers we pass in the street! You're 28 months old now and are so grown up. A little girl, and not my little baby anymore, though you always will be in my heart.


    I wanted you to pose for a photo as we went in the nursery gates, yet all you wanted to do was get inside and play. I was quite nervous for you: after all, this was the first time I'd ever left you in someone else's' care, except for the odd occasion when Daddy and I have been out in the evening when your Auntie would stay and read stories for you and your brother until you both fell asleep! Daddy was even more nervous than me: his little princess was venturing out into the world for the first time. No wonder he spoiled you with a new bag, clothes, lunchboxes and a huge basket of fruit to share with your friends!

    When we went inside, you immediately ran over to the little play kitchen to look for the teapot you remembered from the last session. At first you ignored me when I asked for a kiss to say goodbye. Until you realised that the teapot was nowhere to be seen and needed me to find it for you! Straight away you began to make friends, handing out the plastic cups and spoons for the tea party you must have been planning all week. It was so good to watch you interact with the other children: how generous and friendly you were; all smiles and excitement, though perhaps a little shy to talk much at first.

    When it came time for me to say goodbye, you didn't want to wave or even acknowledge that I was leaving. "It's probably a good thing" the teachers said as I made my exit with tears in my eyes. Though I didn't want you to be upset, I really wanted to feel that you'd miss me. Since the day you were born, I've always been your playmate; your comfort giver, the one you go to sleep with each night. And though I know you're growing up now, I don't ever want that feeling of being needed to go away.

    I came to collect you a few minutes before the session ended, so you wouldn't feel left out if you saw other mummies leaving with their children first. When I entered the classroom, you didn't notice me straight away, and I stood and watched for a few moments as you finished your doodling, concentrating so hard on where the lines went as though it meant so much to you! When you finally noticed I was there, you dropped your pen and ran right over to give me a great big lovely hug that moved me so much with your affection, especially as you sobbed slightly, having seemed to miss me so much!

    "She cried a little bit when she realised you were gone," explained the teacher. "But not much! She's played really well with all the other children." Exactly what I'd expected, if I'm honest. My little Angel is such a caring and affectionate little love that I can't imagine her being aggressive, or even rude.
    I'm so glad that you had a good time at nursery school. On the way home, you told me all about the games you played, the "painting-drawing", the "dress up" and "kickey ball" in the yard.

    "Do you want to go again next week?" I asked, as she sat in the back seat, eyes drooping with utter tiredness.

    "Um," she replied smiling. "I go to nursery school again!"
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  14. A blog widget for Mums to be!

    I found this gorgeous little widget at WidgetBox.com which I just had to share with you:










    The countdown on this one isn't for me, but shows the due date for my friend who's recently discovered she's expecting after a long period of infidelity. I just know she'll love it when she sees it!

    To get your own free baby countdown timer which is fully customisable, visit this link:

    http://www.widgetbox.com/widget/baby-ticker

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  15. Lock them up and throw away the key...

    Monday, June 18, 2007
    Every so often, a subject arises which I simply must air my thoughts about. This may not be something you wish to hear about, and I do apologise for any upset I may cause. But I have to write this post because this evening I saw a news article on TV which upset me so deeply I fear I may have nightmares about it.

    The story was in fact good news: an international paedophile ring has been cracked: over 100 arrests have been made in the UK alone, and over 700 suspects worldwide. Over 30 children in the UK have been saved from abuse.

    Children as young as a few months old.

    This is what distresses me most of all.

    Just a few words spoken by the spokesman for the Police paedophile unit, just a hint of what had been found on the "Son of God's" website, was enough to make me feel utterly sick. It brought me to tears.

    As far as I'm concerned, these "animals" are the scum of the earth. In fact, they don't even deserve to be called animals, for no other living creature would perform such atrocities on their young. In recent weeks, we've heard news about voluntary "castration drugs" which could be offered to convicted paedophiles. Why stop at "voluntary", and even "drugs"?

    I hate to write about such a terrible subject. More so, I feel disgusted that such things happen in our world. Yet when I was watching the news feature, I couldn't switch it over. Like watching a horror film, I had to see it through to the end, to find the happy ending, to know that there are people who fight such atrocious crimes and bring those guilty to justice:

    "I'm absolutely delighted with the sentence. He [the coordinator of the ring] could be imprisoned for a very, very long time," said Michele Elliott, founder of the child protection charity Kidscape. "I am delighted that police forces in 35 countries have come together to ensure that kids are a little bit safer on the Internet." (Turkishpress.com)
    Though thankfully, my family and I have never been victims of such atrocities, I feel so grateful to the CEOP and other agencies for helping keep our kids safe. Let's hope that these arrests serve as true deterrent.

    Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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  16. Netmums: a really great site for UK based mums!

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Netmums.co.uk is a parenting site I visit regularly as it is a truly wonderful resource for UK mums! As well as parenting tips, advice for children of all ages, recipes, information and more, there are local forums you can access for help, info and advice on issues in your area. Or simply just to chat and meet other mums!

    Why not pop on over and see for yourself? I'm sure you'll agree this is probably the best UK based parenting site yet!

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  17. Happy Fathers Day!

    Wishing a very happy Fathers Day to all great Dads around the world!

    My Dad and little angel, taken September 2005

    Here's my Dad with little angel, taken about a year and a half ago (it's one of my favorite photos of him!). Love you Dad!

    And here's another of Hubby Dearest, sleeping off a hard day's work on our new patio...




    ... with all our love, from me and all the kids!

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  18. Want your kids to behave? Maybe Derren Brown can help...

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Before you get worried, I'm not suggesting that you hypnotise your little angels in order to teach them good behaviour! This is something I came across a few weeks ago, discovered that it seems to work, and thought I'd share with you other mums and dads who may be interested too.

    On Derren Brown's website, I came across a section about the power of suggestion (for those of you unfamiliar with Derren Brown, he is a "magician" of sorts, mostly interested in psychology and misdirection, and very entertaining!). Derren explains that all suggestions to a person's behaviour should be positive in order to be successful: negative suggestions simply do not work on the subconscious mind.

    IE: if I were to say "Don't think about butterflies", what would be the first insect which popped into your head? On the other hand, if I were to say "Think about bumble bees" instead, you would probably not think of butterflies at all.

    Are you with me so far?

    Well, going on from this, my thoughts strayed to the kids, and how they almost always do the opposite of what I say to them. Especially Little Angel! When I say "don't touch that!", she invariably does so anyway. Highly frustrating! So I decided to do a little experiment: as often as I could remember to do so, I changed the phrases I use when chastising the kids, some examples being:
    • Instead of "don't touch that", try "leave it alone"
    • Rather than "don't go into the busy road", I'd say "stay on the pavement".

    I made a mental note each time as to whether or not it worked. I didn't expect it to, kids being kids and all, but you know what? It worked more often then not. Which is a big difference, considering my "suggestions" previously had caused such endless frustration at the lack of accomplishment!

    So perhaps kids are more susceptible to the power of suggestion than we adults feel we are. Any more childcare tips Derren?

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  19. Cats and dogs..? Oh my, the floods!

    Friday, June 15, 2007


    As the old saying goes: "it's raining cats and dogs today!" Truly, I've never known weather like this! Here in Sheffield, we're usually protected from bad floods because our city is built on seven hills. Yet today, so very many roads are flooded, schools are closed and many many homes have been evacuated due to immense flooding.
    The photo above was taken a few hours ago, and the rain has not stopped since. You really wouldn't believe that just last week we were all wading around in shorts complaining that it was too hot!

    In a few moments, I need to collect my little man from school. I do hope I manage to battle the traffic and get there safely!
    Edit: I think most people have finally got the message about the flooding: we went to school and back through hardly any traffic or floods whatsoever. I'm so relieved that my family are all safe after reading stories of the elderly whisked out of their homes and drivers stranded in giant "puddles" having to wade through rivers which were once roads. I do hope things clear up soon! If things are so bad here in Sheffield, then I dread to imagine how bad they must be on lower land areas of the country...

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  20. Want to lose weight but can't stand the gym? Read on...

    Thursday, June 14, 2007


    Literally speaking, that is!

    Scientists have recently discovered that reading a racy novel can increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more calories:

    On average, we burn around one calorie per minute when sitting still, but reading encourages the production of adrenaline, causing BMR to rise to up to 1.75 calories per minute, say the researchers, commissioned by book store Borders. (DailyMail.co.uk)

    Could this really be true: substituting a trip to the gym for a mammoth reading session? Sounds too good to be true, but certainly rather interesting. What do you think?

    More information:


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  21. All change in the realm of education...

    This term will be the last my son spends at his current school. In just a few weeks he'll be eleven, and "big school" looms in the autumn term...

    Thankfully, he's quite excited about the experience. Unlike me, who is dreading the transition from "child" to "teenager", and all the extra responsibilities he'll have to deal with as a "young adult".

    As we moved from one part of town to another, he won't be attending the same school as all of his friends, and I'm more than a little anxious that this will affect him more deeply than he believes. At the moment, he gets such a lot of support from his peers, in terms of his education as well as lasting friendship. You see, my son has never been a star of the school system. I wouldn't say by any means that he's not intelligent! No, he's very bright, imaginative and intelligent in his personal way. It's just that he doesn't fit the model of an average school child.

    I'd hate for him to ever believe that he is in any way inadequate; far from it! The things he excels at are just different from the norm: his imagination is fabulous, he creates stories and imagery no-one else could even dream of. And absolutely no-one could ever beat him at computer games. Yet I'm anxious that such feelings may develop when he begins life at his new school: young students can be so ruthless in their approval of others.

    Knowing my son, he'll quell my fears the minute he begins attendence: he's such a charmer, and these past couple of years he's made such leaps in his educational achievements. I can't help wondering if his little sister has had a lot to do with this: he loves her so much, and has really matured since she was born; he's more settled now, better natured and more willing to learn. We really have a son to be proud of here!

    On the same hand, we decided it was time to enrol our little angel in nursery school, and today went to visit "Little Rascals". Wow, she loved it there: loads more children to play with; dressing up; painting and toys! Oh, she loved the toys!

    Hubby was very happy with the nursery and decided to enrol her straight away. Mind you, it will cost us quite a bit as it's a private nursery, so I insisted we begin with only one session per week to see how it goes.

    Next week for the first session, I think I'm going to be more upset that she is: for the past two years, she's been with me constantly: I'm hardly going to know what to do with myself if she's away for a whole morning each week! Today she would have waved us off and played merily for the day if we hadn't dragged her away from the play dough!

    Much change is ahead for both my little angels, and though they grow they will still always be babies to me.

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  22. This is why i look forward to the school holidays

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    This is why i look forward to the school holidays
    Originally uploaded by AmandaFaz.


    The photo is of the road next to my son's school. As you can see, there are dozens of cars parked on the road. And this is actually 30 minutes before home time! Seriously, the traffic around here is awful. I'd love to be able to walk to school (as i'm sure most of these car owners could) but we live 4 miles away and it would take up hours to do so. Ah well, i made the choice to keep my son in this great school when we moved house, so i ought to put up with an hour's worth of traffic each morning and afternoon for the privelage. But with the traffic getting worse by the week, i can't help looking forward to the holidays!

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  23. Ooh, look what i got in the the post today!

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007


    Quite a while back, I posted about my love of designer cosmetics, and how i rarely say full price for them. Well here's proof: a free, gratis Chanel lipstick which landed in my mailbox this morning. It really is worth signing up to mailing lists for your favorite brands, which is how I managed to blag this lovely lippie. It certainly made my day!

    I think the promotion may have ended now, but you can still sign up for the Chanel email newsletter and receive other freebies/product updates using this link. Also, if you visit your local Chanel counter, you can ask to be included in the mailing list, and will be able to collect a little bag of sample skincare and make-up every couple of months.

    See, designer cosmetics don't always have the designer price tag to match!

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  24. Tasty Tuesdays Recipe: Tunisian Brik



    Brik is certainly one of my favorite Tunisian snacks! They're made from spring roll pastry, filled and fried in oil. Unfortunately, not a very healthy snack, though I'm sure you'll agree they're delicious and certainly go down well with the kids! We usually eat these when breaking fast during Ramadan (okay, I admit I don't fast with Hubby dearest, but I do still enjoy our evening meals during this time); though you can buy brik all year round from vendors in Tunisian streets.


    Here's what you'll need to make around 8:


    • A pack of spring roll pastry (look in the freezer department of your supermarket, or try local Arab food shops)

    • A medium sized potato, peeled and chopped into small chunks

    • A small can of tuna, drained

    • 4 Medium eggs

    • About 2 dessert spoons of chopped fresh parsley

    • 2 dessert spoons of grated cheddar/parmesan cheese

    • A dash of salt and pepper

    • Oil for shallow frying

    • Lemons to serve

    And here's how to make these delicious treats:

    1. Defrost at least 8 spring roll slices (perhaps add a couple more in case you tear them accidentally since they are rather thin!). This should only take about an hour; less if you can seperate them.

    2. Boil the potato chunks in slightly salted water until tender. Drain and leave to cool for a little while then mash lightly with a fork.

    3. In a mixing bowl, break the eggs and mix. Add the parsley, drained tuna, cheese and the mashed potatoes. Mix well.

    4. In a large frying pan, pour enough oil so that it's at least 1cm deep and heat gently.

    5. Now, take one of the spring roll slices (careful, they're easily broken!) and gently fold into a triangle across the middle to make the brik shape. Then reopen and spoon a tablespoon of the mixture into the centre of the triangle. Quickly wet the edges of the apastry to seal it together. Hold it by the corner opposite the long side and transfer to the frying pan.

    6. Brown the pastry in the oil, then flip over to brown the other side, ensuring the egg in the centre is cooked. Drain on kitchen paper while you cook the rest. Once you get confident, you can cook 2 or 3 at a time.

    7. Serve hot with freshly squeezed lemon juice on them.

    Most Tunisians prefer the eggs to be broken on top of the other ingredients, and served so that the yolk is still runny when eaten. However, I prefer my method, as I hate the thought that the egg white may still be runny in places too (there have been so many times when I've had to abandon a brik because this has put me off!). An alternative to the lemon juice squeezed over the brik is to serve with spoonfuls of chopped boiled onions. Trust me, it's delicious!

    Next week, I'll be posting my final Tunisian recipe: my version of Koucha, which is traditionally a small lamb roasted with vegetables and tomatoes in a stone oven. But don't worry, you won't need a whole lamb or an old fashioned cooker for this one! It's much easier the way I make it, and is probably my husband's favorite dish.

    For more tasty Tunisian recipes, have a look at these previous posts:

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  25. How big is your carbon footprint?

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    After the recent TV advertisements about CO2 emissions, I decided to try and work out just how big our family's carbon footprint is. Despite the recent shock at the costs of our gas and electricity bills, I'm pleased to say that our family's footprint is slightly below the UK average: 7612kg per person, compared to the UK average of 10963kg. Hopefully our recent clampdown on the cost of bills will help to reduce this even more.

    I also made an interesting discovery: BioDiesel.

    Biodiesel is a fuel that can be used in any diesel powered vehicle. It is
    biodegradable and non-toxic. Biodiesel is a fantastic way of reducing your
    carbon footprint as it only releases the carbon dioxide that the plants absorbed
    whilst growing, therefore there is no negative impact on the carbon cycle.

    Mum actually mentioned a while ago that her friend had set up a Biodiesel distribution company; cheap, clean fuel I can use in my car without having to make any modifications to the engine. Now that I know more about it, I'd certainly like to give it a try. It's a pity Biodiesel isn't sold in petrol stations yet...

    For more information about your CO2 emissions, or to work out your family's carbon footprint, try these links:

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  26. Dreading my dyskaryosis treatment...

    After a smear test recently, I discovered that I have severe dyskaryosis of trhe cervix. I have to admit that I cried when I first read the letter from the hospital. I'd expected my smear test results to come back all clear, believing I was too young to have cancer or anything like that. And being rather uneducated in the field of "women troubles", I feared the worst.

    Thankfully, my GP, the staff at the hospital, my father and the internet all managed to convince me that it isn't cancer: it's actually an abnormality of my cervix which could one day become cancer if not treated. Meaning ten to fifteen years from now. Thank God!

    Yet I am still anxious. I need to go for treatment, which involved having the abnormal cells scraped off using a process called diathermy. I know it's nothing particularly serious: I'll be in and out of the out-patients' department in less than an hour; after effects will include only period pains and bleeding for a couple of weeks. However, I hate the thoughts of having to spread my legs again in front of a room of strangers (as I did during my colposcopy a couple of weeks back); I'm worried that the poroblem may not go away; I'm worried about being ill when the kids need me to be super mommy.

    But at the end of the day, I'm so happy that the problem isn't cancer or any other serious abnormality. My problem can be treated quickly and easily; I shouldn't worry about it, I'll be fine. I know I will, deep down.

    I just wish this anxiety would go away...

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  27. Dull women have immaculate homes...

    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    Or so I like to believe! Phyllis Diller also said that "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."

    So very true!

    There are loads of great quotes about housework over at Quote Garden. I'm off to read some more to help me cheep up before I tackle the mess of my bathroom...

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  28. Baby blues and man flu!

    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    Little Angel seems much better now after her visit to the doctor yesterday. It seems I was mistaken in thinking that she would blame me for her suffering. No, she blamed the doctor, and now appears to hate him with a vengeance! She didn't scream but watched intently (while I had to look away) sobbing "I no likey medsinn, no likey doctor! No more medsinn!" A lollipop later and she was merely limping and sobbing quietly, demanding to be cuddled while we walked back to the car.

    My little man was upset with me though. He'd overheard that little Angel was going for her injection and was cross that I'd put her through such an ordeal! He even let her play on his Nintendo (his most prized possession) to "help make her feel better".

    It makes me feel so happy that my children love each other so much! Of course, things were back to normal within an hour, when they began to tease and argue again...

    Hubby dearest appears to have "man flu". That is, he has what we women would call a common cold. For men, it seems a simple cold is blown out of all proportion and requires many cuddles, Lemsips on the hour, back rubs, sumptuous suppers and much TLC. Poor love, he'd be off work for a week, but unfortunately his partner's away on holiday in the Mediterranean sun and he has to run the shop single-handedly for a while. But I still love him to pieces! Last night, he told me that a husband can truly understand how much he loves and appreciates his wife when he is ill. I could have hugged him for hours!

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  29. Uh-oh!

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    Uh-oh!
    Originally uploaded by
    AmandaFaz.


    In a few minutes i need to take my little angel to see the doctor for her (overdue) jabs. Really dreading this. I low exactly what she's going to do: scream and run! And then blame me. I wish i could make her understand...

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  30. Tasty Tuesdays: Tunisian Fricassee

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Tunisian fricassee is a "fast-food" style snack that is often sold in the streets. It could be described as a fried sandwich (so unfortunately, these should really only be served as a special treat), but I almost died of culinary delight the first time I was given one! However, it isn't an easy dish to make, and does require some patience as you wait for the dough to rise. I'm sure you'll love them as much as I do once you try one.

    Here's what you'll need:

    • Plain flour (about 200g)
    • Dried yeast (the type you'd use to make bread)
    • A spoonful of sugar (to help the yeast make the dough rise)
    • Cold water
    • Tin of tuna
    • Two medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
    • Red and/or green peppers
    • Mayonnaise and/or chili paste
    • Sunflower oil for deep frying
    • A couple of hard boiled eggs
    • Black pitted olives
    • Salt and pepper

    Here's what to do:
    1. Firstly you need to prepare dough in the same way as you would if you were making bread. The method may differ depending on the type of yeast you are using, so if in doubt, refer to the bread making instructions found on the packet of yeast! Here's what I do (and please bear in mind that I don't use a measuring jug or scales: I've gotten good at making fricassee now!). In a large mixing bowl, I put 14 heaped dessert spoons of plain flour. In a small bowl, I mix 1 tbsp of dried yeast granules, 1 tbsp of granulated sugar and a little water then leave until it froths. This mixture is then added to the flour with a little salt and mixed thoroughly, adding more water as necessary until it forms a thick dough which comes away from the sides of the bowl.
    2. Leave the dough to rise for at least an hour until it has doubled in size. I put mine in a warn place, covered with a tea-towel and a saucepan lid to help the process along.
    3. While you're waiting for the dough, peel the potatoes and chop into very small cubes (about 1-2 cm) and boil in slightly salted water until cooked (IE: they slide off a fork when you try to skewer them).
    4. De-seed the pepper(s) and chop finely into very small cubes. Do the same with half a cucumber if you like this in salads too.
    5. Heat your oil to a very high temperature. I use a chip-frying pan for this as it seems the safest option. To check if the oil is hot enough, drop a cube of bread into the oil: it should become a crisp crouton in no less than 4 seconds!
    6. Hopefully by now your dough will have risen to twice its size. You'll need to knead it thoroughly again and ensure it is of a good consistency (it should bounce back into shape if you push your finger in).
    7. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, and pull out a handful of the dough. Roll into a ball shape, and then squish into a flat oblong shape about 1/2 to 1cm thick. Gently place this into the hot oil and watch it rise into the shape of a small rugby ball. It will rise to the surface of the oil, so when the submerged side browns, flip it over to brown the other side (this usually takes a couple of minutes), then scoop out with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl lined with absorbent kitchen towels to blot excess oil.
    8. This first fricassee will most likely be the worst of the batch, so only fry one alone at first. When this is cooked, you could try 2/3 at a time, being careful to watch they don't burn!
    9. Once you've used all of your dough (the mixture should make around 12), leave them to cool a little while you get your fillings together. Then slice them open at one side.
    10. Fricassee fillings greatly depend on your tastes: in Tunisia, they are "buttered" with Harissa (a very hot regional chili paste) and filled with tuna, cooked potatoes and salad. I prefer to forgo the harissa and use mayonnaise instead, along with potatoes, tuna, peppers and cucumber.
    11. Top with slices of hard boiled eggs and black olives, sit back and enjoy!

    Whilst Tunisian fricassee are best eaten warm, they are still rather tasty when cooled and are great for lunchboxes and picnics (though they only really keep for a day in the fridge before going soggy). Experiment with different fillings, such as cooked chicken, traditional salads and eggs to discover new tastes and styles. Any way I'm sure you'll enjoy them!

    More Tasty Tuesday recipes:

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  31. Are we wrapping our kids in cotton wool?



    This morning, the BBC news brought an important issue to light: are we too protective of our children?


    When I was the same age as my son, I was allowed to roam freely, so long as I was back home to check in with Mum at the times she said. My friends and I used to make dens in the woods, walk to the next village to buy sweets from our favorite shop; go to the best park which was almost a mile away. So long as my parents knew where I was and what time I would be home, they were happy to let me play. And to think I used to complain that they were being overprotective...


    But I wouldn't dream of letting my son go that far alone. He's almost eleven, and the furthest I let him walk alone is to his friend's house, just a little way down the street. Even if his school was closer to home than it is (currently 4 miles away, but that's another story!), I doubt I would let him travel to school without an adult accompanying him. In fact, only 9% of primary school children are allowed to walk to school alone these days, compared to 80% in 1970.


    I can only reason that parents like myself and hubby dearest are much more conscious of the dangers their children face these days. It seems almost daily that we hear of children who are hurt in car accidents, abused or even abducted, as in the case of Madelaine McCann. A few years ago, I heard about a young girl who suffered a violent sexual assault just a few metres away from her parents in a local park. My children have not played there since.


    Yet, there are many reasons we should feel reassured about the safety of our children: our children's schools are now safer than ever; there are wardens assigned to our city parks, and many organisations dedicated to the support and well being of our younger generations. Yesterday I had a rather reassuring conversation with a regular patron of my husband's shop: the gentleman worked for the paedophile unit of our local police division:

    "It must be an awful job to be in," I remarked. I imagined all the terrible things he must be exposed to in his work.

    "Far from it," he explained. "It's the most rewarding job I could ever have. Making sure this type of person is off the streets and away from our children gives me a great sense of satisfaction. Even helping just one child makes a difference."


    Indeed it does. Despite all the worries I have about our modern society, I am so happy to know there are people like him in the world, and relieved to know things are being done to keep our young ones safe.


    Gone are the days when we could let our children play happily in the streets and know they were safe. My son starts secondary school this September, and I imagine he'll want to travel to school alone. In so many ways, I wish I could wrap him in cotton wool forever...

    More information:

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  32. Use pot pourri bags to make your sofa smell sweet

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    Over the weekend, I made use of some old muslin squares (previously used when burping little Angel!) by sewing together and filling with pot pourri. I then tied them with some pretty ribbon left over from Christmas wrapping. They cost me next to nothing to make; in fact I'm quite proud of my handiwork (especially as I sewed them by hand!).

    One trick I've learnt is to hide one under the seat cushions on the sofa; whenever anyone sits down, a waft of the lovely scented pot pourri is released to help make your lounge smell sweet! I also hung some in the wardrobes so our clothes smell nice too.

    Why not give it a try yourself if you have any unused fabric lying around the house?

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  33. It had to be done...

    Saturday, June 2, 2007


    It had to be done...
    Originally uploaded by
    AmandaFaz.



    After all that indecision, i decided that I'd at least strip the bathroom walls. Much hard work and shredded fingers! Now the preparation has been done, the actual decoration shouldn't be too bad. But as you probably know already, wherever there are children around, even the simplest of jobs can easily become a nightmare!

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  34. The Teletubby Scandal

    Friday, June 1, 2007

    I almost choked when my friend called to tell me that the colourful BBC show, Teletubbies, was being investigated, and could possibly be banned!

    "Whatever for?" I asked.

    "Well, apparantly, the purple one is a bit gay," she replied.

    "Well, yes: Tinky Winky is rather camp!" I can surely forgive her for overreacting, since she's pregnant with her first little angel and has never seen the show herself. Not to mention the emotional hormones flying around. But a scandal about Teletubbies? I had to find out for myself what the furore was about.

    Apparently, Poland have been investigating the show after Ewa Sowinska , a campaigner for children's rights, had asked for psychologists to review the show since it promoted homosexuality. However, Parliamentary Speaker Ludwig Dorn has warned Sowinska against making comments "that may turn her department into a laughing stock."

    Here's a link to the full story: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/tv/story/2007/05/29/teletubbies-poland-tv.html

    In my opinion, there is very little in this world that could be deemed more innocent than the Teletubbies! And after seeing various clips of verbal innuendo from the previously popular preschool show, Rainbow, I know what I prefer my daughter to watch!

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  35. Bathroom opinions please!

    Hubby dearest has been trying for months to put me off redecorating the bathroom, saying that it won't be long before the Council come to modernise it, along with our falling-down kitchen (we rent from our local council at the moment). This was supposed to happen in July/August this year. We even delayed booking our holidays to ensure we'd be home to choose the new decor they'd install for us.

    But now we've discovered it's going to be next year when they finally get around to our house. Which makes me rather frustrated, since almost 80% of the other houses on our street have had their renovations completed in full: new driveways, brand new kitchen and bathroom (including re plastering and decoration); electrical rewires; new gas boiler; new windows and doors.

    We've just had the doors and windows installed. I have no idea how long we'll have to wait for the rest.

    Anyway, enough of my rants. I would like your opinions on something...

    I've always thought that a home's bathroom is one of the most important rooms to be well decorated, be clean and tidy, and generally nice. Hubby dearest completely disagrees. He truly doesn't care what the bathroom looks like, so long as there's hot water for a shower and clean towels somewhere.

    What do you think?

    I ask this because I simply cannot wait another year or so for the council to redecorate our bathroom. I HATE IT! The grubby ancient wallpaper is stuck on in patches, three layers thick in places, and completely comes away from the wall where the damp from the leaking toilet set in. There's no storage, the linoleum is torn and scratched... It won't cost much to get it looking better, just a little time and elbow grease; a lick of paint and some shelves. Hopefully some new flooring too. But then, I'd have to decide between redecorating the bathroom or buying a new wardrobe to match the furniture in our bedroom. At least for a few months while we save up again.

    So, if you have any ideas for me I'd really appreciate it!

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