Am I a coward?

June 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Daily Life | Leave a comment
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Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

I was really inspired by Rachel Johnson’s last article in The Big Issue about bravery.  She was prompted to write the piece following the horrendous events which unfolded in Woolwich last month and the utter bravery shown by Ingrid Loyau-Kennet, the woman who got off a passing bus to help Lee Rigby and found herself talking with the men who took his life from him.

I tweeted her to tell her I felt inspired to blog about bravery.  She said she would be honoured.  Honoured?! That role was mine – I felt privileged that she had replied.  And I felt chuffed that I’d found myself in this situation in the first place after a chance encounter with the article, not usually being a Big Issue reader – I had been on a charity shop spree and decided to use the last on my change on a final good cause.

So, the subject was that of bravery.  How many of us would have got off that bus?  I for one know for pretty much sure that I would have remained in the safe confines of the bus.  I think I’d call the police from a safe distance.  I find myself more of a nervous person since having children, wanting to keep them away from danger.  Or using that as an excuse?

Rachel recounts some scenarios when she had to be brave – during her husband’s liver transplant for example.  Her husband, also a gallant man, chased a burglar wearing nothing but his birthday suit.

I’ve been wondering if I’m a brave type.  I was getting a bit disturbed by the fact that I’ve never done anything heroic.  I can’t recall a time that anyone has said to me – ‘you’re such a brave woman Catherine’.

I think though that I am pretty useful under pressure or in a crisis.  I quite like change and I also like to be needed.  A good combination when other people around you need a decision maker I suppose.

We’d been in the Maldives on honeymoon for two days when my husband’s step-dad called saying we needed to come straight home.  His mum had suffered a major stroke.  Ok, so I smoked a lot whilst trying to get us off the remote island via sea plane and onto a flight via the most useless insurance company I’ve ever encountered.  And yes I cried when we checked our bags in to be told there were no seats together.  It worked though, a loitering manager took pity on us newlyweds and rearranged things so that we were together.

I sorted a car as we’d sold ours, we moved in with my in-laws and I cleaned, shopped, cooked and rallied for three weeks.  Well, it was raining in the Maldives and their house really needed a good tidy up.

Another family related saga – the night before our best friend’s wedding, the then boyfriend of my sister-in-law was caught kissing another girl in a bar by my husband.  Husband being the best man at the wedding the coming day and the remainder of us happy smiling guests.  Needless to say the happy and smiling part took a little wine but I think I was the supportive shoulder that my sister-in-law needed that day.

I was totally not brave in the Birmingham nightclub when a bouncer pushed a drunken reveller into me at six months pregnant, throwing me across the floor.  My friend, a paramedic however, was, as I shook and blubbered and demanded to be taken straight to hospital fearing that my waters had broken and the baby would have to come at 27 weeks.

I did grab my four-year old and press him into my body, turning him away from a herd of inquisitive ponies on a family walk last New Year’s Day.  Maybe I was overreacting but I find cows and horses to be unpredictable and very suspicious.

But what really is brave?  Taking a risk?  Playing it safe?  Being a parent?  Being alone?  Being with a lot of people?

After Jessie J shaved her hair off I considered doing the same to raise money.   But I never did.

I’ve never saved a life but I think that hopefully I’ve pushed myself to be a better, more loving, kind and generous person.  I always talk to strangers.  I’ve helped a lady with a bloody nose sitting by the road instead of driving on to my yoga class.  I’ve taken a man home when his mobility scooter ran out of battery and the garage wouldn’t charge it.  I’ve collected a frustrated man from a bus stop and tried to catch it up after he was left running and waving for it to wait.  I’ve helped a parent find her lost child in the supermarket.  In Kaula Lumpur I felt helpless and spoilt seeing the many desolate amputees trying to stay alive on the streets and barely managing it.  I gave them change but didn’t do anything brave.

I’m left wondering, does being helpful qualify as brave?  Or what about doing something that scares you?  I read out a blog post about OCD to a room of 300 bloggers one year.

I’ve also done an abseil in the windiest wind I’ve ever encountered to raise money for SeeSaw, a charity who supports children who have lost their parents.

Maybe I haven’t had my calling yet.  Maybe one day I’ll find myself having to pull someone from a burning building, stop for a traffic accident or god forbid find myself caught in an act of terrorism.  If I do I’ll remember the things I’ve seen others do and try to do my best.

Review: Grubby Buggy

June 17, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment
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About a month ago two things happened.  I purchased a second hand pushchair – a little light weight stroller for the nursery run.  And I received an email from Grubby Buggy.  I didn’t even really need to read the content as the name said it all.  And I knew I needed to try it out.

The buggy I purchased was in good condition, but was definitely pre-loved.  It was in a far better state than many of the pushchairs Grubby Buggy receive to work their magic on but I was still excited to see the results.  They basically transform pushchairs from the milk splatted, biscuit encrusted, mud stained messes that we get them into, back to something close to what they once were.  You can see some of the worst offenders on the Grubby Buggy Facebook page.

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You can also see how ours faired here.  I was really impressed with the fact that they black the wheels again, and the logos on the sides of the buggy were gleaming white.  For people looking to sell a second-hand buggy it’s well worth doing to get the top price.

BEFORE

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AFTER

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If you’re in a rush don’t worry, collected, cleaned and returned in 48 hours.  Not bad.

Prices start from £3 for a rain cover, up to £90 for a three in one pushchair, carry cot and carseat.  Delivery is free if you’re local to Gloucester but chargeable for other parts of the UK.

I thought the service was really good.  You would need to weigh up the value of the buggy with your needs – if you were looking to buy a new one because you’re was so filthy it would be well worth it as a clean would be a fraction of the cost of a new buggy.

Explore the Facebook page and website for more info.

We were lucky enough to have our pushchair cleaned for free in return for a review.  I stick to the bloggers with integrity code to post honest and open reviews.

How to do baby handprints – please help!

June 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Daily Life | 1 Comment
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I don’t know why, but I’ve become obsessed with trying to get perfect handprints from our six month old – for the records.  The archives.

I don’t know why, but it’s really starting to irritate me.  It’s not as though his hands will drop off and never be remembered if I don’t.

There are various techniques such as rubbing the back of the hand, holding out their middle finger – all have failed miserably for me.

I don’t know why it’s become such an ordeal.  I think it’s because it’s a really exciting milestone when you first print your baby’s hands.  Feet are different.  Feet are easy.

I’ve seen some beautiful hands.  Printed on paper.  On plates.  In clay.  In plaster.

I have none of these things.

I have scraps of paper with smudges.

I have no idea where I am going wrong but I shall not admit defeat.  I shall not falter.

I beg you, tell me your secrets.  I can pay good money.

On a closing note, I have had far more success with doing plaster reliefs of the children’s feet if you’re interested.

Review: Day out at Warwick Castle

June 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Days Out, Reviews | Leave a comment
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This Spring we were lucky enough to spend a day at Warwick Castle finding our inner knights and princesses on a chilly but bright day.

We arrived and walked through a medieval village where we talked to knights and learnt about their swords and mallets, much to the delight of our curious four year old who was allowed to hold a sword. We tasted the most delicious peppery cabbage soup, played catch the rat, a giant game of Operation and tried out the stocks.

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On from there we explored the castle confines – we had our baby in the buggy which obviously isn’t suited to the many steps and narrow castle walls so we relaxed with a hot chocolate in the basement cafe whilst the bigger boys went off and had fun. If you do have a baby sling or carrier I’d highly recommend it as even the baby change and toilets are down some steps and not easily accessible.

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Next we watched a bird of prey display – the Stellar’s Sea Eagle was an incredible creature and totally mesmerised us all as it flew from the trees to castle walls.

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At lunchtime we sat in the castle quod and watched an amazing sword battle – the host/compare was part of that and talked about the history surrounding Warwick – he was very funny, engaging and had all of the children hanging on his every word. It was nearly our favourite part of the day.

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We only travelled from Oxford but it was a very cold day and we wanted to head home at a good time – but we were adamant that we wouldn’t miss the fireball trebuchet before we left. This is watched from the grassy hill running down to the river. The huge contraption on the other side of the bank is an amazing site to see. The same narrator talks through the history of its use and how it works before a huge flaming fire ball is launched across the grounds. For adults and children a like it was totally breathtaking. This was by far our favourite part of the day.

Our four year old savoured every moment of our trip – even a walk through the house with it’s treasures – weapons, coins, furniture and a great deal more. I secretly snapped pictures of the wallpapers and curtains being mid way through house renovations – well, a spot of period charm could work well alongside modern retro…. right?!

All in all an amazing day out. Avoid taking the buggy if you can, and if you want to visit the princess tower, make sure to arrive in good time for your slot otherwise they won’t let you in!

Tickets for a family of four cost £80 if you book 7 days in advance. More information about Warwick Castle tickets here. I believe Tesco Clubcard do offers from time to time.

We visited on a press trip and did not pay for our tickets. I pledge to only post honest and open reviews which are accurate and useful.

 

How to kick the Diet Coke habit – and stay sane

June 9, 2013 at 8:44 am | Posted in Daily Life | Leave a comment
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So, I have a bit of a habit.  A Diet Coke habit – an addiction maybe.

I’ve always loved fizzy drinks since my teens – fat Coke then as we used to call it.  Followed by a switch to Diet Coke in my later teens once I started pairing it with Vodka.

I don’t have a Vodka habit these days, more a taste for good red wine – but that’s fine.

On doctors orders this week, Thursday at 3.10pm to be exact, I gave up the sweet, fizzy stuff, for good.  A wave of panic swept over me as I took in the finite request.  No more fizzy drinks.

The doctor did say I may be able to reintroduce them on a reduced scale in the future.  I’ve been getting migraine symptoms you see – so this could be a cause.

And I’m not even a full-blown addict.  Not in my eyes anyway.  I have one small bottle a day – 500ml I believe.  I didn’t have fizzy drinks as a child and we don’t allow our nearly five year old to have them.  I don’t think I’ve rebelled against that, I’ve just somehow developed an addiction – it’s not even the taste – it’s those sneaky chemicals and sweeteners that lure you in, like a child into a sweet shop full of cola bottles and strawberry laces.

So far I’ve made it through three days.  I like a challenge  but regularly fall after the first few hurdles – much like with exercise, diet and general health-orientated challenges.  Actually the tingling in my face has reduced.  I should also add that the doctor suggested coming off the contraceptive pill as this can cause headaches and lead to a risk of stroke.

On a lighter note I am currently quite positive about the challenge ahead.  Anyone who drinks Coke or Diet Coke will know that it’s a real boost – a mid afternoon pick me up and friendly arm, helping you through the rest of the day, easing away work stresses, nagging children or other annoyances.  Until wine o’clock.

I’d be really interested in any tips or advice on giving up Diet Coke.  A quick trawl of the internet has revealed the following advice on how to quit Diet Coke.  I’m taking it in absence of any known support groups – if there is one please tip me off.

How to give up Diet Coke

– According to Bangs & a Bun the only way is to go cold turkey.  I did share her pain when she fretted over never hearing the pssssd of an ice cold can opening on a hot day…..sob.

– Although Shape.com suggests not going cold turkey, they do advise that you drink loads of water which has got to help – and make you feel healthier in general.  If my Bobble Bottle that I excitedly purchased from eBay hadn’t arrived as not only a fake but a squashed fake then I’d be drinking a whole lot more already.

Modern Mrs Darcy says you need to recognise your weak spots and be prepared – so if you love a Diet Coke with certain foods or at certain times of day, plan a substitute to get you through this.  So, I need to find something else nice to drink at lunchtimes and mid afternoon.  And weekends in the car.  And early evening before wine time.

But why is Diet Coke addictive?

Thank the gods of all things sinful, I’m not drinking eight litres* of pop like this woman featured in the sun, but I still do want to kick the habit.  A drink readily available in the supermarket, even if it does have your name on the bottle, should not be addictive.

The reasons it is:

– Caffeine – although it contains a lot less than coffee.

– Artificial sweeteners like aspartame.  Read the controversy about aspartame here – some feel that these types of sweeteners trick your brain and upset your hormone balance.  And we all know that really Diet Coke gives an artificial high and we’re not just naturally elated because of a fizzy drink.

– Our own minds – many people swap another habit like smoking or drinking alcohol for a fix like Diet Coke believing they’re doing the healthy thing, only to become hooked on this instead.

 

So, I’ll keep you posted with my progress – please do send in your tips.  I’m not shaking or panicking at all, but I do have a nice glass of Malbec next to me.

* Could have been eight teaspoons before the researchers got a hold of the story.

Why you should be mega excited about Cybher – a video message

May 31, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Posted in CyberMummy, CyberMummy Videos, Cybher | 6 Comments
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Hello you lovely lot.

I’m not at Cybher tomorrow, sob – but with good reason – it’s my parents 40th wedding anniversary so we’ll be celebrating in style with a garden party in Oxford.

I wanted to leave you with a video message to continue with tradition (see previous CyberMummy, the deleted scenesand Cyber videos) and bring you a toy themed greeting in my absence.  Who am I to argue with demand – and thank you Sian for my ‘Epic’ title.

So here you are – have fun, I love you, adieu….

 

The Aero flavour pairing challenge – get your hands on loads of chocolate!

May 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Posted in Foodie Stuff | Leave a comment
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Hello!!

This week we’ve been taking part in a fantastic challenge with Aero. Our mission has been to create a gastronomic delight of chocolatey flavours – the more unusual the better.

If you like what you see, do leave a comment because you could get your hands on a truck loads of Aero chocolate if I win this challenge!

The flavour pairing theme comes from the news that Aero Bubbles have had a bit of a makeover – with a new look, they are either half mint or half orange mixed with a whole lot of delicious chocolate bubbliness.

So, we set about finding a chocolate pairing of our own – it’s so hard to pick a recipe when you like all things that contain the sweet stuff. Part of the challenge was to try and combine sweet and savoury – tricky….

With Father’s Day not too far away I decide to opt for a manly theme. Strictly no stereotyping or sexism intended. And no men were harmed in the creation of this recipe.

Having scoured my flavour thesaurus and the trusted interweb, we came up with these –

Beer and mint chocolate truffles.

When it comes to cooking, the simpler the better as far as I’m concerned, and you really can’t go wrong with this one. A great gift for any dad.

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Ingredients

3 oz milk chocolate Aero

3oz mint chocolate Aero Bubbles

3 oz dark chocolate

130ml whipping cream

3 tbs your beer or lager of choice – I used Peroni

Cocoa or hot chocolate for dusting – I used a mix of both

Recipe

Bring the cream almost to the boil on the hob.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the beer gradually.

Pour into a small mixing bowl and leave in the fridge for a few hours – until solid enough to shape.

Remove from the fridge and use a melon baller to create balls.

Roll in the cocoa and chocolate.

Enjoy. They taste amazing – I hate beer and loved the combination of mint, chocolate and beer!

 

So, remember to let me know if you like the sound of the choccy-beer truffles – if I win this challenge I’ll be picking someone lucky to get a load of Aero chocolate for themselves!

 

This is a sponsored post – I received Aero chocolate and baking equipment to help me with this challenge.

What to expect: Glue ear & Grommets

May 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Daily Life | Leave a comment
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On Monday our four year old son had grommets fitted to resolve problems with his low level hearing.

We had noticed he was missing things for about six months and in total it has been about a year between us first recognising an issue and him having surgery.  We initially put his lack of attention down to him being a typical little boy – easily distracted, excitable and a little telly deaf.  But hearing tests revealed that he had glue ear.  He had suffered with a few ear infections but nothing recurring.

I thought an account of our experiences would be useful to others about to start on this path.

What to expect – glue ear and grommets

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1. We tried cutting out cheese which is supposed to help with hearing issues – possibly an old wives tale as it had no effect.

2. We tried Ottovent, a nose balloon which is supposed to dislodge blockages in the ear.  Our four year old found it too difficult to inflate the balloon.

3. We let teachers and club instructors know that he was struggling with his hearing and they made allowances and gave him extra assistance.

4. We found the wait between diagnosis and an operation date frustrating – around three months, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.

5.  The pre op visit was really useful – Bear got to see the ward and meet the nurses so on operation day he was already familiar with his surroundings.  Starving him from 7.15am to 3pm was the hardest part!

6. The operation day was incredible – the staff at The Royal Berks were amazing – the children’s ward has it’s own play leader who offered all sorts of activities to keep Bear entertained including a bedside TV, DVD player and Wii!

7. A staff nurse, consultant and surgeon all saw our son before my husband took him down to theatre.  We also had our six month old baby with us which was no problem.  Everything was explained to us and our son and we had no concerns at all.

8. He had ‘magic cream’ on both hands to numb them.  In theatre a nurse read a book to him to hide his hands whilst they inserted a canular and he quickly went off to sleep.  He’d asked to have a mask instead and they listened to his requests and explained the options.

9. Around 45 minutes later I went to collect him from the recovery room, bright as a button, babbling on about LegoLand and demanding a ham sandwich.

10.  He waited, not very patiently to be allowed food and then devoured to packs of adult sandwiches, a yoghurt, a jelly, a packet of crisps and some sweets.  He asked for ham and he got ham! Nothing seemed to be too much trouble.

11. The operation was at 3pm and we left the ward before 5.30pm complete with a ticket to get our parking for free and a very happy boy with a certificate for bravery.

12.  We’d been advised that he would need a day or two off school but he went back after just one day off because he was so hyper.  We gave him Calpol when we got home but he didn’t need any more the following day.

13.  He was slightly alarmed by the new level of volume – noises like the washing machine, kettle and the baby crying made him jump.  We realised just how much he had been missing.  He was also aware of surrounding conversations that he hadn’t noticed before.  I let him stay in his pyjamas all day much to the disgust of some other shoppers in Tesco.

All in all this is an incredible and very simple surgery and I’d highly recommend any parent with a child who has glue ear look into having grommets fitted.  Really happy to answer any questions parents might have.

Review: Tesco Loves Baby Nappies & Wipes

May 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments
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With the sad demise of Huggies nappies in the UK, we were looking for an alternative – especially as nappies cost so much, we wanted a cost effective option too.

We put Tesco Loves Baby, Aldi’s Mamia and Cheeky Bots nappies, also available at Tesco to the test.

Today I’m reviewing the Tesco Loves Baby range and having already purchased some of the products because I was swayed by the pretty packaging, we were happy to oblige when asked to road test the nappies.

I always stick to a promise to readers, and to myself to post honest reviews and I can honestly say that we haven’t had one leak with Tesco nappies – they’re great.  Some nappies are stiff and uncomfortable, others just feel cheap and the worst ones leak from the sides within a matter of minutes.

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We’ve been really happy with both the quality and the price of both the nappies and wipes – and when they look good too it’s an added bonus.

Tesco regularly has baby offers and events so watch out for discounts.  The Clubcard voucher double up scheme has also just started again and you can double up for vouchers redeemable against baby products.

A 36 pack of nappies is currently £5.97 or two for £10.

There’s loads in the range as well as nappies and wipes – bottles, feeding equipment, teething products and dummies to name but a few.

Happy nappy shopping.

 

This is a sponsored post.  I stick to the Bloggers with Integrity code to post reviews that are as honest as Santa, as useful as Supernanny and as accurate as Carol Vorderman.

We’re off to Wood Festival!

May 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Days Out | Leave a comment
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Next weekend an amazing three day spectacle in the Chiltern Hills takes place – we’ve not been before and we can’t wait for it – it’s Wood Festival!

We were given a tip off that this family festival shouldn’t be missed so we’re going to spend the day there next Saturday and we’ll be praying to the god of good weather the day before for bright, glorious sunshine.

Nick Cope, the musician (formerly of The Candyskins) is a massive favourite of ours and somewhat of an idol to our four year old, so we won’t miss that!  Think Blur for kids – his tunes are addictively catchy and will have any child mesmerised.

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As well as a really exciting musical line up, there are loads of workshops for adults and kids.  We definitely want to find time for willow lantern making and hula hooping!

We’ve always said we’ll start taking the boys to festivals, and wish we had done so sooner – so Wood Festival will be the first of many for our four year old and five month old.  I think this one will be more tie-dye t-shirts rather than glow sticks at the ready.  Bring it on!

Find out more on the Wood Festival website as well as their Facebook page and Twitter stream.

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