Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A personal post

I figured that I write a lot about shopping, a bit less about food, and an AWFUL lot about Squeaky, but actually very little about me.  And maybe I should change that.  There's a few things that make me who I am, that maybe the world should know.

Right.  When I was 12 I had meningitis.  I don't really know the full details, there's a lot they don't tell you, even at that age.  As far as I understand it, I had Pneumococcal Meningitis, which is the variant that's immunised against with the PCV vaccine.  If that vaccine had been available or generally administered 30-odd years ago, I wouldn't need to be writing this post now.

I'm here.  I'm a survivor, ok?  I have severe hearing loss in both ears, with no indication of the long-term outcomes, whether it'll stay the same or not.  I don't know what tomorrow will bring any more than any of us do, but I know that it'll never get better, the nerves are permanently damaged and it's not the sort of problem that can be treated with surgery.  (NB, the level of hearing loss edited on 6/8/13 as I asked the audiologist for the official level)

That's kind of why I didn't try to go to CyberMummy.  I'm not good at crowds, I'm not good at having conversations in loud rooms, or working out different accents.  I worry that people will think I don't like them, or that I'm being rude because I'm being quiet & not joining in.  I worry that I'll get something wrong because I misheard and people will think I'm stupid. I worry all the damn time about something or other.

Having Squeaky gave me a whole new set of worries.  Would something be passed on to her? (how, I don't know, it's like a scar, and I didn't pass on the scars of 2 broken ankles!) Would being pregnant somehow do more damage to me?  Would I be able to hear her crying?  Will I be able to understand her when she starts to talk?  I still don't know the answer to that last one.

I could have got more help than I have.  But that would have involved talking to social services.  And that's not something I'm prepared to do.  I'll have stopped needing any particular bit of help by the time anything arrives, and I really REALLY don't want them in my life if I don't have to.  If I didn't have SqueakyDaddy, yes I would probably have to suck it up & accept that it's necessary, but as he's here, they're not.  And that's the way it's staying.

So what am I saying with this post?  Apart from that I'm pro-vaccination?  Meningitis kills.  Even when it doesn't, it still turns lives upside down.  Know the signs.

Babies & toddlers                                             Children
Fever, Cold Hands & Feet                                   Fever, Cold Hands & Feet
Refusing food, Vomiting                                        Vomiting
Fretful, Dislike handling                                         Drowsy, difficult to wake
Drowsy, floppy, unresponsive                               Confusion & irritability
Rapid breathing                                                     Severe muscle pain
Tense, bulging fontanelle (soft spot)                        Severe headache
Stiff neck                                                               Stiff neck
Dislike bright lights                                                 Dislike bright lights
Convulsions/seizures                                              Convulsions/seizures
Rash that doesn't go away when                             Rash that doesn't go away when
   pressed with a glass                                                 pressed with a glass

Not everyone has all the symptoms, and they can show up in any order.  If you suspect meningitis, phone your GP or NHS Direct or go to your nearest A&E.  Please.

Key facts

  • Babies, toddlers and young children under five are an at risk group for meningitis, with over 50% of all cases occurring in this age group.
  • With 2,500 cases of bacterial meningitis reported in the UK every year, more than three babies, toddlers or young children will be taken ill with meningitis every day.
  • Meningitis kills more children under the age of five than any other infectious disease in the UK.
  • Meningitis is the disease parents fear the most.

Why are babies and children at risk?

  • Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to meningitis as they cannot easily fight infection because their immune system is not yet fully developed.
  • Babies and toddlers can’t tell you how they are feeling and they can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking them
For more information visit Meningitis Trust

I have not been asked to write this post, or been offered any incentive to do so. It is simply a topic that is close to my heart, for obvious reasons

Monday, 27 June 2011

Summer, summer, summer time.

Making the most of a brief burst of sunshine yesterday, Ms Squeaky & I (and then a bit later Daddy as well) headed off to Barry Island.  Fabulous first thing in the morning, before anyone was on the beach, but by lunchtime it was chaos.

Now I know she's a toddler, and asserting her tiny independence any way she can, but it's so strange to find that one day she hates something, and the next she loves it.  She was quite unimpressed with the beach on holiday for the most part, it would take her ages before she'd relax enough to play in the sand, and she really didn't like walking on it.  No such fears yesterday, the sand and the beach were the best things in the world (and yes, that includes eating sand, grrr).  I bought a cheapo set of stacking cups from poundstretcher, and we used them to build, dig, demolish, pass around, and whatever else it was she thought we were doing with them.

We also had a diversion into one of the amusement arcades - not Nessa's one, but one of the bigger arcades, where we spent £1 in the 2p falls, got back well over £2 in my "put it all in, count the winnings, put them all back, count, rinse & repeat" method of wasting money in slot machines, and no less than 2 pool ball keyrings.  I have no idea what I'll do with them, but I was most disappointed to run out of 2ps before I won the third keyring in the machine.  Squeaky also took the opportunity to demonstrate what a grubby little madam expert horse rider she is (no 50ps were harmed in the making of this photo, she's still too small)

And finally.  The BIG NEWS!  REALLY REALLY BIG!  We have a real & proper word that isn't Mama, Dada, Baba, Baboon, Abba or Asda.  And she actually knows what she's saying, and uses it appropriately.  The word?  BANANA!  Or 'Nana at least. Bless.  She actually really loves bananas, so it figures.

Magpie Monday - Matching Up & Catching Up

A couple of finds this week, one an emergency "keep Squeaky entertained" purchase - it was this or something far more expensive & probably chocolate flavoured if she'd had her way...  I'm not the world's biggest fan of In The Night Garden... to be honest it gives me a bit of a headache, but she's quite entertained by it. Poor Tombliboo Ooo, who drank too much Pinky Ponk juice and felt ill.  I shan't spoil the story for anyone else who may want to read it in the future, but suffice it to say that the cure doesn't involve Alka-Selzer, paracetamol of lying down on the sofa all day saying "Never Again".  Clearly Pinky Ponk juice is not vodka.

The "Matching Up" part of this week's title is for our next item. Remember the NCT sale a couple of weeks ago, where I found a Jasper Conran shirt-dress?  Well, this week in our local Heart Foundation store (always the most reliable), I found these lovely Jasper Conran trousers.  Same size (18-24) with turn up hooks inside, so they can be crops or standard trousers. They'll go really nicely with that white top, so Squeaky can be all Jaspered up.  Matching clothes from completely different sources, I'm quite pleased with that.

The "Catching Up" bit?  Well, I'm sure you're all concerned about the vintage Pyrex I spotted a few weeks back now.  I popped back into the hospice shop, and figured if they were still there, it was clearly meant to be.  Well, both the dishes were still there, but only one of the lids. The other one had either been broken or sold, they've been rearranging the store, so I can guess there may have been a few casualties.  The lids being there was half of what attracted me  in the first place, so no lid, no sale.  Booo.  I also found a red snowflake pyrex divided serving dish.  Had it been a single dish, rather than divided, it would be sitting in my kitchen right now, but I can't find a use for a divided dish. If anyone else can, however, comment & we'll try & work something out. That said, I should probably buy it & ebay it...  Hmmm.

See the other Magpie Monday finds at Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Not at CyberMummy part 2

Still not at CyberMummy.  It's 10 past seven in the morning & the washing machine is on again.  No, I'm not still infested with the spirits of Kim & Aggie.  Squeaky started up crying about an hour ago, so I went in to settle her.  She decided she wanted milk, which I went & got, she drank it, then threw the whole lot up over herself, me & the bed.  The same bed in her bedroom that I finally washed the linen on a couple of weeks ago for the first time in FOREVER.  (Not her bed, there's a spare single in there)  So her clothes, my clothes & the bed linen are all in  the wash.

It's amazing how quickly milk turns to cottage cheese in the tummy of a small person. As soon as something that will occupy her for more than 5 minutes comes on, I'm going in the shower. I smell of sick.  As for the not at CM aspect, if I had been there, I'd still be dealing with sick, from the other end of a phone call.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Not At CyberMummy

I was too busy looking for a job to look for a sponsor for CyberMummy this year, everything happened at the wrong time.  So instead of kicking up my heels in London and mingling with the great and good of the mummy blogging world, I'm sitting in front of my computer with a tub of icecream, Wimbledon on the telly, and a head full of hayfever.  There's a bottle or two of Cabernet Sauvignon in the cupboard, but I can't be bothered to get up & get any.  I'll just sit here with my ice cream.

I'll be honest.  If I'd made it, I would probably be sitting in my hotel room right now, on the laptop, watching the tennis and drinking a glass or two of wine on my own.  I'm far too shy and lacking in confidence to have braved going out, even though I've met some of the folk who are going to be there.  The night before the Graco press day, I shared a bottle of wine in the hotel bar with a couple of friends who live in London before retiring to bed at about 8.30 with a Ben & Jerry's from the vending machine & a bottle of lager, but you wouldn't have caught me venturing far, even if I hadn't had Squeaky with me.  I'm a wimp, plain & simple.

I never used to be.  I was the kind of girl who would go clubbing on her own, because I'd always see someone I knew.  I'd be happiest to be the centre of attention, because that's the place where people come to you.  Now if you put me in a room of strangers, you'll probably find I've got a book in my bag & I've spoken to no-one all day.

So.  If I make it to BlogCamp (I've registered for the Bristol one, but heard nothing back), or if the #notatcm11 twitter collective manage to put together a Wales &West satellite CyberMummy type event, someone please come & talk to me? I'm quite nice, and I'll talk to you if you talk to me, I just don't have the nerve to start the conversation myself.  (Also, these 9 years of living in Wales have had a strange effect on me. Every time I try to type CyberMummy, my fingers automatically go to the "m" key after I type Cy)

Oh yeah, and I spent a chunk of this evening taking photos of Squeaky with rubber ducks on her head in the bath & you didn't. So I win.

Domestic Goddess? Not Likely

It's just after 8 in the morning, one load of washing is already out on the line, and the next load is in the machine. Squeaky is busy watching Nuzzle & Scratch (argh!), and I'm plotting a turkey curry for later today.  We're both dressed, fed and watered, and the house is as near to tidy as it ever gets. This cannot be normal.  Someone has clearly replaced my brain in the night. I must have been invaded by some sort of organised bodysnatcher.  All I need to do now is the washing up, make a drink & find a suitable snack & we might even manage to WALK to the pool today in time for aquatots. Wonders never cease.

If anyone finds my normal brain, please send it back, it's too small to be allowed out on its own.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

B Record Plus - Review

I was recently sent a 10 day sample of B Record Plus to try out, on behalf of the lucky people on the receiving end of this little blog.  B Record Plus is a new style of energy drink, that gives sustained energy release thanks to a mix of amino acids & Vitamin B12.  While most energy drinks give you a "quick hit" of energy and then drop off leaving you tired again, B Record Plus is most effective if you take it every day, building up your natural energy levels.

 I received my box of B Record Plus about 10 days ago (it must be, there were 10 in the pack & I've had them all!)  The box contained 10 individual servings, all in self contained bottles, meaning you can take the bottle with you out & about if you're on the move.

The first day, I found the bottle a bit strange, first, you twist the lid further ON to the bottle, to release the powder into the liquid.  Then you shake, remove the lid & drink the drink.  I'm not at my sharpest first thing, so this did stump me for a minute or two, I managed to focus on the instructions long enough to understand it.  That said, once I'd done it once, it was no problem to manage it the next morning.

The drink itself.  Well, I don't know why, but I was expecting it to taste citrussy.  That's just me.  The ingredients list says sour blackcurrant flavour, but it actually tastes kind of vanilla-ish.  Difficult to describe, but a lot smoother & richer than you'd expect a little bottle of clear liquid to taste.  Really very nice, just a bit of a surprise.

The big question... do I feel any more alert & energised?  Do you know, I actually think I do.  People who know me know that my blood is actually a mixture of diet cola (any brand!) & coffee, and without that I'm a wreck.  Well, over the last ten days, I've not felt I've needed anywhere near as much coffee & cola to keep me upright.  Equally, I haven't noticed an energy crash in the afternoons, when I'd normally want to curl up for a little nap in front of CBeebies.  So for me, it seems to be doing something. It's not dramatic, but there's something.

B Record Plus was launched in the UK by Nell McAndrew, and she's given some tips on exercise, nutrition & de-stressing to help mums get their energy levels back.  See what Nell has to say here.

B Record Plus is available online direct, or on Amazon, where it's currently on special offer of £11.70 for 10 days' supply (RRP £12.99).

Disclosure: I was provided with 10 days' supply of B Record Plus free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Magpie Monday - Behaviour Therapy

OK, ok, there's times where we all need a little therapy.  Especially when confronted with a whole load of bargains & not enough cash to snaffle them up.  My finds today are the second half of my NCT sale purchases from last week.  Unfortunately I discovered that I hadn't had such a bargain after all, as I somehow managed to lose my sat-nav at the same time, so I've had to get a new one, and they don't often crop up in Merthyr's charity shops.

Well.   I've mentioned before that we're one of the dying breed that still has a functioning VCR.  I spotted this video on the window ledge while I was queuing up to pay for my finds, and had to squeeze past someone who had grabbed that spot to escape the mayhem in order to reach it.  I love Baby Einstein, we've got 3 (I think) of the CD's, acquired from pound shops here & there, and Vivaldi works very well in relaxing La Squeak, even though it just makes me think I'm on hold to the gas board or something.  So when I spotted the video, I had to have it.  It hasn't gone on yet, because there's a Spaghetti Junction style mess of wires at the back of the telly to plug in almost every electronic item known to mankind and I don't know which does what.  But as soon as I can make SqueakyDaddy deal with it, we will be being cultured.

My other find is more for entertainment value than actual practical use.  I don't really believe in parenting books to any great degree - I have a copy of What To Expect, and only really used it for "Is that normal?" type questions when I didn't want to see my insane health visitor.  The less said about Gina Ford the better. I read less than a page before I wanted to set the Contented Little Baby Book on fire.

This is pretty funny, and common sense for the most part.  I do regularly bemoan the fact Squeaky didn't come with an instruction manual, so this is as near as it gets.  It's a bit American in places, and a bit bloody odd (recommends brushing teeth from age 2???????????  Errr, what?)  But if it deals with a few of my WTF type panics then it was worth the 50p.

So that's my treasures for the week.  Other people have found far prettier things than me (or freakier in at least one case. You know who you are!)  Why not have a look? Me and My Shadow

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Squeaky or Streaky?

This is a post that's been brewing for a while, it just didn't make it all the way to the keyboard.

What is it with toddlers and nudity?  Why do they feel the need to remove their clothes, and then their nappies, at the slightest hint of an opportunity?  And then run around the living room, bottom in the breeze, giggling like it's the funniest thing ever?  I really don't understand.

We'd been doing relatively well on this front until recently.  It was only the nappy that had to be removed.  OK she'd lift her dress or t-shirt to show off her Star-Bellied Sneetch style belly button, but generally clothes stayed where they were put.  Only now she's figured out removing normal trousers, and her yoga pants.  Which is obviously followed by taking off her nappy.  That leaves one pair of cropped trousers with a belt, and leggings safe from the irresistible urge to feel the wind on her cheeks.

I'm sure it's just a phase, and it only seems to happen at home (I've not yet had reports from the nursery that she's been stripping off there), but dear sweet deity, it's only got to happen once and I'll never be able to go to town again!

Squeaky's new soundtrack?

Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth Review

Confession Time. I hate cleaning, with a passion.  Obviously, since Squeaky's arrival, the general standard of hygiene in our house has had to improve, and has done so hundred-fold.  But I still hate it. Additionally, SqueakyDaddy seems to be unable to differentiate between a washing-up sponge & a cleaning cloth, which means I'm greeted with the horrifying sight of the cloth I used last night to clean up the gross stuff from under the freezer being used to wash my coffee mug.  With that in mind, I started buying disposable anti-bac wipes.  Except that Squeaky can't differentiate between baby wipes & anti-bac wipes, and is fascinated with pulling them all out of the packet to give them a gentle chew.  And in our house, storage space is at a premium.

So.  You can see the dilemma.  Can't use a cloth for cleaning, can't use wipes. What's left?  That's where the Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth comes in, and I was lucky enough to receive a sample.  The multi-cloth bridges the gap between kitchen roll and more durable cloths.  It's thin enough to behave like a paper towel, but strong enough to use to clean, soak up spills or even polish the mirrors.  (I hate doing that, by the way).  And because it's disposable, you don't have a mucky cloth lying around, or a pre-soaked wipe, both of which have some strange attraction to small people.

I put my Thirst Pockets through their paces, first of all with Squeaky's high chair, after a particularly tasty dinner including baked beans.  Normally this would require a couple of anti-bac wipes.  Instead, a couple of squirts with the multi-surface spray, and one Multi Cloth sheet.  Even scrubbing away in the drinks holder didn't damage the sheet, and it was still intact at the end of cleaning the tray, enabling me to use the cloth to pick up the bits Squeaky had kindly deposited in the chair itself, rather than having to get some normal kitchen roll to gather the bits up in.

I then went on to test them out in the bathroom, where I'd had a bath with a lovely cocoa butter bath bomb thing.  Smelled gorgeous, but left cocoa butter smears all up the sides of the bath.  That takes quite some elbow grease to shift, but a combination of hot water, bathroom spray & a couple of Multi Cloth sheets and the bath was as clean as can be.  No photos of this because I have a hideous chocolate brown bathroom suite from 1974 when the bathroom extension was added to my house.  No-one needs to see how horrible my bathroom is.  Shiny doesn't happen, it only needs to see a single water droplet to be nasty and marked again.

Finally, I tackled the two big mirrors in the living room.  A single sheet was enough to apply and wipe off the glass cleaner, and left both mirrors shiny and streak-free.  Apparently this is to do with longer fibres than in normal paper-making, and a latex binder which keeps the cloth strong, and allows it to be rinsed, wrung & reused.

I'm still not going to put Kim & Aggie out of a job, but at £2.39 from Tesco, Asda, Morrisons & Sainsburys, the Thirst Pockets Multi Cloth sounds a pretty good deal compared to what I'd spend on anti-bac wipes & standard kitchen roll, and makes my life that little bit easier.

Disclosure: I was provided with a pack of Thirst Pockets free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Splish Splash Splosh

Since we went on holiday, Squeaky's been a bit of a pain when it comes to water.  Baths, pools, anything that involves her getting wet.  Strange.  While we were away she was variable with the pool & the sea, one day she'd love it, the next you'd think we were killing her.  And the bath was a trauma every time, though I put that down to the hotel bath being slippy.

Well, when we got back, the bath was no better.  Absolute murders, so she'd have you believe. We gave the swimming a miss for a couple of weeks, partly because she had a bit of a dodgy tummy, and partly because I really couldn't face that level of screaming & misbehaving in front of people I know.

Well, anyway, last week we went back to the swimming group for the first time in a while, and whileshe wasn't exactly enthusiastic, she got on with it ok.  Today? Well, I don't know what's come over her.  Never mind getting on with it, today she was firmly in charge, and jumping in!  Seriously.  I sat her on the side, I was in the pool, to get her to splash her feet about, which she normally loves doing.  Instead of that, she decided she was going to jump (from sitting) in, without even holding on to my hands.  I caught her, and she did it again.  And again.  And again.  And if I kept her in the water, she'd try to climb out & jump in again.  Eventually she even went for jumping in from standing.

Clearly today she's decided to be a water baby.  What bathtime will be like, I dread to think!

Meet our friend, the whale!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Bad Mommy, No Biscuit

Last night, I went out with a lovely Mummy friend to see Avenue Q in the Wales Millennium Centre (aka the armadillo place down Cardiff Bay). This immediately after a day at work, when SqueakyDaddy was off, at home with Her Squeaky Highness.  So aside from breakfast, he did everything for the whole day.  Nappies, lunch, tea, drinks, bath, bedtime, story, the whole works.  While I was gallivanting about Cardiff and trying to remember that the people around me had paid good money to her the folk on stage singing, and not me.

This was a bit of a challenge, but I'll be honest, he coped admirably.  There were no panicked messages on my phone, no texts asking silly questions like "where is her toothbrush".  Just good old fashioned coping.  Foolish man.  I'll do this again now!

And now, after having returned to near normality, I find myself desperately wanting to buy this book from Amazon.  Despite the fact it's probably the least appropriate book I could ever wish to own.  I somehow *need* it.  So if such a thing as an Amazon fairy exists, it's on my wishlist, along with a worrying insight into the rest of my psyche, and you could probably send it to me direct.

Honestly. I'm not asking for it really. No. I'll buy it myself after payday.

Koo-Di Baby-Go Comp Winners!

I toddled off to, and it randomized me the following numbers:

22 - Sonia
17 - Esther
11 - Dorothee
13- Angela
21 - Bloomers

Watch out for a DM in your twitter inbox very shortly!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Teething Bling Review

To say I was excited to be sent a Teething Bling necklace through the post would be an understatement. I've eyed up other people's pendants with a worryingly envious look for a while now, and I had to take off all my pre-baby jewellery when Squeaky arrived as she was very quick to master the art of pulling and hurting me.  The fact that they're a Cardiff based company was also a big appeal - I'm a firm believer in supporting local businesses, and I'm almost always one to go for the local option over the big chain.  The identikit High Street scares me.

Smart Mum UK are the sole distributor of Teething Bling in the UK, stocking pendants and bangles for both mums & younger daughters.  The pendants are made of the same silicone used in teething toys, and are soft and chewable, but they look like the more rigid jewellery available in fashion stores.  The pendant is hung on a silky soft cord, with a breakaway clasp at the back.  Squeaky does tug hard on the cord, and the clasp doesn't give way under normal use, which means your pendant isn't in danger of getting lost, but I've tested out the clasp, and it does release given a pull, which is an important safety feature. The jewellery is also non-toxic, phthalate, BPA, PVC, latex and lead free, designed with teething babies in mind, and putting parents' minds at ease that there's no nasties waiting to jump out.

My pendant came beautifully wrapped in an organza bag, and when I opened it I found a Mother-of-Pearl pendant. There was a tiny bit of me that would have loved one of the bright coloured pendants, but in reality I think Teething Bling have been reading my blog, because the Mother-of-Pearl matches my wardrobe beautifully.

Squeaky demonstrates "chewability"
I've worn my pendant every day since I received it, to compliments from all sorts of sources.  The staff at Squeaky's nursery were very impressed, especially as she chose to demonstrate the pendant's chewability for them.  They said they'd never seen them before but it seemed such a simple & sensible idea.

Squeaky very quickly got the hang of the pendant.  She's very interested in lanyards & ID badges (both Daddy & I have to wear them for work), and so she was pleased to be able to play with one without being told to leave it alone.  As you can see, chewing comes easily, though we often have to take it in turns, as she also enjoys making me chew the pendant before taking it off me.

Teething Bling pendants are £12.95, and bangles £8.95.  You can also choose from a range of pre-matched gift sets, choose your own set, or give a gift card to let people choose their own colours.  I think they'd make a great gift for mums, big sisters,or grandparents, maybe even from baby themselves.

Disclosure: I was provided with a Teething Bling pendant free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Magpie Monday - NCT Mayhem

As I said yesterday, I braved the downpour and the sharpened elbows of Swansea's parents to throw myself into their NCT sale.  If it weren't for the fact I'm missing the next Cardiff one, I probably wouldn't go back, this one was much harder work than the trendy lefty knit-your-own-tofu brigade in Cardiff. 

Still, I did find a few bargains to share today.  All now in the washing basket, please excuse crinkles, blame the previous owners' lack of ironing skills!

 First off, this lovely Jasper Conran white cotton shirt dress.  Simple, pretty, £3.  Look at the embroidery detail on the front.  (I've just learned how to use the macro setting on my camera, and you're just going to have to get used to it.)

I really quite like buying second hand white cotton.  I'm wary of spending too much money on white things because of the potential for tomato-related incidents on first wearing, but when they're used, then it's less of an issue.  And equally, you can see that much better to tell if something's marked.

 More white, with this little Gap top.  It doesn't photograph very well, it looks kind of shapeless here, but there's actually little cap sleeves, and a zip through the back, making a pretty occasion blouse.  This one set me back the princely sum of £1.50.  If all Gap clothes were that price, I'd consider buying them more often, but much like Next, they're too expensive for what they are brand new.

Honestly. I didn't JUST buy everything white cotton in the hall. This top is actually quite a bit darker beige than this photo suggests, but it was getting late last night when I was taking photos, so you're going to have to believe me. I've never heard of Molly & Jack, but I love the stitching on the elasticated collar & cuffs, and the smock shape means we can get away with wearing it for a lot longer than a fitted shirt.

Last item of clothing, and probably my favourite.  A Next false layer shirt. The sleeves are jersey cotton, and the rest a thicker jersey, though still soft & slightly stretchy.  It really, really needs ironing, but I love the shape, and the detail of the front seams & pocket flaps.

I also popped my nose round the door of the YMCA furniture shop on my way home.  Strange old place that is.  They've got a reasonable book & music section, though there was nothing that grabbed my attention this time, I just had to stop myself buying one or more pianos.  They wouldn't have fitted in the back of the car, and probably wouldn't have gone through my front door either (seriously, you should see my house)

Well, that's this week's haul (or most of it, there might be a couple of items kept in reserve for next week).  See what treasures everyone else has been uncovering on their Magpie Monday adventures. Me and My Shadow

Sunday, 12 June 2011


The weather is MINGING.  There's no other word for it, it's minging, plain & simple.  To the extent that I've had to put the heating back on - my excuse is that I really need to get the bed linen dry so I can make up the spare bed as I've got a friend staying in the week, and I can't leave it damp in the washing machine indefinitely.  But really it's because I'm cold.

I had planned to hit Swansea like a large hitting thing today, there's a couple of car boot sales I wanted to mooch round, as well as the NCT sale.  But seeing as the weather has decided to dump 6 months' worth of rain on us in the space of not much time at all, I gave the car boots a swerve.  No point in drowning myself in a muddy field when the only vendors there will be the mobile phone guys and a couple of coffee vans.

So I headed to the NCT sale instead.  That was indoors so I figured I'd be safe.  HA!  I've got a few gripes about NCT sales in general, but I tend to forget them when faced with the siren call of "bargains! cheap & pretty things!"  It was hammering down.  But this is the NCT sale, and when they say general admission at 10.30, they do not mean 10.29.59.  They mean 10.30 and not a second before, so we all had to queue in the school car park like a hoard of drowned rats, and everyone was dripping on the clothes.  Would it really have hurt to start letting people in a couple of minutes early (yes, I know it's members' admission for the first 15 mins, but there weren't any members going in, just drowned rats outside)

I've been to the Cardiff sale a couple of times, and I really enjoy it.  It's not exactly practical, the toys & equipment are all upstairs, so you either have to take a friend & take it in turns to wrangle babies & pushchairs, or park up somewhere downstairs & hope no-one mistakes your buggy for one for sale.  But there's some monumental bargains to be had, some really beautiful stuff for very good prices.  Same can't be said for Swansea.  Same rugby scrum, same level of mania, but for what?  I'm really sorry Swansea people, but most of the stuff was tat.  And expensive tat.  If I want to pay full price for things, I'll go to the shop & buy them new.  Particularly when they're supermarket clothes anyway, which aren't really known for their durability. Honestly. The amount of stuff that was full price, or nearly full price was amazing.  Don't get me wrong, I still found myself a few bargains (more on that tomorrow), but I had to work for them.

Then off to Mothercare for some drawer locks (Squeaky has decided that the little chest of drawers doubles as a climbing frame), and home in the rain.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Going Potty?

Sometimes I think I might be, you know.

No, actually.  What it is is this... how do you start potty training? And when?  Squeaky's 17 months next week.  For quite a while now, she's waited until she's had a wet nappy changed before doing a poo.  And she's now telling us (sometimes, not reliably) that she needs her nappy changed because she's done a poo in it.

So. Where do we begin?  While the nursery are good, and will help in whatever way they can, I kind of feel like I need a week or so off work, so there's some continuity, at least to start with.  I'm also a bit wary of starting too soon.  With a lot of Squeaky's learned skills (cups, self-feeding, cutlery, etc) we've waited a bit longer than some of her friends, until she's been really ready for it, and then it's been a breeze.  Could the same happen here?  I don't want to delay her unnecessarily, but I don't want to push her too far too fast & create problems.

(When are they ever going to send me Squeaky's instruction manual?)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Magpie Monday - Falls Over In Shock!

This isn't the Magpie Monday post I planned to write today.  You'll have to wait until another time to see some of my very favourite books ever (and it gives me more time to rootle around the back of the shelves & take photos)

Instead, today's post is brought to you by nothing short of a miracle.  Actually, make that two miracles.

Miracle number 1. (You decide which bit is the miracle).  This lovely top was hanging in my local British Heart Foundation shop.  A Rocha John Rocha cotton top with a tie back detail & sequin detail (which I didn't notice til I got home).  I've had a few items of baby clothes, but never seen adults' John Rocha in the charity shop.  £4.99, and a size 14.  As I'm normally a 16, and still think I'm the 18-20 I was pre-pregnancy, it's a bit of a shocker to find it fits.

Miracle number 2.  I wore it on Saturday to go out to lunch with the in-laws, and SqueakyDaddy actually noticed it and said "That's a nice top".  He never notices ANYTHING I wear, ever.  That's definitely worthy of comment, and made every penny well spent.

I also found this rather silly top in the PDSA shop, oddly in a half-price sale rack. No returns.  I never thought you could return charity shop items, it'd never occurred to me to try, at least not for a refund, I'd just re-donate if they didn't work out for me.

PDSA was definitely the right place to find M&S zebra print, I'm sure you'll agree.  I haven't had the nerve to wear it out yet, it's a little bit attention seeking, but given the right accessories...

I was good too, you know.  I popped in the hospice shop, normally home to a lovely collection of commemorative teacups for various royal events & the like, so if that floats your boat, head to Merthyr & I'll take you round. Hiding up at the back, with the books & videos, I spotted a pair of acid yellow pyrex dishes with their lids.  Really acid yellow, plain glass & yellow external finish on the bowls with clear lids.  Clearly vintage, well used, from the wear to the yellow on the bottom, but the most fantastic colour.  £2.50 for the pair. I really don't need them, and really don't have the space for them, so I had to leave them behind.  But I have a nasty feeling if they're still there in a few weeks, they'll end up in my cupboard anyway.  Send help.

Follow the Magpie Monday link to see some of this week's other treasures, and maybe add your own.
Me and My Shadow

Friday, 3 June 2011

HABA Toys Review

Squeaky & I were recently chosen to be members of the HABA Mums Club.  The Club members have been chosen to be ambassadors for the brand, and get the chance to review a selection of HABA toys.  The Mums Club is here, and you can read reviews from my fellow ambassadors, as well as sneak a peak at some of the toys.  There's a competition there too at the moment to win a Charlotte doll, so pop on over and give it a try.

We were really excited to be chosen.  As you'll have seen from this week's Magpie Monday post, I found a HABA game earlier in the year, and I was struck by the quality and design. The company are environmentally and socially responsible, ensuring they generate employment & income in the town in Germany where they started out.

Our first collection of toys as HABA ambassadors arrived just in time before we jetted off on holidays, but it did mean that we couldn’t really play until we got home.  We received Pure Nature Bea, Diego Dragon and a set of Zoolino blocks.

We took Bea on holiday with us, as I wanted to take new, light, toys to ensure there would be enough novelty to keep 16 month old Squeaky entertained both in transit and when we arrived, but I also wanted to have at least one comforter toy with us.  Bea met both those needs beautifully.  Suitable from 6 months, Bea is an organic cotton doll with no worrying buttons, and perfect for both cuddling and squashing into Mummy’s handbag.  The stitching is strong throughout, even on the hair (which is also cotton, no wool to fray), and very importantly, she’s machine washable.  I’ve yet to try this, but as she met with a chocolate biscuit earlier today, I think she’s going to be in the next load! Squeaky took to her straight away, giving her lots of daytime cuddles, and she made a welcome night-time companion, just look at the picture!

Diego is a fierce dragon.  It took moments for Squeaky to discover the noises he makes as he rattles along the floor behind her, and making a noise is her very favourite thing!  The colours are really bright and eye catching, and the pull-cord is firmly anchored and finished with a ferrule (or a flugelbinder, if you’re old like me & still remember that bit from Cocktails) to avoid fraying.  I was really impressed by the sturdiness of the construction, I’m confident Diego will take all the pulling, swinging & dropping that Squeaky can put him through, though I’m keeping his cord away from the vacuum cleaner (we’ve made that mistake before in our house).  Diego is great for encouraging her to explore, and become more stable on her feet, as she wants to pull him along and make as much noise as she can.  Me?  Well, he’s also great for encouraging her to come to me when it’s time for a nappy change, because she loves to chase him almost as much as she loves to pull him along.

The Zoolino blocks offer endless combination of animal shapes, some familiar, and some less so.  The mix of colours, both bright and neutral is pleasing on the eye, and the patterns provide lots of interest for little hands.  Squeaky’s favourite games with the blocks so far are “Bashing them together” and “Knocking down anything Mummy builds”.  She’s a destructive little mite.  Really, she’s only just starting to grasp the building side of playing with blocks, but she loves knocking them down, and passing them around. She’s mastered stacking a couple now, so it won’t be long before she’s building her own long-necked, three legged bunny-bear! The mix of shapes encourages learning about balance and hand-eye co-ordination, as well as colour & shape recognition.  The blocks are a wonderful way to play as a family, because we can all get involved in building, finding, and knocking down our creations.  Squeaky will get more & more out of the Zoolino blocks as she gets older, I’m sure.

 Diego likes to investigate the blocks too.  He's an inquisitive dragon.

Disclosure: I was provided with 3 HABA toys free of charge for the purpose of this review.  I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for your convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Saving Money on Holiday

I’m blogging for a chance to win a trip to Cuba with On the Beach! Check out their competition at the On the Beach blog.

 Saving money, a topic very close to my heart.  Holidays.  A topic even closer.

I'm only going to give you one, simple, tip on how to save money on holiday.  One that sounds completely upside-down, back-to-front and crazy to begin with.  But bear with me, ok?

The tip is this.  Go All-Inclusive.  There.  3 words.  I can see you scratching your head, looking at the screen slightly skew, and wondering "what HAS she been drinking?" 

But seriously, think about it for a minute.  If you go self catering, B&B or half board, your biggest expense is likely to be food.  Followed swiftly by drinks, both of the daytime & evening varieties.  And in a close third, entertainment.  All-Inclusive has got all of that covered for you.  Yes, you spend a little bit more at the outset.  I've just run some options through one of the major UK tour operators & found a week's All Inclusive in Majorca for £110 more than the cheapest Self Catering option for the same date, same departure airport.  If you can eat out of an evening, drink, buy water, lunches & breakfast basics for a week for less than £110 per person, that's pretty impressive.  OK, if you want to spend your holiday cooking, on a self-catering apartment stove, then you might *just* manage it.  But that's not a holiday.  A holiday is where someone else does all that for you.

And so the All Inclusive.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, ice creams, daytime activities, evening entertainment.  Nice little perks like a shuttle bus to the beach if you're not already right there.  OK the entertainment can be a touch on the cheesy side.  And yes, there's probably a club dance and you'll get dragged up to make a fool of yourself at least once. But that's what holidays are about, letting your hair down, not worrying about being cool or what anyone else thinks.  And the drinks are free, so given enough of them you won’t care.

All Inclusive is even more of a money-saver if you're on holiday with children.  Children like ice cream.  Regularly.  And their tastes change with the wind.  That can get expensive when they decide not to like the meal they've ordered and want something else instead.  An All-Inclusive holiday is fine for that.  Don't like your meal?  Get up & pick something else.  That’s what it’s about.  Honest.  No-one will mind.

The reality is, All Inclusive is no different to buying an APEX train ticket.  You’re paying upfront in advance.  That means that the hotel can plan & buy in advance, and get better deals, meaning they can offer you better deals.

There’s ways to save a few ££ shopping around for a cheaper flight, with a different airline, a less convenient airport, annual travel insurance, and all that.  But if you want to save money on the whole holiday experience, do consider All Inclusive.  It works.