Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Fee Fi Fo Fum!

I don't think it's directly a result of this year's CBeebies panto, as they didn't use the immortal line.  I suspect tonight's entertainment is probably courtesey of reading a more traditional version of Jack & The Beanstalk at nursery.

Tonight's bathtime, like much of our playtime at present was all about imaginary play.  "You be a mommy & I be a baby", and similar topics.  I had to be a dragon, a monster, and a giant, as well as the more typical doggy and ice cream man.  The giant was the important one for tonight's tale.

I have to be honest, I wasn't quite sure how to be a giant, so I had to ask for help.  Squeaky told me how to be a giant.  Apparently, I have to say "Fee Fo Fum, I can smell a bloody Englishman!" Innocent misunderstanding, you say?  Well, we live in the South Wales valleys, but both Daddy & I are English (which makes Squeaky English too, thank you very much!), and the 6 Nations rugby starts this weekend.

That's what I thought.

(And to anyone who says "She was born in Wales, so she's Welsh" my answer is "Jesus was born in a stable, doesn't make Him a donkey!")

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Three is an exciting age, clearly.  But it's hard work if you're not three yourself.

Take last week, for example.  One of the days, I had to be a Mommy Cow, a Doggy, a Firefighter, a Mommy, a Froggy, AND go in a tent.  All before breakfast.  I can't keep up with these constant changes, at least not without a reasonable amount of coffee inside me.  Then of course, after breakfast, I had to be a Cowgirl, a Horsey, Shopkeeper, Ice Cream Man, and hide from a dragon.  It was something of a relief to visit her friend for a playdate/coffee & gossip with a real grown up, because the girls could make each other be whichever character they needed next ( a doctor, dentist & dinosaur all featured), and we could have a few minutes reprieve.

Oh, and I really should confess.  I seem to be instilling in Squeaky my own appalling taste in music.  I'm only partly to blame though. Some of the responsibility has to lie on the heads of assorted holiday camps, Daddy, and the legendary Justin Fletcher.  For your delight and delectation, here are a few Youtube videos for some of Squeaky's current favourite songs.  They are all safe for small people to watch, but your sanity may never be the same again. Don't say I didn't warn you.

And just to show it's not all complete trash...  (well, actually it probably IS, but it's in Spanish, so it might be educational, like)

(If you don't have at least one of those stuck in your head for the next three days, I'm doing something wrong.)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Happy Birthday Squeaky!

3 today!  How time flies.

There's snow outside, just like on the day you were born.  It's that time of year, you see.

Happy birthday, my Squeaky little Cowgirl!  You rock my world.  I love watching you grow up, and find your way in the world.  You amaze, frustrate & astound me every day.  Love you.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Poundland Weekly Essentials Challenge

Poundland is one of my favourite shops.  Not only is it the first (and therefore last) shop I see when I walk into town, but I can rarely resist the siren call of a bargain.  Poundland have just launched over 100 new grocery lines, and they sent me a £15 voucher to find out for myself just how much can be saved by switching your weekly shop to Poundland.  Never one to back down from a challenge, here's what I bought.

Breakfast Essentials

Kelloggs Corn Flakes.  The same 250g packet in the supermarket costs £1.39, so a saving of 39p
Shreddies. Squeaky's favourite cereal. Price marked pack £2.29, a saving of £1.29
Bacon (I've got a few days off work, it's allowed!) Supermarket value brand costs £1.64, a saving of 64p
6 Free Range Eggs I could have had a bigger pack if I didn't want free range, too.  Supermarket cost £1.48, a saving of 48p
Coffee I need my coffee in the morning.  And the afternoon, and early evening.  Supermarket own brand roughly equivalent costs £1.50, so a saving of 50p.  I know there's the supermarket value coffee, but have you ever tried it?
Canderel Price marked packs £1.29 each, but I got 3 for £2, so a saving of £1.87

Tomato Soup!
An absolute must in our house, one of the few vegetable-based foods I can get Squeaky to eat.  One big can for us all to share, and two little cans for when there's only 1 adult in the house.  Both the large & small cans are different sizes to the ones in the supermarket though, so it's calculator time.  The big can is 800g, and the little ones are 300g, and 2 for £1.  The supermarket can is 400g for 89p.
Big can 800g for £1, supermarket works out to £1.78 for the same amount, a saving of 78p
Small cans 2 x 300g for £1, supermarket works out to £1.34 for the same quantity, a saving of 34p

Lunchtime Essentials

Ye Olde Oak Ham Normally £1.99 in the supermarket, though it's on offer this week. A saving of 99p
Mattessons smoked pork sausage I only discovered Squeaky likes this last week, but it's firmly on our shopping list now.  Supermarket price £2.49, a saving of £1.49
Heinz Tomato Ketchup Without this, there would be no mealtimes in our house!  Supermarket price £1.85 for the same size (though different shape bottle), a saving of 85p
Spaghetti. Price marked at £1 for 3 cans, but I can't find even a supermarket own brand that matches that!  Supermarket own brand priced 40p a can, so that would be £1.20 for 3, a saving of 20p

Essential Treats!

Vimto for Daddy, who is stuck in the 1970's.  I can't stand the stuff, but thinks I'm wonderful if I buy him some.  £2.69 for 6 in the supermarket, which is £1.35 for 3.  I paid £1 for 3, a saving of 35p
Jaffa Cakes These are for me & Squeaky to share.  Maybe.  If she's good.  Price marked pack at £2.59, a saving of £1.59.

So, I got loads for my £15, more than I thought.  If I'd bought all of that at the supermarket, Id've spent a whopping £26.76!  By switching my essentials (and a couple of little treats) to Poundland, I've saved an amazing £11.76.  I was expecting a couple of pounds difference, but not that much.  I'm really surprised.  I've shopped at Poundland for quite a while, but didn't realise it could make this much difference to my weekly shop.

There was another upside to this challenge.  I needed an onion as well as these items, so because I'd been to Poundland rather than the supermarket for the rest of my shopping, I popped into the local greengrocer for the onion instead.  I supported a local business, and saved another 6p, based on the average price on the supermarket website!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cheddar Gorge, one of Britain's Best Days Out

We were lucky enough to be selected by Tots100 and Money to go along to Cheddar Gorge and experience one of Britain's Best Days Out. We finally managed to get there this weekend, despite dire weather warnings, and were determined to enjoy ourselves.

I grew up in Somerset, and I've been to Cheddar Gorge a few times, but it's got to be at least 20 years since I last went, and my memory isn't what it was.  (Yes, I AM that old)  Severe weather over the last couple of months has meant that there are road closures and damage, and the caves have been closed due to flooding during the really heavy rainfalls.  Fortunately they were open for our visit, but I did call ahead to check.

A roadside map of the Gorge. 
If Cheddar Gorge was anywhere else, it would be a theme park, the whole Gorge & its environs would be behind a pay barrier, with one massive car park & lots of maps.  As it is, Cheddar is a real, living village, and the Gorge is a main road, free for anyone to walk up and gaze in wonder.  The shops are all small businesses, and car parks are scattered around.  It's not easy to work out where's the best place to park.  Fortunately for us, as it was January and it was quiet, I could move the car a few times to more convenient locations around the Gorge.

Checking out the audioguide
Cheddar Gorge, as an attraction, is made up of 2 separate caves, Gough's (the big one) and Cox's (the pretty one), each named after the people who discovered them.  Cox's Cave leads into the Crystal Quest, and there's also a museum, and access to a Lookout Tower (up 274 steps!), a cliff-top Gorge walk, and a Gorge Bus Tour included in your explorer ticket.  Anything you don't get chance to do in one visit, you can go back another time, the remaining parts of the ticket are valid for ten years!  Hope I don't lose the ticket.  The bus tour operates April-October, so we'll go back in the summer for that, and to walk the steps when it's dry.  For an additional fee, you can try Adventure Caving, Rock Climbing or Abseiling, weather permitting and subject to age restrictions.

One of many audioguide signs
First up, we explored Gough's Cave.  We were given audioguides as we went into the cave.  These are self-operated, you tap in the number shown on display boards around the caves to hear each part of the guide, telling you about the history and things to look out for. There's a fairly substantial commentary for the adults, a separate children's audioguide as well and French & German guides, all on the same handset.  Squeaky was impressed, and decided that she needed to be in charge of the handset.  It kept her engaged with the cave for longer than she would have been otherwise, so this was a good thing.

Gough's is a big cave, it goes almost half a mile into the cliffside (the cave actually stretches far further than that, but this is as far as the public can go in) with some amazing rock formations and pools.  Think BIG.  There are great big chambers, chimneys stretching up far into the dark, pools with stalagmites & stalactites, and a fabulous echo in the Diamond Chamber at the far end of your journey.  This went down very well with Squeaky, who was getting a little freaked out being underground, but the echo soon perked her up.

I get a bit arty with the camera.
I could have spent hours taking these kind of arty photos.  Because there weren't many people about, there was plenty of space to be able to rest my camera & capture the perfectly mirrored reflections of the underground lakes.  The weather didn't make a difference for us, the caves are a constant temperature year round, and once you're in the cave, the only water that lands on your head is a stalactite that didn't hold on tight enough!  Gough's Cave is even used to mature real Cheddar Cheese.  Real Cheddar, from Cheddar, aged in a cave, the only cave-matured Cheddar cheese in the world.  You can buy it in the local shops, and it's DEeeeelicious.

A rare photo of me, on the blog!
After Gough's, we went on to Cox's Cave.  Cox's is the smaller cave, and is opened every half hour.  Both caves are self-guided, but as the village is narrow and the cave quite short, there's no space at Cox's Cave for a kiosk.  Cox's is the really pretty cave, with archways, pools and lots more stalagmites & stalactites.  And a really low bit that you have to bend right down to get under.  Both caves have steps, some steep bits, and are slippery underfoot, so they're not very accessible for people with mobility problems.  If Squeaky had been younger, it could have proved difficult, but now she's old enough to walk that kind of distance with minimal complaining.

The final stretch of Cox's Cave is the Crystal Quest, a Tolkein-inspired underground adventure, where you get to help save the world from the evil Mordon and his dragon Thynngar.  The guide explained some younger children can be a bit scared by this bit, and how we could bypass it if we wanted to, but we had a little look.  It was a bit frightening for Squeaky, or had the potential to be, if we hadn't scooted past the scary bits before she had a chance to notice them.  We saved the world though, so it can't all be bad!

Ice cream, yum yum!
We finished our day out in time honoured day-trip style, with an ice-cream.  Never mind the fact it was 2 degrees outside, an ice-cream was needed, and we found a very welcoming cafe to enjoy it in.

And if you can't tell stalagmites from stalactites, tights fall down!!

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

Friday, 11 January 2013

Dashing drivers – a guide to fashion behind the wheel - Guest Post

Picture a convertible cruising along the coast in the height of summer. Apart from the car and the sunshine, there’s another all-important ingredient to this picture – style.

If Bonnie and Clyde had been sloppily dressed in hoodies and caps, they wouldn’t have achieved their status as motoring fashionistas. If we look to these icons of road-trip style for inspiration, we’ll find some top tips for looking fly when you’re on the road.

It’s all about head-wearBonnie’s beret and Clyde’s fedora offer the first and most important tip to driving fashion. Get yourself a hat. When driving, our heads are the most visible and noticeable thing in the whole vehicle, so if you want to look the part, invest in a hat.
Not only does this add instantly recognisable style to your driving look, but it can also cut your ‘getting ready’ time in half. If you’re just picking the kids up on the school run, you won’t want to spend half an hour doing your hair. Just chuck a ‘Bonnie beret’ on, or a baseball cap if that’s more your style, and you’re fit to go.

SunglassesHats are only the tip of the iceberg. With your ever-visible head there are plenty more opportunities to look cool when you’re driving. Another great accessory in the world of car fashion is your sunglasses. The great thing about driving is that it gives you a chance to don your sunnies even in winter, making those bright, crisp days feel like a summer morning. Car sunglasses can be cheap and cheerful as no one’s going to see you up close. There’s also the heightened chance that you or your children will sit on them, so don’t break the bank.

However, if you really want to do the job properly then get a pair of polarised sunglasses, which help cut down on glare from the road and other cars’ windscreens, making your drive safer and more pleasant.

Time to get creative. If you’re driving alone, you’ve got the luxury of not being picked on by your friends for wearing something a bit out of character, so have fun! Wear a neckerchief or even a cravat – who’s going to laugh at you? Drive time is the perfect opportunity to express your inner-Parisian without fear of reprisal. A nice silk scarf can make those tedious long drives feel like a luxury.

MakeupGet creative with your makeup. Shock red lipstick makes you stand out from other motorists instantly. Just don’t blame us if it stops traffic!   

The hidden halfAnother great thing about car fashion is that nobody can see below the windows! This means comfort all the way. Your head and shoulders can look fit for an evening in Milan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear pyjama bottoms if they’re more comfortable for you!

On long journeys or trips where you’re just playing taxi for the kids, treat yourself to some in-car comfort. Tracksuit bottoms, comfy trainers and woolly socks are the order of the day. Just make sure you don’t end up stopping off for dinner looking like the top half of Sienna Miller glued onto the bottom half of Vicky Pollard.

It’s about fun!Dressing for driving should be easy and enjoyable. You get a fleeting glance to create a stylish impression, so high impact and low finesse is an easy and fun rule of thumb. Enjoy!

Get fully covered
Being well dressed at the wheel is one thing, but you're not fully covered unless you have car insurance that offers you adequate protection.

Monday, 7 January 2013

And the (belated) winners are...

I know. I know. It's been a very busy week, but here are the slightly belated winners for the A Matter Of Life And Death book giveaway...

12. Sophie Hedley
6. Erica Price
1. K Mayers

I'll be in touch with you all shortly... watch your inboxes & twitter.

Congratulations everyone.