Friday, 31 January 2014

My Swimathon training

It's coming round very fast.  Seven weeks tomorrow, I'll be dangling my toes on the edge of a pool, preparing to swim 5 kilometres.  That's just over 3 miles in old money.  All in the name of charity, and giving myself a challenge.

Today I hit the pool for the first time in a couple of weeks, as I had a bit of time off work, and needed to get on with a decent distance swim to see how much work I was going to need to do.  And in 1 hour, 15 minutes, I swam the first 2 1/2 kilometres, 100 lengths of the council pool, without dying of boredom, or threatening to kill any of the annoying people getting in my way.  Seriously, 100 lengths without murderous rage.  That's a new record for me.  Swimming might be relaxing for some, but if there's someone swimming breast-stroke with one foot on the floor cutting in front of me & slowing down, I'm going to get grumpy.

I haven't even got the help of my Speedo Aquabeat, because I've lost the charging cable, and the battery's deader than my local on a Tuesday night.  I've ordered a new one online though, so all should be well soon.  Suggestions for songs to add to my swimming soundtrack will be gratefully received, I've got a lot of time to fill!

As well as swimming to build up my distance, I've been working on my general fitness, which is otherwise pretty bad.  It's difficult fitting a regular commitment in around work, school runs, and a husband who works shifts, but I'm doing the best I can.  Zumba and Bokwa have made an appearance in recent weeks, and I've been surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.  I'm not the most co-ordinated person in the world, but it's actually quite good fun jumping around like a loon, and no-one's watching.

If you haven't sponsored me yet, why on earth not?  Every penny counts.  You can click this link - or the badge somewhere over on the right hand side. But do it, people!  Go on!

Further Adventures In Welsh

I've written in the past about our adventures in learning Welsh, and the difficulties we face in supporting Squeaky's education in a language that we don't speak ourselves.  It's not like learning a language
in secondary school where children have the skills to research, practice and learn independently, Squeaky still needs those around her to reinforce what she's learning, and that's really difficult when you don't have a clue.

Her pronunciation is getting better through repetition, and she's been introduced to a few new songs at school, with greater or lesser degrees of success.  Her latest song however, made me laugh more than maybe it should.

Mr Hapus had a wee, had a wee, ha ha!
Mr Hapus had a wee, had a wee, ha ha!

The internet comes to my rescue at times like this, and apparently what she should be singing is 
Mr Hapus ydw'i, ydw'i, ha ha!
(pronounced roughly Mr Hapus adoo ee, adoo ee, ha ha)

Or in English, Mr Happy is my name, is my name, ha ha! Almost to the tune of If you're happy & you know it.  Not that you'd realise, because right now, Squeaky is not going to be setting the next series of the X Factor on fire.  

I know Welsh isn't deliberately full of words that sound to the untrained ear as though they are bathroom related. But when you're teaching to a bunch of 3 & 4 year olds, to whom bodily functions are the most hilarious thing imaginable, there's not much that's going to convince them that they shouldn't be singing about toilets, or having a wee.  And to be honest, here's times where I'm no more mature either. Many pop songs sound better if you substitute heart with arse, or I think so anyway. Think about Billy Ray Cyrus (just for a minute!) Achy Breaky Arse is a whole lot funnier.

Talking to a few other mums, it seems that Had A Wee is quite a common misunderstanding of the song, and will pass in the same way as all the rest.  I'm just intrigued as to what bathroom related misunderstanding Squeaky's going to come home with next.  And how to keep a straight face when she sings it at the top of her voice in the supermarket.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Nom Nom Kids reuseable pouches

Squeaky is a fussy child. I might have said that once or twice before.  She drives me to distraction with the foods she will or won't eat, and the way she'll eat them.  She does love a good "squeezy yogurt" though, or "squeezy fruit", and while these are available in the supermarket, they cost a good deal more than the more traditionally packaged equivalents, which adds another few quid to an already stretched budget.

So when I heard about Nom Nom Kids, and their refillable, reuseable pouches, I was really excited.  I know, I know.

It's such a simple idea.  The kind of thing where you think "why didn't I think of that".  The pouches look just like the supermarket ones, the caps are identical, but they have a zipper seal on the one side, and are able to be personalised to identify exactly what's inside, and any serving or storage instructions.  Designed by a mum frustrated with children's eating issues, they're a simple solution to a problem many of us face.

For Squeaky, they mean I can buy supermarket value yogurts, or make my own fruit purees, and serve them up in a squeezy pouch, meaning she doesn't make a mess and is more inclined to eat them.  For younger children, it means home made veg purees and weaning foods are easier to take out & about, rather than buying the expensive ready made pouches - especially important if your child has a food allergy or intolerance.
Nom Nom indeed!

The pouches are DBC, Phthalate and PVC free, and freezer and dishwasher safe.  Even though we haven't got a dishwasher (no space in our kitchen, sadly) they're still really easy to clean, as the inside of the pouch slopes so there are no awkward corners to trap bits of food in.  And because the pouch opens out on the side, it's stable when you're filling it, so no mess in the kitchen.

Squeaky loves the animal design, especially the giraffe (because of her ongoing obsession with giraffes & their bodily functions), and the bright colours make the pouch easy to spot should she suddenly decide to be tidy & put the empty pouch in the bin rather than the washing up bowl.  I love being able to quickly prepare something she sees as a real treat by simply pouring a pot of yogurt or chocolate pudding into a pouch - I feel like SuperMum!

Nom Nom Kids pouches are available to buy online at £6.95 for a pack of three reusable pouches.  Single pouches and replacement lids are also available.

Disclosure: I was provided with a set of three pouches 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, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive payment for their use.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The end of an era

It's a sad day. A very sad day. The end of an era, the passing of time comes to us all. For today I have had to bid farewell to an old friend. One who has been with me through good times and bad. Seen me laugh, seen me cry, seen me curl up & moan with a hangover.

For yes, today officially marks the day I have accepted the fact that my once favourite, much used, much loved, well worn out duvet set has not so much seen better days, but seen better decades.

Fare thee well in the next life, old red bedding set.

I'll be honest, I'm the kind of girl who doesn't like to spend too much money on bed linen, after all I'm asleep when I'm in it, so I can't see it.  I can't even remember where I bought this set from, but it was almost certainly in the sale.  I do love the feel of new linen though, and newly washed linen, so now I've got a good excuse to go out & buy something now, don't you think?

To be fair to the old red set, it doesn't really go with my current bedroom, which is all blues & greys, whereas it went perfectly in our old house with its red & cream bedroom.  So maybe it was time.  I'd love something like the set below, that would be perfect. Sadly they're in the US, and I'm not good at international bedding sizes.  Boo hoo.  Wonder what I can find bargain hunting instead?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Benefits Street

You can't have missed the kerfuffle in the media, and across social networks over the last couple of weeks about Channel 4's Benefits Street.  It's made a refreshing change from Katie Hopkins spouting poisonous filth on Phil & Holly's sofa (though she has been piping up on twitter, apparently)

Everyone's got an opinion, and everyone's entitled to it.  And it's not often I get all current affairs-y on this blog, but honestly, I can't join in with the braying crowds.

I read something in the Grauniad last week, written by the boss of the Housing Association whose tenants are featured in the show, titled "Three things you should know before watching Benefits Street" - and I urge you to read it.  He's very fair to his tenants, and tells a lot of truth.  I've got a few things to add myself, so maybe this is Three More things you should know before watching Benefits Street

  • Benefits Street is Television Just like Jeremy Kyle, Coronation Street and In The Night Garden, it is entertainment.  Situations and characters are exaggerated for the cameras, for your entertainment.  If it portrayed reality, it would be dull, and you wouldn't be watching.  They need an audience, so it has to shock and grab your attention.

  • You don't know the full story  Unless you have met the people featured in the show, sat down on their sofa and chatted to them, lived their lives, learned their backgrounds, you don't know what's lead them to where they are now.  Without that information, you are not in a position to judge.  

  • Benefits Street is Every Street The big media headline was about how almost everyone living on the street was receiving benefits.  That applies to the majority of streets in the UK.  Anywhere with children (unless you live in the kind of posh area where people are earning £60k+), those families are in receipt of benefits.  Anywhere with people over retirement age, they're receiving benefits.  That's not even thinking about the sick, disabled, or those who have lost their jobs because of the current recession.  I live in a leafy little suburban street, a privately owned estate of about 50 houses, yet I can say with absolute certainty that at least 75% of the people on my road are receiving benefits of some sort.  Does that make mine Benefits Street?
I work with people who have financial problems every day.  I work with people receiving benefits.  I work with people who are working, and have to claim benefits to top up their income because their work is so poorly paid they can't afford to make ends meet without help.  That's reality.  The world we live in isn't going to change any time soon, but being judgemental without knowing the truth helps no-one.  Understanding goes far further than sensationalism.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Everybody Loves Butterflies - Parragon Book Buddies

Everybody Loves Butterflies.  That's actually true, you know.  Last summer, in Spain, we were lucky enough to visit a butterfly sanctuary, where they nurture and protect butterflies from all over the world, and help educate visitors in the lifecycle and importance of butterflies.  Squeaky was fascinated, especially when one butterfly decided to be her friend and landed on her arm for a photo.  She was fascinated, albeit a tiny bit frightened to start with, but when she realised that the butterfly's feet only tickled and didn't hurt she was much happier and had a chat with her new friend.  I'm not sure the butterfly understood, but it did waggle its antennae in a happy manner, so that was good.

Aside from making friends, we had the opportunity to see all the stages of the butterfly lifecycle, from eggs underneath leaves, to crawling caterpillars, cocoons (I can't work out the plural for chrysalis), hatching butterflies, and then flying away to enjoy the butterfly version of a really good time.  This handsome fella had just hatched, and was busy drying out his new wings

Tanis Taylor's book, Everybody Loves Butterflies was a great reminder for Squeaky of our holiday, and the butterflies that she had seen and fallen in love with.  The book follows Little Caterpillar, who doesn't want to become a butterfly, because he's too happy being a caterpillar.  He consults with his friends, but nothing can convince him that life as a butterfly will be just as much fun. Until nature takes the upper hand...

The book contains information about the life cycle of butterflies at the end, which Squeaky was possibly even more interested in than the story, and insists that we read 2 or 3 times each time we read the book.  I'm not sure what's so fascinating, but she's loving it.

Evverybody Loves Butterflies, by Tanis Taylor and illustrated by Masumi Furukawa is available from amazon and other retailers.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the above book free of charge for the purposes of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies scheme.  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 and will not receive reward for their use.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Kia-Ora's too fruity for crows!

It's just for me & my dog!

(sorry, a bad old advert there).  This is nothing to do with Kia-Ora, and everything to do with an old photo, as my dear friend Ginger Elanor, of Elanor's Nails wants to see pictures of readers & their dogs.

I haven't got any pets at the moment, though there's a friendly robin, and a blackbird family that pop into my back garden every morning for their breakfast.  They're not dogs though, and the rule was dogs.  So off to the archive we go.

I can't find a picture of me & my dog, but this is the one & only Fred Bassett, who I grew up with, in his favourite position - flaked out in the garden.  Don't blame him really.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Reczema, Eczema

Eczema, and eczema relief, is a very personal thing. What works for one has no guarantee of working for someone else.  We've been very lucky to have been able to try out a range of eczema products on Squeaky, rather than having to bother our doctor or pharmacist all the time in search of "the one".  With this in mind, we were offered the chance to try out Reczema, and weren't likely to say no.

Reczema is made in Sweden by Secuvie.  It's a natural product designed for use on skin problems such as eczema, irritations & rashes.  Amongst the ingredients, it contains Jojoba, Linseed, Castor and Olive Oils, and a few things I don't recognise & can't spell. According to their information it's tested for allergic reactions & is safe to use on things like insect bites as well because it stops itching.

First reactions - the pump action bottle is a good idea & one pump dispenses roughly one Squeaky-limb's worth of cream.  (That's a standard measure, you know!)  The cream is a slightly off-white & sort of medicinally thick - definitely cream rather than lotion.  I had a quick sniff, in order to give you a full review, and kind of wished I hadn't.  The best description I can give is that it's slightly reminiscent of PVA glue.  Squeaky wasn't that detailed, she just said it smelled yucky.  I couldn't bring myself to disagree.  Smell isn't everything though, and we gave the cream a try.

On her arms & torso, which aren't too bad for eczema at the moment, just a couple of slightly dry patches, we were fine.  The cream is absorbed easily, and doesn't leave the skin sticky or slippy.

Then we moved on to her legs.  Right now they're quite pink with eczema.  The skin's not badly broken or bleeding, but it's decidedly pink & itchy.  We got halfway down the first leg before she started to complain that the cream was hurting her "bruises" (she hasn't managed to differentiate between bruises & eczema patches).  I asked her to show me where, and noticed that the patches where I had applied the cream were already looking redder than those I hadn't yet got to.  I rinsed the cream off, calmed her down & applied some of our tried & tested boring cream from the GP to her legs, which she said stopped the stinging.

Sadly, based on that stinging, she's not let me try the cream on her since (we had a similar reaction to a calamine based cream last year on holiday, the tears are more than I can bear), so this one's not for us.  That's not to say it's not for you, as I said at the start, eczema & eczema relief is a very personal thing.

After trying out Reczema, I spoke to the company, and learned a couple of things that might help you out.  The distinctive smell is from Fulvic Acid, one of the other ingredients.  Basically, the more the smell, the more Fulvic Acid, and the greater chance that it will control the eczema.  As I said, while the smell is noticeable, it's one of those things you can get used to.  They also told me that the cream *does* sting on broken skin, an effect of the active ingredients which are working to soothe and calm the eczema symptoms.  For an adult this probably wouldn't present an issue, but for an impatient 3 year old, it's quite a challenge.  I wanted to include this information to provide you with some balance, and to twist the clich├ęd break-up line, "It's not Reczema, it's me"!

You can buy Reczema direct from Secuvie via their online store, where a 50ml tube costs £26.99.

Disclosure: We were provided with a tube of Reczema 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, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Sport Relief Swimathon

I'm not sure what's come over me.  It could be that there's a big & scary numbered birthday less than 2 years away.  It could be the fact that my waistline is growing at an astonishing rate.  Or I could have drunk one too many cans of energy drink & started hallucinating again (that was a scary afternoon!).  I'm not going to be one of these people who can do 40 before 40 (I said it, ooops), unless it's 40 jam doughnuts.

But for some reason, I decided it would be a good thing to register for the Sport Relief  Swimathon.   And not the 1.5k, 2.5k, or team challenge. Oh no, I'm daft enough to have registered to swim 5km on my own.

I was a swimmer in my (much) younger days, and have swum quite a few 3ks.  I was swimming 2k+ a time until I was 8 months pregnant with Squeaky.  It's just kind of slipped since then, along with my social life, beauty regime & sleeping patterns.  Nothing like a ridiculous challenge to get your mind focussed, hey?

So between now and March 22nd, I've got to double my distance - I'm swimming around 2-2.5k at the moment, and get used to the ever present smell of chlorine.  It's quite a trick fitting training in around my work, Squeaky's school runs, and Daddy's shifts, but I'm doing the best I can. I think I'm going to have to take out a couple of months' membership of the council pool, because otherwise it's going to cost me a fortune.  The pool opens at 6.15am.  What's the realistic chances that I'm ever going to get up & go that early, while Squeaky & Daddy are still asleep? (that way he can deal with her toast demands)  Not gonna happen is it?

But.  I'm going to do it, even if I have to spend 6 hours gentling bobbing about in the pool, with Squeaky getting increasingly jealous that she can't come in & join me.  That's quite tough actually, she loves "going swimming", but her version of going swimming involves hanging off me or jumping in from the side like a lunatic.  I don't get many (or ANY) lengths in if I've gone with her.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, partly for sympathy.  And partly because I'd love it if you could dig down to the bottom of your pockets & sponsor me using the link, or the handy badge over on the right somewhere.  I haven't set myself a big target, as you'll see, because it's as much a challenge to myself as anything else. But if you've got some spare pennies, I can think of worse ways to spend them!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

(Belated) Happy New Year

I have an excuse.  It's been Christmas, and New Year & School Holibobs, and I've been kind of busy being Mum, rather than being Blogger Mum.  But hey ho, it's the weekend, school starts on Monday, and it's about time I got back on the blogging horse, so to speak.  Even though it wasn't me on the horse!

Happy New Year is the name of the post, and on Tuesday that's exactly what Squeaky, Pirate Girl, Mini Me (Pirate Girl's little sister) and a couple of somewhat frazzled Mummies had.  Yes, Tuesday.  Don't look at me like that.  I know what I'm talking about, for once.

I had a lovely email last week, from the nice folk at Cantref Adventure Farm, saying I'd won 4 free tickets to their children's New Year Party, and as Mini Me is small enough to get in for free anyway, the guest list was easily filled.  Off we trundled through the hailstones into the wilds of the Brecon Beacons for a Mid-day Midnight.  And what a fab time was had by all.  Aside from the usual Cantref fun of meeting the cute & fuzzy animals, jumping in ball pools, and throwing yourself down slides in the name of fun, there was a full-on New Year's party to keep the small people entertained as well.
Look at me, Mummy!
No, honestly.  There were party dances, musical statues, musical bumps, pass the parcel, and the all-important countdown, Big Ben Chimes and Auld Lang Syne. Balloons, party poppers, I don't envy the cleaning up job afterwards!  All presided over by Cantref's very own Mr Ev's.
Should auld acquiantance be forgot...

Cha Cha Slide, kinda

Mr Ev's, our genial host.

Talking of horses, Squeaky & Pirate Girl made the most of the fact that Cantref is also a riding centre, and braved the cold (it had stopped snowing by then) to ride on one of Cantref's  friendly ponies.  NOT Mr Ev's, he's far too cheeky for riding.  I love how grown up they manage to look in their riding hats & anoraks.  It's serious business, you know.
Very serious business!

And for their hard work they each received a special Cantref rosette to commemorate their superb riding skills, and mugging for the camera abilities!

I'll leave you with one last shot of the stunning scenery that makes Cantref so special, and a place we return to with smiles & laughter every time.  Even in the cold of December, it's still so beautiful.  Squeaky, Pirate Girl, Mini Me, and their mummies had an amazing day, and what a genius idea.  See you next New Year!

We're linking this post up with the Coombe Mill Country Kids Linky.   Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Disclosure: I received free tickets to the New Years Eve party through a competition on Facebook. I was not asked nor obliged to write this post, I have chosen to do so to share our experience.