Mama OWL Blog: July 2012


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

They stood opposite each other in the bedroom, She looked at him from across the bed and roughly pulled back the sheets, keeping her gaze firmly locked on his deep blue eyes as he stood watching her, clothes balled up in his hands.

The scent hung in the air, the knowledge of what had just occurred weighed heavily on them both. All traces had to be removed, but the memory - they both knew - could never be erased.

She removed the sheets from the bed, and sighed deeply. She knew what she would have to face in the morning, the regret she felt for allowing it to go this far. She had known better, but it had happened anyway, and she knew all too well what the consequences were. He stared at her, sharing the burden of knowledge and responsibility. This could not be undone.

    "That is the absolute last time I let him pick his own food from the buffet, I should have known this would happen. I think he must have chosen all of the sweet stuff and now he's thrown it all back up" she said, continuing to strip the bedsheets. "The smell is going to linger in here for days".
    "Why is it always in the middle of the night as well? Don't worry about putting the wash on yet, it's 4 o'clock. Let's just put it all in the bath and do it in the morning". He replied, leaving the room to discard the vomited-on PJs in to the tub.

She took some fresh pyjamas for their son from the drawers and dressed him, while her husband made up the boy's bed with clean bedding.

At the next party, there would definitely be a two cupcake maximum.

#50ShadesOfParenthood with Mummy365

Before my holiday I will be mostly...

Monday, 30 July 2012

... Running around like a headless chicken trying to organise five children and a man (that's like an extra three kids).

Almost everything has to be planned and carried out with military precision in my house otherwise I'd never get anything done, or actually even leave the house at all, and I would probably misplace a child or two in the process.

My check list for a smooth holiday goes a little something like this...
  • Wash everything. Every single item of laundry in your house, done. Then I can pack what we need and when we get home, the only laundry that needs doing is what we have brought back with us. I take a black bin bag to put dirty laundry in as we go along, so it doesn't get muddled in with clean things.
  • If you are self-catering on a UK holiday, do a basic meal plan and book your holiday groceries to arrive the morning of your holiday. This way there is no faffing about, no need to dash off to the supermarket last thing, or to rush off and find one immediately when we get to where we are going. It also saves a bit of cash that can be better spent on souvenirs and ice creams! We can simply unpack and enjoy from the get go.
  • Pre-book and print off tickets for any attractions you are visiting. You can almost always get discounts on advance bookings on attraction websites and then will have more money to spend on the kids while you are away. Also, you can often queue-jump at the ticket office using this method - bonus.
  • Tidy your house before you leave. The last thing you want to come home to is bedlam, make sure everything is in its place and neat and tidy before you go off on your jollies. There is nothing worse than walking in and wondering if you have been burgled before realising that no, this is simply the path of destruction left by you in your mad dash out of the door.
  • If you have a trustworthy neighbour (or even just a nosey one that you know won't break in), let them know you are going away so that they can keep an eye on the house and be aware if anything looks a bit suspicious. Failing that, ask a family member to pop in and check everything is okay once or twice during your holiday.
  • Check the weather forecast before you leave, and pack accordingly. I would even wait until the day before to pack, just to make sure I had the right attire for the week. Whingy kids who are hot/cold/wet etc are just so not fun to be around. Check the weather, trust me. And probably just take pac-a-macs and wellies anyway.
  • Switch off non-essential electricals at the plug, just in case. Not the fridge/freezer though of course, we trust them.
  • Check, double check, and triple check that you have everything you need. You will forget something, but this way you can make sure it ends up being nothing important.
  • Meal plan and book a grocery delivery for when you get home, with all the essentials, especially a bottle of milk. You don't want to come home to Mother Hubbard's cupboards, your kids will be hungry, and you will want to come #hometoacuppa. You'll probably need to book another holiday too, to get over that one.

** This post is my entry for the Britmums Cravendale Come Home to a Cuppa Linky Challenge, sponsored by Cravendale.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday 30th July - Brinner (*Breakfast for dinner)

Tuesday 31st July - Oven-baked potatoes & coronation chicken with salad

Wednesday 1st August - Home-made burgers with mashed potato & baked beans

Thursday 2nd August - Spaghetti Bolognese Bake and garlic baguettes

Friday 3rd August - Chicken fajitas, with Belgian waffles, vanilla ice cream & toffee sauce for dessert

Saturday 4th August - Gammon steak, egg and chips served with pineapple & peas

Sunday 5th August - Roast Beef served with mashed potato, roast potatoes, steamed mixed vegetables, yorkshire puddings, onion rings and gravy with New York cheesecake for dessert

The day I became a mother.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Fourteen years ago at 3.34am I was handed a mewling bundle of pink, all 7lb 4½oz and 57cm of her, and I became a mother for the first time.

We wish our beautiful girl a very happy birthday, and I thank her for giving me the best gift on Earth. We love you to the moon and back and couldn't be more proud of the young lady you are growing up to be.

There may be trouble ahead...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

So yesterday evening, after a busy day of water fights and playing in the paddling pool and on the water slide with her brothers in the beautiful hot weather, E came in and had her bath, and was dried and "jimjammed" ready for bed.

Her brothers (and J's friend) were still playing outside on the trampoline in the early evening, and having noticed this E was keen to go back outside and join them. She came in to the kitchen and asked me if she could go out and play in the garden, to which she was told no because she was ready for bed and it was almost time to go to sleep.

She was not particularly impressed by this, and promptly threw herself on the floor to show her disgust at being told no. After a strop, she got up and stomped off back in to the living room, slamming the door behind her.

I was still in the kitchen with The Mister, standing watching the boys playing through the window, when out of the corner of my eye I spot something very small and pink - with crazy curly hair flying all over the place - go running at top speed across the garden towards the trampoline, screaming with laughter as she ran as fast as those little legs would carry her.

As I stood watching with my mouth agape, it then dawned on me that she has figured out how to climb out of the (very low) living room window that had been open all day because of the heat, and then used J's bike, which is leaning against the wall under the window outside, as a step to get down.

If she is doing this at 2 years old, I can only imagine what the teen years are going to be like!

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Oh what a lovely week! What glorious weather! The sunshine always puts me in a good mood and I really am enjoying the sun after weeks and weeks of constant rain. It has been generally a really nice week, happy times and sunny days.

On with this week's #R2BC...

1. The weather, of course. It has been mighty hot for a couple of days so it will be nice when it cools down marginally, but the sunshine is just wonderful and makes a nice change from the grey cloudy skies we have had to put up with since, ooh, May? It was getting a bit ridiculous so we are enjoying it while it lasts.

2. Sunshine means garden time! We ordered a new water slide and a bigger paddling pool for the older kids and they have been having an absolute whale of a time using them. Also getting out and playing football and on the trampoline, and even just enjoying some al fresco dining at lunch and dinner time all together on the picnic blanket. It is so nice to get out of the house!

3. Tomorrow is our eldest daughter's 14th birthday.  Honestly it feels like she was just born, I can't believe she is going to be 14. She starts Year 10 and begins her GCSEs in September, we are so proud of her hard work at school up to now and if her last termly progress report is anything to go by, she has the potential to do very well indeed.

Be sure to go and visit our #R2BC host and linky creator Michelle at Mummy From The Heart and share some comment love with the fab bloggers who have linked up for the bloghop.

Next week the linky will be hosted by Seasider In The City, so don't forget to head over there to link up (Aug 2nd).

#TheGallery : Street Photography

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Earlier this year I went to Bristol to watch Sister Act at the Hippodrome, and on my way there captured some interesting sights with my phone, street photography meets street art!

* I've linked up with Sticky Fingers for The Gallery.

Organix Snacks

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I was delighted to be sent a selection box of yummy snacks for miss E by Organix, it arrived just in time for us to pack some in her backpack and take to the park for a picnic and an afternoon of play.

We received a 'Mighty Meal' of beef stew and dumplings, and a selection of Goodies snacks including raisins & chopped apricots, mini cheese crackers, a raspberry & apple soft oaty bar, some cheese and herb puffs, mini gingerbread men and a sweetcorn and red pepper veg & oat bar.

Whilst I openly admit that I do indulge E (and my older kids) in treats now and again, I most certainly do prefer to provide them with healthy, hearty snacks that they will enjoy and that are good for them, and readers of my blog will know that I endeavour to cook & prepare healthy, home-made meals and snacks for them at every opportunity.

Organix have a "No Junk Promise", which "guarantees our food is made with nothing but the best quality organic ingredients - with nothing unnecessary added and nothing important taken away. All our foods are made with organic, tasty and natural ingredients to suit your baby's nutritional needs. So even if you don't have time to make your baby's meal yourself, you can still give them something that's healthy, nutritious and tasty."

E's favourites were the raspberry & apple soft oaty bar (these are almost always in my weekly shopping basket, they are a firm favourite of hers and great to tote around in case she gets peckish when we are out and about) and the cheese and herb puffs which made a perfect accompaniment to her picnic lunch.

E can be fussy with her meals and snacks but genuinely enjoys the wide and varied selection offered in the Organix Goodies range and I would certainly recommend them to other parents for their little ones. For more information and for the latest news and updates on their products you can check out the Organix website, follow them on twitter at @OrganixBrands and like them on Facebook at Organix Food.

** Disclaimer: Organix sent a selection of their range to my family for a no-obligation trial. I have received no payment for this post and it has not been sponsored. The views shared are my own honest and personal opinions of the products.

Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Summer has landed! The holidays at least, and the weather, for this week... I won't build my hopes up for the rest of the time. But yay! Sunshine, a summer breeze, water play in the garden... Good weather always puts me in a good mood.

I am quite unprepared, however I don't like to plan too much in the way of activities as I can encounter problems with L if things are changed, so I tend to keep plans to myself and then just go with it. So much easier for me, less trauma for him, the kids get a surprise - everyone is happy.

If you're looking for ideas as to what to do this summer, let me give you my top five hints & tips...

We took the children to watch Ice Age 4: Continental Drift a couple of weeks ago as a reward for good reports, but if the weather turns and you fancy a trip to the flicks, I would definitely recommend this movie. We took our "big four" kids (aged 13, 11, 8 & 6) and they all LOVED it, as did the Mister and I. Great for all ages. You can read my personal review of the Ice Age 4 movie here if you so desire!

We have visited both @Bristol & Bristol Aquarium in the past year, and my kids absolutely loved both places. They are situated opposite each other at the harbourside in Bristol and are both great value for money, and will keep the kids busy for hours. Be sure to check out their websites for discounted online booking.

The Early Learning Centre is currently offering free standard delivery on all orders, plus up to 50% off summer toys with free next day delivery too. Offer code CROCODILE currently gives you an extra 20% off including sale items. I've bought my kids the super splash double water slide and a larger three ring paddling pool to go with our smaller pool (which is reserved for the tiny tots) and only paid £12.40 for both, including delivery.

We're keeping it simple for dinner ideas at the moment (especially in this warm weather), and tonight we're having oven baked potatoes served with salad, and Chicken New York. A couple of people have asked what CNY is - it is a chicken breast sliced in half and stuffed with cheddar cheese, with a  generous dollop of barbecue sauce on the top, wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven for 25/30 minutes or so. Delicious, & quick and easy! A firm favourite in our house.

5. DVD
If you're looking for inspiration for a family movie night or just a "duvet day" then I would highly recommend Puss In Boots. Lots of fun, great animation and an interesting storyline, it kept my kids glued to it (and we have watched it several times since) and I was pleasantly surprised by this spin-off to the Shrek movies. I have written a review on this movie, and also Journey 2: The Mysterious Island which you can view here.

I hope that has helped someone out, feel free to leave a comment with your own top hints and tips for surviving summer.

** These are my own personal recommendations and have not been endorsed by any company or agency for promotional purposes.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23rd July - Home-made beef quarter pounders with hand-cut chips and corn on the cob

Tuesday 24th JulyChicken New York, baked potatoes and salad

Wednesday 25th July - Toad in the hole, mashed potato and vegetables

Thursday 26th July - Chicken Fajitas and cheesy nachos

Friday 27th July - Picking up a birthday takeaway for Alicia (of her choosing) on our way home from my cardiologist appointment at the hospital (a 5pm appointment, brilliant)

Saturday 28th July - Brinner (*Breakfast for dinner)

Sunday 29th July - Roast gammon with roast potatoes, mashed potato, mixed vegetables, onion rings and yorkshire puddings, served with gravy

More decorating

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A few more pictures from our adventures in decorating. The bathroom has been finished for some weeks now but I have only just got round to taking some pictures for you. The flooring cost us less than £8. B&M have been selling flooring tiles for £1.99 a pack and we only needed four packs for our teeny tiny bathroom, they're good quality and it looks really nice. We painted it white to brighten it up and added some brightly coloured accessories. The new mirror is not up on the wall yet but you get the idea. Excuse the messy shelving unit (IKEA) covered in all of our junk, but I wanted to show the nice bright storage baskets which were also bargain buys at just £1 each. The corner storage next to the bathtub is from Argos and the little trays are plastic = no rust, and very handy when you're limited for space like we are.

The girls bedroom is now finished also, all the painting done and finishing touches applied. Ideally I would have loved to replace their furniture with white wood (my fave) but while the current furniture is in good condition and fully functioning there is no need to waste money on changing it. We purchased the new bookcase from IKEA for £19.99 and the little storage boxes are currently on sale for just 70p each, it fit the little gap perfectly and saved having to mount shelves on the walls. We chose not to add the back board to the unit because we didn't want to cover the wallpaper.

It has been hard to find something to suit a teen and a toddler but I think this works well and they both seem to like it (well, I know teen does!) so that is good enough for me. I'm still looking for a nice curtain or something for the built-in wardrobe. Failing all else I think I will find some nice material and get something made. We're refreshing the paint in the boys bedroom next, so pictures will be coming soon for those who are interested in seeing them.

You can view my redecorated bedroom pictures by clicking here.

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Another week has passed and here we are again. I am delighted to have been invited to guest host #R2BC during the summer by the lovely linky creator Michelle at Mummy From The Heart so be sure to look out for that, as well as showing support and visiting the other guest hosts during the holidays.

So what is there to be cheerful for this week? Well...

1. *looks around suspiciously, leans in, whispers*... "They" say the jet stream is moving, and that the rain looks like it is going to start easing off from next week! Summer might possibly be on its way! Don't hold your breath, but have your paddling pools ready just in case...

2. TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY OF TERM!! *dances* no more uniform washes, packed lunches, assemblies, sports days or generally school faffing-aboutness for the next six weeks. AND I managed to get all of the kids school shoes for under £50 after a friend on Facebook posted a fantastic promo code for Brantano (which I tweeted yesterday, for any eagle eyed readers) and I got them all half price, branded items too.

3. My fabulous mister has booked us tickets to go and see The Lion King at the theatre on my 30th birthday. He's whisking me off and treating me to some shopping, a leisurely lunch, dinner and a show, and then a night in a hotel (where we be making the most of it... and SLEEPING, without our bed being invaded and then getting kicked all night) before heading back home Sunday morning. Hopefully we will do something all together as a family to celebrate on the Sunday too though we haven't planned anything yet. He knew how much it meant to me for this birthday to be special as I was pregnant with J on my 18th birthday and had recently given birth to L on my 21st, so this one is all mine and I cannot wait to be spoiled for the day.

And the winner of the £50 Simply Swim voucher is...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The SimplySwim competition ended yesterday and the winner, as generated by via the Rafflecopter widget, who will receive the £50 voucher is...


Congratulations Gemma! I will pass on your details to Simply Swim who will be in contact with you directly. Enjoy your prize!

Thank you very much to everyone who took part, and thank you to Simply Swim for their generous prize.

#50BookChallenge Book 21 "Before I Go to Sleep" (SJ Watson)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


Wow! I was hooked from the word 'go' and couldn't put it down, this book is a real "page turner".

Detailed, gripping and full of suspense, SJ Watson keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout this thriller of a story.

Without giving too much away as I don't want to ruin or reveal any of the twists and turns, the story follows the character of 'Christine' as she starts piecing together her life after she suffers amnesia.

SJ Watson has produced a masterpiece, very clever and well written. A riveting must-read.

#TheGallery : Transport

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

There is nothing quite like a scooter race through the country park with your siblings, and that is what I am sharing with you in this week's #TheGallery for the "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" (transport) theme.

We have linked up with Sticky Fingers #TheGallery linky

The age of convenience

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

After the weekend I have just had, let me say I am THRILLED to be living in the age of convenience. Three children vomiting everywhere (on carpets, beds... er, me...) has not made for fun times in the Owl household. No sir.

But I knew (after having stripped the bed and chucked everything in the bathtub as it was 4 in the morning and it could wait until a decent hour) that in the morning, everything could go in the washing machine and in just a couple of hours, it would all be clean and dry. No scrubbing and wringing, no endless hours of drying. No life and soul slowly being sucked out of me with daily drudgery.

Last night I loaded the dishwasher after dinner and set it going so that everything would be clean ready for the morning (honestly, no idea how I lasted so long without one), and then I loaded the washing machine, prepared it and set it on a six hour time delay so that by half eight this morning, I had already done a load of washing in addition to having got the four big kids dressed, fed and out the door to school. More time to sit on my backside drinking tea (no boiling water in saucepans, God bless the kettle), hurrah!

I love the fact that I can throw all my ingredients in to a slow cooker and switch it on, leaving it all day while I go about my business and take Erica out to the park or shopping or to playgroup, or even just to get on with the housework (or even just faff about on twitter on my phone), and can come back to a delicious meal which is ready to eat in the evening.

I don't even need to leave the house to feed my family (well, the problem of paying for it is sorted by sending the mister out to work...). Frankly I would rather saw my own arm off and feed that to my kids rather than take them to a supermarket, or actually even indeed enter the supermarket on my own (have you been in one recently? By the time you get half way round, you will be losing the will to live). So every Monday after my groceries are delivered, I sit and make a meal plan and click, click, click things in to my virtual basket, and the following week another smiling (well not always, they're not particularly perky when it is raining) delivery man rocks up in his van with my weekly shop. It is FANTASTIC.

Everything I need is at the touch of a button and the click of a mouse, I have to say that these are pretty bloody good times indeed. Amazing what a little - or rather a lot - of vomit can do for your perspective isn't it?

#50BookChallenge Book 20 "Picture Perfect" (Jodi Picoult)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Yet another triumph from JP. I pick up her books now with a certain degree of trepidation, I am concerned that I perhaps won't like the story, or I will somehow feel disappointed at the end because I have enjoyed her other novels so much.

I am pleased to say that this has not been the case (thus far, I still have two or three to go before I have read her complete collection to date) and Picture Perfect is a poignant and moving story telling the tale of difficult childhoods and domestic abuse, centring around the main character of Cassie and her husband, Alex. Cassie finds herself injured and suffering memory loss in a cemetery one evening and is rescued by a police officer.

The story unfolds as she gradually regains her memories and remembers exactly what happened leading up to her accident, and the twists and turns that follow as she tries to piece her life back together in the aftermath of her discovery.

While Picture Perfect is not my favourite JP novel, it is certainly well written and enjoyable, and everything I have come to expect from her work.

Family Movie Review - Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

Monday, 16 July 2012

Yesterday as their reward for great school reports, the mister and I took our eldest four out to the cinema and for dinner while my brother's girlfriend took care of E.

They are huge fans of the earlier movies (we have them all on DVD) and they have all (teen & tween included) been dying to see Ice Age 4: Continental Drift ever since they saw the promotional posters months ago, and so we all piled in the car and off we went to our nearest Vue cinema in Bristol to watch it.

The fourth instalment to the Ice Age movies, Continental Drift follows Manny, Sid & Diego on their newest adventure as the continents start to drift, using an iceberg as a ship they battle storms, pirates and sea monsters in order to make it back to land to Manny's family, Ellie and Peaches.

Featuring the same voice talents as the earlier movies (Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott and Josh Peck) we are introduced to some great new characters including the now teenage 'Peaches' (Keke Palmer) 'Granny' (Wanda Sykes) and 'Shira' (Jennifer Lopez) and also hidden in amongst the new characters are the voices of Patrick Stewart, Nicki Minaj and Heather Morris (Brittany from Glee).

This movie does exactly what it says on the tin. It is not an Oscar winner, it is simply what it is. A light-hearted, fun family animation which continues to tell the tale of three unlikely friends and their makeshift family, it's about love and friendship and loyalty. Plenty of action and humour that appealed to both children and adults alike, the packed cinema and most importantly my family thoroughly enjoyed this movie, with lots of laughter and the children kept entertained throughout.

Beautiful and detailed animation with great special effects and a fun storyline, overall a family film very much worth watching, and one we will be adding to our collection on DVD when it is released. Five stars from us!

** Disclaimer - this is an honest and personal movie review that was paid for out of my own pocket and has not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday 16th July - Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic baguettes

Tuesday 17th July - Baked potatoes with a large mixed salad

Wednesday 18th July - Brinner (*Breakfast for dinner)

Thursday 19th July - Rigatoni alla amatriciana

Friday 20th July - Chicken fajitas served with cheesy nachos

Saturday 21st July - Deli pizza and doughballs with garlic dip

Sunday 22nd July - Garlic roast chicken served with roast potatoes, mashed potato, mixed vegetables, yorkshire puddings and gravy

Moving On

Friday, 13 July 2012

Next week my eldest son Joshua will finish his Primary school career. Just six short weeks later he will be starting a new phase of his life, as a Secondary school student. The next five years will shape the man he will become, choose the dreams he will pursue, decide the path he will follow.

I have watched him grow up from a bonny blue-eyed, blonde-haired baby boy in to a handsome young man. He's overcome many obstacles already with his hearing & ENT issues and has grown up to be a lovely, polite and caring boy, and his Dad and I are very proud of him. I can't believe this time is here already, my little boy is almost a teenager!

We are looking forward to helping him grow and learn and to continue making good choices (and probably several bad ones) once those teenage hormones start kicking in. He's already stopped letting us cut his hair and is currently "growing it", in to what we are not entirely sure but currently it resembles a boom mic. Alicia assures us that she is capable of styling it into something 1D-esque (you know, that flicky thing they're all in to) until he becomes more adept at it. We hope this happens soon because until then it is us that have to be seen out in public with him...

I admit I am dreading the times when he hates me, when I am so unfair, when I am the worst mum everrrrr, when I never let him do anything, when I am SO MEAN, when all his friends are allowed to do something that he is not. But in amongst those times, will be the moments that really matter. Seeing him at Football covered from head to toe in mud and beaming because he has just scored a goal, meeting a girlfriend for the first time, watching him go off for his prom night, standing by his side to open his GCSE results. Those are the times that will be worth every minute of teenage angst, and I cannot wait to experience them with him.

#TheGallery : Food

Friday, 13 July 2012

This week's #TheGallery theme fits in well with us, because our family LOVES food. Making it, eating it, we're allllllll about food.

At Christmastime the boys helped make presents for the staff at their school, we made rocky road and peppermint sweets amongst other things. We love cooking & baking together, I really do think it is so important to teach kids how to cook. I took a snap of Harrison doing his best naked chef impression while he was at work on the rocky road (God bless Nigella)...

and this was the finished product.

We have linked up with Sticky Fingers #TheGallery linky.

A walk through town

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I was walking back through town after Logan's swimming lesson yesterday evening and took a few of snapshots with my phone, it's not often I stop and appreciate how pretty it is but yesterday the sun was trying its hardest to fight its way out from behind the clouds and everything seemed a little brighter.

Sometimes I forget to take pleasure in the small things. When things are getting me down I think I might just take a walk and remember that there is always something to smile about. Even something as simple as a lovely summer evening and knowing that sometimes the rain does stop long enough for you to enjoy it - you just have to make sure you're paying attention when it does.

#50BookChallenge - Books 18 & 19 (Jessica L. Degarmo & Kathleen McKenna)

Monday, 9 July 2012

I was very kindly sent books 18 & 19 of my #50BookChallenge, "Hooking Up" by Jessica L. Degarmo and "Nothing Left to Want" by Kathleen McKenna (based on the true life & death of Casey Johnson, the American billionaire heiress), to read for review.

HOOKING UP - Jessica L. Degarmo

The book is about a young woman named Caitlin who, after the break-up of her long term relationship, decides to take the advice of a friend and have a 'hook up' to get over her ex boyfriend, except she manages to hook up with a man who wants a relationship, and so the story surrounds their fledgling relationship and the difficulties both of them face in allowing themselves to love after being hurt in the past.

I have to admit, that while I enjoyed this book as a light-hearted easy read, I did find the characters to be lacking depth. I would have liked to have had more interaction between the two main characters, more of their story told instead of just Caitlin's internal struggles. Perhaps a little more romance? Overall, a pleasant story.


I will start by saying I had never heard of Casey Johnson until reading this book. I have since done some 'Googling' and found out some more information, but up until that point she was an entirely unknown entity despite clearly being infamous in NYC. The irony of Johnsons specialising in baby care products is not lost on me.

Nothing Left to Want is about the true life and death of American billionaire heiress and socialite Casey Johnson, although in the book she is called Carey Kelleher. While I did pity Carey to a point, as she came across as someone who had only ever wanted to be loved, I really did struggle to care all that much about her because she was essentially a "poor little rich girl", starving at a banquet.

The story was brilliantly told by McKenna and it is an intriguing insight in to the lives of the super rich and their apparent inability to care about anything besides money and themselves. While this story has an unfortunate and tragic end for carey after her death (from natural causes), I do have to reserve my compassion for those who have to deal with genuine adversity, and not their own self destructive behaviour because mummy and daddy didn't love them enough. An insightful and interesting read.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 9 July 2012

Monday 9th July - Egg, chips and baked beans

Tuesday 10th July - Cottage Pie

Wednesday 11th July - Toad in the hole, served with roast potatoes and vegetables

Thursday 12th July - Rigatoni alla amatriciana

Friday 13th July - Enchiladas

Saturday 14th July - Brinner* (*Breakfast for Dinner)

Sunday 15th July - Meal out & cinema treat for the children for their fantastic school reports

#SatCap - Saturday is Caption Day!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

It's Saturday, so caption away!

My youngest two monkeys playing piggy backs!

You can join in & link up with the other Sat Cappers over at Mammasaurus


Friday, 6 July 2012

Just to let you know that I have started a dedicated book review blog for my #50bookchallenge reviews, and beyond. I have copied all of my recent reviews over as well as my reading list, and will continue to update here as well as on there.

It's called BookyWookyDoodah & can be found at, I have also added the link to the left hand side of this page <<< and to my #50bookchallenge link up the top there ^^ so it can found easily for anyone wanting to have a nose!


Friday, 6 July 2012

For those who asked to see the mister's hard work, here you go.

So, our bedroom is very small. However, we live in a three bed semi with five children so to give them the space they need, we moved in to the box room. It suits us, it fits our king size bed (just) & chest of drawers & we have a built in wardrobe which is all we need. We do have a utility room (also known as 'the land of nowhere', as in, "Where does this go?" "Well, nowhere at the moment", it's like a halfway house for things on their way out or on their way in to the house. Currently housing a new kitchen sink to go IN and two old doors to go OUT) so things aren't too cramped, we fill the space nicely.

Anyway, our room has been last to have anything done to it, it's been in a sort of half decorated limbo for years. That's it on the right up there, a mishmash of things, not really finished. To be fair when it got to the end of the day as long as there was a bed in there to crash out in, neither of us particularly cared what it looked like.

We've (haha we've... *I've*) chosen the colour green for our room, due to something I read about feng shui colours, which was this: "(Green Color Feng Shui - Growth, Health, Vibrancy - Wood Element). Green is the feng shui color of renewal, fresh energy and regeneration.  Green color is very nourishing to your health, as it balances the whole body by bringing healing feng shui vibrations from nature. When working with green color, it is important to have at least several different shades in order to maximize the feng shui energy effects". Sounded ideal for a bedroom, I thought.

The boys have the master bedroom which sleeps the three of them comfortably (bunk beds & a midi sleeper with toy storage underneath) as well as a chest of drawers each, a toy shelf and a walk-in toy cupboard. Lots of storage & lots of floor space for them to play. They've definitely got the best deal. Their bedroom is red, white & blue. They actually manage to keep it pretty tidy too. Sometimes I have to go in and just blitz it, but mostly the storage helps them to manage their stuff. It's usually smelly socks and random items of clothing, maybe the odd car or dinosaur that I find on the floor.

The girls have the second bedroom, or rather, they have bunk beds in there until E comes creeping in to our room in the middle of the night. On a couple of occasions I have wondered where our midnight creeper is, and found her snuggled up in bed with her sister which is very sweet. It's a typical teen room (in that you trip over the laptop lead in the way in, and skid along the carpet on numerous school books, before tangling your feet in clothes, and then standing on hair brushes & clips as you try to make it across the room. Don't bother trying to find anything in there either, it's like the abyss) with a few toddler bits here & there and is currently half decorated. Well fully decorated actually, we just haven't put the shelves back up for their 274563627 books or added the finishing touches. It's chocolate brown and shades of pink. It looks lovely.

And so... *drumroll*... here is our finished bedroom...

Just a handful of family photos to go up on the walls now, I really do love my new room. It's nothing grand, and I have to stand on the bed to reach my books & perfumes/jewellery, but it's perfect for us and the mister has done a great job.

(Oh & excuse wrinkly duvet cover, but you know, we do sleep in the bed & I wasn't about to IRON it... *incredulous look*)

#R2BC - Reasons to be Cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Er... So. Reasons to be cheerful.

Anyone? No...? Yea, me neither. I'm going to have to start making stuff up now aren't I?

Okay no really, it's not that bad. But this weather is seriously depressing. The sun came out just in time to set last night which only served to piss me off further. Rains all day, sun dances out & back in again so fast that you would miss it if you blinked. I cannot even comprehend this weather continuing for much longer it is THAT soul destroying. I like rain. I LOVE rain, just not all day every day for weeks on end. I want to take my children to the PARK and on PICNICS without the risk of drowning or being washed away. This quite simply has to stop, and soon. Because I say so. *shakes fist at clouds*

On with #R2BC...

1. There are only twelve school days left before the summer holidays. No more uniform washing, lunch packing, appointments, meetings, school runs, assemblies, sports days OR ANYTHING OF THAT ILK for six whole weeks. What is not to like about that? Lazy days with my monkeys doing whatever we want. Can't wait! With any luck, we'll at least get a few nice days to get out and do the things I have planned. We'll also be celebrating the birthdays of A (who will be 14) and L (who will be 9) during the summer holidays so we have those to look forward to as well.

2. My mobile phone contract has FINALLY reached upgrade time, and yesterday I ordered my new phone. I currently have a HTC Desire which is very "buggy" and just infuriating, I am very much looking forward to getting my brand spanking new iPhone, and it's only £1 more a month than what I have been paying for the HTC so not too bad at all. Fingers crossed it doesn't take too long to get here! I was umm-ing and ahh-ing between the iPhone and the HTC One, I hope I made the right choice!

3. I managed to find a good deal on the kids uniforms for the start of the new term. I've just had to fork out £100 for uniform for A & J for secondary school as it has the logo and is ONLY available from the school (which is entirely not on, in my opinion) but that is only a blazer, jumper, and PE shirt each and a tie for J.
BUT I have managed to get two shirts each for them, plus two pairs of trousers each for all three boys, and two polo shirts each for the younger two boys, for just £50 which is more like it.

I still need to buy trousers for A (very specific ones, of course...), and also shoes for all 4 (which we get at the end of the summer holidays), lunch boxes, PE kits & a new bag for J but so far so good, if I can keep it near enough around the £200 ish mark for the four of them I will be satisfied. Luckily I am pretty adept at shopping around, finding bargains and then earning cashback on what I do buy ( < seriously! I use this every time I shop online and have earned back almost £400 which I then save for Christmas & birthdays) so I am sure I can manage it.

What are your reasons to be cheerful this week? Be sure to visit the host & creator Michelle at Mummy From The Heart, and to link up below.

#TheGallery : The Everyday

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The first thing I thought of when I saw the gallery theme for this week.

I don't think any further description is needed...!

WIN a £50 Simply Swim Voucher

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I'm delighted to offer my readers the chance to WIN a £50 voucher from Simply Swim in my new giveaway.

Simply Swim stock a huge range of swimwear and accessories for all the family, there are a wide selection of brands including a fantastic selection of Speedo Swimwear, in addition to goggles, training aids, towels and even pool games & toys.

All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment on this blog entry letting me know that you would like to win this great prize (you do not need to sign up, comments are open to all), and for an additional entry you can tweet about the giveaway on Twitter.

When you have left your comment be sure to register your entry with the Rafflecopter widget below. The competition ends on July 18th 2012, and the lucky winner will be chosen and announced on July 19th.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: I have received no payment for hosting this giveaway.

Five Year Flashback

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Wow. You know you never really notice your kids growing up when you see them every day. You are aware of it of course, you note each milestone, watch them learn and grow, see them blossoming in to their own little characters and personalities, but it isn't until you look back at pictures of them and think WOW. Where did my babies go?

In 2007 we took a camping trip to Osmington Mills in Weymouth, a basic campsite just on the outskirts of town. A field, with a shower block essentially. Well maintained and a nice place to stay, I might add. We had not been graced with Erica's presence, she didn't join our little family unit until 2010, so it was Adam and I, and the four 'big ones'. My word, they look so little in the pictures! Now they're (almost) 14, 11, nearly 9, and 6½, it seems like time has whizzed past without me really being aware of it.

Seeing the difference between the photo of the husband & kids at the tank museum, to the one taken last week at the barbecue (below) is almost startling (maybe because they're actually smiling in the most recent one!). I really hadn't realised how grown up they all had gotten.

Although it does pain me slightly to realise that my husband has hardly aged at all... *grumble*
In 2007 I was about one and a half stone lighter than I am now and had short hair. I also had fewer wrinkles & worry lines and no grey hair. Oh what five years and another kid can do! I spent a week sunning myself (rather burning myself and coming back with a horrendous prickly heat rash) on the isle of Crete, which is where this picture was taken. I did warn you about the burn, sporting a nice glow here. I have definitely aged but not in a bad way. I think I look better now than I have ever done. I mention my upcoming 20-10th (*guffaw*) birthday with mock horror at "getting old" but I have to say I am actually rather looking forward to it. I have a beautiful family and a nice home, and I am happy and healthy. What more could I possibly ask for? Here's to the next five years - and all the years beyond!

Slow Cooker Week - Recipes

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Here are all of the recipes I am using for Slow Cooker Week... Enjoy!

Monday's Chicken Cacciatore is a Slimming World special and can be found by clicking this link here (opens in a new window). Great served with mashed potato or rice, and also just as tasty on its own.

Tuesday's Spaghetti Bolognese recipe is nice and simple (this recipe serves six - two adults, two teens, two smalls - adjust for your own needs)...
  • Brown off 800g minced beef in a frying pan, draining off the excess fat. Add one chopped onion and two cloves of crushed garlic and dry fry together for a few minutes.
  • Add two tins of chopped tomatoes to the slow cooker, along with the browned mince and onions.
  • Season with salt & pepper and add some Italian herb seasoning to the mix, and leave to cook on low for the day.
  • Serve with spaghetti (or the pasta of your choice) cooked to packet instructions.
Wednesday's Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken I am so excited to try because it sounds DELICIOUS. I can't wait to taste it. I found this recipe on the Morphy Richards website.
  • 4 to 6 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken
  • 1 bottle barbeque sauce (I used the Jack Daniels one)
  • 1 ounce white vinegar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces soft light brown sugar (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder
Place your chicken pieces into the slow cooker. Stir together the barbeque sauce, vinegar, pepper flakes, brown sugar and garlic powder. Pour this over top of the chicken and give it a stir. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Thursday's Spanish Pork recipe also came from the Morphy Richards site.
  • 2lb Stewing Pork – cut to 1″ cubes
  • 3 rashers bacon roughly chopped – or you could use chorizo
  • 3 mixed peppers – sliced (I used 2 red and 1 green)
  • ½ head celery – roughly chopped (including the base as it is packed with flavour)
  • 2 onions – sliced
  • 1 pt chicken stock (or marigold bouillon)
  • 2 tsp paprika (to taste)
  • Chilli pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Zest of one large orange
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Parsley to garnish.
Fry the pork and bacon until lightly browned and place in the slow cooker dish or casserole dish, fry off the vegetables in olive oil until they are soft and turning golden, add to the pork. Deglaze the pan with the stock and add to the casserole dish so the meat and vegetables are just covered.
Add the paprika, chilli pepper and Worcestershire sauce and stir.
If you are preparing ahead you put the casserole in the fridge for up to 24 hours before casseroling or slowcooking – I put it into the slow cooker from chilled on high for an hour and then turn down.
Cook in a slow oven for up to 3 hours or in the slow cooker all day. Half and hour before serving stir in the orange zest. If need be thicken the casserole with a little corn flour – to do this put 2 teaspoons of corn flour into a small bowl (I use an espresso cup), add the sauce from the casserole to the cornflour and stir to make a thin paste. Add this paste into the casserole and stir. By adding the sauce to the flour and mixing; rather than the other way round you will not get any lumps.
Serve the casserole with green vegetables, mashed potatoes or beans or crusty bread.

(Friday is Fajita night, so on to...) Saturday, we're having Slow Cooker Shredded Barbecue Beef and this recipe was courtesy of Tesco.
  • 2.2lbs/1 kilo slow cook beef joint
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 200ml bbq sauce
  • 4tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2tbsp American yellow mustard
  • 1tbsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
Turn the slow cooker on. Cut the joint into two pieces. Heat a large frying pan with one tbsp of the oil. Season the meat and sear on all sides. Place in the cooker.
Using the same frying pan heat the remaining oil. Add the onion, season and saute for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together.
Pour over the meat and cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Do not remove the lid during cooking or it will take longer.
Remove the meat from the cooker. Shred the meat with two forks. Pour any excess off from the sauce and mix with the meat.  
Serve the meat on toasted buns with rocket, tomato, peppadews or sliced pickles and red onion slices.

And on Sunday, the husband cooks our roast so it is down to him whether or not he uses the slow cooker for the gammon (ham).

Fifty Shades of Sh... ouldn't have bothered.

Monday, 2 July 2012

So let me start by saying that I am probably in the minority, but that's okay. Taste is subjective, not everyone enjoys everything and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I am always open to new reading material, and when the hype surrounding The Fifty Shades trilogy several weeks ago started I allowed myself to be suckered in to buying the books. For what it's worth, if you haven't bought them yet, don't. Borrow them from someone, save your money. You are BOUND to know someone who has them. Reading them once will probably be enough if your taste is anything like mine. If you're going on holiday, these books would be great for a bit of easy-reading. For avid readers, probably not so much. Very popular (for obvious reasons) but literary masterpieces, they certainly are not.

I love to read, I am taking part in the #50BookChallenge to read 50 books in 2012, and so adding these three books to the list worked in my favour, they upped my numbers. These are books 15, 16 & 17 of my progress.

As I was saying, I love to read, but the story has to have substance, it has to capture my imagination and to grab my attention immediately. These books did not do that for me. They were simply a bit of light-hearted reading with a generous helping of smut to shift the story along. Well, what little story there was. I understand that these books started life as Twilight fanfic but even so, a fair bit of tweaking (storylines, not nipples, Mr Grey). wouldn't have gone amiss before publishing.

Fifty Shades of Grey was pretty dire, plot wise. It stumbled along (though there was some sandstone, and sandstone, oh and marble, and then more sandstone) and while it was detailed in the sexual content, it lacked any sort of detailed storyline. I learned that Christian Grey is a feeder, Anastasia Steele was borderline Anorexic (no normal woman goes off her food that easily, come on), has an unusual habit of constantly biting her lip (maybe she should try eating?) & was not only a virgin but had clearly been living in a cave, and of course that Katherine Kavanagh (no danger of forgetting her name, it is repeated often) is very tenacious. I forgot after a while whether she was tenacious, but then was reminded that she was indeed tenacious. Repetitive, lacking a plot, and full of sex. If that's your sort of thing, then by all means read it.

Fifty Shades Darker was a definite improvement but by no means a great read in my opinion. A handful of basic storylines were bundled in to this one, so it at least made it easier to read. I started to get bored of the constant shagging I have to say, nobody has that much sex unless they're getting paid for it. In this book Ana seemed marginally less like a simpering simpleton, but Christian continued to come across as rather menacing & bipolar. We learned a bit more about his past, but on the whole it was still hard to comprehend as it was that random and disjointed. I also struggled with picturing any of the characters, usually I can read a book and have a perfect picture in my mind of who the characters are and how I see them, but I have been unable to picture a single one of these characters. The descriptions are basic at best, which made it - for me - that much harder to enjoy.

Fifty Shades Freed was also rather slow. By chapter five they were still flouncing around on jet skis in the south of France, being co-dependent. As for Ana's 'inner goddess', quite frankly by the third book I was ready to karate chop her in the neck for her constant pointless interruptions. Same goes for her "subconscious". I also started to suspect that Christian might be a touch mercurial, and that's not because she says it repeatedly of course, that's just a stab in the dark... I am astounded that so many women are swooning over his character because to be honest some of the things he says to Ana make him sound like a man teetering on the edge of losing it completely & turning in to a serial killer. I think she should do a little less 'idle wondering' & more wondering why on Earth she is married to a man who is so possessive, angry & unreasonable. The only exciting thing that happened in the entire book lasted for about six pages & was over before it began. Yet more random disjointed storylines, and descriptions that said I-haven't-really-thought-this-through-properly. I actually started skim reading over the sexual content because it was getting very samey, there are only so many times I can read about Christian growling deep in his throat before I started wondering if he has some sort of undiagnosed medical issue. The ending was satisfactory (actually, just the fact that it ended was satisfactory), although I was having to will myself to the end of the book by that point.

If you like a bit of blithe holiday reading, these are probably the books for you. If you prefer something that has depth and substance and captures the imagination, then I would give Mr Grey a miss.

Laters, baby.
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