Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Shop local this Christmas (says the OH)

My husband came out with a good reason to shop local today. He’s insisting on buying our son’s bike from a local shop he uses regularly, not online or on the high street.
“Because next time I need my bike repairing, I need that shop to be there – not closed down because we bought a bike online to save a few quid.”
Good point, well made. Turns out it’s only a fiver dearer in his shop anyway, plus it’s assembled, there's no P&P, I don’t have to stay at home between 8 and 4 and we can keep going back every time it needs something doing.
Shop local.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

About that six day warning...

Last week I wrote a post about the unrealistic expectations and laziness of men when it comes to leaving the house. You can read it here. One male blogger, incensed by my nonsense, sent me this response. Read it and weep.
Dear Wife,
Last Sunday you told me that we would be going to your Sister’s house this Saturday, for lunch. I grunted my acknowledgement and forgot about it instantly.
On Monday, you mentioned that we would go for a walk in the woods while we were at your Sister’s at the weekend. I filed that under ‘that’ll-be-nice’ and gave it no further thought. We only need legs to go for a walk and I have two of those. I considered myself ready for the challenge.
On Tuesday, you said how excited you were about going to your Sister’s at the weekend and I distinctly remember asking what day we were going, why we were going and what we were going to do while we were there. You did a special womanly sigh and informed me that we were going on Saturday, for a walk and for lunch. “What time will lunch be?” I asked, “Lunch time, or later?” It’s important to know the difference between a ‘meal’ which can be served at any time, and ‘lunch’, which should be at 12 O’clock. I’m very set on this detail.  “Lunch” you replied.
On Wednesday you asked me what time we needed to set off in order to get to your Sister’s for lunch on Saturday. I remember thinking to myself that this was a remarkably strange question considering that I didn’t even know we were going to your Sister’s, not to mention the fact that we have both lived in the same respective houses for at least six years and we have visited them at least four times a year ever since. Surely by now you should have got the hang of how long it takes? We don’t even use the sat-nav anymore. “Half past ten,” I say, “eleven at the latest if we are to get there in time for lunch.”
On Thursday, you had a day off talking specifically about your Sister but instead spent an hour banging on about how you don’t have anything nice to wear at the weekend, and the general lacking in your ridiculously over-stuffed wardrobe at the moment. I told you that fourteen different outfit combinations looked lovely on you but no actual decisions were made.
On Friday, you pointed out that if we were to leave the house for half past ten the next morning, then we was really going to have to get on with it when we got up. You mooted the idea of setting an alarm but shelved it in favour of a gamble that the kids would wake us instead. I reminded you how long it always takes you to get ready and that we really did need to be away in time because your Sister’s kids would eat all the sausage rolls again, if we were late. You nodded in agreement – that particularly cold and food depleted visit has never actually been forgotten nor forgiven.
For six days you have nagged me about this visit. For six days you have been planning it.
So why is it, love, that with twenty minutes to go you are still sat in your PJ’s with your nose deep in Twitter and need me to tell you to get ready?
An hour ago I mumbled that perhaps you could possibly have a shower first, on account of how much faffing this always entails, and you shrugged me off. I looked over at the kids half an hour ago and I thought you were leaving it a bit late to get them ready. I shook my head in disbelief at your apparent lack of thought. 
It only takes me five minutes to wash my pits, sack & crack in the shower (I’m nothing if not thorough), five minutes to dry and throw on the closest pair of trousers and shirt to the end of the rail, and another five minutes to follow you around as you use your special female Voodoo magic to locate my otherwise lost phone, keys, socks and sunglasses.
Fifteen minutes – that’s all it takes me to be ready! I’m ready with five minutes to spare and where are you? Upstairs, messing about with the kids now that you’ve finally noticed they aren’t ready.
Will you please get a move on? Those greedy nephews of yours will be tucking into the garlic bread soon.
Love you
Husband x

Saturday, 17 November 2012

About that 20 minute warning...

Dear Husband
We need to talk about leaving the house and that 20 minute warning.
Nothing annoys me more in this world than when, after an hour sprawled in front of Breakfast TV drinking coffee, you announce that we’re leaving in 20 minutes.
Then……in 20 minutes, when you’ve showered, dressed and packed your one bag – you start shouting at me, “COME ON! AREN’T YOU READY YET? WE’RE LEAVING!” then under your breath “bloody woman, she takes hours to go anywhere.”
You see, your argument is based on how long it takes YOU to get ready.
Just You. With hardly any hair (no drying), hardly any packing (one pair of pants for 5 days), and absolutely no one to look after whilst you’re doing it.
In the 20 minutes you’ve kindly allocated me to get out of the door, I am:
·         Having a shower
·         Wiping a child’s bottom
·         Getting back in the shower
·         Breaking up a fight
·         Giving up on the shower
·         Standing on lego (allow 1 minute for pain to pass)
·         Clearing up lego
·         Washing up breakfast dishes
·         Losing my towel
·         Answering the door to the postman
·         Remembering I lost the towel….Hello Postman ;)
·         Putting my underwear on
·         Retrieving my pants from a child’s head
·         Throwing my clothes into a suitcase
·         Throwing clothes for two kids into a suitcase
·         Putting the rest of my clothes on
·         Setting my hair on fire with the straighteners
·         Setting my towel on fire with the straighteners (oh, there it is!)
·         Breaking up another fight
AND I didn’t even get chance to check Facebook.
So next time you shout “20 minutes and we’re leaving”, I’ll grab my one bag and I’ll see you in the car.
Love you,
Read the Husband's response to this letter...click here

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hope, opportunity and adoption

 “I saw this chubby little boy. He looked nice, but it was weird thinking he was going to be my son. We felt protective towards him very quickly. He’s just adorable. We wouldn’t be without him.” Adoptive parent, Gloucestershire.

One of my biggest regrets in life is not adopting a child.
I have two beautiful homemade children with their lives ahead of them but I still regret not taking the plunge. I feel that by not adopting I’ve taken the easy way out.
Weirdly, it was Barack Obama's thank you speech to his campaign team that got me thinking about this again today. (see it here)
He talked about making a difference to people's lives and opportunity and hope. And my mind wandered back to adoption.  
But  all I ever do is think about it (and I know my big sister does too). I don’t pick up the phone and make the one call that could have changed my life, but much more importantly, somebody else’s.
Adoption isn’t just for people who can’t have kids. It isn’t and should never be a last resort. It’s a decision to give someone the opportunities and the life they deserve.
There are 484 children in care in Gloucestershire alone. This year the number of young children and babies coming into care has increased. Many have been abused and neglected and what they really need is a forever family.
It's National Adoption Week so if you’re thinking about it, take the bull by the horns and at the very least get an information pack. There's no harm in just looking http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/adoption

Listen to Paul Coxon's story, the view from an adopted child http://audioboo.fm/boos/342246-my-story-part-1-about-my-adoption

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Autumn - The Gallery

Autumn. Equal first best season (along with Spring, Summer and Winter). It's been one of the most colourful I've seen for years.

For me it's the season of puddle-jumping.

Morning mists

And crazy tree colours.   Lush.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Barack Obama Fashion

In honour of the US election, today I am mostly wearing my Barack Obama kanga. This is it laid flat.

The words roughly translate as CONGRATULATIONS BARACK OBAMA.   
Love and peace have been given us by God.

It was a gift from my Kenyan brother-in-law after Obama became President and the whole of Africa celebrated. Great isnt it?
Kangas are traditional in Swahili culture, brightly coloured with a border and usually carrying a message.  
They look great when you’re wandering around a hot African village, but I’m not sure how it’ll go down in Sainsbury’s. So for today I’m just wearing it around the house.

Good Luck Obama!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Cafe culture - Cotswold style

I want to tell you about an absolute gem of a cafe in the gloriously picturesque South Cotswolds.
It’s one of those places you want to shout about *whispers* but you also want to keep to yourself. shhh. 

Hidden away in the secret valley that is Uley, Gloucestershire, is Prema Arts Centre.  A wonderfully eccentric place where you can take part in all manner of crafty, cultural and musical craziness.

And now It’s got a café. 

The offer is simple; coffee, cake, panini, soup; and Adam (above) sets the vibe.  He loves coffee and he makes great bread. Enough said.

The atmosphere is cosy, comfortable and very relaxed - with just a touch of cool. Sit inside on the huge sofas and you could be in the more bohemian areas of Bristol or London, sit outside and you know you’re in the Cotswolds.

It’s a great place to meet, chat, work and chill out (free wifi). The welcome is warm, the locals are friendly and whenever I go in I meet someone new.

The cakes are made at home by a local resident, they taste good and are beautifully presented. The walls are adorned with art (that you can buy), it changes regularly so you never get bored and there's always good background music.

Try it out, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s just a great place to be.

*not a sponsored post, I just really like it there* 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Better at making gravy

A conversation. Sunday night at 9pm:
Me:                   I can't bear to watch Downton. I might blog.
Him:                 Ok. I’m going to do my ironing.
Me:                   I won’t be blogging about ironing.
Him:                 You can’t, you don't have any experience.
Me:                   Yes I have. I ironed H’s football shirt once..............

I was always better at making gravy. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

My Shadow - National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day today.

I'm a bit late posting this, but here's the poem that reminds me most of my childhood. It has to be read in a North Wales accent, because my Dad always read this to me.

My 4 year old son loves it too. It's from the book A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Dated but still beautiful. (I tend to replace 'nursie' with mummy!)

My Shadow 

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Don't be afraid to step in

The suspected abduction of April Jones is playing on everyone’s minds today, not just people with children.
Just last week I had a moment of fear and pulled my 4 year old son close to have the stranger danger chat again.
We were in a soft play area, perfectly safe, we go there all the time. But it was busy and as I was watching parents coming in and out I suddenly thought, if someone carried my son or daughter off, would anyone stop them? Of course they wouldn’t. Why would they think it was anyone other than their parent/guardian carrying them?
Even if the child was kicking or screaming, how many of us would probably sit there and sympathise, giving them a knowing ‘another tantrum’ smile.
So I sat down with the 4 year old and explained that he must never go anywhere with other adults, even if they said Mummy told them to pick him up. If they decided to pull him away or carry him, he needs to shout out ‘help me this isn’t my mummy’. If he simply cried and kicked, I know that the majority of people would ignore it, it’s just another naughty child.
It's not the happiest chat I've ever had with my son and I think he probably forgot it two minutes later. The odds of it happening are small, miniscule, there's probably more chance of winning the lottery. But it's the most painful, sick-inducing fear I have.  
There are plenty of messages out there for the kids but what about the parents?
Don’t be afraid to tackle a parent if a child looks in distress and you’re just not sure. If everything is ok, they would forgive you for interfering, but they’d never forgive you if you didn’t.
Stranger Danger Gloucestershire Police website http://www.gloucestershire.police.uk/kids_aware/3.html


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

You'll be a Press Officer my son

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise.

You’ll be a Press Officer my son.

I’m convinced that Rudyard Kipling wrote the opening lines of that most famous poem after spending a week in a council press office.

I’ve got 13 years experience of working in (or managing) an in-house press team of some kind. So I feel I’m (only) just about qualified to comment.

I’m not talking Public Relations, I'm talking about good old fashioned Press Officers here. In-house, fire-fighting, crisis averting, blamed for everything, double-shifting, on-calling, dogsbodies.

It’s one of those jobs most people think they can do, but in my experience very few are actually any good at. By good I mean they can please people on all sides of the job. People with big egos and tight deadlines. The boss, the reporter, your colleagues and indirectly, the public.

It’s not just about good copywriting (but boy that helps) and it certainly isn’t about being super organised (we have systems for that). For me, it’s 90% personality and attitude. To be a great press officer you need to be wise beyond your years, positive, have strength of character, know and trust your journalists, have sound judgement, honesty, integrity, a sense of humour, and very very broad shoulders.

Most of all, you need to be willing to take the blame.

That shit policy that no one ever thought would see the light of day? Well it did, and it’s getting hammered all over the front pages. Yep – your fault for not getting the Editor on-side. Unhappy residents campaigning against service closures? That’s your fault too.  

But with the blame comes the honour of doing the job well. You might not be saving actual lives or facing danger – but you do get to play a big part in giving people accurate information at the most crucial times. From flooding to fires, from snow to pot holes. From school closures to public health scares, from MRSA to crime scenes. It’s a never ending job of long hours and often long nights. If the emergecy services are awake, and the media is awake, then so are you. And it’s a great thing to be part of.

If you can keep your wits about you, you’ll be a Press Officer my son.
UleyGirl retired from being in-house 3 weeks ago and is now seeing it all through rose-tinted spectacles.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Real REN reviews - Camping Collection

Back in August I started using REN skincare products, all natural, all British and used by my local (ish) spa at the Montpellier Chapter Hotel in Cheltenham.

After a good 6 weeks of use I'm posting my reviews. I'm focussing on practical day to day use. I'm 37, I work, I'm a Mum and I like the outdoors. I look after my skin but I don't do high maintenance.

Going camping? Which skincare essentials would you take?

The true test of any decent beauty products is whether you can be bothered to travel with them. Packing to go away always separates the men from the boys and I tend to select the ones I really can’t live without. If you opt for travel sized cheaper products on the essentials when you go away, then your expensive ones aren’t serving you well. It’s probably time for a change.
The brief: The weather’s going to be hot, I’m using shared showers at odd times of the day and I might be accompanied by two kids under 5. I will have easy access to a sink and I don’t have space for extras. Bedding, food and having fun are my priority on this trip.

I chose to take three essentials:

·         Ultra moisture day cream
·         Photoactive sun veil SPF 15
·         Ultra moisture cleansing milk

I left behind the Tonic Moisture Mist, which I regretted, but it’s a heavy glass bottle. 

Ultra Moisture Day Cream

I have been using Dermologica Skin Smoothing Cream for a number of years now, and sometimes interchanged with Clinique Dramatically Different moisturiser (cos my sister-in-law picks it up cheap in the states!). So how does this compare?

Packaging: Small 50ml bottle is plastic and very light. Fits easily in a cramped cupboard
Practicality: you just rub it on! Pump makes life a lot easier.
Travelling: Secure lid, small enough for flying (not that I did) 
Results: You don’t need a lot and it lasts me all day. It doesn’t have the rich feel of the skin smoothing cream I’m used to, but does have the same results. Seems to be lasting for ever.

Photoactive Sun Veil SPF 15

REN believe that you shouldn’t mix your moisturiser with your sun cream, so they don’t do a 2-in-1 product. According to REN the skin gets confused with the two products and doesn’t really know how to react. So moisturise first, then apply a sun protector.

Packaging: Small 50 ml bottle with pump, plastic
Practicality: Slap it on once you’ve moisturised then whenever you need it.
Travelling: Light, secure lid, small.
Results: I was concerned it was only factor 15 so topped up often, and still put unsightly kids 50+ sun block on my nose cos it always burns.Worked well but I think having two products might put some people off, who has the time or the space??

Ultra Moisture Cleansing Milk

I wanted a face wash and I have two REN options. One is for general cleansing, the other for make up. So I opted for this one which is a cleanser. I also chose it cos you rub onto a dry face then wash off with water, no flanner required. Perfect for sink washing, or even tent washing with a wipe/bottled water.

Packaging: Large 150ml bottle with pump, plastic.
Practicality: Squeeze onto hands, rub together, massage onto face, rinse. Quick and easy. (even when pissed or in the dark – that's another post)
Travelling: as big as a bottle of shampoo, but light enough. Secure lid.
Results: I really like this product. I’m used to cleansers that leave my skin like they need a good slap of moisturiser on top, but this doesn’t leave me with that tight, dry skin feeling at all. It’s not complicated, it’s just simple and effective and makes you feel clean. One of my top REN products.

Next review will be the best products when you've had too much to drink and then a hangover the next day.

To read out about my first REN facial, click here

The Gower - empty and beautiful
 By the way, the camping was wonderful, four days, hot sun, large empty beach, cold beer, nice wine and happy kids playing til dark.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Stop child abusers using Twitter - Sunday Mirror campaign

As a twitter user and a parent, I've signed this petition. Click through, sign up and please RT

The Sunday Mirror is running a campaign calling on Twitter to clean up its site and prevent paedophiles using it as an open platform to trade child abuse images, videos and information.
For every image that is viewed and exchanged on Twitter a child is being abused so your support is crucial to make sure this stops NOW.
Could you help us by retweeting this link and ask your followers to open the link and sign our petition, then retweet it to their followers.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sky Porn - The Gallery

(without treatment or filters)

rainbow porn (gloucestershire)

Moon porn (Lamu)

Big sun porn (Kenya)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Free fruit and a facial

It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you have kids, the only time you’ll get a f……………facial, is at Christmas and Birthdays.

A few weeks ago all my Birthdays came at once.

As you know, I’m testing some REN skincare products.  Part of the terrible deal of having to try out all these products, was that I would have to endure a facial at a luxury hotel in Cheltenham. Well…if you’re making me.

So I arranged for the other half to go on the nursery run and I was booked in for 5.45pm on a Friday, at the end of a tough week, I would be unwinding with the aid of the magic hands of a REN skincare expert.

Friday went as expected, the day got worse as the clocked ticked away, I was breaking into a stress induced sweat and by five o’clock was more worried about my personal hygiene than having my jowls massaged.

I'd parked near work so I could get away quick sharp. Only there was a barrier to get out and I didn’t have a key. I was trapped. After considering my options for a) crashing directly through the barrier; or b) heading through the hedge up a steep curb to freedom or c) none of the above cos the Police Station is next door…
I finally persuaded someone to let me out. “I’m going to be late getting the kids from nursery!” I screamed. ;-)
treatment room (soundproof for snoring)

I arrived at the Montpellier Chapter Hotel in Cheltenham only 1 minute late and was directed to the Spa, which sits in the cellar. Cool, refreshing, dark.

I was talked through the products and we worked out which ones would suit my skin, my lifestyle and my hopes and ambitions for the future. (slim legs, flat stomach, a naked David Beckham waiting for me when I got home).

The facial was so relaxing that I woke myself up with my own guttural snore. Yes it was that good. 

Free fruit, I mean, who doesn't like FREE fruit??
 After recovering in the chill out room with a selection of fresh fruit and juices, and acting like I did this every week, I reluctantly dragged myself away. 

The Hotel is beautiful. Smart, stylish and full of gorgeous people sipping cocktails in the early evening sun. I felt at once excited to be there and envious of those who could just decide to drop everything and stay. It was a glimpse of the life I’d left behind.

I vowed to go back one day for cocktail hour, and headed off home to my family.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Skincare wet dream

I'm not what you'd call high maintenance when it comes to my appearance. My hair mostly does itself and I only wear makeup on nights out. But behind the I-don't-care-how-I-look facade, hides a girl who's a sucker for a good face cream.

I have a cream for everything. If it promises to reduce the bags or iron out the wrinkles, I'm there.

I am a skincare marketing wet dream.

So when a friend offered me the chance to test and review a new British made skincare range (just as I was running low on Dermalogica supplies), I jumped at the chance.

I've got my samples and I've started using. Over the next few Weeks I'll review each product and let you know how I'm getting on.

I'm stress testing them on a no-time-to-fart lifestyle. After rugby, on a 5.30am wake up call and with a hangover.

The products are from Devon, take a look at www.renskincare.com on twitter @RENskincare

Here's my box of tricks. EXCITED! 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Gold medal mojo

The Olympics, they make me feel 13 again.

I can’t sit and watch every minute of every hour like I did then, but it turns out that my thirty-something self is still capable of forming Bieber-esque crushes that turn me into a squealing mess, leaving me searching the internet for hours for glimpses of my heroes.

I’ve got a girl crushes on Rebecca Adlington and Gemma Gibbons. A big brother crush on Bradley Wiggins and a poster boy crush on Mark Cavendish (phwoar). I want to invite Mo Farah for tea and I’ve got a growing ginger obsession with Greg Rutherford.

And after four Olympics I still desperately hope to marry Ben Ainslie.

I spend my evenings sobbing with joy and my sleeping hours dreaming of relationships I will never have.

I'm out cycling with the wind in my hair, enjoying the sunshine, looking stylish in lycra (is that even possible?). When I hear the whirr of the wheels behind me, feel someone coming up close, almost feel the breath on my neck. It’s Cav.....that cheeky boyish smile and mean determined stare....... We lock eyes....

.......and the alarm goes off, I change my baby's nappy and head off to work at the council.

You get the gist. After a summer of sport, we’ve all got a spring in our step, we’re proud to be British. And thanks to the poster boys I’ve got my Mojo back. :-)

mmmmmmm Cav.....

(And when I grow up I want to be Clare Balding, with Denise Lewis's body. That's all.)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Shiny happy people, my session with REN

It's been a good day.

For one hour I lay on my back, wrapped in a towell whilst a complete stranger rubbed REN into my pores.

In a beautiful, stylish, modern hotel. And 20 miles away my husband was putting the kids to bed.

*insert smiley face* 

I was there to try the new products. REN are British made (in Devon) and I'll be trying them out of over the coming weeks.

But for now take a minute to imagine yourself - child, husband, partner or pet free, in the muted, dimmed, rose-smelling, calm ambience of the Montpellier Chapter Hotel's Spa.


Here are some pictures to help.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Did you make any new friends today?

Making friends - it's such a ball ache. It's something you spend your whole life doing yet most of it dreading.

This weekend I've been thinking about it a lot. I mean, who doesn't worry about making friends?

From starting a new school, to going to Uni, moving away for your first proper job and then changing job. Buying your first house and meeting the neighbours, buying the next house and wondering if you'll build the same relationships again. Starting a family and fitting in with the mums, finding a life for yourselves that's more than just the kids.

But looking back, every time my life has changed direction (or location) I've met more great people to enjoy the journey with. Turns out there are a lot of friendly people out there, more than happy to let a welsh girl in.

So as I get ready to give up the day job and get the eldest off to school, I should be getting that familiar anxiety of starting all over again. But this time I'm excited, turns out this place I live in is full of crazy people and I think I'm going to have a ball.  

(Besides, if I didn't have any friends, I'd have to spend more time at home with my husband)