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Alexander Residence: 01/09/11 - 01/10/11

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Birthday Post - Little Legacy #12

My mum had a unique style when it came to birthday cards and labels on presents. The envelopes were always mini works of art, with riddles and poetry. I've cursed myself for not keeping them all, but I found one unexpectedly recently, from my fifteenth birthday.

" 'Til six plus eight (n'alf)" means 6+8 = 14, plus half an hour.  14.30hrs, the time of my birth. It took me a while to deciper that, mum was forever sending cryptic messages and texts.

It was tough seeing a card without her cartoons and her name back in May. My brother is facing that this week.  So big birthday hug and Happy Birthday little bro x  Seeing this has reminded me that little gestures can go a very long way in making people feel special.

Thanks to Kate at Skating on Thin Ice for the inspiration to focus on mum's writing this week.  Kate wrote a lovely post last week about rediscovering her mum's cookery folder last week.
Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  Feel free to link up a little legacy you've been thinking about this week, or to leave one in the comments.  Here's the code and here's more on Little Legacy

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Britmums Carnival

Britmums has a fortnightly blog post carnival, hosted around the blogosphere, and this time it's my turn to host.

Liz from The Mum Blog asks What's wrong with being a mummy blogger?  Liz encourages us to see mummy blogging as something very diverse and these carnival entries definitely prove that.  I've decided to group them into categories, just to prove we nearly have a magazine ladies, (gents are of course welcome, but weren't forthcoming this time).

I'm looking forward to having a good read and getting some great new blogs on my reader.

Kate at Witwitwoo has been owning up to her epic back to school fails while Ella at Notes from home has been reflecting on making the difficult decision to move one of her boys to a new school.

Emma at Science Sparks has been making science tasty with Chocolate Leaves.

For Kate Takes 5 and family, peas are your enemy, but for Heather and family from Thrifty Mummy, greens mean a bumper Summer Harvest.

Jules, from I need Curtains for the Windows in my head, has been busy making a rather fab item of clothing, I love discovering people's secret talents, don't you?
For easy craft for kids, look no further than Nurture Store's no cook playdough, with cinnamon for a bit of Autumnal sensory stimulation. Or for craft ideas with added boy appeal, check out Red Ted Art's Boy Get Crafty. This male focus is perfectly complimented by Daddy's Eyes... Momma's Love of Paint, by Katie from Dazed but Enthused.

Let me introduce Noo, he belongs to Gemma of helloitsgemma.  He has the final word on fashion in Mummy I really want a.... 

Vickie from Honest Mum gives us an insight into what it really means to be Greek in

Ruth at Dorky Mum questions what makes a house a home in For Sale: 2 bedroom flat, scuffed paintwork, full of love.

Out and about
Britmums, they get around, in the nicest possible sense. Milly at South of the River Mum previews the Word Up Festival.  Emma of Scandinavian Sojourn brings us real Viking Warriors. Elsie at The Babylon Lane Tales has been practising her bushcraft, (that's camping for you tisantaphobics). Nadine from Juggle Mum has been getting lots done and still having a holiday, in Aah Ibiza

Kerry, also known as Multiple Mummy, has been questioning What does being a Godmother mean?

Peggy from The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife reflects on the childhood career dream she is re embarking on, in I wish...

Two bloggers have written courageously and creatively about Mental health this month, Carole from Dance without Sleeping in Just because you can't see it and Mrs Shortie in Time to Change.
Ellen from Musings from a Mum reminds us of the importance of Living in the moment.

The Blogosphere
Melksham Mum has been tackling what has to be the Meme of the Month, 'who have your kids mistaken you for?', in Look its Mummy.
Emma at Mummy Mummy Mum has a linky Friday Funny to make you smile and me, Penny, I hold Little Legacy on a Thursday, it's more likely to make you cry, but A stitch in time did resonate with lots of people.

Of course where would Mummy Blogging be without reflecting on the nuts and bolts of living with children?  Just in case you had been busy forgetting your parent status reading these posts, Jenny at Mummy Mishaps has a reminder, You know you're a Mummy when.

More information on Britmums carnivals, including a schedule of future host/esses.

Please go forth and share the news of this Britmums Carnival on Twitter, facebook etc. There's buttons for sharing just below.  If I've left any posts out kick me, they came into two different emails which was thoroughly confusing.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Start Up Britain

Get on the bus and cause no fuss? Oh, I meant to.  The Start Up Britain bus visited Nottingham a few week's ago. I was fully aware of the irony of dragging my award-winning-entrepreneur husband away from his start up to mind the kids.  Still, I wandered blindly onto a bus filled with experts on starting up new businesses and people in the midst of starting.   I was there to support my good friend and the Nottingham stop organiser, Di of Buggy Tug, and I was still very much, at that point, there for the ride.

But everyone was so lovely, and before I knew it I had performed my first random act of kindness and  volunteered as official photographer for the stop (see above).  More on my second act of kindness later.

I was soon chatting away to the people behind Nottingham's start ups, many of whom, like Painted Ghost, create fab products for children.   Her glowing reports on the advice received from the experts on board the bus encouraged me to come forth and discuss a business idea that is, not even as they say 'embryonic', in fact it is probably best described as just a glint in it's mother's eye.  A glint however, that has been there for a very long time.

After a tiny taster (I was driving) of Percy's mighty fine vodka tea (another Nottingham based start up) I managed to pick the brains of 4 PR experts and a tax consultant.  Okay, so I admit, my second random act of kindness was to kidnap two of them in my car under the guise of a lift to the train station.  

There's something to be said for having to explain your ideas to strangers, because the more I talked about it the more my dreams of being a freelance writer seemed achievable.  Hard work to crack, but achievable.

Start Up Britain is a national campaign to encourage more people to start a business and support existing businesses to grow. The bus visits Brighton, Hampshire, Suffolk, Wolverhampton, Shropshire, Sheffield, York throughout September.  If you have a start up, a business idea or need help getting to the next stage do go along if you can.  The team are incredibly friendly, even if, like me, you only decided on the bus that you had a start up in you.

Following my random acts of kindness, I became the inspiration for this article by Michael Hayman, one of the PR experts, and so my schemes are in print.  Michael has mentioned writing content for parenting brands and magazines, but my other specialist subjects are the arts, media, children's media, drama, theatre and education.  Anyone needing content, or random acts of kindness, please contact me.

Any advice, contacts, random acts of kindness etc. all gratefully received too.
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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Little Legacy #12 Failproof chocolate cake

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors. 

Today I bring you  a failproof, quick chocolate birthday cake and a bit of backstory.  Just to get you salivating, it looks like this, but don't worry you haven't missed it, my birthday was ages ago.

After a few weeks of sailing through writing these little legacies I came unstuck this week.  People say the first year of a bereavement is about getting through all the firsts, and there were two big ones this month, Miss L starting school and her 5th birthday.

It wasn't just that I wanted my mum to be there for those occasions, I can rationalise that, but these events transported me back to my own childhood. I have a wonderful booklet from Cruse bereavement care I can recommend, Losing a Parent, which carefully explains the many levels on which loss works. Grief involves mourning the many versions of a lost parent. (I can't find the booklet on their webpage, only a factsheet, do contact them directly if its of interest)

"We feel lost after the death of a mother or father.  Suddenly we may find ourselves feeling like an abandoned child, even though we are adults with jobs, families and lives of our own.  These feelings are normally buried under the day-to-day business of living." Cruse

A few people have had me thinking about my inner child this week, Dichotomy of wrote an amazing post about her son being 8 alongside her 8 year old inner self. Marketing to Milk wrote about being a 30-something orphan. I was also chatting to Sandra from Thinking Slimmer, the amazing weight loss podcast I am successfully trialling, which got me thinking how powerful the inner child can be.

So recently the 5yo child, the 34yo adult, and the mother in me, have all being trying to grieve with rather confusing results at times. The 5yo in me likes to self sabotage any rational chance of the grown up moving through this easily. Prompted by also having a 2yo, there is probably a 2yo me grieving too, clinging and throwing tantrums. And so perhaps it will go on, as my children grow up, although with each month that passes the adult me has a stronger grip on things.

How did I appease these inner children this time? With my mum's failproof birthday chocolate cake. As I made it for Miss L's birthday I felt my mother's voice, just as I did last week with the sewing, the guidance through motherhood I so desperately miss, reminding me how to make it.  It really hit me, as I asked on Twitter how to get jelly out of a mould, that I miss having mum to ask. Organising kid's parties is a huge challenge and I kept wanting to ask her advice. Fittingly Jen from Mum at the Madhouse came to my aid. You don't grease a jelly mould by the way, you stick it in boiling water before turning out.

So for the 5yo me and for Miss L, there was a chocolate cake, and for the mum in me, a recipe that no adult can fail to make amazing.  I nearly made the icing with chocolate and double cream, but mum's recipe is much quicker, easier, tastier, lower fat and a fraction of the cost.  It's in old measurements, because all mum's recipes are, bound in a ring binder she gave me on leaving home at 18.  There's even a recipe for playdough in there, she really was thinking ahead, my amazing mother.

The 5yo me has done enough sabotage for one week though, I am back on eating with moderation this week.

Quick Chocolate Cake
1 Line 2 cake tins with greaseproof paper
2 Set oven to gas 4, 350F/180C
3 Place 4oz of wholemeal flour, 4oz soft light brown sugar, 4oz marg, 2 eggs, I tbsp cocoa 1.5 tsp baking powder in a bowl and whisk/beat together.
4 Add 1tsp of milk or water if the mixture is stiff
5 Divide between tins and bake 25-30 mins until firm to the touch/springy and cake shrinks from side of tin.

I would sandwich this with Jam - as my English teacher used to say when talking about using descriptive language, you don't want a chocolate cake that is all chocolate it just makes you feel sick - but I would use this chocolate icing on top.

1 Melt 1oz cocoa and 11/2 oz of margarine in a pan, don't let it boil.
2 Add 2tbs of milk
3 Remove from heat and beat in icing sugar.
4 Use quickly.  I cover the cake in Maltesers and Smarties.

Do you have a favourite, fail safe family recipe?  Would love to hear it.  Or any other legacy that's popped into your mind this week.  Link up a post, or leave a comment.

More on Little Legacy

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Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Happy First Birthday Blog

Dear Blog

Happy First Birthday month.  To celebrate, I finally claimed you on Technorati: 46JS2NQZST4T

Thanks for keeping me sane, and opening up a world of magical possibilities, people and time dissolving distractions.

back to work now

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Magic quit smoking advert

I love great adverts.  Most of them are so shockingly rubbish, but some are so beautifully filmic.  I used to love teaching advertising as a media teacher.  De constructing them, taking them apart piece by piece to figure out how they worked. I was a bit like a kid taking apart a broken toy.  I had to watch this giving up smoking one a few times to work out what was happening and now I can't stop.

On another level, as a parent it had quite a profound impact on me, taking me back into my life before children.  We've all made changes for our children, things like giving up smoking, booze, spontaneous romance, I won't make you fess up to it all here. But the advert's music says it all, children really do make sense of all that.

Viral video by ebuzzing

Are there adverts that have had a big impact on you, made you nostalgic, made you cry or laugh uncontrollably?

Disclaimer - I should add I get paid a minuscule amount of money for posting this ad, but that I chose to do it because I love the ad and it's for a very good cause.  

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From saving the galaxy to saving the children

On Saturday I was running around the garden with 15 kids pretending to be the Fairy Superwoman, saving our bouncy castle galaxy from Evil Professor Lucius and his sidekick JoJo, from the Planet Albatron. Miss L was 5, and wanted a Fairies and Superheros themed party. I was excited to have a happy, healthy 5 year old who has just started school. I felt proud of the brave and independent person she has become. Antibiotics, an emergency c section and immunisations couldn't have been further from my mind. But, without that healthcare, Fairy Superwoman and her daughter might not have been defending the bouncy galaxy.
Me in the silver cape leading the flying lessons.
Me, and bump about to have an emergency c section.
Meanwhile, some of my best blogging friends were at the Save the Children conference, finding out more about how they can give voice to a campaign to help bring healthworkers to the world's most impoverished communities.  As I did on Saturday, we often take healthcare for granted in the UK, even when it means the difference between life and death.  For many people that isn't the case.

How can you add weight to this campaign?  In the words of Special Agent Oso, three special steps:

1.Sign this petition
2. Write 100 words (that's mine at the top) about what healthcare or health workers mean to you, and link up at Mummy from the Heart
3. Tag some other bloggers (consider yourself tagged), or ask your twitter or facebook friends to sign the petition.

And do it all now, because Christine Mosler of Thinly Spread is attending the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, to encourage David Cameron to prioritise the aid budget for healthworkers.  She needs as many signatures and blog posts behind her as possible.

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Little Legacy #11 A Stitch in Time

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors. 

A small heart shaped button fell off my daughter's pyjamas and bounced across the bathroom floor. She chased it and held it up to my face, pinched between her thumb and forefinger.

'Can you fix it?' she said.
'I'll sew it back on' I said, fingers mentally crossed behind my back.

But I underestimated the power of the vortex. I wrote about the vortex here, it's a concept described by Joan Didion in her book about bereavement, My Year of Magical Thinking. One tiny thing can take you far, far away, in this case it's a button.

'I didn't know you could sew,' said Miss L.
'My mum taught me,' I said.

And those four words sent me soaring into the vortex.

I can't conjure one specific memory of sewing with my mum, they are all interwoven now, a vast patchwork quilt of sewing memories, bigger than the sum of it's parts. The book bag we made together for primary school, the clothkits dolls, the buttons we sewed back on, the holes we fixed, the binca we cross stitched, the parallel trousers we made, the adjustments to my prom dress, and my wedding dress.

So one tiny heart shaped button led me to pick up needle and thread again. I started work on a pile of garments I have been avoiding repairing for years, mainly because, despite all she taught me, my mum was the seamstress. When my Dad fell for her in the 60s, she was making her own clothes, stylish creations that made her stand out from the crowd.  She lovingly crafted so many outfits for me and my brother.  But, when she got ill, asking her to fix my clothes seemed wrong, so they were shoved in a bag at the back of the wardrobe.

As I sewed, I heard her voice guiding me. Interwoven into every stitch was a running commentary on how to thread the needle, where to pierce the fabric, how to secure the first and last stitch.

A rather beautiful little legacy, a vortex that effortlessly conjured my mother's voice, and resulted in an immensely satisfying pile of 'new' clothes.

My needle case, made with my mum from left over pyjama material, Miss L's heart shaped pyjama button.
Are there tasks, jobs, hobbies, occurrences that conjure up the voice of someone special? Have you got fond memories of learning a new skill from somebody? I'd love to hear more on this or any little legacy, in a post, or the comments.   More on Little Legacy


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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Surviving the school run with a toddler

'Mummy pull!',  'I do it my own', helping sis home from school, nice belt.
How free range should a 2/3 year old be?  I ask myself that a lot.  I read something recently that suggested not as much as my boy is, but I think once you leave the buggy behind it's hard to go back.

We have done the school run, with Miss L for a whole six days now.  The main problem is keeping nearly 3yo Mr G happy.  I see lots of kids his age sat in buggies, but having glimpsed the freedom to roam offered to his big sister, he will not be restrained. The trusty old McLaren buggy was retired some months back, after an afternoon of triumphant escape acts in the city centre.  My boy would give Houdini a run for his money.

He loves the balance bike and scooter, and he will go a long way on them.  But he sometimes runs out of steam part way home and I end up carrying him, the scooter, Miss L's book bag, a pile of I wrote last week, I am my mother's child, fully capable of producing school run scenes resembling Quentin Blake illustrations.

I found a great solution to this recently, the Scoot'nPull.  I threatened to invent one a few years ago, but I didn't, and another mum did, look, here she is:

It's a funky strap in a range of great colours, that attaches to the scooter so you can pull it.  It was surprisingly effortless to pull him along.  The hand loop also fits round the back wheel to make a carry strap, great to free up a hand or hang over the edge of a pushchair.

We also found it really useful for stopping the boy wonder from scooting off too fast and to keep him close by on busy roads or in crowded areas where his need for speed terrifies me.  I feel some parents let their kids go way too fast, too young, next to major roads on these things.  I can't bear it.  But this way he can scoot or balance bike along while I talk to Miss L about her day.

How free range are your kids? When did your say goodbye to the buggy? Any tips for keeping little ones in check through the school run?

If you have a boy or girl wonder that needs tethering, or yanking home, I have some Scoot n' Pull's to give away.  UK entries only.  Please leave a comment below and make sure you leave your twitter or blog contact details.  Or you can buy one at the bargain price of £6.99 here.

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Monday, 12 September 2011


I've put my teacher hat on for this vlog.  Britmums are talking about bullying.

I appreciate this could be misinterpreted, particularly by those experiencing bullying, therefore it comes with a heavy disclaimer. Bullying is an emotional and complex topic, and every situation is different.  I am by no means suggesting that these are the sole reasons why children are bullied.

There are always incidents of bullying that have no logic, that become too engrained for tactics such as these to bear any fruit. Children can be incredibly cruel to each other for no particular reason.

These are observations, based on my classroom practice and the research studies of others, as to how children learn to 'bullyproof' themselves, and others.

I would be interested to know what you think.  Have you had to bullyproof your child, or yourself?  What worked and what didn't?

Look out for more Britmums vlogs on this topic, in the Education section of the Videos area.  I'm really interested to hear what parents have to say.

Useful contacts and resources on bullying.

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Back to School carnival

Three days in to the start of the life of a school running mum and I thought, instead of drowning myself in gin, I might pat myself on the back, both as a parent and a blogger, with a mini back to school carnival. (Indulgent yes, but hey I think it's worth it)

Here's me talking for Britmums about back to school jitters.  And yes Miss L and I did have a school run dress rehearsal, although not in costume, that would have been too much effort.

And here's where Netmums featured my post Good Luck Lady L, you will be FINE, they called it a poem and it kind of is, on starting school, or rather the long, laborious build up to it.

Finally don't miss my Little Legacy on School Gate Fails this week, if you've seen any of my posts about my mum you'll know she was an amazing lady. For one week only I reveal the truth about 'good enough' parenting: 'We were the last ones legging it to the door, bags, coats and packed lunches flying behind us, like something out of a Quentin Blake illustration.'  Possibly my favourite simile ever that one too.

And here is the little lady L herself, with a big cheesy grin.

Hope back to school went really well for everyone.


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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Little Legacy #10 school gate fails

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors

Day one in the school playground.  Mr A pointed out the coat he'd picked up for Miss L was filthy, Daddy fail.  I forgot her water bottle, Mummy fail.

But day two in reception class went really well.  My Dad's been visiting.  We drank too many glasses of wine the night before, in celebration of Miss L's first day, so instead of neatly lined up shoes, there was a bit of a scramble.  Mum/Dad/Grandad fail.  But, we still managed to be early.

Of course there's a big hole, where mum used to be.   Mum would have been absolutely bursting with pride and excitement.  Change stirs up so many emotions.

My mum was brilliant at managing change for me and my brother.  It was a huge thread in the Eulogy we wrote about her: the cartoons she drew, the relaxation exercise, the cheery notes in our lunch-boxes, the little surprises she brought us in old Kinder egg containers at the end of the day.

Funny then, how when I try to think back I am more likely to remember the Mummy primary school fails.  Like...
  • The time mum was late to pick me up from pre-school so the staff presumed I was meant to be going home on the school bus, until I spotted mum running in the opposite direction to the bus and let out a wail that drowned out the rest of the bus like a tidal wave.
  • The time mum left me in the car because I was too ill to go to school, but she needed to take my brother in.  Deciding she was never coming back, I screamed that vehicle down too.  (Fortunately no one noticed or indeed reported this hugely disturbed child to social services).
  • The time mum forgot to remind me to take my PE kit, so I cried and feigned stomach ache to avoid being told off.
  • The times we were late, because mum insisted on making my brother porridge, he always wasted precious minutes drizzling it with syrup and waiting for it to be just the right temperature.
  • The times the caretaker, Mr Pennyroyal, called us the travelling circus, because of the stripy red and yellow door Mum obtained to repair our otherwise brown Renault 5.  Oh and because we were often the last ones legging it to the door, bags, coats and packed lunches flying behind us, like something out of a Quentin Blake illustration.
  • The time she sent me to school in black knickers, on the day I was performing in a white costume, as a snowflake in the Nutcracker.  Classy.
So now I have two school runs and a few minor Mummy fails under my belt, I fully appreciate the huge effort involved.  Here's to my Mum, for giving me permission to get it wrong now and again, and for guiding me through nearly two decades in the education system.  (Only two days in...gulp).

Feel free to share a little legacy too, by linking up a post or simply leaving a comment.  Perhaps this will even inspire a few people to share some fails...

More on Little Legacy

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Good Luck Lady L, you will be "fine"

'How old are you?' said the lady in the uniform shop.
'Nearly five', you said.
'Oooh, so you're just starting school, which one?'
'Sow-fuh-biddy-fod- in-fronts,' you said.
'That's a mouthful', she said.

'How old are you?' said the woman in the shoe shop.
'Nearly five' you said.
'Starting school, have you been to visit?'
'Yes,' you said.
'Did you like it?'
'Fine,' you said.

'Do you go to school?' said the hairdresser.
'In four sleeps,' you said.
Is your teacher nice?
'Mmmm,' you said.

'I've got a blue dress,' you said.
'Good luck at school', said Grandad.  'You look like such a big girl in your uniform'.

'How do you feel about school?' said Mummy.
'I'm just going for a couple of hours while you do some jobs, that's all,' you said.

'What a big girl', said Daddy, as the three of us sat in the cafe at lunchtime.

'Good Luck' said all your 'aunties' as they whipped out balloons, cake, pass the parcel and a pyjama party.

'Good Luck' said all your friends, sleepy in their cake smeared pyjamas.

'Can I go to bed now?' you asked, for the first time ever.

Don't blame you, all that hype would do my head in too.

Good Luck Lady L, you will be FINE.

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