Thursday, 30 August 2012

Two brilliant apps that organise my life

I use two great apps on my phone that really help me to organise myself, so I'm sharing them with you. Just to get it out of the way, they are both free (of course!) and no-one has asked/paid me to write about them.

The first app is called Our Groceries. It is basically a shopping list stored in your phone that you can add to when needed, then you have it with you when you are at the supermarket. It remembers everything that you have ever entered, so when you've been using it for a while it remembers your frequently purchased items and puts them at the top of a list to select from. You can also add items individually by typing them in. You can even enter recipes into the app with the ingredients required for that meal, so if you know what meals you want to make you can choose the recipe and then select the items that you need from the ingredients list.

The absolute best thing about the app is that you can link it up with other devices. I have an Android phone and my husband has an iPhone, and we both have the app installed. We can then share the list, so I can make it out and then send him shopping with it, and I can add forgotten things while he's on the way. You can store different lists, for example a regular list or a list for a special occasion like a barbecue or holiday. You can also group the items by category (which you can choose) so you can organise it to fit in with your trip around the supermarket, for example by grouping all the dairy products or toiletries together.

The second app is called Chore Checklist, and I use the free Lite version. Unfortunately, as far as I can see this is only available for Android phones. You can use it to organise the chores that need to be done around the house. It comes with some pre-set options, but you can edit it completely. You can choose the frequency with which a chore needs to be done, so you can set a Daily Routine, Weekly Routine, Monthly Routine and so on. Then every morning when you turn it on you have a list of tasks to complete that day. They start out as orange and then change to red if you don't do them. You can also skip chores or mark them as completed in retrospect. I find it much easier to keep up with housework by doing a little bit every day, and I can adapt it to fit around my non-working days. I am also very motivated by ticking things off lists! It takes a bit of time to set everything up, and you need to run through it for a while to make sure that the routine that you have come up with works for you. Then as a backup you can export the list of chores into an e-mail (or even share on Facebook or Twitter if you are so inclined!). I've not used the full version, as I find that the Lite version does everything that I need it to.

Can you recommend any apps that you use to make your life easier? Leave the name of the app(s) and a short description in the comments, and if enough people have one to share then I'll write them up in a carnival post!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to make a simple toilet roll tube tractor

Harry is loving his tractors at the moment, but I couldn't find any simple crafts ideas for actually making a tractor, so I came up with this one. We made little tractors using just an empty toilet roll tube and two milk bottle lids, along with glue and paint to decorate. I think they're really sweet!

How to make a tractor craft from a cardboard tube

You just need a cardboard tube (I used an old toilet roll tube) and a couple of milk bottle lids, with glue or tape, paint and scraps of paper to decorate.

How to make a tractor craft from a cardboard tube

Take your toilet roll tube and cut two slits, each 6cm long and about 4cm apart. Try and make the cuts in a part of the toilet roll tube that doesn't have any overlapping card. Then bend the flap upwards. Cut the top 2cm from the flap and coil this around to make the funnel. From underneath the flap cut off two curved strips, each about 1/2 cm wide. Coil these around to make the two front wheels. Secure these parts with glue or sellotape.

How to make a tractor craft from a cardboard tube

Paint the different parts of the tractor. Then assemble the pieces. I used a glue gun but you could also use PVA glue, it just takes longer to dry. I made a little front window from pale blue card. The paint doesn't stick to the sellotape very well, if you wanted to improve the look of your tractor you could cover the pieces with coloured paper, or just use glue to join the ends together.

How to make a tractor craft from a cardboard tube

Is your toddler obsessed with tractors? There are lots more tractor crafts, activities and resources here!

How to make a tractor craft from a cardboard tube

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Adding a bit of colour

When I was a teenager, I was known among my friends for my nail varnish. When colours other than red and pink first became popular around about the mid 90's, I started my collection with a gorgeous pale blue, purchased on a special trip to Miss Selfridge in the next town. Over the next couple of years I built up a collection of nail varnish in almost every colour and I would spend hours painting my nails in different colours, with various horizontal and vertical stripes. I don't know why I got out of the habit, perhaps it was when I went to University and had less time, and over the years I had to throw out the bottles as they dried up.

I did carry on doing French manicures for a while, I was actually quite good at it, although of course it does take a bit of time as you wait for each bit to dry. When I first became pregnant I had the idea that you couldn't wear nail varnish and so I stopped, and until recently I hadn't worn any for years.

Then the other weekend I found myself in a shopping centre without children and some points to spend on my Boots card. Nowadays of course you can buy the bright colours everywhere, although the range that I ended up buying from was called Miss Sporty, which I'm not sure really describes me anymore!

I've also discovered through Pinterest that there are incredibly talent nail artists out there, blogging away with photos of all the different designs that they come up with, it's amazing.

I found that the world of nail varnish has moved on in my absence, the colour dried very quickly within minutes and it cleaned off really easily. I bought two bottles, purple and green, and as they were in fact free with my points I thought that painting my nails might become quite an affordable hobby. It can only be a good thing to introduce a bit more colour into my life, and I see more trips to town to start building up a collection.

Loving my new colours!
Perhaps I am just trying to re-capture my youth?

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Tots100 Summer Party

Last Friday we went down the road to Hove for the Tots100 Summer Party at Zippo's Circus. It was my first blogging event, and I was rather nervous. It didn't help that we made a stop to purchase a car seat on the way over which took a lot longer than we expected, and so we were among the last to arrive. The children were thrilled when we signed in and they were given some light up plastic toys, my husband was thrilled to discover that we could eat as much food from the snack van as we liked, including candy floss and popcorn, and I was thrilled when several people came to me and actually greeted me by name, having recognised me from my photo! Stuffed with junk food, we were taken inside the tent and seated at the ringside for a quick introduction to the circus. We met one of the horses, and learned a bit about how the budgies are trained for the show.

Then we were taken out the back to see the rest of the horses, while some of the older children were having a go at juggling and having their faces painted. I'd been hoping for a go on the trapeze but unfortunately it was far too popular, which is probably a good thing on reflection.

Then we took our seats for the circus. It was at around this point that I realised our children (3 1/2 and 1) are probably a bit too little for a circus. Although Harry was able to understand what was going on, he insisted on sitting on my knee and he wouldn't keep still. He refused to eat any of the snacks that we had, and he was also fascinated by the toilets in a caravan, necessitating repeated trips. Mia was tired, and wriggled about whinging, only falling into the exhausted, quiet state about five minutes before the show finished. As a consequence unfortunately I have no photographs of the show!

Harry loved the clowns, he was in hysterics at the slapstick humour when the clown fell about on the trampoline. Personally I was fascinated by the performing budgies and amazed at the limbo dancers. The grand finale was stuntmen on motorbikes riding around and upside down inside a metal globe, and this certainly caught Harry's attention. There were plenty of different things to see, and it had a very traditional feel to it, with circus acts like juggling and the trapeze.


Image used with permission from Zippo's Circus

Perhaps we will wait a few years before we attempt a circus again, but we still had a really fun day out. Thanks to Tots100 for organising it and to Zippo's Circus for making us so welcome. You can find the tour dates for Zippo's Circus on their website.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Introducing maps to young children

My husband and I love travel, and we've been lucky enough to have visited many countries around the world. To a certain extent that is on hold for the next few years, but I'm still keen to teach Harry (and Mia of course when she's a bit older) about the world and his place in it. So I've been putting together some ideas on how to introduce Harry to maps. He is currently 3 1/2.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

The first thing that I did was to teach him how maps relate to the real world. To do this I took three cups and a small toy. I laid the cups out in front of Harry and placed the toy underneath one of them. Then I drew three circles on a piece of paper to represent the cups, and drew an X where the toy was. To my surprise Harry picked this up very quickly and was able to find the toy when I hid it while his back was turned.

I expanded upon this idea by making a very simple map of the living room. I drew the key features (sofa, television, mantle piece, window etc.) and explained to him what they were. Then he left the room and I hid the toy. When he returned I showed him on the map where the toy was and he went to find it. He did pretty well with this, he couldn't manage it when the map was rotated but I think that he had at least some understanding that the picture on the paper related to the objects in the room around him.

Then we went to the computer and loaded up Google Maps. I found our house, and then I zoomed out to show him our street, village, country and so on right out to a map of the world. Then I zoomed back in again. He was absolutely fascinated by this. I found the places that we walk to locally, the playground, the village shops, baby group and so on, and he loved it. I left him to explore by himself clicking around with the mouse and he was entertained for ages.

We also looked at an actual physical atlas, to familarise him with the shapes of the different countries and continents. We have a world map in our study and one over his bed in his bedroom, and we often talk about the different countries. I've pointed out ones with distinctive shapes like Australia, and ones with special meaning to us, like the United Kingdom and India, where one set of grandparents are from.

We've also done a couple of crafts around the theme of geography. Together we put together a Me on the Map book, which is a really good way to introduce the concept of geography to small children.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

We also made lots of flags from different countries in Europe to celebrate the Euro 2012 football tournament and the Olympics. This also helped to re-inforce the idea of the world being made up of lots of different countries. There are lots of activities that you can do when you have a selection of flags, for example sorting them according to the colours that they contain or the features that they have, like stripes or circles.

Introducing maps and geography to young children

Do you have any more ideas for ways to introduce geography to young children? Please feel free to add suggestions or a link in the comments below!

Top image by John-Mark Kuznietsov via Unsplash

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Craft - making a campervan from a shoebox

I love making Harry toys out of cardboard boxes. We've made lots of things - a car wash, a bus, a car house...and as he gets older he has just as much fun helping to make them as he does playing with them. I have very fond memories of the Playmobil campervan we had when I was little, and so I thought I'd have a go at making a simple camper van for Harry to play with.

How to make a camper van from a shoebox using Rolobox wheels

I used an old shoebox, and it is the right size for his Happyland figures. I cut the lid off so it was removable and made a door in each side.

How to make a camper van from a shoebox using Rolobox wheels

We painted it pink (Harry's choice) and I used cream card to make the shaped bit at the front. The windows are light blue card. For the distinctive Volkswagen camper van logo I printed one out that I found on Google Images. For the wheels I used our Rolobox Wheel Kit For Boxes (affiliate link) which are brilliant, we've used them to make lots of different things. They are simple plastic wheels which screw into the cardboard, they also come with a pull cord. Otherwise you could just make the wheels out of cardboard.


How to make a camper van from a shoebox using Rolobox wheels

Unfortunately the lid for the roof didn't really work as it was a hinged lid. A box with a removable lid would have worked better. I stuck the windows to the roof so that when it is in place you can see the windows, otherwise the box is too shallow for them to fit.

How to make a camper van from a shoebox using Rolobox wheels

I (sorry, we) had a lot of fun decorating the inside. I used little cardboard boxes to make a bed and a sofa, then we stuck a photograph of a television onto a small box and made a fruit bowl and table with bottle lids. We cut out pictures and a mirror from a catalogue to decorate the inside walls.

How to make a camper van from a shoebox using Rolobox wheels

We've also used these fab Rolobox wheels to make a double decker bus. If you have a toddler obsessed with campervans you can find lots of campervan crafts, activities and resources over on my other blog!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Stage 4 weaning with Plum Baby

This is a paid post

If you've been weaning your baby in the traditional way, by the time that they reach 12 months or so they will be ready to eat the same food as the rest of the family. However not all the food that you eat as a family may be suitable for a baby, for example it might still be too high in salt or sugar. Successfully weaning a baby can seem like a really complicated process with lots of conflicting information. So in June, organic baby food brand Plum ran a competition for five lucky mums to come down to the Plum Cookery School in Buckinghamshire to learn about Plum's recipes and to offer expert advice and support on the weaning process. Celebrity chef Rachel Allen and child nutrition expert Beverley Glock helped to put together a series of weaning videos to pass on their advice.



In the video below you can see the Plum Cookery School in action in the fourth of Plum's weaning videos. The mums are shown how to make some healthy chicken nuggets for their babies using the Plum stage four products. The chicken nuggets are really easy to make using simple ingredients, and the recipe is followed by an easy and healthy meal for parents too!



You can find the other videos in the series on Plum’s You Tube channel, where there is a video for every stage of weaning. Plum have designed the videos so that the information can be passed on to as many other mums as possible, sharing cooking tips and inspiring mums to feed their babies a healthy and varied diet.

We've used Plum products at all stages of weaning, and there are such a wide range of products that you can pick and choose as to what suits your family and weaning style, whether for an entire meal or just for simple, healthy snacks and finger food. Even though I've had babies that have wanted to be independent eaters, I've found products like small packets of baked biscuits really useful to keep in the change bag for when you're out and about and baby starts to get hungry and grumpy.

If you would like to try out one of the Plum products, you can visit Plum's Facebook Page where there are 10,000 coupons available to download for a free pouch of baby food.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Review - Miniland Educational aptitude sets

Miniland Educational is brand new product on the UK retail market, and comprises of a range of high quality plastic toys. We were sent two of their educational aptitude sets to try out - threading and time telling, both aimed at children aged 3-6 years old.

Miniland Educational threading set

The threading set contains four strings, forty coloured plastic beads and twelve double-sided activity cards with sequences of beads to copy. Harry is 3 1/2, and although he was able to understand following the activity cards he preferred to just string the beads to make necklaces and caterpillars. He enjoyed learning about the different shapes (cylinder was a new one to him!) and talking about the shapes and colours that he was using. The beads are really solid and they will last a long time. The activity cards will probably get a bit battered, but I always laminate things like this anyway to make them sturdier. There are lots of different ways that you can play with these, and even Mia enjoyed carrying them about. You could also make up games for younger children involving sorting by colour and shape (although obviously under supervision, as they are designed for older children).

Miniland educational aptitude set
Miniland Educational aptitude set - threading
Miniland Educational time telling set

Harry is fascinated by clocks, probably because we have one prominently in the kitchen, and he's always asking what time it is, and what time we will be doing something. The time telling set contains a clock with a simple hand turning mechanism and twelve double sided activity cards. Six of the cards are for learning about matching digital time to a clock face, and six have a clock with a picture for what is happening at that time of day. Harry is a bit young to be able to tell the time confidently, but he really loved going through the day following the pictures, and moving the clock hands to match the cards - it really helps to put the passing of time into context.

Miniland educational aptitude set
Miniland Educational aptitude set - time telling
I think that both of these kits are really good value, and they are also very open ended and educational toys, you could use them in lots of different activities and they are sturdy enough to last a long time.

Disclaimer - I was sent the two Miniland kits for the purpose of this review. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Olympics was fantastic, and now it's all over

We've been feeling a bit flat for the last couple of days. After all the excitement leading up to the Olympics, and the frantic ticket hunting that preceded and accompanied it, now we're feeling a bit lost. We were lucky enough to spend another few days up in London over the weekend (with many thanks to both our fantastic babysitters and hotel loyalty points). I know I've bored everyone entirely over the last few weeks with my Olympic posts, so as a final post here are some of our highlights from the last events.

Synchronised swimming, much more difficult than it looks

Synchronised swimming was the event that I was most keen to see when we first started to look for tickets. I did really enjoy it, although the session only lasted 45 minutes which went quickly. I did learn one fact which fascinated me, synchronised swimmers train for 45 hours a week (not just the synchronised bit, but including general fitness, pilates, yoga and so on). Of course, when I thought about it, I realised that this must be true for most, if not all, top athletes. I hadn't really appreciated the time commitment involved, it's difficult to imagine what it must be like to be so dedicated to something.

The most delicious pizza

We are big pizza fans over here, and we discovered a wonderful new pizza place - Franco Manca in Westfield Shopping Centre. It brought back fond memories of our favourite ever pizza, eaten many years ago in Naples. Definitely recommended if you pass one!

Me with an Olympic torch in the Olympic Stadium

For a couple of sessions, our seats to the athletics were at the very back of the press stand - one of those big blocks of empty seats which were visible on the television. They filled up for the big races, but once they were over they quickly emptied out, so we were able to move down for a better view. As we were sitting there we noticed an Olympic torch being passed around below us which had been brought along by one of the spectators who had been a torch bearer. Along with everyone else we cheekily asked if we could have our photo taken with it - I was unbelievably excited!


London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony
London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony

The Closing Ceremony was amazing, we were dancing and singing along. It wasn't really what I was expecting, I thought that it would include some sort of look back at the games, montages of highlights and so on, and I must admit that I didn't really expect it to be as good as it was. There was so much going on, and it was so bright and cheerful.

Stratford Station the morning after

The next morning we felt very down as we made our way back home. We were cheered up slightly by the new information sign pointing to Rio de Janeiro at the now empty Stratford Station!

It's been a fantastic few weeks and I know that I'm so lucky to have been able to experience so much. I never expected to be so moved by it all.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Aquarium in a box

I was about to throw out an old washing machine tablet container the other day, when I remembered a fantastic craft from my blogging buddy Trouble Doubled's blog - a shoebox aquarium. We've also been playing fish tanks quite a lot lately (you don't know how to play fish tanks? Easy, you put all available children into the baby's cot and let them pretend to be fish while you carry on with your business safe in the knowledge that they aren't going anywhere) so I thought that Harry would enjoy this one.

How to make a plastic box aquarium craft with children

Making the aquarium is very simple, just make some seaweed out of a pipe cleaner, add some small stones from the garden (Mia helped with this bit, she even licked some of the stones to make sure that they were nice and clean), some shredded green paper if you have some, then make and decorate some cardboard fish to sellotape from the underside of the lid.

How to make a plastic box aquarium craft with children

Harry was more interested in playing with the fish tank rather than just looking at it when it was finished, luckily we have a few fish lying about that he could put inside. He also asked when we were going to put the water in, and actually this container would work quite well for that, so we may well try it at some point!

How to make a plastic box aquarium craft with children

Friday, 10 August 2012

Our Mr Men Day - Mr Men games and activities

Over on Mini Bookworms it's Mr Men Month, and so to get into the Mr Men spirit I decided to come up with a few themed activities! One thing that I'm struggling with at the moment is finding things to do that entertain both children (Harry is 3 1/2 and Mia is 14 months) so I have divided them into "Baby Asleep" activities and "Baby Awake" activities.

  • Baby Asleep

These are quiet activities that take place at the table and need my full concentration.

Colouring - To start with, I found some great printable colouring pages and games at the official Mr Men website. I'm also a huge fan of Google Images, which provides a vast array of Mr Men colouring pages to choose from.

Scissor practice - Several of the images that I found above were a copy of the back of the Mr Men books, a grid of lots of different Mr Men. I cut them into strips and gave them to Harry to snip up. He also had a go at cutting out the individual figures himself.

Gluing - I found a plain background in one of Harry's colouring books and we stuck the cut out Mr Men on to it.

Matching game - I found this great resource with instructions to make your own Mr Men. One of the pages has some good quality images of ten Mr Men and Little Miss characters. I printed this page out twice, cut out the characters and we used them to play a matching game. If you printed them out in good quality colour and laminated them you would have a much more durable game.

Puppets - The Mr Men characters are really easy to recreate. We made some simple puppets using crafty bits from around the house. I tried to use a variety of textures and colours to add interest.

Mr Happy, Mr Messy and Mr Tickle puppet craft


  • Baby Awake

These are activities that are not easily messed up, don't involve small pieces, and hopefully also provide a bit of entertainment for a just-walking baby.

Mr Men active game - I borrowed this idea from Teaching Ideas. It would probably work better with a group of children, but Harry loved running about pretending to be different Mr Men. Some good ones to start with - Mr Slow, Mr Rush, Mr Bounce, Mr Small, Mr Tall, Mr Strong, Mr Jelly....you can come up with actions for most of the Mr Men, then just call them out while your child races about!

Find the Mr Man - Harry loves hiding games, We took turns in hiding some of the pictures from the matching game above around the house and guiding each other to them using 'hot' and 'cold'.

Themed lunch - I often make Harry's lunch into a picture, so I had a fair go at replicating Mr Topsy-Turvy, his favourite character. If I'm honest, it was a bit rubbish (hence no picture!) but he liked it!

Reading the books - It wouldn't be much of a Mr Men day without actually reading the books! We built a tent in the living room with a room divider and sheets and snuggled up inside with the books.

Finally I leave you with a photograph of the only item of Mr Men merchandise that I could find. 

Vintage Mr Men magnets

I love these magnets, they were mine when I was little! They are each about 5cm high, and admittedly not very good as magnets, but still rather cool!

Tuesday Tots


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Olympic eventing continues - Track cycling, Trampolining, Swimming and Athletics

We've been spending the middle of this week in a funny sort of limbo - we've had another busy weekend at the Olympic Park with another to come, and now we're enjoying a quiet period in the middle before we head up again for the final weekend. On Saturday we managed to squeeze in three events - from Track Cycling in the Velodrome, to the North Greenwich Arena (aka the O2) for Trampolining, then back to the Olympic Park for the Swimming Finals at the Aquatic Centre. On Sunday we returned to the Olympic Stadium for the Athletics, including the 100m final.

If you're wondering how we've managed to get all these tickets, it's all down to my husband. We didn't receive any tickets in the first round, and only tickets for a few less popular events in the second round. In the month or so before the games started, my husband began stalking the ticket website and the other websites that pulled down information about the latest ticket sales. He bought lots and lots of tickets, most of which we sold back as they were replaced by tickets to better events. Yes, he did become a little addicted, and no, I don't know what he's going to do when it's all over. It is quite an investment, although the vast majority of our tickets are in the cheapest seats.

When we entered the Velodrome we could see why it had been particularly difficult to buy tickets, as it felt very small. This meant that although we were far back we still had a good view, and there was a real sense of the cyclists being spurred on by the noise of the crowd. We didn't see any finals, but it was still really exciting, especially when there were two cyclists racing.


London 2012 Olympics Velodrome
Inside the Velodrome

I enjoyed the trampolining because the whole event was completed in a couple of hours, and there was no hanging around. We saw sixteen ladies each perform two routines, then the eight with the best scores went through to the final. The huge stadium was packed and we were very high up but we still had a good view, although I spent the whole time with bated breath though in case one of the ladies bounced off!

I didn't really like the Aquatics Centre as a venue. It has a huge overhanging ceiling in the middle, and we were in the second row from the back so we were very high above the pool. Because of the central ceiling we couldn't even see most of the spectators on the other side of the pool, and if we had been watching diving we wouldn't have been able to see the top board. We actually managed to swap our original seats for some at the same level on the other side, and we found out from the young man next to us that our new seats had been returned because they had belonged to his mother, and she couldn't stay in the seats because they gave her vertigo! I can see why, and it also felt very claustrophobic. The swimming was exciting, and we were lucky enough to be there for Michael Phelp's final gold medal and presentation.


London 2012 Olympics Aquatic Centre
There's a pool down there somewhere...
After a long day, we returned the next day for the Athletics and the 100m final. We arrived a bit early so we were able to have a bit of a wander around the Olympic Park. The landscaping in the park is really beautiful, with lots of flowers and it's all generally really clean and tidy.


London 2012 Olympic Park
Quieter area in the Olympic Park

At all the events we've seen I've loved watching the preparations that you can't see on the television, for example the volunteers moving the starting blocks and lane numbers about, and keeping track of the athletes possessions in big plastic boxes. It's all incredibly well co-ordinated, and they all perform their manoeuvres in complete sync with each other. The build up to the 100m final was huge, with the excitement building in the crowd and the helicopters hovering overhead. Although I had teased Ram about paying all that money for less than 10 seconds, overall I'd say it was worth it. Our seats were at the very top of the press area, and as we left we paused at the bottom of the steps for a few minutes to look over and watch the athletes being interviewed just below us.


London 2012 Olympics, Bolt and Blake
Bolt and Blake celebrating after the 100m final

We experienced a brief moment of excitement as we joined the crowds outside the stadium and found ourselves caught in a crowd right next to Boris Johnson! I've no idea how he had ended up there away from the VIP area, he was ushered through the gate that we were being prevented from using, accompanied by much friendly ribbing!

We've been travelling in to the Olympic Park from Ebbsfleet which has been a really good move. There are big crowds leaving the park, but once you can get away from everyone travelling into central London there are very few people heading out Kent way, and because the trains go every few minutes they are nearly empty. The volunteers are also doing a really good job of keeping the crowds under control and moving, there's very little hanging around even at busy times.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How grown up are you?

I've been tagged by Trouble Doubled to see how grown up I am, in a meme originally started by OneDad3Girls. I must admit that I don't always feel very grown up at all, although it's probably about time to admit that I am. But the only way to find out for sure is for me to answer the following questions:

1 Having a mortgage - Yes

2 Mum and Dad no longer make your financial decisions - Yes (they do offer advice though!)

3 Paying into a pension - Yes, through work

4 Conducting a weekly food shop - Yes (although must admit that it's not usually me that does it...! I make the list though.)

5 Written a will - Yes

6 Having children - Yes

7 Budgeting every month - We don't have a fixed budget as such, but we do make sure that all expenses are covered.

8 Cooking a meal from scratch - Yes, not the most complicated one necessarily but I'm quite good at following a recipe if I can find something that the rest of the family will eat

9 Getting married - Yes

10 Getting life insurance - No

11 Recycling - Yes, I'm pretty good about recycling, made much easier because our collection just has one bin into which everything recyclable is thrown.

12 Having a savings account - Yes, but most of our spare money goes into the mortgage because interest rates are so rubbish at the moment

13 Knowing what terms like 'ISA' and 'tracker' mean - Yes

14 Watching the news - I rarely watch the actual news but I check the headlines several times a day on my phone

15 Owning a lawnmower - Yes we own one, I've never used it though!

16 Doing your own washing - Well there isn't anyone else to do it!

17 Taking a trip to the local tip - Yes, although I tend to send t'other half

18 Planting flowers - I planted flowers for the first time this year!

19 Being able to bleed a radiator - I know how to but I'm a bit scared to do it myself, the hissing makes me anxious and fearful of a hot water explosion

20 Having a joint bank account - Yes, we opened one when we got married and started receiving joint cheques. Actually that's not quite the whole truth, we converted my husband's one into a joint account and I kept my own single one!

21 Having a view on politics - Not really

22 Keeping track of interest rates - No

23 Finding a messy house annoying - Yes!

24 Being able to change a lightbulb - Yes, if I have to

25 Owning a vacuum cleaner - We have a lovely Dyson. Not sure how I'd manage without one!

26 Holding dinner parties - We've had friends round a few times for a meal, we tend to just get a pizza in though!

27 Listening to Radio 2 - No, I only listen to the radio in the car and because I can't concentrate enough to change channels while I'm driving I listen to what is already playing (although not if it's Talk Sport, then I just turn it off). It tends to be a local music station.

28 Enjoying gardening - I do garden, but I don't particularly enjoy it.

29 Spending weekend just 'pottering' - Something I would love to do!

30 Mum starts asking you for advice - Not really, I still tend to go to her!

31 Carrying spare shopping bags just in case - Yes

32 Like going round garden centres - No, I only go there to entertain the children by taking them to see the fish

33 Wearing coats on a night out - Yes, I'm always wearing my coat, hate being cold!

34 Going to bed before 11pm - Yes, almost every night

35 Making sure mum and dad are phoned at least once a week - Yes, I try!

36 Classing work as a career rather than a job - Probably when I started working I called it a career, now it's a job!

37 Repairing torn clothes rather than throwing them away - I can put a button on, but I'm not very good with sewing. I'd probably ask my Mum to do it though!

38 You iron - No!

39 You wash up immediately after eating - Yes, I wash up as I go along and my husband finishes off the last bits while I get the children in the bath

40 You enjoy cooking - No

41 You buy a Sunday paper - No, we rarely buy the paper (only if it has a voucher or free Lego)

42 Always going out in a sensible pair of shoes - Yes, I'm always in trainers

43 You like receiving gift vouchers - No, they make me anxious about spending them before the expire

44 Work keeps you awake at night - Not really, not now that I'm back at work

45 Filing post - Yes

46 You have a best crockery set - No, we only have one set of crockery (Ikea's finest!). When we got married we asked for money towards our Honeymoon rather than a gift register!

47 Able to change a car tyre - I have observed the process

48 Being sensible enough to remove make-up before bedtime - No, I hardly ever wear make-up anyway, so I tend to forget to take it off

49 Being able to follow a receipt - I think this one may have become a little wonky with repetition, if it means recipe then yes, I'm quite good at that

50 Owning 'best' towels as well as everyday towels - No, we barely have enough towels for ourselves, I do have some slightly nicer ones that I keep for guests

I make that about 32 so that's 64% grown up. I actually thought I was more grown up than that! I've got a few things lined up to tag people in (beware!) so I will leave it up to you, if you would like to take part then please do!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Needlework Days - July 2012

I have been working hard on my cross stitch this month to have something to share for Needlework Days at Feisty Tapas. Evenings of sport to distract the husband have helped. Now that I am working on the top half of my sampler I am taking a different approach. Previously I would take a strand of one colour and do all the bits that I could find in that colour before moving on to a new one. This was good because it meant that I didn't have any little bits of thread left over, but it wasn't very satisfying and also had the potential to lead to small areas being missed.

My new approach is to take a section at a time and complete if fully. So I present my latest finished segment:

Three Things by Moira Blackburn sampler

That border may look simple, but looks are deceiving. If you look carefully you may see that although the overall impression is one of symmetry, there are in fact a couple of subtle differences. Whether these are intentional or mistakes in the pattern I'm not sure, but they appear on the offical photograph so I have followed the pattern. I will not say how many times I had to unpick my stitches while working on this border. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to do it all again, as a similar motif is repeated on the other side of the sampler.

UPDATE - I finished the sampler in March 2014! You can see a photograph of the finished sampler here - Moira Blackburn Three Things sampler completed.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

An Olympic weekend - Beach Volleyball and Tennis

After our very exciting visit to see the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony last week, we were lucky enough to spend this weekend in London seeing some more events.

This time we travelled up by train from Angmering. On the way up we met one of the volunteers. One thing that has really stood out so far in our Olympic experience has been the dedication and enthusiasm of the volunteers - all the ones that we have met have been so friendly and helpful. This gentleman was one of a team of people driving athletes and other important people around London, and it was really interesting to talk to someone involved.

We had a fantastic hotel really near to Buckingham Palace. It was also free - one of the advantages of having a husband who travels for work and accumulates loyalty points. We were even upgraded to a suite! We went straight out into the pouring rain to catch the end of the Women's Road Cycling as they sped past. We were almost at the end of the route (the finishing line was ticketed) and the three ladies in the lead were very much ahead, it felt like a good couple of minutes before the next group came along.

Speeding past

We had an early dinner before heading to the Beach Volleyball. There were long queues to get in (and once inside even longer queues for refreshments, although we take our own so that didn't bother us!) which meant that we took our seats just as the play was beginning. The stadium was in a fantastic setting, with clear views of the tops of the London Eye and Big Ben. Some people were perhaps a little unimpressed by the understandable lack of tiny bikinis on a chilly evening, but the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. I loved the loud bursts of music each time a point was scored, and there were many scantiliy clad ladies (and gentlemen) in attendance to entertain the crowd with dancing in between games. There was plenty of drinking going on, and a group of young men in our block were entertaining the crowd by passing around towers made of plastic beer cups and encouraging people to add more and more until it fell over, it all made for a very merry evening.

It's a shame that all the best seats are empty though
After a lovely lie-in the next morning we headed to Wimbledon for the tennis. We had Centre Court tickets with a reserved seat all day, and we didn't realise until we arrived that we could also go and watch games on any other court apart from Court 1. It was a very long day but packed with some excellent tennis, including Federer in the men's singles and the Williams sisters in the doubles. The atmosphere was quite a contrast to the night before, no moving around during play, and just whispering and polite clapping.

That's Federer in the red
The Williams sisters

We took a free shuttle bus back to Wimbledon station, and walked straight onto a train. Although it was busy, I don't think it was really any busier than a normal rush hour would have been and we managed to find seats on the train for our journey back home. Now for a few days rest and a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the children before we are up there again next weekend!

Rocking the Olympic tourist look
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