That’s All Folks!

So that’s it, after 16 days of sheer entertainment the 30th Olympic Games have ended and I have loved every single moment.  For someone who tolerates sports rather than enjoys it, I have been totally converted.  I always make an effort to watch the Olympics, but this years games have had me completely absorbed.  It has nothing to do with the fact that I am British, because living in Northern Ireland, I am hundreds of miles and a sea crossing away from London.  This tiny little corner of the UK often gets forgotten about completely, even though we had  athletes who managed to pick up some medals for TeamGB, NI still barely gets a mention.  We are a little like the dirty little secret of the United Kingdom.  However, I don’t let it bother me and I’m usually very proud to be British, throughout these games was no exception.

From the spectacular, unforgettable opening ceremony to the remarkable medal haul by TeamGB.  65 medals, no mean feat for a small nation and one to be proud of.  I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions, I have laughed, cried, screamed and shouted until I’m hoarse.  There have been so many fabulous and joyous moments.  Mo Farah and his 2 amazing gold medals, Jessica Ennis and her heptathlon gold, the rowers, sailors, the cyclists, the wonderful equestrian team with the beautiful and breathtaking Dressage.  Usain Lightning Bolt breaking another world record and making Olympic history, the brilliant American 4 x 100m women who broke the world record.  The genius of David Rudisha from Kenya breaking the 800m world record, it was amazing and emotional all at once.  The German Discus thrower Robert Harting celebrating his gold by ripping off his shirt and jumping the hurdles.  The delight at Kirani James winning Grenada’s first ever Olympic medal and making a gold medal.  The sheer joy of Stephen Kiprotich at winning the marathon and Uganda’s first medal since 1972!  There were hundreds more moments just like these from every country that participated.  I watched the elation and heartbreak and I felt it with them all, regardless of the country they were representing.

Then all too soon it was the closing ceremony.  A celebration of British music and again a feast for the eyes and ears.  Not all the music was to my liking and I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to see David Bowie, but it was still a brilliant end to what in my opinion where the best games ever.  I’m looking forward to Rio in 4 years time.

Thank you London 2012, so many moments, so many memories, you did it, you pulled it off with brilliance.  Tomorrow I’ll finally get to do my housework again!

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Liar Liar Pants on Fire

I did it – today I officially became my mother – argh.  I told my daughter not to pull that face because the wind would change and it would stay like that!  It was a desperate move, because today has been the day from hell.  My daughters have spent the entire day screaming, crying, pushing each other, wrecking each others toys and generally being complete monsters and they are both still only babies really.  I envisage nightmare teen years in our house.

My mother used to tell me all sorts of untruths, I won’t call them lies, technically they are, but I now tend to think of them as parenting desperation tactics.  Can you remember some of the things your parents and other adults used to say to you as a child?

Don’t go out of the house with wet hair, you’ll catch your death of cold.  This apparently has been scientifically proven to be completely untrue.

You can’t go swimming, you’ve just eaten and will get cramp.  Again totally untrue.

Eat your carrots, they’ll help you see in the dark.  How exactly? There is no scientific evidence of this whatsoever.

Santa’s elves are out watching you all year and reporting back to him when you are naughty.  My mother used this all the time, especially because during the bad times in Northern Ireland helicopters were a constant regular sight and sound, she used to tell us it was Santa’s elves.  Being watched by little men with pointy ears and curly toed shoes is all just a bit creepy!

If I picked Dandelions and got sap on my skin I’d wet the bed!  The only possibly reason I can think for this lie, is that the sap left black marks on my skin.

Bring told that if I swallowed apple pips or grape seeds they would grow in my stomach – I can’t believe I believed that, but I did.

If I sat on the cold ground or a wall etc I’d get hemorrhoids!  I still use this one on my husband, he sits on our low windowsill outside sometimes and I tell him he’ll get piles, we have a wee chuckle because his mum used this one on him too!

If I sat too close to the television my eyes would go crossed – nah, never happened mum!

I’m pretty sure there must have been more and I’m pretty sure that I will use some of these and maybe some new ones on my own daughters.  I know some people get very annoyed at the thought of “lying” to children, but I doubt very much that by telling my daughters they’ll  catch their death of cold if they go out with wet hair, will have any significant long-term physcological effect on them.

So go on then, what little white lies did your parents use on you and have you used any on your children?

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Veggies Galore

I’ve been a little light on the blog front for a day or two, for two reasons really.  Number one has got to be Olympic fever, I’ve been surprisingly completely absorbed in the games and I’m loving it.  Not just the fact that TeamGB are doing really well, I’m loving watching the incredible ability of athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and the amazing young American swimmer Katie Ledecky.  I know she broke our lovely Becky Adlingtons heart, but I guess that’s the nature of sport, you are never really a “sure thing”, victory is never guaranteed and no one can deny that Katie Ledecky at just 15 years old was absolutely incredible, she just stormed down that swimming pool and made it all look so very easy, it was fantastic to watch.  However, I have to say female weightlifters – eeek, there are some scary women in that event!

My other reason is that I have been harvesting our fruit and veggies and cooking and freezing as much as possible.  I’m determined that after the making the effort to grow my own this year, I’m not going to let it go to waste.  Surprisingly after the washout summer loads of my plants have really starting cropping.  I’ve had loads of Broccoli this week, every day there seems to be more ready.  So I have made loads of Quiche, pizzas and soups and just blanched and frozen some for future use.  My raspberries and blackcurrants have just gone crazy and I’m fighting off the wasps to get them all collected.  I have frozen boxes of them for future crumbles, pies and maybe some jam if I can get the time.  I have also kept a box  for the obligatory Raspberry Martini or two!

I’ve had one Cauliflower already and about a dozen more, that hopefully will continue to mature, my figs are still progressing nicely, whether they ripen or not remains to be seen.  I’ve had tons of herbs and a few chillies with several more ready in a day or two.  My onions are a few weeks away from harvesting and I have stacks of lettuce.

I have managed to get all my jars ready for making chutney and apple sauce once my apples are ready.  It won’t be the usual bumper crop this year sadly, as we’ve had too much wind and rain and not enough sun.  I also lost two trees during a storm.  But I should still have plenty to make my Christmas chutney.  If the rest of my chillies ripen, then I’ll make some chilli jam and if my Cauliflowers grow enough I’m going to try to make piccalilli.

It has so far been incredibly rewarding and I’d encourage anyone to try it.  Like I said in my Grow your own post, you really don’t needs tons of space or effort to enjoy your own produce.  Apart from my orchard (which was already here when we bought the house)  I have grown all of mine in my pallet planters.  No heavy digging and turning of soil, no creeping around on your hands and knees to weed, in fact in the pallets there is very little weed intrusion.  The only work involved once you have made your pallet planter, is watering and pest control.  I’ve done all of mine without any form of chemicals whatsoever, so everything really is organic and tastes fabulous.

It has spurred me on to increase what I will try and grow next year.  I’ll definitely be more organised and start earlier.  That way I can add potatoes, beetroot and carrots to my veggie list.  Even potatoes and carrots can be grown in buckets and barrels, you can also buy reuseable potato growing bags that also make harvesting really simple.  I’m going to buy a few of these at the end of the summer so that I have them ready for next year.  I’m also going to grow more chillies, I only tried one plant this year as I didn’t think they’d grow, but they have and have started to yield a lovely crop.  I’ll see how my onions develop and if they work I’ll maybe try some garlic too next year.

Give it a go if you can, you will honestly love harvesting and cooking your own produce and you will save money too.  Along with the constant supply of eggs from my now impeccably behaved chickens (I’m going to regret saying that), I am definitely spending much less and our girls, especially our toddler are loving eating things from their own garden.  This has been a real winner for us.

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The Snooty Pram!

Pram snobbery, do you suffer from it?  Until very recently, I had no idea such a thing even existed, but wow does it ever.

When I bought my first pram, I based my choice upon, did I like the look of it and did it fulfill my needs.  I didn’t for a second consider that in the world of mummydom the brand was more important than anything else.  I could barely have told you beyond Silver Cross and Maclaren any other pram manufacturer, I have since broadened my perambulator repertoire!

It would seem though amongst the internet baby forums that the brand of your pram dictates just how dedicated a mother you are and you are viewed with near contempt if you happen to have a what is considered a sub-standard pram.  I read the comments with raised eyebrow amusement, the gushing, boastful posts about the fact that they have the latest celebrity inspired copy cat pram.  As anyone who knows me, or who has read any of my blog will know, all of this boasting is completely wasted on me.  I care not a jot, which pram is the current Hollywood hottie!  I also don’t need more than one pram.  Some of these women claim to have bought 10 or more prams – whether this is true or not, who knows.  I half suspect it is just another thing to boast about and in actual fact they have one mid range pram.

Of course the current favourite is the Bugaboo, whether it is the B, B+ etc etc has become the beating stick that the pram snobs use on each other.  The comments range from “oh I have the B with an extras package it cost so much money, but is so worth it.”  to “Well I have the B+ with Paul Franks canopy and Hood, I got it imported specially, it cost a fortune, but my baby is worth it.”  I’m sorry, but your baby has no idea that the thing you are wheeling them around in with matching monkey hood and canopy , is the same pram that some actress is pushing her offspring around in, nor do they know or care how much it cost or where it came from!  Again, I am in two minds as to whether or not their statements are true and suspect they never owned one of these prams at all.

The competitiveness from these women is both amusing and amazing.  Is this the equivalent of men competing with one and other over cars?  I personally can’t comment on the useability of the Bugaboo, having never owned or even pushed one.  I just can’t see from looking at it any huge difference between it and any other pram on the market.  Yes the shapes and styling differ slightly, but it is only slightly.  There isn’t that much that manufacturers can do to totally alter the basic shape of a pram.  The only other difference that I am aware of is that apparently the Bugaboo is very lightweight, but there are lots of other very lightweight prams out there.  My double feels very light to me for a double.

Today while browsing a forum, someone asked for advice about which double pram to buy.  Most people gave sensible answers, telling her their experiences, talking about the width and weight of the doubles they had.  However, after a few comments, in came the Bugaboo brigade.  A small handful of women all claiming to have spent upwards of £1500 on the Bugaboo “Donkey”.

Apart from rolling my eyes at the bragging, I also found myself chuckling and thinking were Bugaboo trying to prove a point that celebrity sells, by naming their pram a Donkey!  The name Donkey in my mind does not conjure up images of a sleek. stylish, lightweight, fashionable pram.  Instead I think of a bulky cumbersome, difficult to manoeuvre, bland wagon.

Does the Donkey sell so well because it’s a Bugaboo?  Part of me thinks that’s exactly why.  I would love to know if Bugaboo didn’t exist or hadn’t created their double pram, would these women buy a pram called a Donkey from any other manufacturer?  I believe the answer is no, unless of course that Donkey was being pushed by a celebrity!

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The Smell of freebiedom

Most of us love a good freebie, whether it be samples or free prize draws with the chance of winning something nice.  I’m always on the look out and enter everything that isn’t too time consuming.  I’ve had a few minor wins, books, dvds, toys, baby equipment and some kitchen stuff.  My biggest win has been a £200 gift card, that I’m going to use towards my Christmas shopping.

It can be disheartening sometimes, I enter what seems like thousands of competitions and get nothing, but every so often I get a little burst of prizes and that keeps me going.  The free samples are another story though, some of them really are pretty pointless, you take the time and effort to fill out the questionnaire and the freebie they offer you is normally something in doll’s house size.  However, I still fill them out and sometimes it too is worthwhile.  I’ve had free samples of tea which turned out to be a whole box, full size bars of chocolate (always a good thing) I got 2 full size tubes of Johnson’s Nappy cream and full size shampoo – not too shabby for just filling out a form.

The latest sample offer I saw was for perfume, normally I don’t both with these as you tend to get one of those tiny matchstick bottles with about 3 droplets of scent in them, however, this offer was very glammed up and led me to believe that the sample was for a full 25ml small bottle.  The site described different smells and you clicked the ones you liked, eventually it deduced from my answers which of the perfumes would be “my smell”.

So I thought why not?  I filled out my details and pressed send, then promptly forgot about it.  Today when the postman came, I was confronted by what is possibly the funniest and most pointless free sample I’ve ever had in my life.  Sent airmail all the way from Hong Kong, I received a postcard with a tear off strip, inside which was a tiny piece of scented wet wipe fabric!

Seriously they sent this all the way from Hong Kong, if I’d known the sample was coming that distance, I wouldn’t have bothered sending for it and I certainly would never have sent for a smelly postcard.  There’s my carbon footprint trashed for a piece of wet wipe!

There are no words!

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Beauty Enigma

What on earth is BB cream and why is there a sudden explosion of advertising and “celebs” endorsing it all over my television.  Even after googling it, I’m really none the wiser.  Actresses etc claiming that they have known the secret for years and have been using it for years – of course you have.  They parade around screen looking flawless, totally made up by a professional make up artist and enhanced to the enth degree by clever lighting and camera trickery.  Right at the bottom of the screen in miniscule print there will be some lame disclaimer about how the actress is wearing a combination of products – No, really, honestly, I thought she naturally looked like that.  I thought she woke in the morning, stepped out of bed without a hair out-of-place and looked amazing, I never realised it took an entire team of people and a bucket of industrial strength polyfilla to make her look like that.

These companies really get on my nerves, pedalling their wares by making us “ordinary” women feel inadequate, or feel as though we can’t just be natural.  Is it any wonder that young girls feel pressurised into wearing make up, fake tan and hair extensions before they even reach their late teens.

We now have a world of BB creams, Body Butters, Lash extending mascaras, lip plumping stain (stain, is that not something you spray paint your fence with).  A million and one magazine articles about your beauty regime.  Regime – I’m lucky to get 2 minutes to slap on some moisturiser, never mind have the time to exfoliate, cleanse, tone, moisturise,BB Cream, anti fatigue spray, Eye serum, colour correct, then clabber ( good Irish term, meaning to plaster, slather, spread) with foundation, loose powder, bronzer, eyeliner, mascara – the white stuff first, then the colour, brush eye lashes, curl eye lashes, lip liner, then plump and stain, wax, shave or epilate, exfoliate again, fake tan, cheese grate the feet, add heel repair cream, paint toe nails, paint finger nails, unwrap hair from heat conditioning treatment, add some serum – or “product” as hairdressers call everything in a bottle or spray can nowadays, dry hair, add anti frizz stuff, straighten my already straight hair, add more product, then step elegantly into a fine mist of perfume and we’re done!  Phew, if I had the time in a day to even do a third of that stuff, I’d have either chained my children up to a radiator (off of course) or hired them out to sweep chimneys.

I know I’m 40, but I don’t think I look that bad for my age.  So what is wrong with just washing my face and hair, adding some moisturiser and drying my hair with a normal hairdryer. Why is it that everywhere I turn something tells me I should have a Regime.  History would dictate that Regimes are generally not very nice things to be a part of and they normally end up eventually being crushed by outside forces.  So which force is going to crush the BB Regime, the next miracle lotion or potion no doubt!

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Let the Games Begin

I just had to do a post about The London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, because in all honesty, I was seriously impressed.  I also have to eat humble pie, because I didn’t believe for a second that they could put on the spectacular show that they did.  I was convinced we would produce some tacky, awful cockney wideboy type show (no offence to the cockneys), but I had visions of some “Del Boy” naff performance.

Over the course of my Olympic watching years Beijing was the opening ceremony that I enjoyed the most, to me it was by far the most entertaining, the most artistic and the most memorable.  Well London has, in my opinion equalled that.  They were both very different types of ceremonies and were both artistically and musically very different, but I love them both for their differences.

Danny Boyle really did us Brits proud, his trip through our history was beautiful, moving and funny.  From Nimrod to Firestarter the music was fantastic, it took me on a journey through my entire life.  All those eras of big hair and RaRa skirts, leg warmers and shell suits, he transported me through my whole life and I loved it.

I thought the Queen and Daniel Craig was a phenomenal touch and secretly believe it really was her on that parachute!  I want to meet that swooning, fainting Corgi and shake its paw.  Mr Bean, not normally a character that appeals to me, was brilliant and made me chuckle.

The Children and staff from Great Ormond Street Hospital were just sensational and I was thrilled to see them as part of the show.  Even though a few ignorant commentators criticised the fact the children didn’t look very sick – WHAT!  Clearly they know nothing about GOSH or the unfortunate, very poorly children that they try desperately to save.  What did they want to see, children linked up to IV’s and ventilators!

I loved J K Rowling reading from Peter Pan, I loved Mary Poppins flying in.  I guess, I loved it all.  Well…….maybe I could have skipped Macca and Hey Jude, it was slightly predictable.  We seem to wheel him and that song out for everything.  Don’t get me wrong Paul McCartney is a musical genius and a legend and I love the song Hey Jude, it’s just been kind of “done to death”  That song ends up at almost every event we have now.  Maybe that’s why Danny Boyle did it though, maybe he thought that the predictable ending has now become the British tradition.

I was also a bit sad to read some journalist comments about it being a socialist lefty show because it highlighted and featured the NHS so heavily.  I personally think it was brilliant and well deserved and I am not a lefty!  All too often we spend our time criticising the NHS, heck even people from other countries who have never set foot inside an NHS hospital or been treated on the NHS have criticised it.

Personally I am very grateful to live in a country where healthcare is free for everyone.  I feel privileged to know that if myself or any of my family get sick then we can and will be treated without having to find thousands of pounds or have expensive insurance.  I am thrilled that we have a free immunisation programme for our children.  My experiences of the NHS have all been positive and good.  In fact, I believe my consultant saved both my life and the life of our eldest daughter, his quick action and positive decision making is why I am still here today and why I am finally a mother.  I know they are not perfect and that they make mistakes, sometimes huge very costly ones.  However, even people who have paid thousands in private hospitals have fallen foul to mistakes.  To err is human after all and those errors can and do happen regardless as to whether or not you paid for your treatment.  So give the NHS a break, believe it or not, we are very fortunate to have it.  So for me personally, I got a bit of a buzz out of seeing the tribute to them.

I cried bucket loads at Mohammad Ali, he is just so frail now and it was both wonderful and heartbreaking to see him.  I was also deeply moved by the memorial wall and thought it was a magnificent idea.

I loved how children almost dominated the show, they played such an integral part in the whole thing, from the choirs around the country – I of course was thrilled to see The Giants Causeway in my wee beloved country, to the dancers and drummers.  The real touch of brilliance though was in getting the young athletes of the future to light the cauldron, that for me was pure genius and completely spectacular.

There are loads more things I could mention, loads more things I totally loved, but I’m sure if you watched it you know them all anyway and will have your own favourites.  I am really looking forward to the games and I’m hoping that Team GB can pick up a good few medals.  However, the thing I love the most about the Olympics is that even if our competitor isn’t winning and the leader is heading towards an Olympic or World record, we get excited for them and spur them on regardless of what nation they are representing.  For me The Olympics really are an occasion where the world comes together, yes we want our own country to win, but we can still celebrate and congratulate the country who does.

Happy medal counting everyone

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