Friday 30 March 2012

Mouse overload

Last weekend I was standing at the cooker, sweating away, and frantically stirring some white sauce, when a large mouse darted over my foot and scarpered into the far corner of the kitchen.

Because I always burn the bottoms of pans when making any kind of milk-based sauce, I chose to ignore it, and instead continued to put 100 per cent concentration into my stirring.  The sight of a mouse in my kitchen would normally make me feel physically sick, and I would do the whole standing-on-a-chair thing, screaming blue murder (despite growing up with mice in my Mum's house).

Looking back, I think it must have been a subconscious coping mechanism that kicked in: no one was going to ruin this labour intensive meal, not even a rodent.  

The next day, despite finding droppings and gnawings everywhere, I was still in total denial and I didn't think about the mouse again. But that night Tom woke me up at midnight. He looked shaken, and told me that he had walked into the kitchen and spotted a mouse poking his head out of a cereal packet.  'WHICH CEREAL PACKET?' I asked, totally panic stricken.  I was inwardly relieved that it had been the kids' Cheerios and not my muesli. Tom told me that he had heroically grabbed the box with the mouse still inside, and given it a good shake.  What he was trying to achieve with the shake I don't know, but he said the sound of a mouse thudding around amongst Cheerios was an odd sensation.  He went out into the night and bravely threw the box and its dizzy inhabitant out into the garden.

By Monday I was feeling pretty traumatised, particularly since, on Sunday night, the mice had chewed through our wooden cutlery draw and placed all the wooden shavings amongst my forks and spoons, along with their shit.  And on Monday afternoon, Tom had yet another unnerving encounter with a mouse who was hanging out next to our microwave, staring at him.

I am now refusing to cook in my kitchen.  I have thrown a lot of our food away.  And I will only eat items from the fridge.   Each time I nervously enter the kitchen, I mentally prepare myself, make sure I'm not holding anything breakable, and I shout loudly and clap to give them a chance to at least run away and hide so that I don't have to see them strolling around on my kitchen surfaces.

Much to Tom's delight, I have had to throw Baby Annabel into the bin. Her neck had been gnawed. I assume it was a mouse anyway.

I have even become terrified about them getting into bed with me while I am asleep.  'Well you mustn't eat chocolate in bed and leave crumbs everywhere then,' Betty helpfully informed me.

Pest control are coming on Tuesday.

Monday 26 March 2012

Look, my Mum polished my shoes!

On Friday Betty showed me a nasty blister on her foot, and because I bought her latest school shoes last September I naturally blamed myself for neglecting to get her feet measured sooner.

So on Saturday we hot-footed it into town full of promises of new shoes for both Betty and Dolly (whom I had also neglected in the shoe stakes).  Before we got to the shoe shop, I cunningly put both girls in their Crocs to disguise from the shop assistant the fact that their shoes were too small.

I got Betty and Dolly to choose the shoes they would like while we waited our turn to be measured.  This was a ploy to keep them in one place in a very crowded and sweaty shop - pink patent shoes don't really float my boat.

Anyway, it turned out that where Dolly had gone up a size and was promptly issued with some unshiny and unpink shoes, Betty's feet had not grown at all in seven months.  I was somewhat perplexed by this, as height-wise I swear she has almost doubled in size. 

Betty was gutted that she didn't get her new shoes, but I was secretly thrilled at not having to spend £32.00.  So to cheer her up I bought her some shoe polish, which I am ashamed to say is a first for me.  I have never polished a pair of shoes in my life, not ever.

So on Monday morning before school, I gave Betty's muddy and somewhat battered shoes a good polish.  She was positively thrilled with the result.  If I had known what joy some black shoe polish would have brougt her, I may have tried it before.  'You have made my shoes look amAzing!'  and 'You are so so clever Mummy!'  The girl has never given me so much praise for anything. 

After the journey to school where she continued to heap yet more praise on me, I walked her up the playground.  'Look at my shoes Miss T - my Mummy polished them, isn't she clever!'  she said to her teacher.

It got to the point where I wasn't sure if Betty was really genuinely impressed with me, or whether she was actually taking the piss out of me....

Thursday 22 March 2012

Turn on the Tap - World Water Day

Today, so far, I have had a shower, drunk two cups of tea and a glass of water, done the washing up, put the washing machine on, washed the kids' hands and faces and brushed their teeth, and filled up a bucket for my 2 year old to play with in the garden.

We are lucky that our water is clean and safe, but when the only water available is dirty, dangerous and difficult to reach, everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, washing, and drinking suddenly become dangerous, even life-threatening.

Can you imagine your own children having to drink dirty water full of diseases, knowing that it might kill them?  I can't.

Every day, more than 4000 children in the developing world die from preventable water-borne diseases.

Today it is World Water Day. The Turn on the Tap campaign (an initiative of the relief and development charity Samaritan’s Purse) is aiming to raise £22,000 to help thousands of children and families access clean water and escape the trap of water poverty.

£8 can save the life of a child by providing them with access to clean water through a water filter installed in the family home. I've just made this donation myself.

To give a gift of clean water or find out what else you can do on World Water Day, go to

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Why do you LOVE hoovering?

Dolly is going through that intensely annoying why, who, when, where, what phase.   As a child who is scarily astute and clued up, I thought the inane questioning might pass her by.

And where I normally want to tear my hair out at her constant questioning, I found this morning's interrogation rather telling:

Me: Come on Dolly get your top on
Dolly: I don't want to wear that one, I want to wear the red one
Me: The red one is wet because it has just been washed
Dolly: Why are you ALWAYS washing clothes
Me: Because they get dirty
Dolly: Do you LOVE washing clothes?
Me: No
Dolly: Why are you ALWAYS hoovering?
Me: Because the floor gets dirty
Dolly: Why have you got three hoovers?
Me: I have a very old hoover that doesn't work, a hoover for downstairs, and a little mini hoover for upstairs
Dolly: Why are you so greedy?
Me: I don't think I am.
Dolly: Why do you LOVE hoovering?
Me: I don't
Dolly: Why do you hoover?
Me: Because the floors get dirty
Dolly: Why doesn't Daddy ever hoover?
Me: Because he is scared of the hoover
Dolly: Is Daddy scared of the washing line too?

Monday 12 March 2012

The wedding ring mystery

A couple of months ago I stood on the bridleway next to the river with Tom and Dolly, and waited for Betty, who was some distance away, clinging to an oak tree.

I happened to look down at my wellies, and there nestling in the mud next to my foot was a gleaming silver object. I picked it up, and it looked like a man's wedding ring. 'I have found treasure!' I called to Betty, in a bid to entice her up the hill and away from her tree. 

I was a little bit flummoxed by this ring, and how it got to be just lying in the middle of a field, and I felt sad for the man who had lost it. But then I got to thinking... maybe he had thrown it into the river in a rage, after finding out his wife had been having an affair, and it got washed up? Or maybe it was vital evidence from a crime scene, and he had tried to discard of it? Or maybe it just simply fell off his finger as he threw a stick for his dog? Was he a local man? Or was he visiting from a land far away? Was he a ghost? Or was he indeed a she with very fat fingers? Was it a ring from ancient times? Was it worth a lot of money? Or had it been won in a Christmas cracker? So many questions.

Betty eventually caught up with us, pretty uninterested with the treasure, and we made our way to the church just up the hill. I found a scrap of paper and left a note with the ring, telling of where I had found it, and then left it in the hands of the Gods. 

Over the next two months I wondered what had become of the ring and its owner, and then this morning I saw the below extract in our parish magazine!

While I am delighted that the man/woman/criminal/ghost has been reunited with the ring, I am still none the wiser...

Friday 9 March 2012

My Aldi adventure

In a bid to cut back on our grocery bills, I decided to venture into Aldi, which sits right opposite the Sainsburys I have been going to for years.

I was so overcome with the ridiculously low prices, I ended up with a mountain of food that I did not need, or even want (sort of like what happens when I go to Ikea). So with my trolley laden with fifty different types of breakfast cereal, each box costing about 10p, fifty bars of chocolate, and fifty loaves of bread, I headed for the tills.

I quickly learned that at an Aldi till it is a very different experience to what you get at, say a Sainsbury's till.  You seriously have to have your wits about you. If you stop for even a millisecond, to scratch your nose, or indeed breathe, you get seriously scowled at by the cashiers, who I swear must be monitored on how fast they can scan food. And forget trying to pack your shopping into bags in any civilised manner.  Nope, if you are too slow, which I was, the cashier just hurls it into your trolley.  And not only do they scan fast, but they also talk fast too.  'Thatwillbe£12.49please'.  So despite the trauma of speedy scanning, the low bill more than made up for it.

I spent the next couple of weeks perfecting my till performance at Aldi by mentally preparing myself beforehand, bracing myself, and trying to be really really fast.  I couldn't have any distractions from kids slowing me down so on my second trip to the shop I had to leave them at home with Tom.  

I became a bit of an Aldi bore. Betty and Dolly were pretty surprised by some of the new 'treats' I was offering them but I didn't get any complaints. Also I made sure Tom was kept updated about prices. 'You see that packet of crisps you are eating? It cost 2p.' Or, 'Do you know, Aldi do the best chocolate in the whole entire world, and it only costs 4p per bar.' Tom wasn't convinced about any of it, and was not overly happy about my new found passion for Aldi.  He told me the bread was revolting, and that the mozzarella tasted weird.

Things came to a head on Tom's birthday. Normally I lay on a feast fit for a king to celebrate.  He didn't say anything because he is far too kind, but I could see his shoulders sink, and his eyes well up when I served up his birthday breakfast, lunch and supper, Aldi style. He looked like a broken man.

Sadly the Aldi honeymoon period is now over for me. While Aldi may be cheap, and certain things like their mini-magnum ice-creams, pitta bread, and salami may be perfectly ok, their fruit and veg is utterly tasteless, so much so that it is almost impossible to distinguish between their carrots, celery, green peppers and apples.

And although you can't buy a circular saw in the cake aisle at Sainsburys, at least you can get your bags packed neatly for you, and pass the time of day with a  cashier who is not on speed.  

Thursday 8 March 2012

Bed swap

'It's not right that you don't let a poor child sleep in their mother's bed,' was Betty's response, when I told her she couldn't sleep in my bed for the fourth night running. I say 'my' bed, but by rights, it is Tom's bed as well, although he often gets put in a small child's bed with just a one-legged Barbie and a Lego dog to keep him company.

Betty and Dolly generally sleep with me if they are unwell, and unlike many of my friends, I love the excuse to snuggle up to them. On this occasion however, I could sense Tom's slight annoyance at the prospect of yet another night with Barbie, particularly as there was now nothing wrong with Betty to warrant another night in the marital bed.

I challenged Betty and asked her why she didn't want to go back to her bed now that she was better. She told me that her bed was a bit 'stinky'. Initially I blamed Tom. But on further investigation, to my horror I realised that she had been sneaking all sorts of foodstuffs up to her room, eating them in her bed, and then shoving the wrappers, crumbs, half eaten biscuits, and crusts down between the bed and the wall. It was a disgusting sight. Thinking back, I do remember her muttering something about how much she had been enjoying her midnight feasts, which I ignored.

So, after I had removed and cleaned the mess, I decided to re-arrange their whole bedroom - maybe this is a ridiculous idea, but I pushed both their beds together to make one huge bed. Dolly was somewhat surprised to see her room in a different form when she emerged from the wardrobe, having bedded down in there for a nap, and Betty was positively thrilled when she got home from school: 'It's just like being in a hotel!' she squealed.

I read them the riot act at bedtime and told them no jumping, rolypolys or skydiving. 'Are we allowed to play I Spy?' Dolly asked.  So, after listening to a fraught game of I Spy through the monitor while trying to watch Eastenders, there followed blissful silence.  Tom breathed a sigh of relief.

However, at 3am, I woke up to find a sleeping Dolly next to me in my bed, and no sign of Tom... 

Monday 5 March 2012

Can you have kids and still live in a stylish home?

This is a guest post, sponsored by John Lewis

Guest blogger Tamsin McCahill from has two young boys and believes that kids don’t have to spell the end of your stylish home...

I can remember when I swore we’d be different. Sitting on our stylish (if battered) brown leather sofa, patting my humongous bump, I surveyed our living room. OK, so it would never appear in a home interiors magazine, but with its Orla Kiely accessories and the one-off pieces we’d accumulated on our travels, it had a kind of shabby charm “We’re not going to be a couple who just let their kids take over”, I said, while my husband nodded sagely. Our home wouldn’t be engulfed by a mountain of lurid plastic. Instead, our kids were going to enjoy playing with just a few wooden toys. Move our ornaments to out of reach places? No way! We’ll just leave them – it’s a good way for Junior to learn that no means no. And we weren’t going to install those ugly stairgates, either - we’d just have to keep a close eye on our kids.

Fast forward five years and how things have changed. Turns out my kids only like toys of the garish, plastic variety. The ornaments are long gone as rescuing them from sticky hands got old after, oh, about five minutes. And we are now the proud owners of not one but four sets of stairgates.  So, it seems that certain changes around the home are inevitable after you have kids. But fear not - there are ways you can hang on to some of your design ideals.

Pieces from John Lewis’ Little Home range

Living room
You spend so much time in this room, so you need a space that works for both adults and small people. During the day, push back sofas so little ones have maximum toddling space, then for cosy TV watching in the evening, move them into more social positions. There’s no need to get rid of your gorgeous cream settees and armchairs, either - machine washable throws are your friends. To keep things safe, buy non slip rubber mats to go under your rugs and get padding and edge protectors for your tables.

No matter what your design principles, stairgates are an absolute must. According to Baby Centre, falls account for a massive 44 per cent of all children’s accidents in the home. But there’s no reason to settle for the first stairgates you come across. Although choice can be limited if your stairs are very wide or narrow, if yours are of a standard width, you’ll be able to get gates in different colours (like jazzy silver or cream) or in a range of woods to help them blend in with the look of your home.

If you hate lurid colours and wacky TV characters, Cath Kidston does some great vintage-looking children’s wallpaper, themed with retro cars and cowboys. The prints are also available on bedding so their beds can look just as funky. And John Lewis’ Little Home range caters exclusively for kids, with themes including dinosaurs, robots and elephants. Bedroom furniture doesn’t have to be tacky or boring, either. Go for simple and stylish children’s beds that will grow with them and choose fun accessories to add interest. Or go all out with beds that double as dens, cars or even princess cottages. This may have the desired effect of keeping them in there until morning, too!

How has your home changed with the arrival of children? 

Branching out

This is a sponsored post

When I started and named this blog five years ago, Betty was five months old.  I optimistically called it Flower Fairies and Fairy Cakes, hoping that one day she would be into baking cakes and indeed fairies, as much as I was when I was little.

And she didn't disappoint.  OK, so the likes of Tinkerbell aren't quite as wholesome as Cicely Barker's creations, but she is a fairy nonetheless.  And Betty LOVES to bake cakes, ALL THE TIME.  In fact I partly blame her for my explanding waistline. 

Last night we decided to branch out, and instead of the usual fairy cakes smothered in smarties, dolly mixtures, sprinkles, chocolate buttons and marshmallows, we opted for something a little more sophisticated.

We went for these gorgeous Berry Cream Tea Muffins taken from the Le Creuset cookware website.  They were so easy to make, delicious, pretty to look at, and sort of healthy - blueberries and strawberries heavily feature!  The kids loved them too, although were momentarily put out that there were no sweets involved...