Goals for 2012

Courtesy of Wikipedia: 
 A New Year resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to one or more lasting personal goals, projects, or the reforming of a habit. According to Gretchen Rubin (author of best-seller "The Happiness Project"): "You hit a goal, you achieve a goal. You keep a resolution". 
 This lifestyle change is generally interpreted as advantageous. A New Years Resolution is generally a goal someone sets out to accomplish in the coming year. Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible. A key element to a New Years Resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year, and new beginnings.
Every year I have the same goals.
*Be better with money
*Lose weight
*Grow my nails
*Be healthier
*Be more organised

This year, although these still, in reality, need to be addressed (other than growing my nails! Woo!) I have given myself goals which I feel are a bit more achievable. And more of a challenge I guess.

Complete a Photo a Day Project.
I've tried this the last 3 years and something always "comes up" and I end up stopping. With my family now complete I want to work harder to document everything we do, something I've been slack in doing since Harry arrived-mostly due to not having a spare hand to hold a camera with! But also with the genius invention of mobile phone cameras I feel this is a lot more achievable.
With a still broken/unreliable laptop uploading the images and editing them will be difficult but hopefully something I will sort weekly/monthly.
This also requires me to sort out upgrading my Flickr account and my Picnik account. £££!!
My Flickr account holds the images to my last attempts of a 365, as does a blog I started last year.

I love to cook but don't give myself enough time or have enough confidence to do what I want to do.
Last month my aunty bought me a food processor and blender and I have, as a result, been a bit more adventurous.
I also purchased some decent cake tins, an electric hand whisk and an electric knife which obviously helps to be able to make certain dishes.
With these as help I have in the last month made my first Toad in the Hole, Trifle, Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing and Butternut Squash Soup.
I have a few things I've challenged myself to make/bake next year.
* Pie
* Sausage Rolls
* Mince Pies
* Chutneys and Pickles
* Pate

Homemade Crafts:
I'm a huge fan of Kirsty Allsopp. I especially love her Homemade Home and Homemade Christmas shows as well as her recent craft programme.
I come from quite a crafty creative family. My aunty used to "draw on wood". I can't remember what its called but she would use a special hot pen and draw and write onto wood. Her stuff was beautiful. I remember her making pencil cases for my brother and me. I can't remember what his had on it but mine had my name and music notes as I was learning to play piano at the time. My aunty would attend craft fayres and fetes to sell her work.
My mum and I also attended craft fayres and fetes. At a young age (9-13) I used to decorate terracotta flower pots. I'd either paint them or decorate them with wallpaper border and pretty pictures (decoupage) They don't sound like much but I was really quite good, if I do say so myself, and would make myself quite a lot of money. People used to think my mum had made them rather than me.
My mum was a glass painter. She'd decorate wine glasses, decanters, mirrors, keyrings etc. She was one of the best around. She then went onto decorating ceramic plates and vases. These were ridiculously popular and she'd have to end up taking orders.
I also remember her and my dad making fantastic mirrors using a tile mirror and MDF. They also used to sell out and were amazing.
We stopped simply as I got older and had to concentrate on school and also gained other hobbies and my mum no longer had time once my dad left us.
This is a shame as I do miss attending craft fayres and its something I'll always treasure in my memories.
So craft has always been in my blood.
For Christmas I was given Kirstie Allsopps craft book from my dad. I looked through the book straight away, feeling a bit overwhelmed with a lot of the crafts and instantly thought that this book would surely end up on my bookcase collecting dust along with all our other useless books.
But then I set myself the challenge. I picked three of my favourite crafts and *HAVE* to at least attempt these three in 2012.
One is quite a cheat really as its bunting and I wanted to have a go at bunting before I was given this book but at least now I know exactly how to do it. Rather than simple guessing.
Both boys will be getting "new rooms" in 2012 and I want to make the bunting especially for that, and maybe even make some for the playroom and our bedroom which is on the list to be redecorated at some point.
I have literally just ordered Kirsties Homemade Home book and will do similar with that. Picking 3 crafts to attempt to do either for our house, or as Birthday and/or Christmas Presents.

Other things are simply getting our garden sorted, tidied and organised. When we moved in it was a blank canvas really. Patio and an area which can sort of be described as grass (its more weeds than anything!) I have an area at the bottom of the garden which for some reason was rubbish at keeping grass alive so I've planted a few plants in there which are doing amazing so far, I just need to add more and make it look more like the 'wild garden' that I want it to. And I also need to section it off so little legs don't go walking around there.
We also hope to successfully grow some of our own veg in 2012. We grew some in 2011 and enjoyed it and loved the novelty of being able to pop into the garden for certain veg. This year we want to do it properly so will be attempting to make our own wooden crates to grow the veg in. The soil around here is so rubbish that veg wouldn't survive...and we wouldn't have any garden left!

Other than that I just plan to have a great year for our boys. To create some bloody fantastic memories for them and enjoy every single second.


The Perfect Cranberry Sauce

 Ok I know Christmas has now gone but I need to share this with you.

Last year whilst on the phone to my aunty to thank her for Charles' Christmas Present, I mentioned that we'd, once again, forgotten to get the cranberry sauce out of the cupboard.
"You BUY your cranberry sauce?!" Was her immediate reaction. "Its SO easy to make".
"Ok, I'll try and make my own next year" I replied as she told me the ingredients. At the time I had no plans to make my own, why do that when I can buy a jar from the supermarket?!
Except I decided to after all. It can't be that hard surely.
I Googled to try and find a recipe that I felt suited us and sounded a bit jazzier than your basic "cranberries and sugar" recipe.

In the end, I combined a mixture of what I'd found and came up with this:
375g cranberries (I used frozen)
5 tablespoons of Port
175g caster sugar
Zest of one orange
Juice and "bits" of one orange
1 apple, finely chopped with peel (I used Golden Delicious)
4 "glugs" of a fruity dry white wine (I used Echo Falls, California White Wine)

Simply chuck everything other than the white wine into a saucepan and boil until the Cranberries start to pop and burst open. Then turn the heat down and simmer for around 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the Cranberries don't burn against the side of the pain.
Once this is cooked you can serve just like this. After tasting it we liked it (it would've been perfect with a crumble mixture baked on top and then served as a dessert!) but I felt it needed something more.
I took 3/4 of the mixture and placed into the blender and whizzed for around 1-2 minutes. I then added 4 glugs of white wine (add as much as you like depending on how sweet and liquidy you want your mixture to be) then gave another quick blitz and added this mixture into a bowl, along with the mixture left in the saucepan.
You don't have to put the mixture in the blender, you can just stick to the sauce you've made in the saucepan and add the wine to this.
A quick mix together and the sauce was done!
We found the taste was less sharp after we added the wine and less of a fruity dessert taste.

I'll be making this again next year and am even considering making a bigger batch to put in jars and give to family.

Beautiful with Gammon or with Cheese as well as the traditional accompaniment to Turkey!


Jamie Olivers Epic Hot Chocolate

Hot! Hot!
Ooh, we got it!
Hot! Hot!
Hey, we got it!
Hot! Hot!
Say, we got it!
Hot chocolate!

Oh how I love that song from Polar Express!
Tonight we sat and watched Jamie Olivers Christmas cookery programme.
My husband is a huge fan of hot chocolate (the drink, not the band) and gets quite annoyed if I buy the wrong brand (has to be Cadburys!)
I've always wanted to make my own hot chocolate. We had an amazing cup of hot chocolate 2 years ago at Centre Parcs and are yet to beat it. It was amazing. Almost like a thick chocolate sauce than a drink.

As we watched Jamie making a beautiful looking waffle we sat open mouthed and drooling as he showed us how to make his "Epic Hot Chocolate".

In his own words:
This hot chocolate is off the scale. It’s so simple to make and is much better than that shop-bought stuff you get, which is often full of rubbish and probably hasn’t got much chocolate in it anyway. I don’t want you to feel cheated, I want you to have the real thing… life’s too short not to.

Now, this is how Jamie Oliver says to make it. Personally, I'd add less cornflour as ours was ridiculously thick and undrinkable....well mainly because it was more of a dessert than a drink and wouldn't pour from the mug!

2 pints of semi-skimmed milk.
For the epic hot chocolate mix
• 2 tablespoons Horlicks
• 2 tablespoons cornflour
• 3 tablespoons icing sugar
• 4 tablespoons quality organic cocoa
• 100g quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely grated
• a pinch of ground cinnamon
• a pinch of sea salt

Pour the milk into a large pan, and bring almost to the boil over a medium heat.

Meanwhile, add all the chocolate mix ingredients to a large jar and give it a good shake to combine. You need around 10 heaped tablespoons of the chocolate mix for this amount of milk. Simply spoon the chocolate mix into the hot milk, give it a good whisk and leave to bubble away for a few minutes before serving. You’re looking for that gorgeous, thick, almost claggy, knockout texture.

Recipe © Jamie Oliver. Recipe from Jamie's Christmas with bells on.

If you'd rather Jamie Oliver tell you than me then you can find the recipe on his website here: Jamie Olivers Epic Hot Chocolate!


Since I was 14 I've been on the pill. I had to change to a different one in 2004 because I kept experiencing quite severe hot flushes and tiny blisters on my face.
Once I'd changed all was fine.
Then I came off the pill to start a family.

Once I'd had Charles I didn't go back on the pill immediately as I was advised that it wasn't essential due to me breastfeeding (although I know in some cases women get pregnant whilst breastfeeding anyway)
We had already decided that we would like another child quite soon so contraception wasn't an issue.
Despite breastfeeding my cycles returned 9 months later and then 7 months (approx) later I fell pregnant. (still breastfeeding)
We'd always planned to just have 2 children so knew that once I'd given birth I would have to use contraception.
I knew of the coil as a close family member had used one successfully for 10 years, and after looking in the contraception leaflet given to me by the midwife 4 hours after giving birth, the time I really didn't want to think about ever having sex again, I thought it would be suitable for me.
I made an appointment in August with the doctor who deals with the coil at my local surgery. She told me about what happens, how its fitted etc and sent me away with a prescription.
Aware of my traumatic birth with Harry she told me to have a good think and make sure I'm really ready before I take my prescription to the chemist and collect the coil (which apparently costs around £100!)
Last month after having my smear test I made an appointment to have the coil fitted. I had to wait a long time as they have to get the doctor and a nurse to fit it and finding a time they are both free is difficult, apparently.
The doctor I saw made it sound like it was a good thing to have and confided that she also had it.

So here we are, 4 days before Christmas and this afternoon I should be having this coil fitted.
Except I'm now having last minute second thoughts.

I Googled.

Weight gain.
Non-existent sex drive.
Constant light bleeding.
Hair loss.
Hair GROWTH (facially in some cases)
Bad skin
Cold sores

I'm now stuck and do not know what to do.

I'm worried that if I go on the pill and miss one that I'll get pregnant again.
But then I'm worried about all of the side effects listed above and couldn't deal with any one of them.

I wonder if its best that I just go on the pill and re-evaluate the coil later next year, once my anxiety has settled, once my periods have returned, once I've lost weight?

At least with the pill I can just stop if I have any side effects.
With the coil I'd have to wait to get an appointment to get it removed.

But I have the coil in the packet ready to take to the surgery ready to be fitted. Think of that money wasted. My doctor is sure to have a go at me for that.
And surely for some its got to be ok and some women won't suffer any side effects at all.

Do I risk it? Taking the easy option and not having to worry about whether or not I took my pill or forgot it. And just because others suffered doesn't mean I will.
Or do I leave it? Taking the option of the pill (and condoms if necessary) to rule out suffering any nasty side effects. Stick to a routine that I was always good at and didn't mess up on before and worked for me.

I'm moody, paranoid and chubby enough as it is. Do I really need to make it worse?


1969, 1992, 2008.

December is supposed to be a month of joy, happiness and celebration. More so for us with my dads birthday on December 20th.
Except its not a month for celebrating for all of us.
42 years ago today my nanny and grandad (who died in 1992) did the thing that all of us parents dread.
They said Goodbye to their daughter.
At 22 years of age my aunty died of skin cancer. She left behind a husband and two daughters.
It was the day before my dads 9th birthday.

Obviously I didn't get to meet my Aunty and I don't know much about her, simply because my dad was a little too young to remember much and doesn't really talk about it. And I daren't talk to my nan about it as I don't want to upset her. Due to this this day doesn't ruin my month or my feelings towards this time of year. I didn't know my Aunty so its hard to feel total sadness for someone I didn't know.
I feel sad for missing out on having an Aunty who I never met.
I feel sorry for my dad for having this tragedy happen so close to his birthday and for losing one of his sisters.
But mostly I feel sorry for my nan.
Having to deal with that loss is unimaginable.
Except she had to go through the same in 2008.

My second paternal Aunty was moving back home from Nottingham after her partner had died. She had nothing left there so moved back.
Most of my memories of this Aunty are negative and we had reservations on whether or not her coming back would be good for my nan but my nan was excited so we went along with it.
I was working nights at Superdrug this week and had a couple of calls from my dad just saying that my aunty was in hospital and to expect the worst.
She's gone back to Nottingham to finalise things (house, packing etc) and had fallen ill.
On the Saturday morning I had the call to say she'd died.

I cried.
Partly for my aunty.
But mostly for my nan.
To lose one daughter is awful, to lose two is just cruel.

This leaves only my dad.
I couldn't imagine being the only child left. The thought of something happening to my brother just fills me with the worst feeling.
Being a twin I feel I can't outlive my brother as it wouldn't be fair.

My nan became quite frail after this and we all worried for her health.
Thankfully she fought on, although how much she wanted to I do not know and is now a chirpy 92 year old with life left in her. (I've bet her that she'll live to see 100!)

On her 90th birthday I definitely won best the grandchild award as I spent almost all day with her (others didn't even ring and just turned up to her surprise meal that evening!)
At one point we got to talking about her girls and she told me (my dad and her then boyfriend, who sadly died this year) that she's not afraid of dying as she knows people are waiting for her.
I had to walk off and have a moment as it was hard to hear.
Hard because of two things:
1: She has lots of us here who want and need her.
2: It's so sad that she has 2 daughters waiting for her, when it should be her waiting for them.

I have a lot of respect for my nan for what she's gone through and hope I never go through the same, I don't think I could be as strong.



Trip To See Santa: Take Two

You may have seen my previous post about our unsuccessful trip to see Santa on Saturday.
Although Charles didn't seem particularly bothered, due to us thinking up an excuse for Santa not being able to see him on the Saturday, we still felt we needed to take him to see Santa and have that experience.

So Sunday morning, we changed plans we'd already made to fit in a last minute trip to another Garden Centre.
We drove there and as we got Charles out of the car he shouted "Father Christmas! My here! My here!" We desperately hoped Father Christmas was there as I didn't think we'd be able to think of another excuse.
We knew our way around this garden centre anyway but thankfully it was well signposted for those who didn't know where the Christmas section was. This was something the other garden centre failed to do.
Also well indicated was the specific till to purchase the ticket to visit the Grotto.
So far, so good.
We were greeted by a cheery member of staff and handed over our £3.50. She spoke to Charles about Father Christmas and acknowledged Harry too which made me happy already.
So far, so good.
Charles skipped to the Grotto.
"My seeing Father Christmas! My excited! My excited!"
He shouted as he skipped.
We reached the Grotto and noticed a small queue. There was only 5 or 6 families ahead of us so we knew we didn't really have long to wait.
Except every now and then Charles would hear a deep voice bellow "ho ho ho! Merry Christmas" from behind the red velvet curtain.
His eyes would light up and then "my need to see him! My need to see Father Christmas"
And he would attempt to run off.
At one point he was able to run fast enough to get to the curtain but I managed to grab him just before he made his way through.
We were able to distract him and the tears stopped. Then the family in front of us were instructed to enter through the red curtain. As the curtain opened we saw him and Charles squealed!
"Its Father Christmas! Its Father Christmas! My saw him! My saw him!"
Then the curtain closed.
And the tears started and fell down his soft cheeks.
"My want to see Father Christmas"
The Elf came out from behind the curtain and handed Charles a chocolate coin.
"This is from Father Christmas for being such a good boy whilst you wait".
I could've kissed her!
With that Charles stopped crying. Mostly out of confusion as he looked at what had been handed to him.
"Money? Chocolate? Money? Chocolate?"
Then we heard the bellow of "ho ho ho! Merry Christmas" as Santa said goodbye to children before us.
It was our turn to go.
"Quick untuck his wellies from his trousers. Get the chocolate off of his face. Get rid of the tuft in his hair".
I felt as if we were meeting the Queen.
In we went.
And from there it seems like such a blur. Totally caught up in the whirlwind of adrenaline and make believe soaked into the atmosphere from these amazing children.
Charles bypassed Father Christmas and headed straight to the Christmas Tree in the corner. I think he was expecting his train to be there.
We were able to get him to stand near Santa and tell him what he's like for Christmas.
"What would you like then young man? Thomas The Tank Engine? Postman Pat? Fireman Sam? Bob The Builder?" asked Father Christmas.
"He's not really into those anymore" we said. "He's really into Toy Story. Woody and Buzz"
"Oh you like Buzzy do you?" Was the reply. Has Father Christmas not seen Toy Story or know who Buzz Lightyear is?! We chuckled.
As rehearsed Charles asked for his present and included accessories we hadn't discussed previously.
"I'd like a train please, with a bridge and a track" (the bridge was the one we hadn't heard before, thankfully his Brio set has one)
And then he carried on.
"A boat. And a rocket. A blue rocket Father Christmas. A bike"
Then his attention was taken as he spotted the fireplace.

"So, will you be leaving me out a mince pie and some milk please?" Father Christmas asked.
"Well, we thought you'd like a Whiskey?" My husband replied.
"Oh no no no. I can't be drunk and in charge of Rudolf. Just a milk will do thank you"
"Are you sure you don't want a Whiskey?" My husband almost pleaded.
"I guess it could warm me up but no. Milk will be fine"
"We'll leave you one out anyway" my husband ended.

Then Charles was offered a sweet and handed a present from Father Christmas. Which he was about to open there and then.
"Now be a good boy. Be good for your mum and dad. Go to bed early on Christmas Eve. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas"
And with that we left the Grotto all with smiles on our faces...except for Harry who missed his first Father Christmas experience after falling asleep as we were about to walk in the Grotto.

So, a happy boy, happy parents, a great experience. A brilliant toy which I would've paid £5 for in a shop if I'd seen it!
A much better experience than the first time.

If you are in this area. Avoid Highway Garden and Leisure and instead visit Cherry Lane Garden Centre in Fritton.



Ultimate Christmas Meme

 Lovely Jenny at Mummy Mishaps has tagged me in a Christmas themed Meme.
I can't turn down a Christmas themed Meme so here goes:

1. The Christmas songs I can even listen to in June is…
I'm cheating but almost every single one. I love almost every Christmas song and think its a shame we only listen to them a certain time each year.
If you made me choose one it would be The Darkness, I'm sticking with my local boys!

2. Hot chocolate, egg nog or mulled wine?
I have never tried egg nog and am not a huge fan of hot chocolate or mulled wine.
If I had to pick one it would be hot chocolate but it has to be the one we had 2 years ago at Centre Parcs. It was out of the world amazing!!

3. When do you put your decorations up?
Either December 1st or the 1st weekend in December.

4. What are you having for Christmas dinner?
Turkey and veg followed by Christmas pudding.
My favourite day is Boxing Day though. Cold meat, Christmas dinner left overs, pickles, cheese, crackers, pate, and warm baguettes.

5. What’s your favourite Christmas tradition?
Two years ago we started going to Carol Service on Christmas Eve. We being my mum, Charles and I. This year we'll have Harry and I've convinced my husband to come as well as my mums new partner.
We have always got party food for Christmas Eve so will continue that.

6. Have you even gone carole singing?
No! It's almost as bad as trick or treating!

7. When did you discover the truth about Santa?
I can't remember but I'm sure we just worked it out for ourselves due to there being more than one Santa at Garden Centres...either that or the Naughty Boy neighbour told us.

8. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With twinkly blue LED lights, enough baubles that its not overdone and yet not empty. Tinsel, you have to have tinsel.
Star on top and some silver beads if it needs it.

 9. What’s the best thing about Christmas?
Everything! The music, the food, the decorations, my husband getting time off work!
The magic!!

10. All I want for Christmas is.....
For Charles to believe that Santa bought his train and not us.


Learning to Fly

Tomorrow Charles will be waking earlier than usual. If instructions are followed he'll be heading downstairs with daddy, eating his breakfast and drinking chocolate milk (will be a treat every Wednesday) then back upstairs to clean his teeth, get dressed and come in to see me and give me a big hug and kiss to say goodbye.
Our little baby is flapping his wings and learning to fly.

Tomorrow he starts with a childminder.
Just 4 hours every Wednesday morning. He knows one girl who already goes there but I now feel, and know, that this doesn't matter to him and his confidence whilst there.
On Monday he went for an hour by himself (his friend goes there on a Monday morning so he was with children he didn't know). I dropped him off, well I sat with him for 5 minutes then plucked up the courage to leave him.
To leave my little boy with someone who I had only met 3 times, who he had only met 3 times.
I don't know her parenting style.
I don't trust her 100% but I don't trust anyone 100% with my children (other than my husband/their daddy of course). Not even my mum. Up until now he's only really been left with family other than an hour max with one friend of mine.
I don't know anything about her other than that Ofsted have approved her to care for children.
She seems lovely, and Charles has taken to her which is fantastic.
His hour there on Monday went really well. He loved it infact and took a while to leave her house.

I can't help but to feel sick about it. To feel a tiny bit guilty.
Guilty that I want to send him away for 4 hours every week.
In fact, I don't WANT to send him, instead I feel I HAVE to send him.
At the moment he spends every hour, minute and second of the day with me. He occasionally see's his friends but not often due to working mums and lack of effort on others behalf (harsh but true) and sometimes I watch him playing and wish he had more friends.
Thankfully he is such a confident boy, a little too confident infact, and would play with anyone. Where he gets his confidence from we do not know! His childminder even commented on how confident he is and said you'd never of guessed it was his first time being left on Monday.
Which of course makes me very proud.
But I worry that when he goes to school he'll suffer by not having regular contact and by not having proper friendships.
He has no cousins as yet so the only contact he has with other children is whenever we have a playdate with friends and this can sometimes be a month or two months apart.
I also feel he needs to get used to me not always being around.
As I said we spend a lot of time together and he's only been apart from me a handful of times, and each time will ask where I am after a while and need to see me or know that I'm ok.
We've spent one night apart and that was when I gave birth to Harry. In fact that was the longest we'd spent apart which was 23 hours. He hardly slept.
Of course it makes me feel amazing that he needs to know where I am and obviously shows I am a huge part of his life (which may sound funny but its an issue for me with certain relationships and I desperately need the reassurance).

Recent events, mostly being my anxiety reappearing and Harrys birth, has made me look at life totally different. My eyes have really opened up to how short life is and how bloody important it is to live each second how we want to and with people we love.
If I had my way, my boys wouldn't go to school, they'd be with me everyday.
Because of his I can't help but beat myself up a bit about CHOOSING to send him away to spend 4 hours with someone else. 4 hours I could spend with him that I'm not spending with him.
What am I doing?!
When he's there I'll be at home doing housework (if Harry allows me to) and he could be here too.
Its not like I'm at work and he NEEDS to be there.
I have to keep reminding myself that I'm doing it for him. That he will have fun. That he will hopefully make new friends.

I desperately want him to be liked.
He is such an amazing little boy, and I'm not just saying that because he's my son but because it is true.
He's funny, sensitive, so clever and one of my best friends.
I'm doing it for him.
I'm doing it for him.
I'm doing it for him.

Tomorrow will be the slowest 4 hours since the day I was in labour with Harry I'm sure.
There will be a lot of clock watching.

Roll on 12 o clock!!


Trip to see Santa: Take One!

After much thought we decided that we wanted to take Charles to see Father Christmas.
I asked on Facebook if anyone knew of places to go around here to see him. I was greeted with just two responses.

We decided we wanted to go have a look at some sofas at DFS in Norwich so we went into the garden centre which we pass on the way there.
It looked busy which is always a good sign.
Charles was really excited and had been talking non stop about seeing Father Christmas in the car and as we walked across the car park.
After taking 15 minutes to find the grotto (no signs guiding your way there) we joined the end of the queue.
We then saw a notice saying we needed a ticket before we get to the grotto. So my husband and Charles went to get one whilst Harry and I kept our place in the long queue.
My husband was gone around 10 minutes and eventually came back and said that you buy the tickets at the front of the queue so, confused, we asked the other grotto-goers infront of us where they got their tickets.
"Over there, but the queue is now closed"
They informed us.
And sure enough there was a sign saying "the queue for the Grotto is now closed"
What? This must be wrong! Its only 2.50! We'd been in the queue for 10 minutes also and this sign was there when we arrived but looked like it was randomly placed there until the queue was infact closed.
As we tried to find our way out (not easy at this particular Garden Centre) we came across the information desk.
There I saw a notice stating Grotto opening times.
"10 until 4.30"
4.30! And we were being turned away at 2.50!
Now even more angry, I asked the member of staff what was going on.
"We have to close the queue now as it takes that long to get through the Grotto"
What?? It takes over an hour and a half to get through a tiny grotto. She must've been joking.
So I questionned this.
"You're seriously telling me it takes well over an hour to get through that Grotto"
"Yes. I'm sorry about that"
"Well, I just think that's ridiculous. And we now have a broken hearted little boy"
With that we walked off. Walking past other children jumping for joy at the prospect of seeing the big man in red, soon to be leaving disappointed with more parents saying the same as us...
"We'll never come here again"
There could've been a sign on the entrance door also saying that the Grotto was closed, rather than wasting time walking around this big garden centre trying to find where Father Christmas was based!

So maybe we were wrong (would love to know others opinions on this) but surely the opening times should be 10-3 rather than 4.30? Giving 4.30 as the closing time gives the impression that customers can buy tickets up until that time, indicating nowhere that the queue will close an hour or so before this time.

I worked at Boots and Superdrug and we never closed our doors at 5.00 because it would take half an hour to get all the customers from that point to shop and go through the checkout.

Also my problem is that Christmas and in particular Father Christmas is supposed to be magical for children.
Highway Garden and Leisure, (at Framingham Pigot, Norfolk) obviously don't feel this way and have no problems sending away disappointed children.

I immediately posted my disappointment on Facebook and had some interesting responses from friends saying they'd had bad experiences also.
One saying:
"We went there last year and qued for ages, then got rushed through seeing him, so couldn't get a very clear photo and toy was crap!! I wouldn't go again!!"
And another saying:
"We had to wait ages to see him, then he walked past us, completely ignored the girls and went into the grotto, nobody told us we could go in so we waited around for a while and then eventually just walked in to find he wasn't even completely dressed as father christmas...not unless he wears jeans anyway!!"

So it looks like we had a lucky escape.

Hopefully our trip to another garden centre will be more successful today.

Dear Highway Garden and Leisure.
I wouldn't bother with a Grotto next year if I was you!
Children should be leaving skipping and smiling, excited that they've just seen Santa.
You are not providing this service properly and therefore have children leaving heartbroken and parents desperately thinking of a suitable reason to tell their child why they couldn't see Santa.
Do it properly or not at all!
A lost customer.


You Need Help...

...You've Just Got To Wait A While For It.

I sat in the doctors waiting room. Heart beating faster.
And faster.
Words going round in my head.
"I need help?"
No that's not right.
"I'm not coping?"
Nope, not right either.
"I think I might be depressed?"
No. I know I'm not depressed.
I'd booked this appointment 2 and a half weeks ago.
I wanted to see my doctor. Rather than any of the other ones there.
I'm very very lucky that I have an amazing doctor.
I trust him fully and feel I can tell him anything.
He never thinks, or let's on that he thinks, that I am wasting his time.

Lauren to see Dr D.

I walk to his room.
Walk in.
Cheery hello.
Sit down.
Awkward giggle.

"Erm, its become a bit too much. Can you help me maybe?"
Ice broken.
I expected an atmosphere.
Yet all of a sudden everything was ok.
I explained to my doctor about what had been going on.
In my head.
The birth still replaying.
The voice of the midwife who came round to do our home visit on day one.
"It could've been fatal."
Little things. Silly little things which no one else thinks about.
Spiralling out of control in my foggy mind.

"Can you answer these questions for me please?"
My doctor turns his computer screen round so I can read some questions.
The questions are familiar. I've answered them before.
After I had Charles.
All was ok then. Apart from the anxiety. When they put me on antidepressants which I didn't need or want.
I came off them after 2 weeks of being on them and sorted myself out.

We answered the questions together. My doctor knew how I'd answer.
"Ok, so as I expected you are not depressed."
He then asked me questions about day to day life. As I answered I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.
Someone is listening to me!
I have my husband to talk to.
And my mum.
But sometimes people don't want to hear these thoughts in your head.
And when I did try to talk to them, they didn't know what to say back.
Which is perfectly fine.
As there actually isn't anything that would make me feel better.
I have an answer for everything. And it frustrates me at times.

My doctor didn't think I was crazy.
"You have a very severe anxiety disorder"
We discussed my options.
"You definitely need some help"
He remembered that I am not keen on medication. I took comfort in this.
So many times you go to a doctor and you know that they recognise your face but not your problems.
My doctor remembered my problems from 2 years ago.
Little things that wouldn't have been written on my notes.

We discussed the "Mental Health Team" who visit the surgery so many times a month but after 3 visits to them in 3 years I asked for other options as I felt the guy I normally see didn't "get" me.
In order to get better I need to see someone I can connect with.
Who I feel I can say things too, no matter how extreme, and for them to act as if its normal, yet help me to deal with it.

And with that I am now referred to attend Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Its not totally knew to me as I did the same almost exactly 10 years ago and really took to it.
I feel its perfect, well I hope it is perfect, to help me get back to a "normal" way of life again.
Being able to watch tv programmes without having to switch them off because of how they effect me. To be able to read a real-life magazine without having to skip the majority of the stories.
Even the simplest of tv programmes or simplest of real-life stories can get my head in a whirlwind.

Except I saw my doctor around 4 weeks ago, if not more. And I'm yet to hear about an appointment.
"There is a waiting list"
He told me.

So, ask for help, but you have to wait for it.
And what do I do in the mean time.....



To Visit or Not?

Everytime Charles see's a photo, picture, decoration or programme featuring Father Christmas his eyes light up.
"Mummy mummy its Father Christmas! Look mummy LOOK!"

This year is his first year of understanding Father Christmas. He's taken it all in and understands exactly what Father Christmas does.

For this first Christmas 2 years ago I attempted to take him to see Santa.
I was left highly disappointed when, whilst the garden centre looking at the decorations before we headed to Grotto, I spotted Santa walking around.
He was the opposite to what Santa should be.
Short beard.
And a high pitched voice.
He was more like an elf.
With that I decided we'd miss out that year as I wanted it to be so special. It was for the photo opportunity more than anything and I wasn't going to pay £5 to have our photo taken with a fraud!

Then last year we ummed and ahhed and decided one again to give it a miss. For the same reasons as before really.
Another main problem of mine is/was/is that I want a photo of Charles on Santas knee. Yet I can't. Because he's not allowed.
I don't want MY photo taken with Santa. I want HIS photo taken with Santa.
I want to find a decent Santa.
Stick my son(s) on his lap.
Photo taken.
Bye Santa, see you on the 24th or 25th.

This year we are left with a new dilemma. Charles is old enough to understand.
Old enough to stand in front of Father Christmas and have his photo taken.
Old enough to tell him which gifts he'd like for Christmas.
He's also old enough to not actually like Santa and create embarrassment when he decides he "wants to go home now" or "doesn't like it no no".
I also can't see how we make it clear to him that he won't be getting the presents he's asked for there and then.
I can't just imagine him getting upset and asking where his train track, rocket, boat and bike is.
On the other hand...he might understand and be fine and love it.

So do we go or not? (Assuming can find a decent one of course!)

Disney Essentials?

I love Disney. Who doesn't? And I look forward to the boys realising the magic that Disney holds.

I never thought of myself as a girly girl really. I'm not really into pink, I never wanted to be a Princess, and never really liked the idea of girly sleepovers *squeal!*
But I've always loved the Fairytale ending when it comes to Disney.
My favourite Disney film is Beauty and the Beast. Closely followed by The Little Mermaid.
I could watch these over and over.
Yet I've never seen Bambi, The Lion King or Jungle Book.

The boys have received £30 from their Great Aunty and Great Uncle for Christmas, and we have decided to get some Disney dvds with that money. (On a BOGOF offer only)
Except I'm not sure which ones to get!
Toy Story (1, 2 and 3) are already sorted as are the Cars dvds.

Other ones, which I guess are suitable for boys (not suggesting that Beauty & The Beast, Little Mermaid etc aren't) that I have seen and enjoyed when little are
Sword In The Stone
Robin Hood
Rescuers Down Under

So what am I, the boys, missing out on?
Which films are essential for our Disney dvd collection?

And more importantly, has anyone seen Tangled? Is it any good? The trailor looks fab.

We Made It: Part One

There were certain things I imagined doing with my children.
* building sandcastles
* snuggling on a sofa sharing snacks
* gardening together
And * making homemade christmas decorations and gifts.
This year with Charles being old enough to take part in certain crafts and with us being stuck at home with colds, apart from a brief trip to the garden centre to check out their decorations where we happened to find a pack of Christmas stickers, we decided to make some different Christmas decorations.

The first thing we made is super simple. Charles made two 'sticker papers' as he calls them, basically using his Christmas stickers he made some pictures.
I then found some glitter tubes at the supermarket and HAD to purchase them
We made some patterns and pictures on some paper using a Pritt Stick and then sprinkled our glitter where we wanted it.

All very simple. Except I didn't just want these to be random pictures we would then throw away or end up accidently ripping.
Which is when I had a great idea.
Homemade Christmas Placemats.

For Fathers Day I made a similar item for my husband. Charles had coloured in a picture of two stickmen, one being daddy and one being him. I then had this laminated and meant for it to be kept in my husbands studio for him to use as a [large] coaster for drinks. We kove it so much though that its stuck on one of our Christmas Cupboards in pride of place!

So with that, headed off to my dads work on Saturday morning and he kindly laminated these pictures for me.
Et Voila!!

4 Placemats to bring out every Christmas!



Christmas Cheese

I love everything about Christmas!
The giving and receiving of presents. The masses of food. The decorations. The films and tv programmes. And especially, the music.

Yesterday, whilst listening to/watching the Christmas music videos on VH1 and Magic and also catching up on some blog reading I came across a post by my favourite blogger Jenny aka Mummy Mishaps
Jenny had listed her top 5 favourite Christmas Songs and I wanted to do the same. Although sticking to 5 will be tough!

1: The Darkness: Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)
I've never really 100% revealed the town I live in other than saying near Lowestoft or on the outskirts of Lowestoft. This is true but our address can be either X or Lowestoft, Suffolk, NRXX....
I have grown up in Lowestoft and love it! I am very precious of my town and hate people bitching about it.
I'm proud of a lot of things to do with this town and one of those things is the amazing rock group that is The Darkness!
When we moved away I used to listen to my Darkness albums a lot, mostly in the warehouse at work. They gave me comfort, as well as goosebumps.
When they were first released to the country they came "home" and performed a free gig, well it was in Great Yarmouth but still! Due to being engaged to the presenter of a local radio station I was able to attend the free gig! It was amazing!!
I'm not totally into rock music but I make exceptions for The Darkness.
Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) is one of my favourite songs because I just love everything about it. Its one of those songs that I can listen to on repeat and never be bored of it!

2: Bo Selecta: Proper Bo Chrimbo.
No an obvious or mature choice but who can't help but love "so excited you might wee PROPER CHRIMBO"
I remember when I first heard it. My husband (fiance at the time) received a free promo copy. We'd been watching Bo Selecta on tv and were fans so were excited to hear the single.
We played it in the car on the journey to a date at the cinema...on repeat! And giggled the whole time.

3: Steps: Heartbeat.
I love Steps. I love them, I love them, I love them.
I don't think Heartbeat is a one of their best songs BUT Christmas isn't Christmas for me without this song.
Charles heard this song for the first time yesterday and, much to daddies annoyance, I said "wow! Look Charlie! This is Steps! Aren't they amazing?!"
His response...
"Yeah they ARE!!"
That's my boy!!

4: David Bowie and Bing Crosby: Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.
This hasn't always been on my top Christmas Songs list. Infact I only really discovered this song two years ago! I think I avoided it as Drummer Boy was one we'd sung a lot in Primary School and I wasn't keen.
But now its a top favourite and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.
Their two voices together.
Deciding which one to sing a long to.
David Bowies beautiful voice.
Peace on Earth...
Can it be?...

5: Cliff Richard: Mistletoe and Wine/Saviours Day/The Millenium Prayer
Oh yeah! Got to love a bit of Cliff at Christmas!
I do quite love Cliff Richard anyway.
My mother in law is a HUGE Cliff Richard fan. Huge. She even bought us a Cliff Richard fridge magnet last year for Christmas.
Christmas just would not be Christmas with Cliff and I think its disgusting that radio stations won't play his songs, especially at Christmas!

And surely an added extra has to be...
Holidays are coming...holidays are coming...(Charles is obsessed with this now!)


How Does He Get In?

I remember when I was little, laying in bed, really still, listening out for sleigh bells and listening to the door opening and the man in the red suit delivering our presents.

We had a chimney but a gas fire. Our parents tried to convince us that the front of the fire opened, like a door, and that was how Santa came in.
I didn't like it though. And came to feel worried and would panic that anyone could and would come in.
The story had to change and it turned into my dad waiting up and letting Father Christmas in through the front door.
I felt comfortable with that.

Even before I had children I would think about how the story of Father Christmas would play in our house.
Which gifts would he bring?
What would he drink?
What would he eat?
How would he get in?

We considered the magic key story. Coming in through a window. Daddy waiting up for him (which would totally fail if Charles is having a bad night and ends up in our bed).
We settled on 'The Secret Door'.
We don't know where this secret door is.
Father Christmas does of course and is the only person who knows where it is therefore the only person who can open it and walk through it.
Charles has informed me that Father Christmas will drink beer and eat cake. (Lucky daddy!)

We then last night discussed what would happen if Charles and his friends were ever to discuss and question the different stories they are all given about Santa.
Our answer: "He does it differently for every child so he doesn't get caught"

Its at Christmas time that I really wish we had a fireplace so we could play out the story of Santa coming down the chimney.

How does Santa get into your house?


Under Our Tree: Gifts for our Boys!

We've been teaching Charles about Father Christmas for around a month now, if not more, and he's really taken in the whole magic of this wonderful man who rides in a sleigh pulled by Reindeer and who leaves presents he's actually asked for under the tree.
He's been fascinated by trees and lights since his first Christmas 2 years ago, when he was only 6 months old.
He knows that tree's tend to have a star on top and notices if it doesn't.

My sister in law got married around this time last year. There was a huge Christmas tree in the room and after sleeping during the ceremony Charles woke up as photos were being taken and proudly said "STAR"...followed by a ripple of "awwww's" by the ceremony guests.

So Saturday night we put up our decorations! Or as Charles calls them our "Christmasations".
 Except this year one thing will be missing.
Can you believe that last year I was able to put the presents under the tree and they were untouched by a normally inquisitive 18 month old boy.

This year the presents will be under the tree Christmas Eve night, again once Charles has gone to bed.

But what will he find under there?

I've seen various Christmas Gift Guide blog posts and I guess, in a way, this is mine but its a bit more "realistic" in that these presents are bought and wrapped already.
Nb: no companies have asked me to add their product etc. This is done through choice.

Main present: * Brio train set. He asks Father Christmas, very politely, for this everyday. Although mummy and daddy are buying it, not Father Christmas. (From Amazon)
* Toy Story Rex Hoodie (from M&S)
* Cars 2 Art Carry Case (from Argos)
* Play Doh Value Set (from Argos)
* Toy Story Boxset (trying to find a good deal)
* Toy Story activity pack (from Matalan)
* Peppa Pig Recorder (from Matalan)
* Dinosaur Jigsaw (99p from the Garden Centre)
* Small Toy Story Characters: Slinky and Rex (from the local garden centre)

From Father Christmas (Stocking Fillers):
* Gruffalo Toothbrush (from Boots)
* Iggle Piggle bath wash mitt (from Boots)
* Big tube of Smarties [achem X's 2] (from Boots)
* Cars 2 Poster (free with carry case, from Argos)

From other people (that I know of):
*My Mum: Playmobil Noahs Ark (from Toys R Us), Gruffalo Backpack (from an independent store), Gruffalo pencil case, socks
* My Dad: Happyland Lights and Sounds Rocket (from Argos)
* My Aunty & Uncle: Big Green Tractor and trailor (£10 from Mothercare)
* From his Girlfriend: WOW toys! Motorbike Max (from Argos)
* Mother in law: Cars 2 dvd (hopefully)
* Iggle Piggle Plush toy (from Argos) (hopefully)

And for Harry:
* Fisher Price Amazing Animals Choo-choo train (Have purchased yet but probably from Argos)
* Big Dalmation teddy he couldn't stop smiling at (from Matalan)
* My Pal Scout (from Argos)

From Father Christmas:
* My first Hammer (from Asda)

From others (again that I know about):
* My mum: Light projector and lullabies (from Mothercare), stacking cups (from Mothercare) My Discovery House (from Mothercare) Ocean Spin (from Toys R Us), Bibs
* My dad: a winkel (from Amazon) Brights hoopy cow (from Mothercare)
* Aunty and Uncle: Pop up animals (from Mothercare)
* His Godmother (Charlies Girlfriends mum) Lullaby Gloworm (from Argos)
* Mother in law: (hopefully) sleepsuits and Sophie la Giraffe (from Mothercare)

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

After Harrys Christening I phoned my Aunty, who lives in Somerset and was unable to attend, to thank her for his gift and card.
We got onto the conversation of Christmas, as she has bought the boys a present each, and discussed what's on my list (in a jokey way we listed a laptop, holiday, just expensive things I need but can't have). We also talked about my plans to wean Harry and the fact that I want to really make an effort to make his meals myself rather than opting for jars.
I mentioned that I didn't have a blender, well, we have two but both have pieces missing, and that I was really hoping for a food processor from Father Christmas.

Three days later I had a knock at the door. "Hi. I have two items for you" said the delivery man.
"Excellent" I said, not thinking. I was expecting one item but thought the other must've been for my husband.
But my name was on both packages! I easily spotted the item I'd ordered for my husband but the other box was huge.
Straight away I panicked and wondered what I had ordered and forgotten about.
"Oh my goodness! What have I bought and how much is it?!"

Once I'd signed my squiggly signature on his silly electric pad (really, I hate those things!) I rushed inside and opened the great big box.


Who has bought this for me?
Emotion and excitement took over as I started to shake a little. I rushed to find the piece of paper to see if it mentioned a name.
It did.
It was my aunties name. With a message.
Why wait for Santa when you can have it now.

I think presents given *just because* are much better than presents given *because we have to*.

I phoned my aunty that night to thank her and she gave me the recipe for Butternut Squash soup. She is an amazing cook so I had no doubts that this soup would taste great. And it does.
My only complaint is that it isn't thick enough for me, I do prefer a soup to be really thick and stodgy, so I could probably add some potato next time but its amazing without the potato anyway.

This is how to make it.
Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut Squash. Peeled, deseeded and chopped into cubes.
2 Chicken stock cubes [could be vegetable stock if you'd prefer]
1 Onion, chopped.
2 teaspoons of butter
1 teaspoon of curry paste

First cook your onions. I cooked mine in some melted butter and they tasted amazing! Once these are cooked put them in a bowl to use later. (I cooked mine in the same saucepan I boiled the squash in)
Then add your Butternut Squash into the saucepan, cover with water, , add some salt and pepper to taste. Boil until the Butternut Squash is cooked. I boiled mine for 30 minutes.
Once cooked, strain the water into a seperate large bowl. To this water add 2 stock cubes and the teaspoon of curry paste. Stir this a little until its all nicely combined.

Next add your Butternut Squash and Onions to a Food Processor.
Blitz until the contents are combined and into a puree.
Add half a pint (ish) of the stock and blitz again.
Then add this mixture to the saucepan and add the remainder of the stock. Boil and simmer for 5 minutes and stir thoroughly, making sure the curry paste has dissolved and blended well within the soup.

Serve with fresh bread.

* If you like spicy food you can add more curry paste to give this a real kick
* As an alternative, this could be served with a warm Naan bread.
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