A Reflection of 2011

Should we be reflective of what has happened on our blogs over the past twelve months or should we be look forward into the future?  I believe that whatever you have written is part of the building blocks of your blog and acts as the foundations.  If you hadn't written any of those posts, you wouldn't be where you are now.

Learning to use my camera

I'm not a great photographer by any means, but I am interested in the concept of scenic and unusual photography so when I received a Nikon L120 Coolpix camera as part of my Christmas present I was determined to get out and about with it.  Today was the first expedition.

DO NOT BE ALONE THIS CHRISTMAS

I'm one of the lucky ones.  I have my family with me over the Christmas period, the cupboards and fridge are heaving with food and treats and there are an abundance of presents under the tree.

But not everyone is lucky enough to be with their loved ones for whatever reason.  If you are one of these people please do not be alone this Christmas.  Here are some organisations that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Christmas.  Pick up the phone and talk to them.

And please, if you know of someone in need, pass on the information on this blog post.

Happy Christmas, Everyone!








For once in my life, everything seems to be done prior to tea time on Christmas Eve.  I braved going into town for the final present that I had forgotten the last three times I went into town some last minute bits and pieces, the sausages and bacon for 'pigs in blankets' and the Christmas booze from Asda.  Yes, even I thought this was a bit stupid but needs must.  I was lucky though, everywhere was quiet and even the Salvation Army brass band were playing.  I love a good brass band - so traditionally wonderful.

Anyway, shopping done, presents wrapped, all Santa-runs completed, wine chilling, take-away arranged for tea.  I think it's time to sit back and.... RELAX!




Wishing all my readers a very happy Christmas.

Google+ : How I Am Using It

I have been trying to find a way to get Google+ to work for me.  I have always been a great advocate of Google but I didn't want yet another social media platform to update constantly with another mixture of friends to entertain at regular intervals.  Getting my head round 'circles' and sharing was one task and the fact that it was so quiet on the G+ platform was another.  Beta testing mode meant that it was rolled out slowly, hence less 'noise' but I felt that users were feeling the need to be seen to be active as I was seeing updates in triplicate across G+, Facebook and Twitter.

Cancer - Your Story : I Am Superman

Editors Note:  You "meet" all sorts of people when you blog; some are fellow bloggers, some are readers and some are the lovely PR's who contact you for various reasons.  And of those PR's it's also nice to hear from them that they do actually read your blog.

Daniel - one of the afore-mentioned PR's - approached me a short while ago to ask if he could post his own cancer-related story and his style of writing is infectious and page turning (if blogs had physical pages).  And as this occasional series of personal stories is all abut breaking the taboo of cancer, I'm honoured that Daniel requested that he openly and honestly shares his experience of testicular cancer.  As he says at the end of his story, he is open to questions so please feel free to ask in the comments.  You may use the "Guest" option if you wish to remain anonymous.

Festive Cottages to see at Christmas

When it gets towards Christmas, everybody wants to get festive and cheer in this happy season. Finding the right presents to buy and places to go can be a difficult task. Don’t fret though because we’ve come up with some of the most festive cottages to see this Xmas.

·         Demelza Barn, Cornwall - When it comes to the best holiday cottages, many of them are found down in Cornwall where you can enjoy the many amenities, harbours and countryside walks that the region has to offer. At Christmas, the festivities begin and you are able to enjoy harbour lights at St Ives and Porthleven – both of which are within walking distance of this wonderful property.

·         Libby’s Place, Haworth – A trip to Bronte Country is always a romantic time, but seeing this charming village that was home to the famous sisters covered in snow and festive lights is something that makes for a unique holiday. Take in the famous countryside while walking your way through the cobbled streets of the old-fashioned destination.

·         House Martins, Carey – Set in the heart of England, the hamlet of Carey is found a stone’s throw from Hereford. This holiday cottage boasts an open fire and sleeps six, making it the perfect family getaway over Christmas. With numerous walking trails to enjoy, and the magnificent Brecon Beacons to admire, this is a great place to visit at Christmas.

·         Bramble Cottage, Robin Hood’s Bay – A quaint village with a magical name, this bay is found between Whitby and Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coastline and is full of charm for everybody – whether you’re a cliff top walker or a beach stroller.  Coastal cottages at Christmas can be magical, and from this base you can discover North Yorkshire or sit and watch the world go by with a sea view.

·         Weavers Cottage, Gatehouse of Fleet – A rundown of festive cottages just wouldn’t be complete without a look at Scotland. This cottage, found in the countryside of Galloway and Dumfries, was once a mill community but now it is a charming small country town that is in close proximity to Castle Douglas and sandy beaches. What’s more is that you can enjoy an open fire during your stay!

So why not make this Christmas extra special for the whole family and enjoy beautiful scenery at some of the most festive cottages in the UK.


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The Ultimate Christmas Song?

Claire has challenged me with finding the ULTIMATE Christmas song.  This seemingly impossible task has already been made difficult by most of the best one's being picked already, including Claire's own choice of Last Christmas and Sian's choice of All I Want For Christmas.

For me, there's only one choice.  I can name it from the first note in true "Name That Tune" style and can name every single person, in order, when not watching the video.  I received the single (yeah, kids, a 'single', remember those?) as one of my Christmas presents in 1984 and I had the 'behind the scenes' programme (Boy George turning up pissed, an atmosphere you could cut with a knife, Status Quo cutting something else with a knife or a credit card...) on video somewhere but it's long gone. *sad face*

And the lyrics... hastily written but very clever.  Maybe it's the nostalgia kicking in but there is no cover that has come close to the quality of the original (not even the version shown on Glee the other night with everyone all happy clappy and cheesy grins - wrong sentiment for the song, in my opinion).

So, what is your ultimate Christmas song?  


Typecast Christmas Music Quiz

I'm trying to get into the Christmas mood so here are ten well-known 
Christmas songs squished up into a 30 second clip. 


video

(if you're  having problems with the player you can also hear the mash-up on this YouTube link)

Fill in your answers on the form below and I'll send out a selection box to the winner in time for Christmas (not because I'm nice but because I bought one too many *ahem*).

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

... well, not really!  I don't feel Christmas-y at all!  I think the main problem is that I am geared up to the fact that my eldest granddaughter is the Queen Of Being Almost Three.  I've been wrapping presents for her ready for Saturday and bemoaning the fact that  I.  F.E.E.L.  O.L.D.!!

Anyway, I remembered that Ruth sent me a little dance video last week and I saved it to favourites to cheer me up whenever I was feeling a little down.  It is now time to share that with you, dear reader.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do...



And then I had a brilliant mental idea to run a little Christmas Music Quiz (stay tuned for that tomorrow).  When I opened YouTube I saw this on the main page.  I really REALLY wish I had thought of this.  I certainly separates the spoilt little brats from the cuties that really do appreciate everything that they are given...



I also wanted to stage a Twitter Pantomime this year but it looks like that was done last year and there is no way I'm going to top the #TwitPanto (seriously, take a look - that must have taken a lot of planning).  I may, however, have been talked into putting on a modern nativity so (a) stay tuned and (b) if you fancy a part and are free next Friday evening then give me a shout on twitter.

Recipe : Potato Cakes

[picture credit]
Yesterday we had some left over boiled potatoes and thought I'd make some potato cakes.  My memory of potato cakes is of mum buying them from a cafe in St Annes-on-sea, just off the Square, and frying them up in a little bit of butter for tea.  They looked a little something like this ~~~~~~~~~~~>

Now, I know mine wouldn't look like that but I googled "potato cake recipes" and was presented with a whole host of different methods.  I scrolled through a few and thought: how hard can it be?  I hate following recipes anyway - that's boring!  Plus I don't have a food processor or a potato ricer (Huh! A what?) and neither did either of my grandmothers.  What was good enough for them is good enough for me so here's my method with some do's and don't's and Top Tips.

 *Ingredients:
  • Some potatoes, cooled and mashed
  • Just over half a very large onion, grated
  • Some cheese, grated
  • One egg, lightly beaten
  • salt and pepper to own taste
  • plain flour for dusting
  • a bit of butter for frying

Method:
  • Mash up the cooled potatoes with a fork and not the potato masher that is neither use nor ornament but still resides in your kitchen drawer for some strange reason.
  • Vigorously grate the onion and spend the next 15 minutes dousing your eyes with cold water to try and stem the flow of onion tears.  Grate the cheese.  You may remember to rinse the grater at this point and prevent another bout of onion tears.
  • Add the onion, cheese, salt and pepper to the mashed potatoes and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour in the beaten egg.  This apparently binds the mixture together.  At this point I regress to my Catholic upbringing and sing "Bind Us Together, Lord" as I'm mixing.  
  • Remind yourself that the idea is to scoop a small amount of the dough in your hand and form into a ball shape, flatten, dust with plain flour and place on a plate ready for frying later.
  • Try to create your first potato cake and realise that you may need to use some flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking.
  • Throw some plain flour over your hands and try again.  Make a couple more potato cakes and realise that the dough is still a little bit too sticky.
  • Remove all jewellery so that you don't get any more dough lodged in any part of your rings.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly, don't dry them completely and marvel that the next potato cake you try to make doesn't stick to slightly damp hands.
  • Wash hands, repeat the method to make one potato cake, wash hands, repeat the method to make another potato cake, wash hands, repeat the method to make another potato cake, and so on until all dough is used up.
  • To cook, melt a bit of butter in your frying pan, gently place the potato cakes into the pan and fry until golden brown, turning once so that both sides cook.  Here is where you discover that if your mixture has too much cheese in it the potato cakes will become a little bit sloppy when heated up, making it difficult to flip them over.  You can make a mental note to use less cheese next time.  Also, don't put too many in the pan at the same time as you'll find it nigh on impossible to scoop up the sloppy potato cakes to flip them over
  • When completely cooked through and golden brown on both sides, serve to your hungry family.
  • Rescue your jewellery from wherever you left it and scrub it clean with the spare toothbrush from under the sink.
Eat your heart out, Fanny Cradock.  My gâteaux de pomme de terre are just amazing!!





*"some", "just over" and "a bit" are proper measurements in this house.  Oh yes, they are!

The Coca-Cola "Designated Driver" Campaign

Coca-Cola Designated Driver blogger badge
Today, Coca-Cola launch their "Designated Driver" campaign for the festive period. They have joined forces with the Department for Transport to reward responsible drivers with a "buy one, get one free" offer on Coca-Cola and Diet Coke in participating bars and pubs.  The scheme is currently in it's fourth year and over 8000 pubs and bars across the UK have signed up to support responsible drivers.  This is also the first year that NUS bars will also take part in the campaign.  

You can find out which pubs in your local area are supporting this scheme by using the Coca-Cola Designated Driver interactive map and this scheme will run for three weeks, starting today, right up until New Years Eve.  

#tripofalifetime Twitter Party - Monday 5th December - 8pm (GMT)

I'm co-hosting the iExplore #tripofalifetime Twitter Party tonight at 8pm. We're going to be talking about adventure travel, active family holidays and 'thrillaxing'.  I'm joining @KidFriendly_UK and @iExploreUK to discuss travelling with kids and maybe even dreaming about adventures without the children.

If you join in the Twitter party there's chances to win some brilliant prizes!  Just respond to the tweets from @iExploreUK and join in all the discussions.  Here's a sneaky peek at the prizes:

What's In My Box?


After the mix-up the last time I had a delivery of toys I was very interested in the claims of 'discreet packaging' from Vibrators.co.uk.  So, to prove their point they sent me a surprise parcel.  Can you guess what is in it?  Lets have a look at the video...



Now, I'm supposed to post a product review here but *ahem* I'm not really sure how to approach that but you need to know how this product performs, don't you?  Then I remembered a Top Tip!  The best place to try out a vibrator in public is to test it on one of the softest parts of your body...

... THE TIP OF YOUR NOSE!!  

So I did just that and my nose started running.  
I guess that's the equivalent to a nasal orgasm and that's all that matters.  
*cough*

I Need A Kindle

Hit play and sing along with the lyrics below...


Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Aaahh  Aaahh

Where have all the hardbacks gone?  Are they in the library?
What's all this I hear about samples I can get for free?
Isn't there an e-reader all wrapped up for me?
Late at night I sit in bed with a book upon my knee...

I need a Kindle.  I'm holding out for a Kindle until Christmas Eve
It's gotta be sleek and it's gotta be light
And it's gotta have 3G
I need a Kindle.  I'm holding out for a Kindle until Christmas Eve
With a smooth touchscreen and a cute cover
And have a long battery life, a long battery life.

Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Ooo-ooo-ooo-ooooo
Aaahh  Aaahh

Somewhere to download books and newspapers just for me
Somewhere to play some games and a built in dictionary
The credit card and an Amazon account at the ready
And sharing integration for my Twitter friends to see

I need a Kindle.  I'm holding out for Kindle until Christmas Eve
It's gotta be sleek and it's gotta be light
And it's gotta have 3G
I need a Kindle.  I'm holding out for a Kindle until Christmas Eve
With a smooth touchscreen and a cute cover
And have a long battery life, a long battery life.

I NEED A KINDLE!

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UPDATE
(see below for further details)

I have set a challenge over on my Facebook page to anyone who can record themselves singing my version of "I Need A Kindle".  Can we make it the Christmas #1?

Using Audioboo or YouTube, record yourself singing the song (with or without rehearsal, interruptions from husbands, kids or pets) and post the link in the comments of my Facebook note.

The #ineedakindlesingalong challenge is live!

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FURTHER UPDATE