One Year In Blog Land = Ten Years in Real Life

You'd think after blogging after all this time that I'd remember important dates such as the "birth" of this blog?  Oh no! Not me.  I missed my blog anniversary.  Again.  For the third year running!

 For those who don't know, this blog was reborn on 27th July 2009 with the post "From Young Mum To Young Grandparent in 17 Years" so, to celebrate, I started a Tumblr account that was long overdue.  I have a feeling that this will be a funnel for all the randomness that I find round and about.  Stuff that's too short for a blog post and too long for Twitter.

baker days, cake, keep calm,
I've celebrated with cake, naturally.  Cake supplied by a company called Baker Days* who wanted to send me cake because I'm a lovely person.  Who can argue with that?

(You don't need to answer that last question)

Anyway, I've noticed over the past year or so that the bloggers I connected with back in the olden days are seen as "Top Bloggers" within our little community.  I'm sure that not one of the original crew will say that they feel like a top blogger in our field but it has made me realise that blogging is like dog years but more intense.  

1 year in blog land = 10 years in real life.  Well, that's how it feels sometimes; fanatical, impassioned and agonising.  It's a good job I love it so much.  Here's to the next 12 months *raises final slice of cake*




More about Baker Days here.  They sent me a "Keep Calm..." lemon drizzle Letterbox cake which came in a tin of its own and with a blank card, balloons and party whistles.  Priced from £14.99, this would be a great present for a special friend or relative who doesn't live close by.

Fancy A Brew?

"Cup of tea with three, please."

Did you just wrinkle your nose up at that? Yeah, that's the expression I am usually met with when someone ask me if I want a brew.

"What's the problem?"  I ask.  "It's me that's drinking it!"

The brew maker usually eyes me suspiciously and tries to counterbalance their shock with the fact that they are using extra sugar for me.

"Not really," I reply and continue with the explanation that my husband has no sugar in his brew (he's a coffee drinker - let's just park that there for now) but could have two sugars in it like he used to.  If I had two and he had two that would be four spoons of sugar so, in actual fact, by me having three sugars, I'm saving you some.  Reverse logic or just an answer for everything?

Truthfully, there is nothing better that a good strong cup of tea though although I am quite specific with my brew making.  I'm not one for newfangled flavours (although I am partial to the occasional fruit tea) and I don't like weak teabags; in fact, if you have those, please use two teabags instead of one for me. You have to leave the teabag in for a bit longer than you think it should be in there, squeeze it well, add the milk and then the sugar.  Give it a good stir and serve.  



I've written this short story to introduce you to a great little writing opportunity.  Tetley is 175 years old this year and they have joined forces with CLIC Sargent to create a book entitled, "You, Me and a Cup of Tea" which will be launched on 1st October 2012  The limited edition book is a collaboration of short stories from celebrities, journalists, tea drinkers extraordinaire and people who have been supported by CLIC Sargent.

To be considered for inclusion in the book you need to write a personal story of no more than 250 words and it must be about a special moment shared over a cup of tea.  Maybe write about the time you told your dad he was going to be a grandfather or when you asked your best mate to be your bridesmaid.

Send your stories into myteastory@tetleytea.co.uk or post them to My Tea Story, PO Box 68930, London, E1W 9HP.  The closing date for entries is Friday 17th August 2012 and successful entries will be notified by Friday 24th August 2012.  If you can, include a picture of yourself and the person you're writing about.

I would love to hear if you are going to enter.  Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: YOU CAN READ ABOUT THE PUBLISHED BOOK HERE


NB: Please do not send any entries to me.
I have no affiliation with the competition but support fund raising for CLIC Sargent.

#AppyBitches : The Introduction

If I asked you how busy you were at the moment what would your answer be?

Me?  I'm swan-like.  You all think that I'm calm and serene but under the surface I'm paddling like mad.

I'm incredibly busy at work at the moment (new job role, brand new project, exciting times), my blogging life is on the up and up (fantastic) and at home the long summer holidays have just started which means trying to keep a 13 year old occupied without it costing the Earth (impossible)!

As you all know, I'm a little bit addicted to my online life and keep tabs on everything via my laptop, my new android tablet or my phone.  I've got apps for everything and I'm always trying to find the shortest and cheapest route from A to B, whether that be connecting with friends, paying the bills or being entertained.

British Gas have approached me and asked if I could take part in their online campaign.  They want to showcase their brand new app that allows you to manage your British Gas account online.  To make this a bit more fun I have been given the very difficult task of setting a friend some daily challenges to show them how they can save time and money with a bit of forward planning.  

Introductions

My partner-in-crime is Paula Maher.

Her whole family may be pretty tech-savvy but she's just about got to grips with texting.  This was proven in spades today when she sent me a text from her new number saying, "IT'S ME!!"  Cue one very confused face until the next text landed that said, "When I say "me" I mean "Me, Paula"!"  Hhmmm!

Paula's quick wit makes Friday Twiz a whole lot funnier.  She does a mean line in poetry and song and writes a (very underrated) blog called Cad É An Scéal.  She may emit the odd swearword but you won't be shocked because you've probably heard it from me already.

I now own her ass because British Gas are providing her with an iPad to conduct this experiment and to help with the mentoring.  I have also told her that if she dies, that iPad is mine.

Follow Paula and myself on Twitter and you can keep up to date with our discussions about this campaign.  We're going to use the hashtag #appybitches and we're going to have Google Hangouts and all sorts of stuff.  Stay tuned for further details!

Join in!

Help us out here.  What are your favourite apps for wasting saving time on t'internet?  Banking (with a B), shopping, price comparison, social media, games, picture editing and anything else you can think of.  I'm going all Sue Sylvester and dreaming up some challenges for Paula (all embargoed at the moment because I haven't thought of any yet).

Don't forget that you can see our chats by following the hashtag on Twitter and the conversations on my Facebook page.  You can even circle us on G+ if you're that way inclined (just search for us by name).  It'd be great if you took part in some of the challenges too and let us know how you get on.


This is a paid relationship between myself and British Gas.
For more information about sponsored posts and campaigns please see my disclosure policy.

Wind Farms : A Modern Beauty Or A Blot On The Landscape?

wind farm, rochdale,

What do you think when you see this picture?

Apologies for the crapness of quality but we were driving through the countryside at speed in the gypsy van and I only had my mobile phone with me.  We were on our way to Rochdale the other day to pick up a door (long story) and as we were driving over "the tops" we saw this wind farm.

I'm not about to go into "the science bit" which discusses possibly how un-green renewable energy is or how renewable energy is responsible for a lot of the climate change issues.  From a layman's point of view, I personally think these are a thing of modern beauty.

Should we be more receptive to harnessing natural resources?  I originally saw this video in the b3ta newsletter a couple of years ago and it's stayed with me as it's such a clever commercial for a German company called Epuron.

(popout : http://youtu.be/2mTLO2F_ERY)


I often wish that using natural power/energy wasn't quite so expensive to initiate.  We appear to have come full circle (no pun intended) with need for wind power though.  Being born and bred on the Fylde coast, Lytham Windmill has been a landmark of my life.  Because of our local history we were taught a song in primary school which goes like this: 

Lytham Windmill


"In days gone by, when the world was much younger, men harnessed the wind to work for mankind..."
(Windmills)


Isn't that what we should be doing now?  Harnessing the elements to work for us, rather than against us?




EDITED TO ADD: There's a great conversation going on over at Reddit about this post and wind farms. Go and take a look!

Recipe : Orange Smoothie

orange smoothie, recipe, method,
Sticking to my ethos of attempting recipes and making mistakes so that you don't have to, today's "recipe" is Orange Smoothie.  Now, bearing in mind that I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom today and found a blender that I forgot I had, this was just a "chuck in what I think is supposed to go in" attempt at a smoothie.




Ingredients:

orange smoothie ingredients, oranges, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, ice cream, ice cubes, blender,
  • A blender (it doesn't have to be new)
  • Some oranges or satsumas (I used five medium sized satsumas)
  • 2 cups of milk
  •  of a cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Some ice cubes or 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream


Method:

Pith Artist, oranges, pith,
  • Squeeze the living daylights out of the oranges and extract the juice.  Don't do what I did and just pick all the pith off and throw them in the blender because you don't have a juicer as you'll end up with "issues"*.  However, this does give me an opportunity to share this picture with you that hasn't had enough attention over the last two years. I entitled it "Pith Artist" back in 2010.
  • Put the orange juice/oranges, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, ice cubes/ice cream into the blender.
  • Blend ingrendients together**.
  • Pour into a glass and drink.


straining the pith and skin
*  If you used orange pieces instead of orange juice then your first glass of orange smoothie will be spat out and given back to you.  You will then have to strain the smoothie so that all the pith and skin is taken out of it. If you live in this household you won't own a sieve so you will have to rely on the good old tea strainer method that served you well when making ginger cake.  You will also forget which tea strainer (for there are two) was last used to extract the goldfish from their tank last time you cleaned them out.  But what people don't know doesn't hurt them, right?  And everything was washed properly...

**  If you are using a new blender, like me, try to remember where you put the instructions because you'll not be able to work out why the on/off/pulse button doesn't work until you lock the jug into place properly.


Soundtrack To My Life - Hendo

soundtrack to my lifeThis week's Soundtrack To My Life has been submitted by Neil Henderson.  Yet another Twitter introduction from a mutual online friend after - if my memory serves correctly - similar Strictly Come Dancing tweets from us both were tangoing their way across the interwebs. Neil tweets out the #tomorrowspaperstoday updates most evenings and can be easily distracted.  Here is Hendo's musical life story.



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Charles Jolly (Penrose) - The Laughing Policeman

It doesn't matter how awful life is, this ancient 1890's recording of a musical hall artist always makes me grin.  I think it's the innocence of it.
"He never can stop laughing
He says he's never tried
But once he did arrest a man
And laughed until he cried!"
Officialdom is inherently absurd and bad regimes reserve their toughest punishments for those that laugh at them the loudest.  So promote jolly police officers, say I !!


(popout : http://youtu.be/hI1nPd7hezM)

Jerusalem

An odd hymn which wonders if Jesus Christ may have spent time in England.  The lyrics are from a poem by Blake, the uplifting anthm by Hubert Parry.  It is about love of country, of course.  Unfashionable to love England but I, and many others, do.  If I get married, we're singing this.


(popout : http://youtu.be/D5jw9lmAZNE)

Ian Drury - Wake Up And Make Love To Me

Well, it's about having marvellous sex, of course.  What better thing to write a song about?
"You have another sleep love (it's me that needs it the most!)"
I was so sad when Ian died; he was a genius and, sadly, only proper appreciated after he left us.


(popout : http://youtu.be/aSobvm2nR8I)

Kenny Rogers - Ruby

This is a twisted frustrated love song with a savage end.  Just a reminder that love sits next to hate in our emotional spectrum.  My girlfriend makes me sing it at parties, which gives you a clue as to our relationship.


(popout : http://youtu.be/C2ldtuSfm9g)

Herb Alpert - This Guy's (In Love With You)

Was there ever a finer crafter of a pop song than Burt Bacharach?  This song is all the sexy sixties rolled into three minutes.  I like the simple minded declaration of love and the fact that, try as I might, I don't have the octave range to sing it in the car.


(popout : http://youtu.be/6OP54laB-nU)


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soundtrack to my life
You can catch up with Neil and his #tomorrowspaperstoday on Twitter - he tweets as @Hendopolis.  He also blogs over at "Hendoman".  

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

Blognonymous : Teenage Relationships

blognonymous, anonymous blogging, confidence,

This post was submitted to me within the ethos of Blognonymous. The author is a friend who asked me if I would post this as a guest post but I think it's more appropriate as a Blognonymous post.


I would be great if you could offer feedback or advice from both sides of the fence very much in a WWYD (what would you do) sense.  If you prefer to remain anonymous yourself then there is a "guest comment" facility - sign out of Disqus (if you have used it before), write your comment, click "Post as..." and you will see "guest" appear as an option.



If you would like to contact the Blognonymous team please click on the image to above for more details.


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Today my 14-year old son (J) came home from school with a story.  First a little background.  He has a girlfriend (A), a sweet girl he's been friends with for quite a while but they've only been a couple for four months.  She's not his first girlfriend.  She's a year younger than him.  They spend quite a bit of time together, they go to the same school and hang about with the same group of friends.  I've know they were a couple from two hours after they started going out together.  We've met her mum, at her request.  But I know the girl really well - she's been around at ours a lot and is always quite chatty.

So, back to today.  J told me that school had rung A's mum and asked her if she was aware that she and J were an item.  They asked for her mum to come into school so that they could have a chat.  Which she did.  At this meeting, they suggested that A was put on contraceptives.  They spoke about teenage pregnancy.  

Now I know I can't say for sure what was said at that meeting.  I can kind of understand why they would choose to contact parents when they become aware of a relationship as not all parents are like me.  I know A's mum was quite apprehensive when she first found out about the two of them, but J has now become a part of their family.  I know the school have the knowledge, the contacts and the advice to hand.

My issue is with the fact that they never contacted me.  To me, I felt like they considered my son a sexual predator.  That they should be making A and her mum aware of the "dangers".  They also enforced the stereotype that contraception is a woman's concern.  No mention was made to my son to protect himself against STDs or AIDS, nor the fact that preventing pregnancy was as much his job as hers.

I did sit my son down and have a "talk".  I stressed how important contraception was and the dangers of STDs.  I asked that he talk to someone (preferrably me, but anyone) before he make big decisions.  

Is this commonplace in secondary schools now?  Am I overreacting?  As a mum of only boys, do I see the issue differently?  I'm at a loss as to what to do next.  Should I speak to A's mum?  Contact the school?  I was so angry initially, but now I think I just want some validation. 

The Inbetweeners, American Style

To the person in America who has bought The Inbetweeners.

Keep your thieving hands off our stuff.

Now fuck off and write your own comedy show.
You're usually pretty good at it.

I honestly can't understand how you can take the script,
keep it almost exactly the same and it be so unfunny.
How does that work?

This version is so shit that you've not even allowed it to be embedded on websites.
(Reader, hit the image to see the trailer.  But be warned.  You cannot unsee things.)


The Inbetweeners, America, remake, cast,


I really hope this is an MTV wind-up and Ashton Kutcher is going to jump out
from behind my settee and shout PUNK'D or Xzibit is going to cheer me up and pimp my ride...

Crossroads

crossroads
If you'd have asked me a few years ago, I would have said that my greatest fear was never actually achieving anything with my life.  I was stuck in a rut of being a "stay at home mum", little confidence, few resources, living on benefits... you know what I mean... and then my mum died after a life-long battle with asthma, bronchiectasis and other lung-related illnesses (I've still never plucked up the courage or found the right words to write about that yet... one day I will) at the age of 55.

My life and my goals changed immediately.  I knew there and then that I needed to live... to do something with my life and to get out of the rut that was slowly getting deeper and deeper.  Without going into details, we found ourselves more financially secure that we ever had been so we moved away from the town we were living in and started afresh where no-one knew us; where we were equals.  Changes were made within our family unit too.  I became the breadwinner and my husband became a "stay at home dad" and with our new-found freedom we could move mountains.  I got myself a temporary contract in the local town and the children settled into new schools.  Still we had a fear that everything would collapse around our ears, and we'd have to swallow our pride and go back to where we had come from.  

Steadily, we built a new existence.  My temporary contract finished and I walked straight into another (permanent) job; in fact, I'm still with the same company now and my job role has evolved.  We made friends, our children made friends and settled into new schools and then we finally took the plunge - something that we'd been wanting for fifteen years but we'd never had the opportunity - we bought our own house.  And with buying that house came even more responsibility; paying "proper bills" rather than having meters fitted, having home insurance - i.e. contents and buildings insurance from a comparison site (like Compare The Market) and even more budgeting than we had before thanks to monthly income rather than weekly or fortnightly.

For some reason, this life change was the making of us as a family.  I now have the confidence to do what I should have done years ago - or maybe I just wasn't ready... maybe my life experiences will ensure that I succeed now.  Sure, we have our up's and down's and we've battled our way through a life that would even seem extreme on the Jeremy Kyle show but if we can get through the last twenty-odd years then we can definitely deal with the next twenty.


This post contains a sponsored link.
For more details please see my disclosure policy.

Enjoy the cinema without spending a fortune


I've been working with My Family Club for a while now and they are great at helping you to stretch your money a little bit further. We all know how exciting a trip to the flicks can be. But we also know that visiting the cinema can be a pricey business. To help you get the best out of your summer, Diana from My Family Club has rounded up the very best cinema deals and discounts.  For more details about guest posts please contact me and have a quick look at my disclosure policy.


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Orange Wednesdays 2 for 1


If you’re an Orange customer you can get 2 for 1 cinema tickets each Wednesday saving you money on pricey group tickets!  But that’s not all, Orange Wednesdays also means free pizzas! Visit your nearest Pizza Express and Orange customers can get 2 for 1 on both pizzas and dough balls. To take advantage of this delicious offer, make sure you show your Orange Wednesday text tickets when you place your order.  Lucky Orange customers can also enjoy a film night in with the Orange Film To Go deal. Each Thursday, Orange customers can download a new film from iTunes for just 35p!

Kids' cinema deals with Tesco Clubcard


Tesco also offers discount cinema deals to Clubcard customers. Get money off your next ticket with Clubcard vouchers.

Sing along cinema with Lastminute.com


Make like the Von Trapp family and take your brood to ‘Sing-a-Long’ cinema events with great offers from Lastminute.com.  The musical film screenings take place at the Prince Charles Cinema in central London, and involve audience members wearing fancy dress and - yes - singing along with the movie!  There are lots of family-friendly options available and this September, you can join Disney fans to Sing-a-Long with the Lion King!

£1.50 tickets with Vue


You can get great deals on tickets at Vue cinemas. If you’re little ones are aged between two and 12, they can get tickets starting from just £1.50!  This offer runs on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and every day during the school holidays.  Accompanying adults pay just £1.50, too.  There are usually only two or three films included in the offer at any one time but at such low prices, it’s definitely a deal worth snapping up.

£1 tickets with Cineworld


You can also get great value tickets at Cineworld cinemas. They are running selected Saturday morning screenings and tickets are just £1.  And even better, both kids and accompanying adults can get in at this bargain price.  Bolton, Liverpool, Wandsworth and Falkirk Cineworld cinemas also run this offer on Sunday mornings. Just remember to check your local Cineworld before you set off.

Free Lovefilm trial


If your family prefers to curl up on the sofa, the free trial from Lovefilm will come in pretty handy.  You can rent the latest DVDs for free for up to 30 days and if you don’t want to start paying for the service, just make sure you cancel your membership before the first monthly charge kicks in.

Enjoy the holidays!


Don’t forget, there are lots of events going on this summer to keep your little ones entertained.  Visit Thorpe Park and have a go on new ride, The Swarm. With its inverted 127ft drop, this ride will challenge even the bravest souls and is bound to be popular. Make sure check out our round-up of the best discounts available.

For those of you who don’t mind taking a trip across the pond, Disneyland Paris is celebrating 20 years at the top and you could join in on the action. We've found lots of great deals to help you and your family bag a bargain ticket in this special year, so make sure you check them out.

Welsh As A First Language

My own experiences of Wales and people speaking Welsh are limited to not really understanding the 'Owain Hughes' joke in Gavin and Stacy, childhood trips to Rhyl and Prestatyn and knowing how to pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch correctly.  The language is a mystery because learning it is not as easily accessible as you'd think.  It has a very 'sing song' type of rhythm and has always fascinated me.  

welsh flag, flag of wales, red dragon, Rewind to a Friday evening (post-#fridaytwiz) conversation with Gwyn (@KingOfAnkh) and an in-depth conversation about solving maths problems (fuck, yeah... we know how to kick it on a Friday) and he drops the fact that he has to translate all numbers before working out the problem and then translate back.  Now, something stirred deep in my brain about Gwyn being Welsh (he makes no secret of it, after all) but I didn't know that Welsh was his first language.  

So I took advantage of his drunken state and made him promise to write me a guest post.  I retweeted his promise (which is the online equivalent to signing in blood) and emailed him to remind him of his promise when he awoke from his drunken stupor.  This is the result of that promise.

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Being a Welshie


A couple of weeks ago I was having a chat online and the subject of being Welsh came up, being a Welshman of nearly 38 years myself I would consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject.  Some general questions were asked and I tried to answer them in my drunken Friday night haze as best I could, yet the subject seemed to fascinate everyone.

It seems it is somewhat difficult for English people to understand that even though I’m fluent in English, it is my second language.

Up until the age of five or six, there were only a few English words in my vocabulary. At primary school, all of my lessons, even English, were taught through the Welsh medium. I still have to complete maths problems in Welsh mentally as that’s how the times table was drummed into me.

Imagine having to add up on the fly, numbers thrown at you in English, you add them up in your head in Welsh then provide the answer in English, yup, you thought maths was hard enough already, try being bilingual.

In secondary school we carried on learning in Welsh, I took my GCSE’s and A Levels in the Welsh language although English was taught more rigorously.

I’d like to think I’m quite erudite and well spoken, but I was in the ‘B English’ class, which left us just learning the basics and learning them well. I do feel I missed out on the heavy literature of Shakespeare, but I’m sure at the age of 14 I’d much rather be reading the Hobbit instead. In fact, I think it turned to my benefit as the standard of my English is a damn sight better than 90% of what I see online and in the newspapers.

I do come from a very Welsh part of Wales, everyone I know does speak Welsh, even the English! This might seem like a stupid thing to say but you can’t live in a foreign country and not expect the language to rub off on you. It’s generally accepted that everyone will be taught Welsh at school so English kids will learn Welsh as a foreign language.

I get asked how often I speak Welsh, to be honest, not very often living in Gloucestershire.  I tend to speak Welsh with my family on the phone which brings me to the most humungous preconception about the Welsh other than being sheep shaggers. We normally speak Welsh with each other, we don’t wait for English people to walk through the pub doors and instantly switch over to Welsh. I’m sorry to burst the English bubble, we aren’t being pig headed, nor are we gossiping about you, you are simply not important enough for us to bother.

I will admit that I do have a tendency to switch over to Welsh with people I have always spoken Welsh with. I could be at mum’s house with an English friend where all conversation will generally be in English unless a question is directed towards me specifically. This might seem odd, but you try holding a conversation in French and turning around to your sibling and talking to them in French, it’s just unbelievably difficult to do when you are so used to speaking your mother tongue with them.

Oh, another thing, the structure of the Welsh language is totally the reverse of English, so ‘that large tree’ becomes ‘that tree large’, so don’t take the piss out of me when I muddle my words, I didn’t have a stroke or any other kind of brain bubble, I’m just translating a bit slower than normal.

You would think that being a Welshie gives you an upper hand in some situations, having your own secret language that only a couple of million people speak worldwide does allow you to pass comment quite easily.  Mind you I have been caught out a couple of times, for instance, don’t say to your girlfriend quietly that the couple in front of you are speaking Welsh, only for her to say loudly, ‘What? Look at that fat bird?’ in Welsh loud enough for them to hear and scowl menacingly at us.

Being Welsh is quite a special thing for me, I’m very proud of my country and its heritage. I’d say that as a nation we are a poor people who are rich in life and personality. I’ve never failed to have a warm welcome anywhere in Wales and within a matter of minutes you are part of the group and laughing and invariably singing by the end of the evening. Although I can say the same of many places around the world, I seem to have to try harder at this in England. I would say that the English national pride was almost non-existent until the recent Jubilee, which is a great shame, so imagine living in a country that is constantly celebrating and supporting its heroes and isn’t ashamed of waving its flag. Imagine living in a country where everyone knows the words to their national anthem because they are actually proud to sing it. That’s Wales that is.

As a better person than I once said, ‘To be born Welsh is to be born privileged. Not with a silver spoon in your mouth but with music in your heart and poetry in your soul.’ Ain’t that the truth!

Soundtrack To My Life - Jez

soundtrack to my life I've been a bit cheeky with Soundtrack To My Life and asked all sorts of people to participate.  I am very lucky that they have said "YES" without hesitation too.  One person that owed me a favour was Jez Clark - you may know him as one of the presenters on the Heart FM (Wiltshire) Breakfast Show (alongside my mate, Molly Forbes - her STML is coming soon).  Here, Jez plots the musical accompanyment through his radio career and tells us the story behind each of his choices.



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Rod Stewart - Maggie May

I love this song as it reminds me of spending very hot sunny afternoons in my Dad's Kent garden near Tunbridge Wells playing with Porky the Airdale.  My parents divorced when I was very young and every other weekend my Dad would drive to South East London, collect me and take me out to rural Kent.  I remember my Dad's eight track cartridge machine in his Mini 1000 and he would often play Maggie May as we drove towards Tunbridge Wells.


(popout: http://youtu.be/xikQ0c5KdZE)

Kylie Minogue - Better The Devil You Know

I absolutely adore this song as it reminds me of turning 21 in the hot summer of 1990.  This summer I got my first job in local radio at Southern Sound in Brighton and I also won a Search For A TV Presenter competition run in the Daily Mirror for the newly launched BSB Power Station.  The prize was to present your own music video show for two hours.  I got to interview Swedish band, Roxette.  The first video I nervously introduced was Better The Devil You Know.


(popout: http://youtu.be/10P_ybz5YTI)

Backstreet Boys - Everybody

Throughout the 1990's I fell in love with holidaying in the United States.  Every holiday, my wife and I would act like complete kids and visit the theme parks of Orlando.  It was during these trips, whilst listening to the radio in my hire car that I discovered the Backstreet Boys.  I really love this song as it reminds me so much of Florida.  I love the bit that goes "oooh, oooh" which I remember singing along to and punching the sky to the beat.


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Glen Campbell - Country Boy

This song reminds me of the direction my life has taken.  It's basically a song about Glen Campbell's life where he has relocated, for work reasons, to LA from Tennessee.  The line in the song that strikes a chord with me is "Country Boy, you've got ya feet in LA but my minds in Tennessee.  I can remember a time when I sang my songs for free."  This make me think of my family and friends all based on the Sussex Coast.  I have moved several times for wok and never ever stop thinking about home and how much I miss them.  Like Glen Campbell says, I can also remember my DJ-ing for free on hospital radio.


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Wings - Band On The Run

I remember in the late 1970's getting seriously into local radio.  When living in South London, my favourite station was Capital Radio 194.  I remember hearing Kenny Everett and Michael Aspel playing the songs on air and dreaming of one day becoming a DJ myself.  Every time I hear this song I am transported back to my bedroom studio where I used to record songs from the radio onto cassette and then play them back on my own pretend radio show.


(popout: http://youtu.be/KBX2dySWGew)


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soundtrack to my life
As mentioned at the top, you can see that Jez realised his radio dream in may ways and you can hear him presenting the Heart FM (Wiltshire) Breakfast Show each morning alongside my blogging mate, Molly. You can catch Jez on Twitter as @JezClarkWilts and catch up with news from the radio station on their dedicated Facebook page.  

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

Naming Ceremony

Do you name your gadgets?  If so, how you pick a name?  The other day I was reading Claire's blog and she mentioned that she called her Macbook Air "Doris".  I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and name my beloved new Android tablet.  It is full of awesomeness, has been fawned over by everyone who I have allowed to touch it and I have already taken time out to write about the apps that I think every Android user should have.  But, short of a bit of inspiration, I opened it up to Twitter to help out.  Testament to my merry band of followers, the first two suggestions were:

Just in case you don't get the references straight away like me then a quick search on Wikipedia provides links to a science fiction novel and a list of names given to (fictional) robots and androids from literature, cinema and television.  Clever... 

android tablet, inanimate object, fusion 5,
But it's all a bit too clever and I can't be arsed explaining it every time... although that air of mystery is tempting.  I thought about acronyms or a bit of alliteration but my brain started hurting.  I tried to decide whether it was male or female (it's definitely a girl) and ended up going with my p0rn name (name of first pet, name of road you lived on as a child).

Ladies and Gentlemen,
please welcome to the world...
Cuddles Curzon The First.  


Cancer - Your Story : With Bad Comes A Lot Of Good

cancer, cancer - your story,
Editors Note: It has been a while since we had a Cancer - Your Story post on the blog but the door is always ajar and I am very grateful that people spread the word on my behalf.  

Heather Von St James emailed me after a conversation with Peggy (Narrowboat Wife) and has offered to share her journey with us.  Heather is a 43-year old wife and mother and upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis.  Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe.  She continues her advocacy and awareness by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others.  

You can read more of Heather's story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog and find her on Twitter as @HeatherVSJ.

Picture Credit | Flickr
To share your story click on the image above for more details

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Most have heard the saying, “It takes a village”. I never truly believed in that saying until the birth of my first child and the obstacles that soon followed. August 4th, 2005 was the date of the birth of my daughter, Lily. It was a fairly simple pregnancy besides the fact that I had an emergency C-section. My husband and I were very lucky during the whole pregnancy because we were drenched with the company of everyone we loved, our village. All our closest friends and family wanted to welcome the newest addition to our family into the world and wish us the best of luck.


Within a month of returning to work full time, strange things started to happen to my body. I was constantly tired, could never catch my breath; my batteries were constantly at zero. While these were all things that could be attributed to being a new mom, I still had a really bad feeling in the bottom of my stomach. Something was not right so I went and visited my doctor. After a heap of tests, we found the reason.


cancer, cancer your story, heather von st james
On November 21, 2005 I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. Only 3 1/2 months after Lily came into our lives I found I had developed this cancer because of exposure to asbestos. As a child asbestos exposure does not even cross your mind and unfortunately it came back to bite me about 30 years later. Symptoms that I just assumed came with any new mother were actually symptoms of mesothelioma.

My first thought was not about me, but of course about my baby. I was given awful news at the appointment; I was told I would have 15 months to live if I didn't start my treatment as soon as possible. There was a long list of thoughts running through my head but I could not get my mind off of Lily and my husband. Leaving them alone was not an option so at that point I knew had to live longer than 15 months; I could not leave my daughter and husband so soon. Because the mesothelioma prognosis is grim we decided to hit this cancer right in the head. We flew to Boston to tackle my cancer with one of the best mesothelioma doctors in the country. I underwent a surgery called extrapleural pneumenectomy on February 2nd. This surgery left me with only one lung. It then was a long haul consisting of 18 days in the hospital regaining strength, 2 months of additional recovery and finally the start of my chemotherapy and radiation. All of this was going on around me, I wanted my normal life back, but I knew I was doing what needed to be done in order to be there throughout Lily’s life.

We never could have survived if our village was not constantly surrounding us with prayers, support, and so much love. Our support system consisted of many different people, from all different parts of our lives. People who we had not expected came out in our support, and those we thought we could depend on to be there and help out, fled. Funny thing about cancer... it really helps you find out who your real friends are.

It was hard being apart from Lily so much and so early. Lily lived with my parents while we were in Boston. It was quite a change for my parents to go from grandparents to fully raising Lily. They also had their own village to help and support them. All kinds of people through out the community gave my parents a hand. Girls I used to babysit when I was a teenager and people from our church surrounded my parents with love and support. My husband and I started to move into a different village while out in Boston. We made new friends and surrounded ourselves with amazing people going through the same thing we were. This love and support of the people surrounding us is the main reason we made it through each day.

Back in my childhood home in South Dakota, my parents were witnessing my baby girl’s firsts. I was lucky enough to receive pictures with emails of my little Lily from my mom, but it was certainly not the same as witnessing her in person. My nurses loved to come and check out the new pictures of Lily. She was the reason I was going through all of this; she was the very reason I was fighting so hard. It made me feel better knowing she was in the best hands possible while I did this. The bond my parents have with her will never go away, even if they do not see her as often anymore.

cancer, cancer your story, heather von st james
Making it through this battle made my family realize how fragile life really is and how we have to make the most out of every day. No one promised us easy... but we have tried so hard to make the best out of the situation. One of my favorite quote says, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”.
[Editors note: look at the tattoo on Heather's arm - it's this quote!]

So embrace all that life bombards at you. Cancer really is a funny thing and we have learned that with the bad, comes a lot of good. With my diagnosis, dreadful as it was, a whole lot of good has come from it; the closest village I could ever hope for and for that, I am the most thankful.

Soundtrack To My Life - 'High Tea Cast' Sam


soundtrack to my lifeThe internet is an amazing place for discovery of new interests and wonderful people.  I attended the podcasting session at Cybher that was run by The High Tea Cast and instantly became a fan of the ladies behind the scenes and the whole concept of podcasts.  I've managed to stop short of stalking the High Tea Cast team but only because Sam agreed to share her Soundtrack To My Life.  Here are her song choices and the story behind each one.

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Dire Straits - Money For Nothing

This song reminds me so much of my childhood that when I hear it I feel instantly transported back to being five years old, in my Nan's front room, on a bright orange, 80s-style sofa.  My dad used to play Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Queen and Elvis on a loop to me, even when I was a baby (through headphones) and this song in particular makes me smile.


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Green Day - Welcome To Paradise

After going through a hideous boy band phase, I was introduced to Green Day's brilliant album, "Dookie", by a girl much cooler than me when I was 12.  I ran up to Our Price with my pocket money and bought it on tape and it didn't ever leave me.  I still have the battered tape now.  This song sums up everything I felt at that age - an outsider, confused and searching for an identity which I am sure I'm still looking for.

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Garbage - Only Happy When It Rains

Shirley Manson, my first female icon and the person i wanted to be most as a teenager.  Her swagger, her confidence and drawling voice, combined with that killer eyeliner, got me in a heartbeat and I still feel compelled to draw on my eyes and wear Rimmel Heather Shimmer lipstick when I hear her songs.  This track pretty much defined my goth/grunge phase and, although I grew out of that, I never grew out of Shirley.

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Bon Jovi - I'll Be There For You

When my husband moved in with me, he owned only two CD's and Bon Jovi was one of them.  Early on in our relationship we took a disastrous trip to Glasgow to see them play but in amongst all the things that went wrong we stood and watched Bon Jovi play this song whilst Mr S held me and whispered the words in my ear.  I don't think I've ever felt so happy and so loved.

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Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies

Being a huge fan of Irish Folk Punk, and Flogging Molly in particular, this song represents a new chapter in my life, having fun, being carefree and doing it with the most awesome people I have ever known.  I dare you not to dance along to this!

(popout : http://youtu.be/89NjEeHku8o)

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soundtrack to my life
You can find Sam podcasting and blogging over at The High Tea Cast (go and show them some lurve - they deserve it) and you can catch her on Twitter as @SamRSparrow.  

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

I'm a sushi convert... almost

sushi, chicken, vegetable, rice,
Sushi.  Raw fish and cold rice with seaweed wrapped around it.  *makes vomiting noise*

I have always been fascinated by the creation of sushi; the colours, the intricacy and the rolling (no, it doesn't remind me of rolling joints, no, not one bit...) but ask me to put raw fish in my mouth and you'll not see me for dust.  [dearest reader: insert your own joke here]

But I was in Tesco the other day, browsing for a sandwich at lunch time, and saw that sushi came in all sorts of other "flavours", including vegetable and chicken... CHICKEN!!!

Oooohh!  Chicken is my all-time favourite food.  It doesn't look raw and looks quite inviting. I thought I'd give it a try.

Well, knock me down with a feather... it's LOVELY!  Why did no-one tell me this before?  The cold rice doesn't taste as awful as I thought it would.  The vegetables are fresh and crunchy.  The chicken is marinated in all sorts of lovely flavours.  I'll have a bit more of that please.  And maybe even a veg version.

But you'll still not get me trying the fishy version.  Not in a million years.

EDITED TO ADD:  So I just nipped over to the sushi page on Wikipedia and it seems that you can make all manner of sushi and it's the rice (shari) that's the common ingredient rather than the filling (neta).  You learn something every day.  Note to self:  avoid sashimi at all costs.  

Recipe : Toad In The Hole

recipe, toad in the hole, comfort food
Toad in the Hole is basically just sausages and Yorkshire pudding with a few onions thrown in, isn't it?  What can go wrong?  I'm great at cooking sausages and my Yorkshire puddings are world-renowned (trust me on this one and keep reading) so I thought I'd give it a bash.  Here is my ingredients list and method.  I sort of cooked it 'blind', like I do everything.  It worked for my Nana so there's no reason it shouldn't work for me.  Just make sure you have all ingredients available before starting so you don't have to send one of your children to the corner shop half-way through making your Toad in the Hole.


Ingredients:

  • Sausages (I have no idea how many you will need.  I cooked 18 for four people, the dog nicked one during preparation and then had four that were left over.)
  • 1 or 2 large onions (you'll probably need 1 as I always over estimate)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar per onion
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil per onion
  • Plain flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • 1 large roasting dish
  • Meal accompaniment.  I used baby potatoes.
  • Oven on at about 200 °C/400 °F/Gas Mark 6 (I'm guessing at this because the numbers have rubbed off on the dial on my cooker but we always turn the knob to the place where 200 °C used to be)
I would include photographs of the preparation but no-one... NO-ONE... can make raw sausages, raw onions and Yorkshire pudding batter look sexy (and believe me, I tried).

Method:


  • Place the sausages in the roasting tin.
  • Slice up the onion(s).  I tend to cut mine in half and then chop them into thin strands.
  • Place the onion(s), sugar and oil in a bowl and chuck around for a bit.  I don't know why I chose to do this but I'd read about it somewhere and it sounded good.
  • Tip the onion, sugar and oil mixture onto the sausages, shake around for a bit and then put into the oven.
  • Cook for about 20-30 minutes

Whilst the sausages are cooking put the potatoes on to boil.  Here are a picture of my potatoes.  Let's pretend that they came from my allotment because one day they will.  Now is the time to make the batter for the Yorkshire pudding mix.  People sometimes say that batter should be made in advance and left for a while.  I say bollocks.  This mix will make enough for 8 sausages so adjust accordingly.

  • Mix the 4 dessert spoons of plain flour (it MUST be plain flour or it will be a big, fat fail), 2 eggs and some milk together with a balloon whisk ensuring that you get a bit of air in there.  You need enough milk to make a batter that isn't too thick and isn't too thin.  Keep mixing until you think your arm will drop off.  Have a break for a few minutes then whisk a bit more.  Repeat until the sausages are ready.
  • Once your sausages are brown, whip them out of the oven, pour the batter mix over them and throw the roasting tin back into the oven.  Turn the oven up to just below 230 °C/450 °F/Gas Mark 8.  Check your potatoes aren't boiled dry.  
  • Resist the temptation to open the oven door to see if the batter is rising.  It is, I promise.  Leave it about 10-15 minutes, sneak a peak and if it has risen above all expectations and is brown then it is ready.  If not, shut the oven door quickly and wait another five minutes.
  • Serve with your meal accompaniment and gravy (preferably onion gravy but I couldn't be arsed making any of that so the good old Bisto granules came out).


Toad in the Hole - served with baby potatoes and gravy


Further notes:


You can use the same batter mix for 12 small Yorkshire puddings or add a bit more milk for a perfect pancake batter.