After Completing My First Ever Crochet Project I Now Have Hooker's Finger

crochet hooks
Back in October I was having a bit of a clear-out of all my crafting bits and pieces and found a few crochet hooks.  I'm not sure how I acquired them because I've never been able to crochet - it's the one craft that has always eluded me.  They might have been in the sewing box that I rescued from Mum's house after she died. 

Crochet is becoming increasingly popular with lots of pop-up tutorial sessions, stitch and bitch classes and my IG/Twitter/Facebook feeds full of scrumptious pictures of projects that people had completed.  So knowing that I'm a kinesthetic learner I took to YouTube to try and teach myself.  I could do chains but then my rows back and forth ended up as unintentional triangles and I still didn't know how to do a square which everyone had said was easy peasy.  I felt as though I had failed miserably so returned to knitting.

When on a visit to my mother-in-law's house about five weeks ago I saw that she was crocheting some squares.  When I told her that I'd tried to crochet and seemed to be losing stitches she told me that she'd taught herself using a tutorial in a Mollie Makes crafting magazine I'd passed on to her.  She showed me what to do - which is when the penny dropped - returned the magazine to me and I went home to try again.


granny squaresgrany squares in pink


After a few more misses (plus some advice from my online buddies) I finally hit on what I actually should be doing and made a few "granny squares".  


Totally bitten by the crochet bug, I carried on making multi-coloured squares until they were taking over the lounge and then decided that I should consider how to start attaching them to each other with the intention of making a blanket or a throw.  Back over on YouTube I found a tutorial from The Crochet Crowd which was really easy to follow so I attempted to layout my squares (all 99 of them) ready to stitch together.

granny squares

As you can see, I was really experimenting with colour (all the fabulously bright yarns are from The Simple Craft Shop which is is run by the same people as Play Merrily on Facebook) and because I didn't have a 'theme' I decided to go with "No Two Colours The Same Next To Each Other" which was more difficult that it looks when you haven't really counted properly however edging in black yarn really showed off the colour burst I was after.

So, after crocheting all the squares together, another row of edging around the outside and the affliction of Hooker's Finger (I'm not even sure that is a real thing but I've lost the feeling in the top of my ring finger on my right hand), here's the finished product.  

colour burst afghan throw, granny squares

colour burst afghan throw, granny squares

colour burst afghan throw, granny squares

What do you think?  I love it and it's either going to go on my son's bed or as a throw on the settee in the lounge.  I want to move onto a "ripple" effect soon but, for the time being, I'm going to stick to the trusted granny square and I've already chosen the yarn for my next blanket - here's a sneaky peek...

yellow, green blue, red yarn


Soundtrack To My Life - The Unsung Heroes Of Christmas

Soundtrack To My Life
I wrote about my five favourite Christmas songs last year so as a seasonal addition to the Soundtrack To My Life series this year I have sourced some of my most favourite Christmas songs (or covers) that I think deserve a bit more air time. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas wherever you may be. If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life in the future please scroll to the bottom of the post for more details.



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Jona Lewis - Stop The Cavalry

This almost falls into the category of "shove some sleigh bells in the background and it's a Christmas song" (ref: Stay Another Day by East 17) or "make the video Christmassy because of its November/December release date" (ref: Power Of Love by Frankie Goes To Hollywood)  because it has the line "... wish I was at home for Christmas..." in it.  But it's a song from the 80s - which is my era - and is one of the songs of my childhood.




Ant & Dec with Robbie Williams - White Christmas

This Saturday Night Takeaway show closer from a few years back remains one of the funniest moments in (modern) television for me. 




 Carol Of The Bells - Pentatonix

In the film Home Alone, Kevin runs in to the church and the choir are singing this song (it's also played when he is running home to set the traps for the baddies).  It's one that I love so much and looked for a choir version of it to share.  But then I found the Pentatonix verson (totally a capella) and thought that a more modern arrangement would be more appropriate.  This vocal group are SO COOL! 



Mavis Staples - Christmas Vacation 

As mentioned in the afore-linked Soundtrack To My Life Christmas post from last year, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is one of my favourite Christmas movies (I *heart* John Hughes) and as soon as I hear this theme tune then Christmas can commence!




 Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey and The Roots - All I Want For Christmas Is You 

Mariah Carey must love Christmas because she'll be raking in the royalties from 1st of December each year.  I had never really warmed to her as a singer (too much warble and wavy-hand stuff for me) but when I first saw this version of her song I loved her for being able to take the mickey out of herself.  Plus Jimmy Fallon totally ROCKS! 





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Soundtrack To My Life
Soundtrack To My Life is a music series that I started in June 2012 and continued as a guest post opportunity.  It remains as popular as ever and gives you the opportunity to share music tracks which transport you back to a moment in time the second you hear the opening bars.  You can view all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries by clicking on the mix tape to the right.  If you want to participate in 2014 please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.  

The Posts Of Christmas Past

I think I've shared all my stories of Christmas with you so until more are created  I've decided to do a bit of a round-up of the best for you.  Grab a brew, put your feet up and have a read.

☆‿↗⁀↘‿↗⁀☆‿↗⁀↘‿↗⁀☆ 。☆‿↗⁀↘‿↗⁀☆‿↗⁀↘‿↗⁀☆


Firstly, here is my annual Christmas message (I should update it really), then you can have a read of what happened on the first Christmas Eve that my husband and I spent together which we spent at my parents house.  Next find out what Santa brings naughty boys for Christmas and finally, here is some Christmas preparation insight which has been gained over the past 23 years (yes, I impart more wisdom.  You're so lucky!).


And, to finish, I never thought I'd be able to top this (dancy, jazz hands) version of All I Want For Christmas Is You but my hero of the year, Steve Kardynal, has been back on Chatroulette again and pulled off this masterpiece!





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Have you heard my Christmas Soundtrack To My Life yet?  
I'm championing the unsung heroes of Christmas.


Over At The High Tea Cast... Christmas Dinner Preparations

high tea cast logo
The High Tea Cast writing team have created some fantastic Christmas-themed articles this year and I hope you've already tuned in and have been enjoying them all.   Today it's my turn and I'm using The Three P's to demonstrate how to destress the cooking of your Christmas Dinner. It's worked for me for the past 20-odd years so it's time to share the secrets... 

And Then I Broke My Foot...

I am the world's clumsiest twat.  Seriously.  I'm not sure there's anyone to rival me.  I can trip over thin air and create a disaster out of nothing (I'll replay an example for you at the end of this post).  And today I surpassed myself.

I fell down two steps.  Two really small steps and landed like a sack of potatoes with my handbag spilling out all over the place and all the pages in my file wafting in the wind.  But I'm British and refused any offer of help from passers-by because I was s.o. e.m.b.a.r.r.a.s.s.e.d.  I gingerly put some weight on my foot and felt OK so I limped to my meeting.

An hour later, as I attempted to walk back to my car, the pain had got almost too much to bear.  I cried all the way home as I drove down the motorway.  Gratefully, my husband was at home and, after calling me a clumsy twat (see, you thought I was exaggerating with my opening sentence, didn't you?), drove me to the hospital.  

A short wait, a quick touch up from someone with a foot-fetish examination with a doctor and an X-ray diagnosed a hairline fracture in my fifth metatarsal and a major ligament damage.  Recovery advice was not to put it in a cast because of the existing swelling but to keep it elevated for 48 hours and drink lots of wine then take it easy (definitely no driving).

Joy of joys! 
A week before Christmas...
With stacks of work to complete before Friday...
And a full Christmas food shop to do...
And no black wool to finish my crocheted blanket.

But I do have a lovely new pair of crutches!


Oh yes, that clumsy moment.  Here you go.

Kev and I had been out for a couple of hours and were walking between pubs. I had on what he calls my 'silly shoes' (quite high stilettos) and was tottering along beside him. 

Where we live there are a few cobbled streets and I think you can guess what happened next... yes, my heel caught in one of the cobbles and I rather unceremoniously landed on my arse in the middle of a rain-soaked street. 

Because we'd had a few sherbets, we both though this was quite amusing and my husband offered his hand to help me up. I must have caught him off-balance because rather than him pulling me up, he ended up on top of me in the middle of a rain-soaked street. Neither of us could move for laughing even though we tried to get up on several occasions. A good Samaritan saw our plight and offered to help my husband up and yes, it happened again - he ended up on the floor too. So, now we have three people on a rain-soaked floor, in the middle of town, in a mini-pile-on, all laughing as though their sides would hurt and only two of them know each other. 

We eventually managed to get to our feet and retired to the nearest watering hole to recover. Funnily enough, we've never seen the bloke again!

Soundtrack To My Life - Tara

Soundtrack To My LIfe
The UK's Number One... HUGGER takes centre stage on Soundtrack To My Life today.  Tara is a fellow blogger who I'm lucky to have met on a few occasions and can now call a friend. Having left behind a career in journalism, Tara is now much happier as a work-at-home mum with a passion for photography.  Let's have a listen to which tracks she has chosen for her Soundtrack To My Life.


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Stevie Wonder - Pastime Paradise 

I grew up in a very musical family. My dad was a guitarist in a band and when I was 10 I moved in with my step-dad who was a sound engineer for live bands.  He had the coolest collection of music and whenever I would play a new song I heard, he would go to his LP collection, select an album and play some obscure track off it and say "this is where that riff comes from; can you hear it?"  He used to play Stevie Wonder's album Songs in the Key of Life all the time and this really reminds me of him.




Simple Minds - Waterfront

I met my husband while at school at the age of 14. He adored Simple Minds. I remember him having a near meltdown when his mum taped over a recording he'd made of a live concert he watched on TV. Back then there was no internet to search to find it again. He waited and waited for it to be shown again, but alas it was never re-screened!
So this is for him; the music we fell in love to! Get those air drums out!




Duran Duran - Is There Something I Should Know? 

Back in the mid eighties, when I was preparing to sit my O'Levels, the Top 40 singles chart really mattered. I would make sure I was in for the run down with Tony Blackburn and no one knew who was at the number one slot until they announced it on the show.  The day Duran Duran went straight in at number 1 with this track my friend and I were so excited we telephoned the operator from a phone box to tell her.
And yes, I'm aware that just about everything in that sentence shows you how OLD I AM!




Elton John - Your Song 

When my first child was born in 2002 for some reason this song was being played a lot on the radio. I was 34 when I had Dan. I had waited a long time; mainly because I didn't think I would be a good mum. When I held him in my arms for the first time the title of this song perfectly summed up everything I felt at that moment.  Even now if I hear it, it has the power to reduce me to tears. Dan is now 11 and tuts and rolls his eyes whenever I tell him this story.




Susan Boyle: Wild Horses 

I get actual goose bumps when I hear this song. Actual. Goosebumps.
Someone sent it to me and said 'just close your eyes and listen to the words. Listen to it with the volume cranked right up'. I had no idea who was singing or that it was a cover of a Rolling Stones track.
Simply beautiful. Go and listen to it now if you haven't heard it and tell me I'm wrong.





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Soundtrack To My LIfe
You can find Tara blogging at Sticky Fingers where she blogs about her family life and runs a hugely popular weekly photo feature called The Gallery (if you're a regular reader here you'll have seen me join in on occasion). You can also catch her on Twitter as @tara_cain.

If you want to join in with this series 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.

Buying A Car For Young Drivers

I used to work for an insurance brokers and was so grateful for the staff discount I was entitled to when I first started driving.  At this moment in time, two of my children are learning to drive and once they pass they will have the skill forever but we're all worried about the cost of purchasing a car, then the price of insurance and the escalating cost of fuel.  Hitachi Personal Finance have sent me some really useful information as a guide to buying a car for young drivers.  The tips are from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).


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learner driver to P-Plate new driver

It is tempting for young drivers to buy cheaper, older cars. However, as the IAM argues, this can prove a false economy as research shows that nearly half of men under 20 who were killed or seriously injured in crashes were driving cars over ten years old.  Younger drivers are at more risk of serious injury because older cars offer less crash protection and have fewer safety features.

IAM director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said:  “The ideal car from a new driver should have as much new technology on it as you can possibly afford – crash protection, airbags, anti lock brakes and crucially electronic stability control.  Young drivers often buy really cheap old cars that lack these modern features.  In a crash a new car will protect its occupants much better so it’s a good investment for your safety.”

Here’s the IAM’s top things to consider when buying a car for a young driver

NCAP rating

NCAP awards all cars star ratings based on their performance in a series of crash tests. The overall top rating is five stars and the IAM recommends looking for cars which have a rating of at least three, and ideally four. www.euroncap.com/results.aspx

Insurance group

Insurance groups are a huge factor in choosing a car for a young driver, as premiums can be so high. The lower the insurance group, the less you’ll have to pay. However, it’s important to look for cars which have good NCAP ratings within the lower insurance groups so you get the best of both worlds, for example, the Citroen C2 has four stars and is in insurance group one, while the Seat Ibiza has five stars and is in group three.

Manufacturer’s warranty

Most manufacturers used to offer a three year warranty as standard, however, five and seven year deals are becoming increasingly common, meaning many second hand cars in the market are still under warranty, which could save you a lot on repairs. The IAM advises that you read the small print before making a purchase as there may be mileage limits.

Mileage

You don’t want a car which has done hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, but at the same time, it’s not always wise to pay a premium just because a car only has 15,000 miles on the clock after three years. According to the IAM, many small cars only cover small distances each year so search around for the best deal.

Depreciation

If you’re looking for a relatively new car for less, you might pick up a bargain if you go for one with a high initial depreciation rate. However, remember that if the price continues to drop at the same rate, you won’t get a good price for it when it’s time to sell it on.



This is a featured post. For more information please see my disclosure policy.

Is it just me or was ITV Tonight's "Pop, Sex And Videotape" a total waste of half an hour?

As the parent of three children - one girl and two boys - and grandparent to two young girls (I know, I don't look old enough...) I was very interested in the ITV Tonight programme "Pop, Sex And Videotape" which promised to examine the amount of sexually suggestive imagery in modern pop videos.

Years ago I used to study pop videos and copy the dances, strutting my stuff in the lounge or my bedroom. I'm sure my mum was concerned that I was going to be pushing my crotch out suggestively and making wavy arm movements (see the Salt n Pepa 'Push It' video) much in the same way that I am concerned that my eldest granddaughter (who knows almost every single word to every single current pop song) is going to innocently attempt to emulate twerking. 

madonna, cone bra,
The programme started off on the right foot, comparing the exposure we have in the modern digital era to how pop on camera (or video) has evolved.  We had a comparison of Elvis' swiveling hips (very risqué at the time) and Madonna's pointy bra (some people were shocked to the core) to the explicit essence of today's 'viral' pop videos such as Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines and Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball.  We were promised viewpoints from concerned parents and their children who were at risk of influence.

One mum told us that her daughter comes home from school, turns on the music channels and is faced with a barrage of almost sexually explicit music videos and suggested that she can't police her viewing time all the time.  With this, I beg to differ.  Of course you can if you want to, however you choose not to because we all know that it's a pain in the arse and they are going to find the video online if they really want to see it because all their friends are talking about it.  Yet the handful of 14-year old girls that were interviewed expressed that they are not interested in the music video but rather the music.  In that case, just as Russell Brand mentioned in his now-famous Newsnight interview, (paraphrased) if we don't vote then there will have to be another form of decision-making created so, if we, as consumers, don't 'buy into' the pornographic nature by watching the videos on YouTube (as a collective) one billion times then would there be a reason to produce this type of visual entertainment?

I was very surprised to see that the valued opinions of the Yoof Of Today was represented only by a group of girls, accompanied by their mums (no boys, no dads) and tweeted my 'outrage' (yes, me... shocking...). 


Most people watching agreed but if you click through to the full tweet, you'll see that one of the the ITV producers suggested that the boy's views were expressed later in the show.  Oh yes, the 14-year old boys appeared, but in a very closed question session where they were asked to express their opinion in front of their female peers in a room in their high school.  This situation was never going to garner a true representation of their opinions - not in the same way as if you had sat them in front of YouTube with even the non-explicit versions of the music videos playing. 

Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball
As I already mentioned, having parented my way through the 1990's and 2000's I have seen the evolution of the digital era and its accessibility in our homes and on mobile devices.  An opinion was mooted during the show that suggested some music videos are a portrayal of fantasy which viewers then attempt to recreate in reality, this then becomes the norm so the fantasy has to keep going one step further until there is nowhere else to go other than from the sublime to the ridiculous - or from the storytelling to the nakedness (see also my opinion on airbrushing).  The quality of the music is getting lost in the discussion surrounding the (in)appropriateness of accompanying videos. Wrecking Ball isn't a bad song - in fact, it's one of my favourites of the year - but when did licking a sledgehammer and stripping off constitute being part of the saleability of a song?  Even reclaiming sexuality or the appreciation of the naked form is lost because of the crude nature of its inclusion.

This programme should have taken the opportunity provided by a powerful media outlet and made itself more valuable.  A later viewing slot could have offered stronger sentiments (from more opinionated parents for a start) and a more daring producer could have provided a true representation of the views of teenagers of today.  It may not be considered appropriate to show them the videos that were under discussion but it is blatantly obvious that many teenagers have seen them.  

Are these videos racking up millions of views because of clever marketing, i.e. making them viral, or is the consumer playing the music without watching the video?  Do you know what your children are watching away from your supervision?  Can they find the uncensored versions of each song or do you have the YouTube safe search switched to "ON"?  How do we effectively retain innocence without turning into prudes?  

If seemingly sexually explicit pop videos are considered a normal progression of digital consumption, what is next?  



Sometimes I am such a dick

My husband despairs at me.  I have a good job and have made a significant and successful career change recently yet I fail at the most simple of things.  Today, however, I even surprised myself.  Let me explain.

I parked the car at 9.30 this morning, knowing that I wouldn't be returning to it until much later in the afternoon.  I park in a multi-story car park that I use regularly because it is dirt cheap for a daily ticket.  I pick up my little pull-along case and march across town.  I do my work thing and march back.

I push my ticket in the machine and it spits it back out at me.  Computer says "NO!"
I push my ticket in the machine a little bit harder and the same thing happens.
I push my ticket in the machine, threaten it and watch it eject itself.  .
I hang back and let three people who who have formed a queue behind me try their ticket.
They all manage to pay for their car parking time, give me a smug or withering look and fuck off back to their cars.
I try one more time but almost resign myself to the inevitable. 

The attendant's office is at the other side of the ticket machine so I walk over only to be greeted with a sign that says, "If this office is unattended please ring..."
I pull out my mobile phone, hope that the dying battery will last long enough to make a call and ring the number provided.  A lovely gentleman answers and promises to have someone come down to help me really quickly.
As I wait for the attendant five more people successfully push their stupid little bits of cardboard into the twat of a machine and pay for their time in the car park.  Each time a successful transaction is made, I glare at the machine.

The attendant arrives, I explain what has happened, he takes one look at my ticket and says, "You're in the wrong car park, love."  People in the queue are now not paying for their tickets but hanging back to see what happens.
I say, "No, no, I'm in here.  On Level 3.  I parked here this morning at 9.30".  
He replies, "That's for Curzon Street car park. Not this one."
"But, but... oh, hang on.  I parked there last week... Um..."
I dig into my purse and pull out another car park ticket.
The attendant smiles sympathetically at me.  I smile back, apologetically.  I hear someone snigger quite loudly.
I push my ticket into the machine.  £3.00 flashes up in red on the digital display.
I pay and walk over to the lift, looking neither left or right.  I get in the lift, punch the button for Level 3 and the doors close.

I am such a dick!

404 Pages: What’s the point?

Error pages on the web are commonplace and everyone has encountered one whilst browsing their way through a website at one point or another. Most commonly, a user will end up on an error 404 page which displays very little information and merely tells the user that the page they are looking for does not exist.
The standard 404 error page isn’t especially helpful or even interesting to look at. If the user cannot navigate their way back to where they were, the chances are that they’ll get fed up and navigate away from the website altogether.

While broken links and deleted content will land a user at an 404 page, it isn’t always the fault of the webmaster that a user lands on the error page. If a user mistypes a URL then they’ll be confronted with it.
Either way, it’s in the webmaster’s best interest to reengage the user should they land on the error page. There are lots of simple ways to create a great error page which should reduce the risk of your user wandering off the site and going elsewhere.

Leave a lasting impression

The rest of your site is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing, so why shouldn’t your error page follow suit? By creating a unique image, interesting graphic or amusing meme, the chances of you reengaging the user increase significantly. This is especially for brands, as an interesting or quirky 404 page will have a lasting effect on your user and grab their attention.

Link back to the homepage

This is a really simple way for the user to reengage with their site. In the event that they do wander off the edge of the website, then providing them with a link back to the homepage, the parent pages or even the last page they were on, will navigate the user back to where they need to be.

Include a search function


If a user is struggling to find some content on your site, then including a search function on your 404 page will help them to find what they’re looking for which, again, will reengage the user and keep them on your site.



Virgin Holidays


Wufoo 404


Deaxon


RetardZone 404



For more interesting 404 Pages please see a similar article on Geekalicious.
This is a featured post. For more details please see my disclosure policy.

Soundtrack To My Life - Louise

Soundtrack To My LIfe
Today's Soundtrack To My Life comes from Louise.  Our paths crossed online many years ago and we've kept in touch despite never meeting.  Louise is a talented writer and it's through our love of the creative that she introduced me to her dad who also loves writing and music.  And we all know how I love those random connections, don't we?  And on that note (see what I did there?), it's over to Louise...



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Paul Simon - Graceland 

Both my parents were big Paul Simon fans and I could have chosen a dozen different songs by him but this one sticks out. Firstly because it's just such a good tune and secondly it always brings back memories of walking the dog along the canal, this album plugged permenantly into my cassette player. No matter how you're feeling, this tune suits it.



Meatloaf - Bad Attitude

In my teens I was all about rock. Especially Meatloaf, you just can't help but love a good power ballad. This is one of his lesser known ones but I loved it, and given what a horrible teenager I was, probably the most appropriate!



Jason Webley - Against The Night 

I play this when I'm feeling emotionally fragile. Sometimes repeatedly. It's a like a talisman against the world. It feels like a personal message, as if a friend is holding out a hand for you to hold.



Hedwig And The Angry Inch Soundtrack - Midnight Radio 

 I love this film, and I love this song. It's a love song, but it's also about acceptance. Be who you are, know that you're whole. "All the strange rock n' rollers, you know you're doin' alright". It's powerful, good to play when you need a bit of strength.




Sterephonics - Dakota 

This was my anthem last summer. I played it over and over and the stupid thing is, I'd barely registered it before I heard it being covered in a local pub by an amazing female rocker! It speaks of lazy days in the sun, of days gone past, of good days yet to come. Lost loves, future plans. It all seemed to resonate. Plus, it's a really really good tune for belting out in your kitchen...



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Soundtrack To My LIfe
If you want to join in with this series 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.

The Big Cheese - The Outtakes

The Big Cheese, radio, quiz, Preston FM
When I first came up with the idea for a radio quiz show I firstly didn't think that I would get anyone else interested in participating and secondly thought that no-one would ever listen in.  

I was wrong on both accounts.  

However, I truly did not know how much work goes on behind the scenes to plan, record and edit a half hour show of this nature.  

But it was SO much fun!  I think a lot of that was down to the team that I managed to convince volunteered to participate and this included one person with a stack of (not so) mobile recording equipment, someone who could assist in the recording of the shows and a group of people who gelled as a team despite never having met prior to July of this year.  

You can hear all past shows on MixCloud and read a bit about each show here but, for now, here are the outtakes.  Maybe this is just funny to The Big Cheese team but the eavesdropper in me knows that you'd like to hear a bit from 'behind the scenes' and some of the swears, naturally! 


Glasses Versus Contact Lenses For Children

I wrote this post while participating in an influencer campaign by Mumsnet on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.  
Please view my disclosure policy for more details.

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Pink NHS Glasses, 1970s,


I think it was during a childhood developmental check that my parents found out I had issues with my eyesight.  Tunnel vision was mentioned, but soon dismissed and it was agreed that I should have regular check-ups to monitor the situation.  As a child of the 70's there were a grand total of one style of frame available in three colours- pink, blue or brown.  Lots of attempts were made (by my parents) to make me wear my glasses and lots of attempts were made (by me) to 'lose' the glasses.  I was never over-confident about my appearance in the first place and the face furniture just made me feel even more self-conscious about my looks.   I'm not even sure why  people felt the need to poke fun at others who wore glasses but it was very much ingrained into society.  "Specky Four Eyes" was a popular taunt back in the days of my childhood.  I asked Mum about getting contact lenses but she didn't seem too keen on the idea and they were quite expensive.

Sports day was a nightmare!  I was great at running but could never see the end of the track so I'd just run full pelt until I hit the finish tape.  Long jump was another issue meaning that the run-up would have to be carefully measured as the board only came into clear view when I was halfway into my run-up.  I can't imagine even attempting either of these sports wearing glasses.

As soon as I hit the age of 18 I visited my local opticians and made arrangements to have contact lenses fitted as I could afford to pay for them myself.  They were the 'new' (at the time) semi-permeable lenses but they were just for day wear.  I loved them so much and took great care with them.  Until I lost one.  And they were too expensive to replace.  So I swallowed my own pride and went back to glasses.

That is, until recently.  Contact lenses are much cheaper now (or there are payment schemes available) and they are much more friendly to the eye.  I now have lenses that I can sleep in and I just wear my glasses on the odd occasion to give my eyes a 'rest' from the lenses - I've also got some decent frames now too so I don't feel so self-conscious wearing my glasses.  Oh, how times change (plus I got over my bad ass self!).

However... when it comes to my children, one of them has a similar vision issue to myself (myopia and astigmatism).  He has needed to wear glasses for many years now but constantly makes the same excuses that I did:  he can't find them, he doesn't like wearing them, he doesn't like the frames (that he chose himself). And whilst I totally sympathise with him, I still don't want him to have contact lenses even though I know how comfortable they are and how they will improve his confidence.  Contact lenses for children seems like a very intense corrective process and one that children may not be able to manage themselves.  It feels a bit hypocritical, doesn't it?  

So when Mumsnet sent me the results of the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care survey it was sort of comforting to read that 50% of parents who wear some form of vision correction felt the same. A growing body of research in children's vision correction also continues to demonstrate that contact lenses provide significant benefits to children beyond correcting their vision, including self-confidence, athletic ability (see my dilemma above) and academic confidence which is probably due to the amount of blackboard/whiteboard/interactive screen work.  

Also in the survey a child's age was a major factor when parents were making the decision between glasses and contact lenses for their child but studies show that some children as young as 8 years old are capable of wearing and caring for their own contact lenses.  92% of parents of children who already wore contact lenses said that their child likes wearing contact lenses - and 97% of the same surveyed parents said that their child wears soft lenses. 

I'm still not keen on the idea of my teenager wearing contact lenses and will probably encourage him to keep wearing his glasses until he is at least sixteen.  but what about your thoughts?

Do you wear contact lenses or glasses at all?  What do you think is right for a child or should they be fully involved in their eye wear decision?  In your opinion, what is the right age for a child to start wearing contact lenses?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.



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Glasses and contact lenses are both good options for people who need vision correction but parents should talk to their optician to find out what options are best for their child.  To locate an Eye Care Professional in your area, visit www.acuvue.co.uk and use the "Find an Optician" tab.



Ten Of The Best Adverts From My Past

After a conversation at work last week I totally embarrassed myself with my lack of football knowledge.  I probably dug a deeper hole by by quoting this advert for milk verbatim, complete with dodgy Scouse accent...




But I got home and went on a bit of a YouTube fest, digging deeper and deeper into that sentimental hole. Many of my nostalgic adverts have songs that end up as ear-worms and have embedded themselves into that part of the brain that never ever gets used until one or two bars of a jingle is played when it comes flooding back to the forefront of your head and bursts out of your mouth.  So here is my journey through the adverts of the 80's and there may be one or two from the 70's there as well.

We shall start with the Smiths Crisps advert (to the tune of "Bobby's Girl" - a rewrite of a well-known song always helps with the ear-worm process) and then on to the Shake n Vac because that is still how I vacuum the house to this day... 



This R White's advert is apparently from 1973 but I remember it vividly (not the newer remake which was a direct copy nor the one which starred Frankie Howerd) so it must have been aired for many years.  And please tell me that you walked down the street like Mr Soft when you thought no-one was looking.  It can't have been just me?  Oh, OK then!  



Moving swiftly on... that walk then turned into something a bit cooler when you thought someone might be watching you and I perfected the "I'll be your dawg..." line.  Also, I know smoking is totally uncool these days but Gregor Fisher in the photobooth for the Hamlet advert still makes me laugh out loud!



I often wonder why poor old JR Hartley never had a copy of his own book.  If he wrote it then surely he didn't need any fly fishing instructions?  I was also torn as to which British Telecom advert to use - Busby or the 'Ology' one but Maureen Lipman won the day as I went on to fall in love with her as an actress and an observational writer.



I always wanted to be on this hilltop, singing along to "the Coke song" and practiced my harmonies just in case the casting director was hanging around.  And finally we have to end on the Aquafresh advert because, as a family, we still use Aquafresh and Every. Single. Morning. this song goes through my head whilst I brush my teeth.  I'm so sad...



*nostalgic sigh*  They don't make them like they used to, do they?  What are your favourite adverts from your past?  Go on - leave me some links in the comments so that I can go back and reminisce!

[Infographic] Driving In Ireland

Here's a great infographic about drivers in Ireland (who appear to have a lot on their plate).  This shows where they get their insurance cover, how much they spend and how they behave on the road plus a few extra interesting statistic.

infographic, driving, Ireland


Infographic Source: OnePoll Survey of 500 Irish drivers
This is a featured post.  For more information please see my disclosure policy.

Soundtrack To My Life - Jo

Soundtrack To My LIfe
This week's Soundtrack To My Life is from Jo.  She is a Stay At Home Mum and fully embroiled in family life who started a blog to document family life and to meet like-minded parents.  Let's have a look at the songs that she's chosen to represent her journey through Soundtrack To My Life.




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I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston 

This was big just around the same time I was splitting up from my then Fiancé. I had left home to buy a house with him and was very upset, so this song was one of those I'd listen to, like you do, to have a good cry! I remember watching The Bodyguard at the cinema and it coming on. Incidentally I did not continue to always love him! And I kept the house!




Relight My Fire - Take That 

I was a huge Take That fan the first time they were big and still am now! This song was fab and really got the crowd joining in when I saw Take That on tour before they broke up. I remember going to the gig and screaming out Mark's name over and over and coming away without a voice!!




Captain Crash & The Beauty Queen From Mars - Bon Jovi 

'You and me, we're invincible together...' Great song, great band, who I've grown to love seeing as everywhere I turn, my husband has left their music on. He must be one of their biggest fans! This song always gets me singing and feeling good. Our 5 year old is now also a fan of the band!




The Way You Look Tonight - Steve Tyrell 

This was our first dance song at our wedding back in June 2007. We chose our wedding music ourselves and both loved this. Our first dance was amazing. I felt like a million dollars dancing in my new husband's arms, in front of our friends and family in my gorgeous wedding dress.




Rule The World - Take That 

This was huge when I was expecting our first child. I remember singing along to the radio, in the car on the way to work, before I went on maternity leave. I would think of our baby inside me whilst listening to the very apt words and feel a real bond and connection with my baby. I'm sure he recognised it after he was born, whenever he heard it.




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Soundtrack To My LIfe
You can find Jo blogging at "My Monkey's Don't Sit Still" and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.  If you want to join in with this series 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.

How we really feel about the NHS

NHS logo,
Not a day goes by when the news headlines don't feature a breaking story about the NHS. Whether it’s about strikes, protests, government cuts or negligence, we can't help but form our own opinions about our National Health Service.

As a controversial and often heated topic of conversation, it can be difficult to tell if there is a common thought amongst the public. Thousands, if not millions, of us turn to the NHS year-on-year and many would be lost without it – but does that mean we love it?

Compensation landslide

A report by the Standard revealed that the NHS in London alone pays on average £470,000 in compensation – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The service pays on average £700 every day for every livebirth, according to a report by the BBC.

Due to the nature of these compensation pay outs, the vast majority are due to what is deemed to be negligence. Naturally, many in the public are angry, but not necessarily at the expense of the NHS. According to a survey by First4Lawyers, 50% of people across the UK believe that negligence is a direct result of staff being overworked.

The fault of the government

One of the most interesting news stories of recent months come in the form of the protests against government decisions in regards to the NHS. Thousands have stated their hatred for the changes and cuts that are putting further pressure on staff, with many publicly expressing their dislike for the government.

More than 50,000 marched in Manchester to protest against cuts in the NHS by the coalition government during the Conservative Party conference. To add to this event, 73% surveyed agreed with the protesters saying that they disagreed with the government proposals and actions.

Fears and concerns

Of course, few of us believe that the NHS itself is completely innocent. Fears for the NHS grow as winter settles across Britain as many wonder if the NHS can handle the pressure. So far, 2013 has proved to be a difficult year overall and the added pressure winter brings could be the straw that breaks the horses back.

Many feel that the NHS could do much to help itself, even if they believe the government isn’t helping. A huge 65% believe that the NHS wastes money, which could prove to become even more problematic should the majority of government cuts go ahead.

It doesn’t look as though the NHS will be saving money through lack of compensation unfortunately. An unsettling 29% of people know someone who has been mistreated by the NHS to a significant level, meaning something must be done, even if no one knows who by.



This is a featured post.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

Parenting Classes

In May 2012 I wrote a post showing my support for parenting classes and admitting that I attended them when my children were younger.  I'm a huge believer in that, with the right course leader, these types of group sessions are valuable for your growth as a parent.  We don't get given a parenting manual - I mean, who wants to be told how to raise your own child?  Not me, that's for sure.  But having access to someone who will listen to you, understand what you are going through, have access to advice and complimentary materials and be there to help see you through the tough times is how parenting classes should be structured. 

As we all know, there are A TON of myths out there about what you should or shouldn't do as a parent to give your child the best start in life.  CANparent created this video short with some of the more well-known ones.  See how many you recognise.  What can you add? 


CANparent Classes and Advice Network is Government funded initiative that is currently being trialed.  It aims to brings together a number of established organisations with great track records to offer support to families. They also encourage extended family members to attend the sessions, so that includes grandparents and siblings.

CANparent classes are available until your child finishes in school year one and the range of topics that are covered are learning through play, team parenting, sleep issues, coping with challenging behaviour, creating great routines and much more.  I'm sure you would also establish a great network of parents in your area that have children of similar ages too, so you grow together as families, also knowing that you are not dealing with uncertainty on your own.

I have the CANparent team on hand to bust some more myths or to answer any of your burning parenting questions (have a nosy at their Facebook page too - they have updates that reflect issues with older children too).  If you've got something you'd like answering then please leave your question in the comments or email it to me and I'll update this post with the answers in the very near future.



This post supports a Government funded programme - please see my disclosure policy for more details.

Christmas Gift Suggestions For That Hard To Buy Person

blue christmas tree

There is always one person in your life that is almost impossible to buy a present for either at Christmas or on their birthday. Over the past few weeks I have have been scouring the internet or testing products out to create this list of affordable and unusual gifts.  Here are my recommendations.


bloom and wild, flowers through the letterboxBloom and Wild

Not too long ago, I was sent a vase full of flowers through the post from Bloom & Wild.  You can read my full review here but three weeks on, and with some careful pruning, I still have over half of the display still standing loud and proud.  B&W have different subscription offers available so this would be the gift that goes on much longer than Christmas Day.

Close Shave Society Close Shave Society

Another subscription suggestion would be something from the Close Shave Society who brag that they have high quality razors and low prices and cater for both the male and female customer.  They are managing to keep their prices so low by cutting (no pun intended) out the middle man and selling direct to the customer.

merlin, bbc, 5-series box set

Merlin DVD box set

If you know someone who is a fan of the swords, sorcery and swashbuckling adventure series from the BBC then this complete collection is an ideal gift.  You can find out more about it here but this box-set includes all five series, special bonus features, audio commentary, deleted scenes, out-takes and a "Making Of The Series" documentary.



LEGO Deluxe Box

LEGO Deluxe Box

If you are looking for a LEGO starter kit for the children or the grandchildren then this LEGO Deluxe Box  is the one for you.  It has over 700 pieces including wheels, windows, doors, a base plate and two mini figures. And the best thing about LEGO is that the basic design hasn't changed so you can always add to your existing collection and never worry that it isn't going to work (or that the batteries are going to run out).  LEGO is the best toy for expanding imaginative play.  We are big fans of the sturdy storage box too.

There's an interesting study here from Idealo that notes the price rise of LEGO in the run up to Christmas.

Guinness Book of Records 2014Guinness Book Of World Records

For the past two years we have been lucky enough to have been guests of Guinness World Records at two of their events.  The official Guinness World Records book is always high on my list of gifts and it's always one for the family and one for my nephews.  It's very possibly the only book you can guarantee is going to be a hit across all the generations.



london moleskine

London Moleskine

A friend of mine sent me the London Moleskine as a little surprise gift.  It was my first moleskine (I know...) and I immediately fell in love with the way in which it can be used for both city types and visitors.  I'm going to use it as my London travel journal and have already filled in some little bits of information that I want to remember and pass on to others.



Thomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery, biscuits, crackersThomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery

From a bakery that has been established for almost 100 years, here are some really unusually flavoured nibbly bits in both sweet and savoury flavours.  I have reviewed this product in my column on The High Tea Cast but I'd recommend grabbing the Many-Shaped Miscellany of Biscuits for Cheese as a gift that looks and feels posh.

Mamas And Papas X-Cel Dolls Pram

My granddaughters love playing 'Families' with their dolls so I've been busy knitting some clothes as part of their Christmas present along with some blankets for this fantastic Mamas and Papa's pram.   The best thing about this pram is that it looks and feels like the real thing and the accessories (changing bag and parasol) are great little additions.  The adjustable handle means that they will be able to continue playing with it for many years.



Bluffers Guide booksBluffer's Guide To...

The Bluffer's Guide books help you to perfect the art of blagging your way through a certain subject - starting with Bond, on to Dogs and then through to Opera, Management and Surfing for example.  You can buy the books individually, as a pre-prepared three-book box set or even make up your own three-book box set.  I think I may have found the perfect gift for my Dad (he's getting Beer, Wine and Cars).



Better Body Workouts For Women, book, exercise, dietBetter Body Workouts For Women

I try hard not to recommend gender specific items but the Better Body Workouts For Women book this book is a great resource which includes recommendations for fitness including a workout diary, appropriate work-out clothing, diet and supplements and clearly explained exercises with clear pictures.




Our Mouse In The House

Everyone is all about 'Elf On The Shelf' this year.  Not us though! We've got our Mouse In The House watching over the Christmas proceedings - and this is just one of the quirky little gifts and decorations on offer from Home Sense.



Straw Hat wine

Straw Hat Wine

Cheap and cheerful wine (and only available from Bargain Booze as far as I can work out - 3 for £10) but this is the only wine that I enjoy in every colour (white, rosé, red). Grab a bottle to take along to a party and pretend it's a lot more expensive that it actually is.  Trust me on this one...








Some of these products were sent to me to test/review, however my opinions remain true.  
Please view my disclosure policy for more details.