Catching Up With Old Friends

I've never been a fan of school reunions, mainly because I break out into cold sweats at the memories of the bullying I received during my high school years.  But my primary school years were great.  I was lucky to be surrounded by teachers that were inspirational and that I remember to this day (especially "Sir").  People change, people move on and whilst the memories remain intact life takes us down very different paths.

One of my best friends at primary school was Steph.  We enjoyed lots of birthday parties together and attended Brownies.  We came as a gang of four or five (including Tara, Claire and Frances) and I can't remember a single time that we fell out although I'm sure there were some.

Steph ended up going to a different high school and we lost contact with each other.  Many years later, through the wonders of the internet we managed to hook up again via Yahoo but, for one reason or another, we lost touch again.  Then, finally, thanks to the growing phenomenon that is blogging, we stumbled across each other for a third time (Steph writes a blog about family life with her two gorgeous girls).  In this, our 40th Birthday Year, it seemed wholly appropriate that we try to meet up somehow and that opportunity arose when the BritMums Live! conference was announced.

Look at us... 28 years down the line and we haven't changed a bit *cough*.

old friends, catching up, Britmums Live!

Soundtrack To My Life - Nicola

soundtrack to my lifeWe had a slight interlude with Soundtrack To My Life last week but we're back with a vengeance.  This week I am featuring Nicola whom I first met on a parenting forum a few years ago.  Nicola's blog has taken what may be considered a rather macabre turn as she is a taphophile (passionate about cemeteries).  However, her photographs and her additional "freaky" and "murderous" posts are really interesting.  Here are Nicola's musical choices and the tale behind why she has chosen each one. 


Diana Ross - Chain Reaction

This is the first song i can ever recall actually liking.  I must have been about 5 years old at the time, maybe even younger when it was played on the radio and the video shown on the television.  I have no idea why I liked the song so much, but I did.  Even to the point where I asked if I could have the song for my birthday.  I didn't get it, thus started a long path to disappointment.  Anyway, I still turn up the radio on the rare occasion it's ever played.


Guns N' Roses - November Rain

This song is from a very difficult time in my past.  I was living in a homeless hostel with an abusive partner and expecting my first child.  Sadly, all I had to see me through the dark moments was music, mainly Guns N Roses.  Even now, I can't listen to this song without being transported back, but this is something I'm truly thankful for as it reminds me that life can be dark and suffocating at times, but there's always a way through it to better times.


Linkin Park - Numb

This song could be played in the background throughout my entire life.  i have never truly felt I have belonged anywhere and that I am a huge disappointment to those around me.  I am constantly told by others that I "could" have made something of myself.  yet no-one seems to care that I have become all that I wish to - a mother to three beautiful girls - and if that is failure in some people's eyes then they need a new perspective on life.


Enrique Iglesias - Hero

This song was the first dance at my wedding.  The choice was more my husband's than mine but over time the song has grown on me and I feel almost as if my husband is speaking to me through the lyrics.  We have our differences and disagreements and, yes, i could be a better wife if I am truthful.  But it means so much to know that during those times when i just need someone to tell me it's all going to be okay, he's there for me.


Voltaire - The Beast of Pirate's Bay

This song is for my daughters.  Not the kind of lullaby that most people are used to but my girls love it and always demand I sing it to them.  Even baby Jessica loves it but I think that's more to do with the melody than the lyrics.



You can find Nicola talking about cemeteries and murders over on her blog, Herding Cats, and you can catch her on Twitter as @SeaThreePeaO  

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.

Twitter versus Texting

Whenever I open the Daily Fail's Entertainment Section Sidebar of Shame (don't judge me...) I am treated to a number of reports based around zeleb's twitter activity, including bitch-slap rows, omgshesnotwearingmakeup shocker twitpics and Get.A.Room voyeuristic tweets.

twitter versus texting, tweeting, text, twitter birds, The main culprits are the TOWIE* crew and I always wondered why they insisted on public tweeting whilst out on the town rather than private texting.  It has always seemed very "HEY.  ME.  OVER HERE.  YES, ME.  LOOK AT ME AND MY PLASTIC-CELEBRITY MATES"...

That was until I attended two rather large conferences this year!

In a situation like that, almost everyone use Twitter.  It's sooooo much easier to pull up your phone's Twitter app, with all the names preloaded and tweet out something along the lines of :
Saw @superamazingmum earlier and then lost her... where are you, Sophie?
And you get a response along the lines of:
[from @mummybarrow] @nickie72 @superamazingmum where are you?!!! SAM and I on the table in back corner but only me here at mo.
[from me] @mummybarrow @superamazingmum right at the front. I darent move after the sophie king episode last year @3bedroom

Result!  Sophie can't be arsed responding to me is otherwise engaged but I have now located her and another person I wanted to speak to on the day.  People-You-Meet-Off-The-Internet don't want to swap mobile numbers most of the time probably because you could get embroiled in a stalker situation after the main event, especially if they aren't what they seemed to be - but it's more likely to be that it's easier to tweet out to multiple people, albeit a tad egotistical.  Having people @mention you is a one-size-fits-all solution.  And, as for the Twitter flirting (public sexting)... seriously, find your Direct Message column and use that inappropriately instead.

Tweet or Text... what floats your boat?

(PS.  You may want to read my "kthnxbai" and other annoying Twitter habits post)

 TOWIE = The Only Way Is Essex.  I only know this because of the Sidebar of Shame. I can count the times I have watched the show on three fingers.  I am, however, fascinated by the way in which they have achieved apparent celebrity status through their crap acting and copious use of fake tan.

Dream Corner

Viv Oyolu, Dream Corner
What a gorgous name for a radio show!

Dream Corner is broadcast on OnFM London and its ethos is to inspire women of all ages to follow their dreams and their passions.  It is presented by the very lovely Viv Oyolu, whose accent is to die for

I rocked up to the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and I could have happily blagged a few more hours there to have a nosy round if I'd have know more about the studio's history but I had arranged to call in for a chat with Viv on my way to the BritMums Live! event.  

microphone, river thames, hammersmith, riverside studios, london,
Prior to the interview, I sent in a guest post to be featured on the website - we called it 'Life In New Directions'.  During the interview we had a chat about the direction in which my life has taken me, what I have done to cope with the difficult times in my life and how my husband and I support each other.  

I had an amazing view over the River Thames from my microphone and it was a very relaxing hour that passed by far too quickly.

You can hear my chat by clicking on the widget below (popout: and there are a couple more pictures over on my Facebook page.


BritMums Live : Crossing The Chasm

britmums live, crossing the chasm, bloggers studio,

The over-riding message from almost all speakers at "BritMums Live" this weekend was to use your own voice and be a great community member.  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but clarity in thought with regards to social media, monetizing, story-telling and rewinding was what I came away with, both as a speaker and an attendee.

I shall write more about the weekend later but I would like to highlight the session I was leading during BritMums Live - Crossing The Chasm : How To Bring Your Blog To The Next Level.  My fellow speakers were Melinda Fargo, Maggie Woodley, Jane Blackmore and Michelle Pannell (click their names to be taken to their blogs) and, whilst our personal ethos is very different,  without realising or prompting our message to the audience was very similar.  We each spoke for a few minutes about our own blogging journey to date and then opened a discussion with the audience.  Below is my own introduction, then a Google+ Hangout that we all took part in and finally some quotes from audience members.  

If you attended this session, I'd love to hear from you.  Was it a useful session?  What did you take away from it?  Are you going to change the way you blog?  Is there anything you could add?

Edited to add:  The Britmums Live reporter for this session was Tanya, aka "Mummy Barrow".  She says:

When I saw the agenda for Britmums Live this was the discussion I really wanted to attend.  Just how do you cross that chasm in blogging?  How do we get our blog to the next level and out of a rut that we might be in. 
And I certainly wasn’t alone!  It was very well attended, with a lot of note taking being done by virtually everybody in the room.  People frantically scribbling down valuable information from five people we were all viewing as “blog gurus”.
You can read her full write up on the Britmums Live blog.


If there is more than one person reading your blog you already have an audience.  You're already at "the next level".  For me, "the next level" is responding to your audience but also staying true to yourself.  

But how many levels of blogging are there?  Is there a top level?  We all know that there are plateaus where for a few days, or even weeks, you have no idea what to write, but those plateaus are there to help you catch your breath.  I read a quote on the Huffington Post the other day:  "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag but to enjoy the view".  That's what I do when I hit my plateaus.  I enjoy the view for a while and prepare for the next part of the climb.

I don't try - I just write about stuff that interests, excites or maddens me.  I write for me, no-one else, and if that's actually entertaining to other people then that's great.  I've never hidden behind a username because I have the conviction to say what I believe in but I also respect that my opinion isn't the same as yours.  Once you start thinking about it all too much it stops becoming a blog and more like an online thought centre.  

Every person has a story and it's your choice how you tell it.  I've been blogging and using online forums for about ten years but didn't find my stride until three years ago.  I had got to a point in my life where I was ready to talk about life events that shaped who I am today.  Also, when I searched online for help or support there seemed to be nothing out there from a personal level - just plenty of people telling me how I *should* be coping or describing the corporate vision.  I wanted to read something from someone who had lived through a struggle.  So I decided to be that person.

All you need to do is remember about your voice, your topic and your message.  Your voice is what makes your writing distinctive and completely "you".  Your topics are the subjects you will write about and your message is the reason you write what you write - it's the soapbox you stand on. 

We all put a lot of time and effort into our blogs - we're all here today because we are passionate about what we do.  You might be writing about the same subject as someone else but your stories and experiences aren't the same, nor is you reason for writing it.  Your blog post will be individual because YOU wrote it.

And I can't be here today and not mention social media.  Look, we all know that I'm a total social media whore.  My best piece of advice to move to the "next level" is to widen your network.  I completely and totally love all types of social media - except maybe Google Plus although I am getting to grips with it.  But you can only shout so loud.  You can "tweet like crazy" but that tweet will only stretch as far as your immediate network.  You're then relying on the snowball effect through retweets or shares or recommendations.

Think about all the different social media and blogging networks there are.  Try to interact with different audiences.  Just because we are parent bloggers, that doesn't mean we have to just converse with other parent bloggers.

Mix it up a little and watch it grow.




"Great session. Great advice from some amazing bloggers. Love that you are all down to earth and friendly.  You all had different opinions and ways of working but they all fitted in together.  Was a great session.  Very inspiring."  Sinead - The Singing Mummy

"This session reminded me why I started blogging and how off track my blog had become.  I left vowing to sort it out"  Tanya - Mummy Barrow

"The message I came away with was to stay true to your voice and don't let anyone change what you write and who you write for.  Bex - The Mummy Adventure

"Crossing The Chasm made clear a lot of what I've been struggling with, even as a more experienced blogger."  Michelle - The American Resident


What Am I Wearing to Britmums Live!?

At Britmums Live! I am in the "Bloggers Studio" on Friday afternoon (5.10pm - it's a 45 minute session) talking about how to take your blog to the next level.  Immediately afterwards myself and my fellow session speakers will be holding a G+ hangout with Melissa from Google+.  I hope to see you there in one capacity or another!  Anyway, this is what I'll be wearing so you can recognise me...


Friday Outfit for Britmums Live!

Changes Boutique Applique Tunic Top from Simply Be
Changes Boutique Stud Trim Leggings (navy) from Simply Be
Brown Knee Length boots from Tesco (I've had these boots for a while - really comfy)
Khaki Jacket (not pictured - found in a charity shop for £1.50 a few weeks ago)


Saturday Outfit for Britmums Live!

My (now famous) white and navy striped jacket 
"Check out my Blog" t-shirt
Anna Field ankle boots
(all from Zalando - not available any more)
Skinny jeans from Asda

Smart but comfy is the order of the weekend.  
What do you think?

Taking advantage...

Parents, I have a small piece of advice for you.  When your child falls and breaks his (or her) foot in two places DO NOT say to them:

"To save you moving, love, just ring me from your mobile."

because they may take advantage.  

broken foot in plaster*dinky text tone
Is it time for my pain-killers yet? It's really sore. I keep getting muscle spasms and the dog keeps sitting on it.

*ring ring
Jake: It's really itchy!
Me: I'll get you a knitting needle.
Jake: What's a knitting needle?
Me: It's like a long stick.
Jake: Huh?

*dinky text tone*
It is time for my pain-killers yet?

*dinky text tone that's starting to get annoying now*
Can I have a drink, please?

*dinky text tone that I swear I'm going to change in a minute*
England won. I'm going upstairs. Can you shut the baby gate after me?

*dinky text tone that I forgot to change that is now driving me mental*
I'm sitting in Michael's bedroom for a bit.

*ring ring* (this one at 2am)
Kev: Nic, your phone is ringing!
Me: mrgha-fuckin'ell-mrgha It's Jake. Fuck!
Kev: Huh? 
Me: I told him to ring me if he needed anything.
*stumbles round the bedroom with eyes stuck shut due to hayfever weeping earlier*
Kev: Daft bitch. I bet he's been taking advantage of that.
Me: No, it's fine...
*one eye squint stumble down the landing*
Jake: I've lost my knitting needle.  I think it's downstairs on the settee
*one eye squint stumble down the stairs, find knitting needle, one eye squint back up the stairs, hand knitting needle to Jake, stumble out of room*
Jake: Thanks mum. I thought you'd still be up.
Me: Not really.  It's 2 o'clock.
Jake: I can't sleep. Can I have another pain-killer yet?
Kev (*shouting from the other room*): Mum's got work tomorrow.  Try and go to sleep.
*stumble back to bed, lie down, close eyes*
Kev: Did you know [name of friend]'s girlfriend has died? It's all over Facebook.
Me: mrgha-no love-mrgha-Ineedtogotosleep-how did she die?
Kev: Don't know. I'll find out tomorrow. I know her name but don't know who she is.
Me: mrgha-Ineedsleeeeeeeep-mrgha
Kev: Whatever...

It has been 36 hours since he broke his foot in two places.  Only another 3 weeks, 4 days to go then...

Happy Father's Day [Infographic]

My children's dad is pretty special - well, I have to say that after 22 years, don't I?  He's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, what with fixing the cars, home DIY, the allotment and of course, being the at-home parent whilst I doss around at work go out and earn a crust.

Just as they did for Mother's Day, have put together some research in the form of an infographic (yup, I'm still loving them) to show the Value of a Dad.  So let's celebrate all Dad's today.  They're allowed one day of the year, I suppose!

how much is a dad worth infographic

This infographic was supplied by
For more details please see my disclosure policy


Will formula help my baby sleep?

This is a guest post from Lorna Clark of Greatvine, a website with expert advice for parents.  For further details about guest posts please contact me and have a quick look at my disclosure policy.   

Sleep deprivation is tough for everyone and if your little one wakes several times a night you can soon find yourself desperate for answers. Parents of breastfed babies sometimes wonder if switching to formula, or formula at bedtime, would get them a good night's sleep.

Formula milk is digested more slowly than breast milk so in the very early days a formula fed baby might sleep a little longer between feeds. Having said that, after the first few weeks breastfed babies can sleep just as well, and many formula fed babies have trouble sleeping all night. I believe that mums should be supported in achieving their feeding choices, whatever those are, and there are many reasons why you might choose to use formula. Having said that, breastfeeding is great for you and your baby and I always feel very sad when I speak to a mum who has given up breastfeeding (even though she wanted to continue) just because she hoped her baby would sleep better. Please do seek advice regarding breastfeeding problems if you’re in this situation.

An older baby who is genuinely waking from hunger in the night might not be getting the milk they need during the day. In this case formula might help, but so would more breast milk. Try taking a few days to rest as much as you can, eat well, stay hydrated and feed the baby as often and for as long as you can during the day, or express extra milk between feeds. This should boost your milk supply and reassure you that hunger is not the problem.

Frequent night waking is not normally due to hunger. Many mothers are happy to feed their baby once or twice during the night, just not every half an hour! If that is your aim it is a perfectly good one and you can encourage your baby to sleep well in between feeds without giving up breastfeeding. When the baby is sleeping well between feeds you should find that feeds are dropped naturally when they are no longer needed.

The problem is most likely to be with the way your baby falls asleep. If they always fall asleep while at the breast (or being rocked, or whatever it is you do to get them to sleep) then the baby will expect to be at the breast whenever they come into a light sleep or need to resettle. Imagine falling asleep in your bed and waking up on the kitchen floor, you wouldn't be able to go back to sleep until you went back to bed. The same is true for a baby. They fall asleep sucking at the breast, in dim light, held in arms. These are the things they associate with sleep. So they are surprised to wake in a bed in the dark and cry out to have "normality" restored.

The solution is to teach your baby the sleep associations you want them to have. For most people this will be sleeping in a bed, without any artificial aids. Even things like music should be avoided unless you want to have it playing all night, and remember to take it with you when you travel. There are lots of ways to help your baby form new sleep habits, and different methods suit different babies and families.

For personalised advice for your family contact Lorna at Greatvine.

Soundtrack To My Life - Trish

Soundtrack To My Life
On Soundtrack To My Life, I'm trying to get a variety of people to contribute and knew that my sister-in-law, Trish, would definitely be forthcoming with her tunes.  I love Trish to bits for reasons that don't need explaining.  We clicked from the beginning - what sometimes seems a very long 22 years ago - and we swing from being very alike to very different.  We have similar tastes in music but the conversation that ensued via Twitter for her fourth song made me howl laughing and still makes me giggle when I think back to it now.  You'll soon see why.  Here are Trish's choices and the story behind each one.


Spandau Ballet - True

Trish is a massive (and I mean MASSIVE) Spandau Ballet fan.  I made her come to see Duran Duran with me in on that memorable day in 2005 (18th December if you're wondering - I'll tell you the full story another time) and she was convinced she would hate it.  She ended up having a fab time but I could never convert her completely.  She has included this song as it was her wedding song.  

Patrick Swayze - She's Like The Wind

Trish hasn't told me much about why she has chosen this song.  Just simply that it's the only song by her favourite actor.  That's a good enough reason for me.

Liverpool FC - Anfield Rap

I just knew that Trish would have to include something that resonated with Liverpool Football Club. and I can honestly say this is the only time EVER that this song will be embedded on my blog.  She says, "Have to give LFC a mention.  Did you know I love Liverpool?" (cue an *eyeroll* from me)  Even I have to admit though, that there's some real football legends in this video and yet another chance to hear John Barnes rapping...

The Darkenss - Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells Ring)

On the form that you can fill in to take part in this series, Trish said that she asked Keith (her husband - my brother-in-law) what his favourite song was.  He apparently said, "That Christmas one with the bells."  The conversation that followed went something like this...

Keith's favourite song is by The Darkness?  Fuck off!

That's what he said.

hahahahaahhahahahaha *breathe* hahahahahahhahahaha *breathe* hahahahaha 
Are you sure?

Oh hang on.  He might mean that one by East 17.  I'll check.

Nooooo.  That's just as bad.

Yes, he means The Darkness.

hahahahaahhahahahaha *breathe* hahahahahahhahahaha *breathe* hahahahaha

Robbie Williams - Strong

It's a close call between her beloved Spandau Ballet and Robbie Williams so I knew there would also be a Robbie one and I could almost lay bets on it being this one as it's her favourite.  I went to see Mr W at Roundhey Park in Leeds in 2006 and the concert was being shown live on Sky One (with a half hour delay).  I rang her when Strong came on and let Robbie sing down the phone to her (well... sort of).  She was sat in the local Working Men's Club battling to have the concert shown on the games room television.  She was losing against the snooker or the footie, I believe, so my call was the next best thing.

soundtrack to my life all posts
You can catch Trish on twitter as @trishaohara (original, huh?).

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.

Soundtrack To My Life - The Rave Years

Every time I watch this video I am transported back to an era.

Warehouse parties, illegal raves, whatever you want to call them... getting lashed up (and the rest), driving to a motorway services station - usually Charnock Richard, joining a convoy of about twenty or thirty other cars, bombing off back down the motorway, off at a random junction, down a few B-roads, over a field and into a disused barn.  You then entered a world of loud music that touched your soul.  Bright lights that sent energy into your body.  Beats that rocked your world.  Out into the sunrise and off to the nearest greasy spoon for breakfast then home to sleep for about twelve hours.

The decent clubs were few and far between but we had a few trips out to Wigan Pier.  Otherwise we had to make do with the local nightclubs where the music was still rave-orientated but a bit commercial.

Then it all ended after the children started to arrive.  Apart from the very occasional (I can count them on three fingers) times that I had an overnight babysitter I had to make do with mini-raves in my lounge.  We always meant to go to Ibiza and storm the clubs but it never happened and now we can't for fear of looking like Kevin The Teenager's parents.

So, after seeing Sian's and Claire's blog posts, born from a late night Skype chat, reminising the club days, I had to gatecrash and suggest some tracks for their Ultimate Playlist on Spotify.  Crank up the volume and join me in my front room rave whilst I wait for Joanne to come up with some corkers.  She's going to LOVE this idea!!

D-Mob - We Call It Acieed

The Prodigy - Out of Space

Oceanic - Insanity

Krome & Time - Manic Stampede

Robert Miles - Children

E-Zee Possee & MC Kinky - Everything Starts With An 'E'

MC Lethal - Rave Digger

Bizarre Inc - Playing with Knives

Ethics-La Luna - To The Beat Of The Drum

Together - Hardcore Uproar


What People Think I Do...

Blogger & Self-Confessed Social Media Addict

what people think I do meme

(click it to big it)


Soundtrack To My Life - Siân

Soundtrack To My Life
Whilst writing Volume 1 of the Soundtrack To My Life I wondered what music represented parts of other people's lives; whether they used music as a journey through life or if they hung onto pieces of music to help them anchor an emotion.  I'm always on a journey of discovery through music enjoying finding new tracks and uncovering long-forgotten music as well as appreciating what is current.  I have asked a number of friends to join me on this journey and tell me about their own Soundtrack To My Life.


I am lucky to have Siân in my life for a number of reasons.  She is a 1972 chick (the best vintage in my opinion *cough*), I'm extremely proud of her for single-handedly creating Cybher and just the fact that, as a true mate, I can say one word and she'll know immediately what I'm on about.

Siân has battled her own demons in her life but that's not my story to tell.  I did start to worry a bit that she seemed to be choosing extremely depressing songs - she even said to me, "I've just realised that my tracks are pretty depressing!  They make me happy though" and I completely resonate with that.  However, I got to track four and order was restored.  Here's what Siân has to say about the songs that she's chosen.

Tell Laura I Love Her - Ray Peterson

I used to love this song when I was a child. My dad used to play it all the time. He used to do this thing on a Sunday evening where we would be allowed into the front room (the only time we were) and he would play a few bars from songs and we had to guess the name of the song. This was always my favourite. I was intrigued by the tragedy of it all!

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me - The Smiths

My teenage anthem. I descovered The Smiths in 1983 when I was just 11 years old and they have been the one band that has remained with me throughout my life. A week doesn't pass without a Morrissey track for me and picking just one track is really tough. I used to have the 12" version of this single on repeat on my record player as I went to sleep every night for 2 years. The intro is about 12 minutes long on the extended version and I felt at one with the haunting cries.

Martha's Harbour - All About Eve

Another 80's favourite track. Martha's Harbour was the soundtrack to my solo choreography in my GCSE dance exam. I forgot about it for many years but heard it randomly on the radio a couple of months ago.

Higher State Of Consciousness - Josh Wink

A child of the rave generation and Higher State of Consciousness is the track of my lost rave years!
Crank up the volume, you have to listen to it so loud that your ears are left ringing.

Mr Bojangles - Nina Simone

My big brother introduced me to the beautiful voice of Nina Simone when I was a teenager. She sings Mr Bojangles like no one else. This track works especially well when played right after Higher State of Consciousness. Freaks you out!

Soundtrack To My Life
You can find Sian over on one of her blogs - Mummy Tips or Geek Is The New Chic - or follow her on Twittter as @geekisnewchic.

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.

My Jar of Hearts on canvas

When I got my new camera for Christmas I started experimenting a little and took a few pictures which I was probably a little too overjoyed with.  I called the set "Jar of Hearts", blogged about them, created their own album on Google Plus and even set one of them as my desktop wallpaper.

Then we decided to tart our bedroom up.  You know, treat ourselves to a new bed (*nudge, wink*), new wardrobes, a lick of paint and maybe a couple of nice pictures.  Let's just say it's been a work in progress for a few months now and we have only just finished.  

The old romantic in me wanted get one of my "Jar of Hearts" pictures on canvas and hang it on the wall and, just by sheer coincidence, HelloCanvas emailed me with a challenge.  They wanted me to send them my best picture - one that I thought they couldn't match the quality of at large size.  In return they would attempt to reproduce the image on a 50x70cm / 20x28inch canvas as long as I gave them fair feedback.

Challenge on!  I sent them this picture:

Jar of Hearts original image

The canvas arrived within a couple of days AND IT IS HUGE!! Over this week I have been on leave from work so we have managed to get the bedroom sorted out, buy some new wardrobes and hang the canvas because I love it.  I'm not sure the pictures below do the size of it any justice but the new bed is a SuperKing size (it's all about the supersize at the moment) and the bedroom is a really odd shape (a bit like me, really).

Jar of Hearts on canvas

It's a shame that the canvas looks washed out in these pictures but the colour is perfect in reality.  We have two windows in our bedroom (you can't see the one to the right) and I've tried about ten times to get a decent picture.  Save lying on top of the new wardrobes commando style, there's not really much more I could do!

So, now you've seen where the magic happens, do you think the canvas is going to make it even more special?  I live in hope...  

Soundtrack To My Life - Volume 1

Music has always been important to me, especially in my angst-ridden teenage years when I made mix-tapes for everyone I loved (and lost) or wrote long, meaningful letters made up from lyrics from songs.  I'm sat here listening to Top Of The Pops 2 whilst writing this post and keep stopping to watch and listen, reminiscing and trying to remember when I last heard a particular song.  To me, music is timeless although it does tend to represent a certain era in my life, rather than define the year is was released.  I'm not sure that will make much sense to you, but it does to me.

soundtrack to my life

My first memories of music are from around 1976 - I was four years old at the time.  The first song I ever recall is Brotherhood of Man - Kisses For Me and remember my Nana recording it off the TV with a cassette recorder and handheld microphone.  She then started and stopped the tape, rewound it, repeated and carried on until she had all the lyrics written down so she could teach it to me.  Around about the same time the bloke from The Darts scared the living daylights out of me with his big staring eyes the but the song I'm going to share with you is by Showaddywaddy.  I can still remember dancing around the living room to this:

My defining years were the 1980s and the music from that era is music that I can still go back and enjoy even now.  There was meaningful songs, dance numbers, sing-a-long cheese and music that has ended up as timeless.  There are two groups that completely moulded my teenage years.

The first was Five Star.  They were my first ever concert and, taking my Nana's dedication one step further, I videoed all their TOTP performances and taught myself the dances.  I was completely gobsmacked to see Denise Pearson on The Voice recently and may have gone completely gooey each time the Official Five Star twitter account retweeted one of my tweets and when Stedman Pearson accepted me as a friend on Facebook (I'm trying to get to interview them... fingers crossed.  I know, I know... stalker tendencies... hush now!)

The second is, very obviously, Duran Duran (*sigh* Simon le Bon, be still my beating heart).  My first ever copy of Look In magazine had a poster of John Taylor and the lyrics to "Is There Something I Should Know".  I instantly fell in love.

I was allowed to go to the Five Star concert in 1986 because it was a the Guild Hall, Preston (not too far away from home) but I was never allowed to go to a Duran Duran concert as they only toured the main cities - or so it seemed.  My life was incomplete... that was until 2005 when I found out that Duran Duran were back in the UK and touring again.  I snapped up two tickets and dragged my sister-in-law, Trish, along (she was a hardened Spandau Ballet fan).  We had THE BEST time ever!  I have a picture of me somewhere with my hair plastered to my sweaty little head after dancing my socks off and singing my heart out.  They've never stopped recording or touring but do concentrate on the USA and Germany markets more now.  The video below is one of their more recent tracks that I love (start it at 2m 35s).

My Dad introduced me to a number of artists that will always remain favourites.  I listen to them in the car  and sing at the top of my voice.  Elkie Brooks, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, OMD, Yazoo... but here's one from Genesis that was one of the first records I stole borrowed from him.

And for now, In a houseful of teenagers and with Radio 1 playing in the car in the mornings it's hard not to keep in touch with current music and after hearing the chart rundown last Sunday I was actually surprised how many of the "Top Ten" that I actually know.  The thing is, though, I have noticed more and more how Radio 2 is becoming my sort of station.  You know you're getting on a bit when the station that you normally associate with your own parents plays all the music you now resonate with and you tweet out "TOP tune on #radio2 just now" more times that you care to count.

I believe Glee and commercials have been a great way to introduce and reinvent music from the past.  I'm sometimes taken aback when I hear Jake (aged 13) sing a song from way back when, but I'm also enjoying hearing the music pumping out of the bedrooms that is something I can sing along to.  Here is my current favourite that I feel actually had no boundaries and was played equally on Radio 1 and Radio 2.

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I've called this "Volume 1" simply because I can never ever narrow down the music that defines my life to just five songs.  I'm going to introduce certain chapters in my life once a month through music.  I'm also going to feature some friends and their own Soundtrack To My Life .  If you'd like to join in then fill in this form and I will let you know when you're being featured.  
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