The one where she rambles on and on and ...

Houston we have confirmation.

The cat is a girl.

The husband took a deep breath and went outside to check.

I asked if he was sure.

He looked insulted.

The weather here the last couple of days has been out of this world. It shortly after 9am at the minute and absolutely cooking outside. Which is exactly where I am by the way. Sitting on the deck with a good cup of coffee, I actually put the percolator on this morning. So I'm sitting on my deck with my lovely laptop, my coffee and kitty purring away happily beside me.

Cat sounded far too manly for a girl and I'm pretty sure we have a pet cat now. The husband's even in the garage as we speak building her a little outside house thingy. Is it still a kennel if its for a cat. I should really buy a book shouldn't I?

My mum's complete inability to read the size of something clearly printed on the side of the box continues. Yesterday she arrived home with a "paddling pool" for Toots which turned out to be an above ground swimming pool. Seriously this thing is huge, it covers her entire deck and we can all fit in it. Not that we all tried mind you.

Also, she didn't buy a pump to inflate the thing. Have you ever got high huffing on kid's inflatables. Anyway, one last minute, blue in the face, completely knackered run to Argos later and we had a fully inflated pool and no serious cases of oxygen deprivation.

My dad also dug out the old swing ball. People outside the UK might know it as tether ball, I'm not sure.

Now swing ball might look like a nice innocuous child's game but that's where you're wrong. At least if you were raised by my dad, you are. You see to my dad, swing ball is a vicious blood soaked battle and his early teachings wore off on both my brother and I.

Toots looked a little concerned to begin with when confronted with this side of her mother. Teeth bared and angry glare on her face as she smashed the ball back at her own dad, who in turn hammered the ball right back at me.

My dad was never a big fan of the whole "kids should always win" idea. As far as he was concerned you had to WANT to win and be willing to fight for it. It's a fair point really. Imagine your kid grows up and wants to become a surgeon. Is it ok for them to step up to the table every day and have patients die left, right and centre as long as they at least tried. Not really.

Anyway, most games of swing ball between my dad, brother and I usually ended with either the ball flying off the end of the tether or one of us breaking a hole in the centre of the plastic bat.

Good times.

I spent yesterday afternoon making some new jewellery for the shop

I wanted something nice and light and summery for myself, so I decided to make a few extra at the same time. I seem to get stuck in the rut of always wearing the same jewellery, but yesterday in the heat I just couldn't do it.

I'm planning on putting the finishing touches to a few things for a giveaway today. It won't be here, but don't worry I'll tell you where it is once its up and you can run over and get your entries in.

First things first though. I'm off out the garage to make a new scratch post for kitty.

See you all later.

Riddle Me This

Is there any difference between having a cat as a pet and feeding a cat that happens to live in your garden?

I can't for the life of me figure out the answer to that one.

Oh yes, the cat is still here and despite my very best efforts I actually kind of like the little guy/girl.

Nope, still no idea whether its a boy or a girl and due to some rather unpleasant run ins with cats in the past usually resulting in a tetanus shot, I refuse to be the one to check. If anybody else is desperate to know, they can pick the bloody cat up themselves and have a gander.

As it stands the cat's name is Cat. Cat's here all the time.

I still can't bring myself to let him in the house though. I've reported finding him to the RSPCA and Assisi Animal Sanctuary as well as putting posters up in obvious places around the town, the post office, the main newsagents, places like that, but still no word on anyone missing him. I'm still worried though that someone might be looking for him and letting him in to my house might confuse him.

Can you confuse a cat? I don't know.

But he's brilliant with the child. He curls up in her lap with the motor running while she scratches behind his ears. Alright, don't get me wrong she can be a made ass child and sometimes he runs like lightening from her, but for the most part he's pretty happy to be around her.

Its just a matter of teaching her the difference between a cat and dog.

A cat for instance will not sit, lie down, roll over, play dead or give his paw on command. The same way a cat will look at you like you're as sharp as a box of crayons when you try to play fetch with him. He'll run into the next door neighbour's garden to get peace from her sometimes which says something in itself considering the neighbours have a mental dog.

So. Any insight? Do we have a pet cat or is he just using me?

In Dreams

I'm told that I laugh in my sleep. I mean really laughing, doubled over tears streaming down my face laughing.

I kept the husband awake more than once and he's actually had to take himself off downstairs once or twice to have any hope of a good night's sleep.

The thing is, I don't remember anything about it, I never did. My mum tells me I even laughed in my sleep as a baby.

I sometimes wonder what it is that has me in a wrinkle in the wee small hours.

And Toots does it too. She laughs and giggles throughout the night, even when she's had what I would call a bad day. The days when she isn't feeling too well and has been a bit down in the dumps and still she'll laugh and giggle all night long.

I often wonder what she dreams of, What goes through her mind when she closes her eyes at night. I wonder if she's remembering something when she laughs out loud or whether she's completely fabricated something hilarious.

Last night she fell asleep in my bed, something which she normally doesn't do. We had played in the garden after dinner, even though it was raining cats and dogs and her bath had been more about warming up than cleaning up. I barely had a chance to get her into her pyjamas when she flaked out.

I left her to sleep, while I had a shower and tidied up some of the messes of the day.

When I finally remembered that she was still in my bed and went to move her to her own room, she mumbled something in her sleep. I couldn't quite make her out, so I asked her to repeat herself and clear as day she asked me if I had found her tomato.


So either she has been having some weird dream about tomatoes which only exists in her mind or in a couple of weeks time I'll find a half eaten tomato somewhere, probably tucked in behind a sofa and I'll have to track it down by smell.

She doesn't remember her dreams either.

The hunt is on.

An open letter to the person who stole my handbag

Dear Dum Dum,

I would like to personally and whole heartedly congratulate you on the successful pilferage of my handbag.

Your mother must be incredibly proud of the well rounded human being she managed to raise. However, I'd like to take the time to point out something which your mother clearly failed to pass on. It is my sincerest hope that this insight might help guide you in your chosen career of "criminal mastermind".

When a woman willingly leaves her bag lying on a park bench whilst blissfully pushing her child on the swings chances are there is little in the bag which she is concerned about losing.

The cash which you so desperately wanted was safely tucked into my back pocket and my front door keys nestled in my coat pocket.

I do hope that you are pleased with your haul of a Dora the Explorer juice bottle, a half eaten apple, a packet of wet wipes, two flowery hair clips and a small but necessary supply of tampons.

These items will no doubt bring in gargantuan sums of money on the black market (ebay).

Finally, if your actual target was the handbag itself, I'll quickly point out that the bag was handmade by me. Should anyone admire the beautiful craftsmanship of said bag I would be very grateful if you would kindly direct them to my Folksy shop where they will be spoilt for choice.

You may also supply them with the promotional code "NEENAW". Any customer quoting this one time only promotional code will receive free postage and packaging. Their order will be dispatched immediately and hand delivered by a member of the local constabulary.

Kindest regards.

Leanne (Meh!) Woods.

Menu Plan - 25-5 to 31-5

Please be on the lookout for a missing week. That one missing week.

If you find it, please return to;

1 Wherediditgo Way
County WTF

Thanks so much.

Anyway, food. Food. I have been grubbing like you wouldn't believe this week, I'm telling you.

I've probably put on a stone.


Pizza on the barbecue. The weather's to be good, I don't have steaks, I do have pizza ingredients and in Northern Ireland, if the weather's good and you want to barbecue but you only have corn flakes and a bag of frozen peas to your name, mash the peas coat in crushed corn flakes and get on with it. Everything just tastes better barbecued anyway.


Chicken noodle soup. I'll throw it in the crockpot in the morning and then I don't have to think about it.


Crockpot again, Ill throw ribs and char sui sauce in for the husband and I'll have a salad. Toots will be with Nana for dinner.


Snack night. Toots and I can make homemade sausage rolls, chicken skewers, onion rings and mini brownies.


Fajitas with salad and grilled bananas with ice cream.


Risotto. I still have a mountain of mushrooms in the freezer so I'll make a mushroom and bacon risotto and poached eggs and toasted slices of crusty bread.


Chicken olives with steamed veg and potatoes, maybe with a mushroom sauce.


I'll make flapjacks again, I made them last week and the husband likes them for a quick breakfast/snack in the morning with coffee before heading out.

Brownies, we'll cut them into small bit sized pieces and some of them can be frozen and crumbled through ice cream later with some of the fudge sauce I have in there too.

Grilled or baked bananas, I'll make a slice in the skin and push in a piece of chocolate for Toots and some rum and brown sugar for the hubs and I before wrapping them in foil and either grilling them or baking them.

Tutorial - Homemade Poi for Kids

At the very real risk of being labelled internet wide as a terrible mummy, I'm going to give you a tutorial on how to make your kids homemade poi.

Poi are used often in performance arts and a friend of mine got me hooked on them years ago but, as with most things in life, where it can be very difficult for an adult to learn to use them kids master them in a matter of days.

I still try as often as the weather permits to get into the garden with a set because using poi is a fantastic form of exercise and is also great for developing coordination, balance and grace, three things which I sometimes lack. I also found that when I worked as a secretary, spending hours chained to a pc typing left me with very stiff, sore wrists and poi swinging helped to ease and soften the muscles and get rid of the cramps.

So, to make a set of poi for you kids (or for yourself) you'll need the following;

A pair of old socks (kids knee length or regular adult size ankle length will do)*
Two sandwich bags or small cheapy plastic bags.
60g of rice
Some bubble wrap (old towelling or fleece will work too)
Elastic bands or regular kitchen string.

The first thing you need to do is take a measurement. If these are for a child take a measurement from their underarm to their wrist, for an adult measure from the fingertips to the shoulder. If, like mine, your child doesn't fancy standing still while you take the measurement just use a well fitting coat or jumper to get the right length.

Keep a note of the measurement (mine happened to be 10 inches). Then measure out exactly 30 grams of rice into each of the two plastic bags. You do need to be precise about the weight because even a gram or two can throw off the balance.**

Then tie a knot in each bag a couple of inches away from the rice. Don't compact the rice into a ball and tie the knot close to it, the point is to allow the rice to move around as freely as possible inside the bag.

Next take a square of bubble wrap or soft cloth and pinch the four corners together around the bag of rice, again not compacting the rice in any way. My square of bubble wrap was 6in X 6in.

And then place the bag in the toe of the sock.

Hold the sock in your hand and give it a good shake to make sure the bag of rice is well seated in the bottom of the sock.

Then taking an elastic band or a piece of string wrap or tie it around the sock about an inch above the rice bag.

You can see that there is still plenty of give in the ball end of the sock.

Next take the poi along with your measurement. Its easier to set a ruler or tape measure down, rather than trying to eyeball it.

And stretch the sock out to its fullest and make a note of the measurement on the sock (easy with mine because of the stripes). You really need to stretch the sock as far as it will go because it will stretch when spun and you don't want it getting a couple of inches longer all of a sudden mid flight (trust me, learnt that lesson the hard way).

Then just tie a knot at the measurement mark when stretched and you're done. Once the sock has relaxed back to its original length it will look very short, but it will stretch to the full length at some point during spinning so it really is better to be safe with this one.

Repeat the steps again for the second poi and you're ready to go.

Start by learning to spin the poi forwards, once you're completely comfortable with that then begin to spin them backwards.

You can then move on to split time swinging, chasing the sun, the windmill (which I totally rock btw) and loads and loads more.

The trick to teaching kids to swing poi is to teach them to keep their arms straight. That's it, it really is that simple. If you follow the instructions above and your child keeps their arms straight regardless of where their arms are positioned, its quite difficult for them to hit themselves with the poi. You also want the child to hold the knot while spinning the poi. You can also make sure the knot is pulled tight and then cut away any excess fabric.

*I didn't use a pair of socks because I happened to have a pair of Toots old skater sleeves lying around. It meant that I had to sew one end of the sleeves closed, but if you use socks you don't have to bother with this step and don't worry that the heel makes them look a funny shape, they still work the same way and swing straight.

**There are some instructions around which suggest using crumpled up plastic bags or cotton wool to stuff the ball end. Please feel free to do this if the thought of rice or lentils concerns you. I've tried a few different methods and have just found that the rice works best. The poi seem to work better and are less likely to go off track or get caught by the wind when there is a bit of weight at the end of the poi.

What I do it add the weight, but I make sure that it is "soft weight". Made this way, even if the poi does happen to hit you the weight isn't solid so it gives and flattens. Toots and I have hit ourselves with these a few times but never hurt or even bruised ourselves with them.

For Mum

This year I was broke. No surprise there.

I had a large leather bound photo album which I'd been meaning to do something with but never really got round to it.

I decided to use the photo album and make a few digital scrapbook layouts to put into it as a present for my mum on Mother's Day.

She actually cried when I gave it to her.

And then my dad teared a little when he saw it later that day.

I'm to tell you that he teared up in a very manly "I've just been kicked between the legs" kind of way.

There you go dad, masculinity remains firmly intact....

And, of course, the layout which inspired them all. It was created for me by Janmary and its my mum's favourite. You should take a dander over there and see some more of her work. Her layouts really are beautiful.


That's three nights in a row now I've been woken from a deep sleep absolutely convinces someone was downstairs.

And each time I've been daft enough to drag my half knackered ass out of bed and stumble downstairs, completely unarmed, to take a look.

Of course, nobody was there.

Maybe I'm losing my mind.

"Maybe you are!"

"Who said that?"

"I didn't hear anything."

"Me neither."

"Oh, well that's ok then. Wait.

Did you hear something?"

Of Highs and Lows

Yesterday was a good day. A very good day.

It rained as if often does here, but that didn't matter. I spent the day lazing around with Toots. We played in the garden with the cat and checked on the fruit and vegetables. We baked flapjacks and ate them still warm and falling to pieces from the pan.

We put on our wellies and played on the swing in the rain and we laughed.

Later, when she was truly exhausted, we curled up together wrapped in a blanket. I read her a story and ran my fingertips along the length of each of each of her curls as she fell asleep with her little warm head resting against my chest and her little fingers curled around the blanket.

She woke and we ate and talked and joked and sang. We put on music and played games and when her dad arrived home, she ran to him, hugged him and smiled.

They laughed and talked in the living room while I prepared the dinner and I was happy.

I want every day to be just like yesterday, but of course that can't happen and it won't happen. We'll have bad days as every family does.

Days of more negative than positive. Days when I say No more often that Yes. Days when there are tantrums and crying and anger.

However in general we have more good days than bad and we're happy.

I hope that when Toots is older she remembers the good times. I don't really mind if she remembers the bad too, but I hope that she remembers them in context. That she remembers that it wasn't always bad.

I hope that she doesn't inherit my occasional bouts of pessimism.

The fact that I can meet a hundred lovely people and have it ruined by one asshole.

That I can try to help people and succeed with the majority only to fail with one person and end up wishing I hadn't bothered myself in the first place.

I have a lot of happy memories from my own childhood, but they're often clouded by the unhappy ones which are admittedly few and far between. So why do they stick so clearly in my mind.

I just hope that Toots always sees the class half full perspective.

Menu Plan - 18/5 to 25/5

Just a quick post, I'm off to collect Toots from her Nana's house and need to get my finger out.


Irish Stew with crusty bread


Hotdogs and onion rings


Chicken curry with steamed rice and naan bread.


Baked cod with pesto and crushed white beans with Parmesan.


Snack night. Thin and crispy mozzarella pizza, chicken wings, baked crisps and dip.


Sandwiches and leftovers to clean out the fridge.


Roast chicken either with crusty bread, pickles and salady bits or with potatoes and steamed veg.


Raspberry and lemon oat bars or plain old fashioned flapjacks.
Madeira cake
Butterscotch tablets, more of a sugar making thing than a baking thing but the husband is running out and I can't be bothered with a trip to Newcastle at the minute for more. Don't ask me why we'd need to Newcastle, but he's convinced that they're better than the ones in other shops.

To buy or not to buy...

Its a bloody good question, isn't it?

Let me start of by explaining that five or so years ago, I was the poster child for consumerism. I had a good job, I earned more than my friends and was perfectly happy to throw that money around. If I saw something I liked and wanted, then I had it. Whether I needed or could afford it didn't even factor into the decision.

Credit card companies loved me. I never carried cash and plastic was simply an extension of my right arm. It was always there, simple, quick and painless. I never paid off the balance every month, I never checked rates or anything else with other companies. I was just merrily cruising through life.

And then I got in trouble, but then you saw that coming didn't you? Anyone living a lifestyle like mine is bound to get in the shit at some stage. I was in debt to my eyeballs and couldn't afford to pay the bills.

Worse than that, I had a house filled with everything I'd ever wanted and I couldn't enjoy a single item. When I left the house in the morning and lifted my Folli Folli (handstitched for a single perfect piece of leather) handbag, instead of admiring it and loving it like I had when I bought it, all I could see was "three more payments" floating before my eyes. Nothing was truly mine, I can honestly say there were only a handful of things in my home which I truly owned outright.

After that hard time I lived a hard line frugal lifestyle. Only the very basic necessities were purchased and every last penny I earned went to paying off debt. There were no new clothes bought, no work beyond necessary upkeep was carried out to the house. No treats, no nice things, zip. I sold almost everything I had spent the last few years buying to pay down the debt.

I finally got clear.

And I realised something important. I didn't miss any of things I had sold, which was about 90% of what I owned.

What I did enjoy was the space and to be able to see the few remaining things, which I hadn't the heart to part with, properly for the first in a long time. That and sleeping soundly at night, I really enjoyed that.

So after all this, do I think that buying things "just because" is a bad thing?

No, not really.

My frugal ways over the last few years were born from necessity and served a very real purchase. A lot of my habits still remain though. I still cook from scratch. I grow as many vegetables and fruit in my little garden as possible. I buy second hand, reuse and repurpose as often as humanly possible. In saying that though I no longer buy 20lbs of beef or chicken, bring it home and cook it into meals before freeze them all for later just because the meat was on offer. Because let me tell you, those meals may still be perfectly ok to eat in three or even six months time, but they do not taste great. I prefer fresh and if I'm clever about it, fresh can still be inexpensive and almost nothing goes to waste.

I have plans to start decorating my home over the next while. It may take a few months, it may take a year I still don't know, but I have come to the realisation after having a home filled with crap, that I'd like to make as many of things I surround myself with as possible.

I can't make everything, I know that. It just isn't physically possible to have the time and the knowledge to make everything I would like ow need in my home, but I will make the window coverings and cushions. I'll have a go at my first ever quilt, a knitted scene on one side and patchwork on the other, for Toots. I'll make rugs for my bathrooms and artwork for my walls. I use a lot of what I already own in my own home. Anything I decide has served its purpose for me will be listed in Freecycle or donated to charity.

What I have decided is that from now on, there will be no more tat or rubbish bargains crossing my doorstep. No more crap I've bought just because it was a bargain.

Instead, if I can't make what I want, then I'll have someone else do it for me. If I need new crockery I'll go and see them and if I need a new vase I'll ask her.

My point is that from now on I only want to spend my hard earned cash on things I love and things I need, things I'll enjoy making myself and things that someone else enjoyed making for me.

Silver Linings

In less than four teeny tiny months Toots will start school. Not nursery or daycare or preschool or prep classes, but real live, can't say "screw this" and go home when you feel like it, school.

To say that I'm panicking would be a bit of an understatement. We're still working on a few issues which really need to be resolved before she starts.

She occasionally still takes a hell of a long time to finish a meal. Now that won't be a problem until November because she won't stay in school for lunch until after Halloween, but even so visions of my little girl sitting at a table still nibbling at her food while the other kids play outside having finished their feed ages ago doesn't leave me feeling like a happy chappy.

Nine times out of ten, she'll go the bathroom by herself and wash her hands when she's done without any involvement on my part, but sometimes, not often but sometimes she will still ask me to come with her. This tends to be when she wears tights, but bear in mind that she'll be starting school right before tights wearing weather kicks in so we can't avoid that. There will be someone available to take her to the bathroom in school and to help the kids redress if necessary, but my concern is that she won't be happy with someone she doesn't know doing this to begin with and it'll make her feel uncomfortable about using the bathroom in school.

And of course she still has a few days when she prefers to be in charge. I've spent the last few months explaining that she needs to do what the teacher tells her and be polite and respectful, raising her hand before asking a question.

With a daughter who knows her own mind and is more than happy to voice her own opinion, I live in fear of the "child led learning" currently being tested in some schools on the mainland. Basically what that means is that if Billy wants to play by himself in the corner instead of taking part in whatever class activity is going on around him then under no circumstances is the teacher permitted to try and coerce or entice Billy to take part. He would basically be left to his own devices.

Thanks very much to whatever genius brain dead moron came up with that idea.

Still there is one silver lining to all of this. I know it may not be the most important thing in the world to everyone, but it is quite high up on my list.

We paid a visit to her old daycare on Wednesday to see some of her friends. As soon as we walked into the room, two of her friends ran at her from the other side of the room screaming incoherently. When we eventually got the kids to settle down we worked out that they were trying to tell Toots that they would be going to school with her.

I was over the moon. It turns out all in told six kids she went to daycare with, will also be attending the same school.

Toots is very social and it puts my mind at rest somewhat knowing that she will have friends around her which she knows from day one. I know she will make new friends after a day or two (that kid could make friends in an empty room), but I just feel a bit better now.

I think that having her friends around her will sort out the meal time problem. Toots is a very social eater and always did eat a lot better in the company of kids her own age.

The next hurdle will be buying her school uniform and then convincing her to wear it.

I love a challenge.

Got Gremlins? Want Mine?

So much for having a quiet couple of days.

I woke this morning just before 6am. Flo's here which probably goes someway to explaining the bad week or so I've been having. I came downstairs, loaded up on paracodol and coffee and settled myself down for a quiet hour at the laptop before Toots woke up.

I pushed the button and ... zip, nada, nothing dead.

screaming quietly on the inside, screaming quietly on the inside

As per my normal reaction to broken electrics (and don't laugh because 9 times out of 10 it works), it went outside, chained smoked for a few minutes, came back in had another coffee and returned to the laptop, greeting it as though the for first time that morning and pushed the button.

Still nothing.

Obviously I eventually got it working again, after a certain amount of crying and begging and swearing. It turns out the battery has taken a sulk because I always work of the mains and decided that a heart attack was just what I needed this morning.

And this after I signed up for Yahoo Messenger last night. The husband has had problems getting Google Talk to work on his Blackberry and this should have been a nice, simple and free way to keep in touch during the day if need be.

But then Yahoo, having no concept of the word "No", proceeded to RAPE by laptop. Yes Yahoo, more like Yee-frigging-Haa as you jumped on board and molested my poor little baby.

Would like Yahoo as you home page? No. Here have it anyway.

Would you like a Yahoo toolbar? No, thank you. Sure go on, you'll love it.

Would you like us to fill your desktop with crappy childish emoticons. I'm not 13, so NO. Here, have them, who doesn't love a smiley face or six.

Well, Yahoo if you're listening. Twenty minutes it took to download all of your spammer crap, but it took me less than ten to delete it all again. Suck it.

Then the mediaplayer died. It still isn't working, but you know how I'll be spending my day. I could cry. My entire backup is on that mediaplayer, not to mention a ton of photos of Toots along with a mountain of music and movies. If I can't get it working I'll have to dig the real live dvds out of God knows where. It will turn on, but can't seem to see it's own hard drive. I'm hoping that's a good thing and only the connection to the hard drive it buggered, but that everything is still nestled safely inside, if I can just get at it.

And it all started out so well too.

The weather's been great the last couple of days and since it's supposed to rain all weekend, Toots and I too advantage. We'll taken some walks to areas of the town she hasn't been to before. We've sat on the grass in the square, eating pokes in the sunshine. It was lovely.

My creativity seems to have reared its head too and I've had some ideas for things to make, for the shop and for my own home, but they'll linger on the back burner until I get everything in the house fixed.

Oh and the washing machine needs to be looked at too. Its getting very close to dandering around the kitchen during the spin cycle.

We have a little friend staying too.

I'm starting to think a huge cosmic joke is being played on me.

We've been considering getting a dog for the last couple of weeks and had finally settled on a firm "yes", when Cat showed up. He's been here for about four days now.

Just to clarify. Its not that I have anything at all against cats, its just that I've never met one who liked me. I've came away from a few feline introductions over the years with a battle scar or two.

I'm assuming this little guy has been starved for attention, because I seem to be his favourite. He curls up beside when I'm outside and loves being scratched on the very top of his head.

Still, its obvious that he's a house cat. He's immaculate and looks to be well looked after so somebody must be missing him.

We're off out this morning to put up a few posters and hope for the best. It isn't entirely obvious from the photo, but he only has one eye which should make him easy enough to identify to his owners.

In the meantime, I'll keep him safe, warm and fed.

Life Truths

As long as you try not to look like a sweaty raving lunatic thundering across the park like a mule weighed down by coats, camera, bags and toys, your kids will always be able to run faster than you.

If you need to take a photo of yourself for whatever reason do it late at night in the bathroom, because when its late and nobody is around to prove it, you look awesome.

Kids think that stomping around the house saying "tip toe, tip toe" in a not at all whispery stage whisper is the same thing as being quiet.

Kids don't "get" the same Dreamworks and Pixar jokes that you do. Don't laugh or you'll spend the rest of the movie trying to sidestep an explanation.

Crumbs breed. I vacuum this house every single day and every single morning it looks like a bag of Tayto Cheese and Onion and a particularly crusty baguette have had an orgy in the middle of the living room floor.

You will always lose more arguments than you win. If you win more than you lose, chances are you've been arguing with yourself.

Women will always have the last word in any argument. Anything said after a woman has had the last word is just the start of an entirely different argument.

Never get into an argument with another parent over kids. Both of you will wind up feeling like complete prats at the school pick up long after your kids have beaten the crap out of each and declared themselves Bestest Friends again.

Kids are like carrier pigeons. Never bitch about another adult within each shot of your kids.

Once you have kids, very few of your "Life Truths" have anything to do with anything but kids.

Menu Plan - 11/5 to 17/5

I'm not really feeling the whole "menu plan" thing tonight, but I'll throw something together that I have the ingredients for and try my best to stick with it.


Shredded Szechuan chicken with egg noodles and sliced vegetables. The chicken is already cooked so this will be really quick to throw together.


Vegetable lasagna. I have a load of tomatoes, some yellow courgettes and aubergine, plus some dried pasta sheets in the larder.


I'll make the husband sweet and sour chicken with white rice. Toots will be at Nana's house and personally I can't stand sweet and sour so I'll have a salad.


I'll make a pot of soup using any leftover chicken and vegetables and I'll throw in some noodles, pasta or barley.


Gammon steaks with parsley sauce, baby potatoes and steamed green beans.


I want to clean a few things out of the freezer so I'll make a bitsy dinner tonight. There are some mini sausage rolls, cocktail sausages and a few other things in there taking up space.


I quite fancy a barbecue so I bought some minced beef and minced lamb on Saturday and made up some burgers and kofta before freezing them. Friday and Saturday look to be the best days weather wise this week so I'll just judge it and lift them out in the morning. I can always bump a meal to later in the week.


Baked cod topped with red pesto and Parmesan and some mashed white beans.


I'm feeling a bit baked out at the minute. I made a loaf of raisin bread today, along with a chocolate and vanilla marble cake. Also I made a rhubarb crumble on Saturday so I'll stick to a couple of loaves of bread this week and I'll fill the cookie jar.

If I have the time I'd like to make some lacy ginger snap biscuits and work on my speed at making ginger snap baskets. I just means getting the biscuits out of the oven and forming them over the base of a glass jar when they're still hot and soft. They harden very quickly and at the minute I can only manage them if I have four per cookie sheet which is a bit time consuming. The bought ones taste like cardboard whereas homemade ones are delicious, lovely and light and crisp with a scoop of the vanilla ice cream I made last week and a handful of frozen raspberries snuggled underneath. Nummy.

I'm feeling a bit better at the thought of that already.

A bad week

I've been a bit depressed this last week. Well maybe depressed isn't the right word, I've been a bit down in the dumps and completely unmotivated.

I was grateful for the menu plan last week, because in all honesty if I didn't have it I would have fed everyone cereal and toast for each meal.

I can't seem to get in the mind frame to do anything properly.

I haven't made anything in almost a week now. I've started things and spent some time doodling ideas but at the end of the day I decide that either everything is crap or just not worth the effort.

I've painted my nails and bought a few colour samples to start redecorating the house (which is very daunting at the minute), but still I just can't seem to shake off whatever feeling it is that has taken hold of me. Its kind of a "why bother" sort of feeling.

I even tried to make Toots a cutesy little snack lunch today simply for the sake of doing something creative;

Let me tell you, having a four year old look at you like you've grown horns and are more than a little pathetic really feels like rock bottom. She didn't open her mouth, she just looked at the plate and then looked at me as though saying "Who are you trying to kid. You don't even do cutesy food when you're in a paint flicking mood".

In all fairness to her she's completely right. I've never been a big fan of the whole Annabel Karmel thing. If that woman's perfectly contend to prepare one meal for herself and then an entirely separate for her kids then more power to her, but I've an inkling that when those kids step out into the real world and sit down to a school lunch, they're in for one hell of a surprise. And not the good kind of surprise either. Besides, I think Toots might have read Kitchen Confidential on the sly because if I go to the bother of trying to make food all pretty and cutesy she's convinced that I'm trying to trick her into eating something that actually tastes disgusting.

I'm more of the "social eating" school of thinking, i.e. the family sitting down together to eat exactly the same thing as each other, and enjoy the meal and have a chat. Thankfully, it seems Toots agrees.

I haven't really slept properly in what seems like months, although changing our diet in the last week does seem to have helped somewhat. I thought that I had been doing a fairly good job of hiding my utter exhaustion, but it seems not when you consider the fact that on both Saturday morning and this morning, Toots woke at 7am and then went downstairs and made breakfast by herself. Her excuse was that "you needed a lie in, mummy".

I love that kid, and she's about the only reason I have for wanting to pull myself out of this mood.

Perhaps its been the weather here, lately its been so changeable and makes it virtually impossible to plan anything and I'm nothing without a plan. It could also be the thought of redecorating. I have too many ideas in my head all at once and the task seems to me to be so daunting that I just switch off from the idea.

There is a small ray of sunlight on the horizon though. Last week I posted a request for a sewing machine on my local Freecycle and within hours had received the offer of two, a Brother Zig Zag and a Crown Point.

I collected the Crown Point on Thursday evening and it is working beautifully. I contacted the owner of the Brother machine (which you'll recall needs some repairs) and told her that it seemed a little greedy of me to take two machines and that I had a good feeling that the Brother simply needed a fuse or two and a good service and would she not be happier to do this herself and keep it as a spare machine, but she told me that she was still more than happy for me to take it and it wouldn't do me any harm having a second machine and that even if it couldn't' be repaired, perhaps the feet and needles could be used with the Crown Point.

I collected the Brother on Friday evening and I'm very happy I did. I haven't had a chance to look at it properly yet, but after a good clean it really is a beautiful old machine just to look at. I think ever if I'm unsuccessful in making it work it is still a thing of real beauty and interest to have on display in a room.

Except now I'm in a complete tizz about what to make with them first.

Veering wildly to a different (but not completely unrelated) topic, I've also been offered the use of a beautiful cottage on the north coast of Ireland. The husband knows were it is and says that it will be perfect for a few days away. Now we just have to wait for Toots' holiday list to arrive from the school and we'll which days we're good to go.


I left home at 16, which probably seems quite young to a lot of people but bear in mind that was 12 whole years ago and things were a fair bit different back then, besides at 16 I just felt it was the right time to fly the coop so to speak.

I really enjoyed my time living alone. I met the husband shortly after that and it wasn't too long before we moved in together, but I really do remember my days living alone fondly.

When I think back on my life I realise that I left home so early because of my mum.

Just to clarify my mum wasn't overbearing or abusive, she didn't ignore me or my needs. In fact, she was a fantastic mum and I've never once wished that she had done anything differently when she raised us and while I did leave because of her (or maybe because of how she raised me) I certainly never left to get away from her.

My dad left when I was quite young (old enough to remember him, but still at 3, I was still young) and although he left my mum as a young single mother (20 at the time with two kids) she was by no means alone. We come from a large family and she had a great support structure during that time.

However, my brother and I were raised a little differently to other kids our age.

A bit of history might help here. My mum's mother passed away when my mum was 12 and the oldest of 6 kids, two sisters and three brothers. My uncle, Samuel, was only 3 at the time and the baby of the family. When my grandmother died, my grandfather was left to raise six kids on his own. Now we're talking over 30 years now and a lot of dads back then were not as "hands on" as dads are today, so he was pretty much chucked in at the deep end of parenthood. All of a sudden he wasn't simply the bread winner. At the time he took some leave from work to get things sorted out and quickly realised that they would never survive if he were to come out of work. The options given to him were to separate his children up amongst any willing family, go back to work and pay for their needs or the children would be taken from him for an undetermined period of time until he was able to sort out an alternative.

He refused both options, convinced that he could come up with a way to return to work and arrange care for his children. At first he tried organising for different family members and friends to look after the kids while he was at work, but after a short period of time my mum took on the role of House Mother at the age of 12. Because of the way my mum was raised by her mother she now had the idea that women took care of the men, so the three girls basically took care of the entire house, while the boys got something of an easy ride.

She doesn't remember those days fondly, but when it came to raising my brother and I the same values crept in.

I was brought up to be extremely independent, almost to a fault, whereas my brother was lifted and laid. Again to clarify, my mum openly admits that she raised us differently, partly because of the boy/girl thing and partly because I was older.

I then found myself in the same position as mum had all those year ago, except I was 8 at the time. My brother was only five and my mum had to go to work, it was as simple as that, so I was left as House Mother.

I would get myself and my brother up, dressed, fed and off to school every morning. I was a true latchkey kid, by that I mean I wen to school wearing a necklace with my front door key hanging from it and arrived home everyday with my brother to an empty house, my mum wouldn't arrive home for another two or three hours after us. We would eat, I would do my own homework and check my brother's before making dinner. In my brother's second year of primary school he joined the after school football club which left me with about 90 minutes to myself before collecting him from school and while most kids at the age of 9 would have relished the time to just do nothing instead I went and looked for a job. I managed to get a paper round close to the primary school and once I was paid I started to pay my brother pocket money to do small jobs around the house like the dishes or taking rubbish out to the bin.

Now before anyone starts to think "oh poor Leanne", I don't' remember those days being hard. I got a job of my own free will without any help or encouragement from anyone, in fact it was a month or so before I even told my mum I had it. I was always brought up to believe that helping family should always come first so everything I did just came naturally to me. I never wanted or expected any praise or thanks for doing it. It was simply something that needed to be done by someone in order for our little family to survive and it might as well have been me.

I did grow up very independent though. I insist of doing almost everything myself. Its the reason I do a lot of the repairs around the home, all the outdoor work in the gardens along with all the housework. It isn't a matter of survival anymore, but these things all still need to be done by someone and it might as well be me.

I know in my own heart (although I almost never think about it) that if for some reason Toots and I were left alone, we'd be just fine. We'd manage on our own.

Already I'm noticing these traits in Toots. She's fiercely independent for a 4 year old. Each morning she makes her own breakfast, chooses her own clothes and 9 time out of ten she keeps an ear out for her dad in the morning and makes breakfast for him too. I watch her every day, walking alone a few steps ahead of me, she refuses to hold hands, "only babies hold hands", her words not mine.

Because of the way I was raised I am very proud of her independence. I want to embrace and even encourage it.

I want her to believe that her own two feet can be the steadiest place she will ever stand and know without being told that every step she takes in life will be the right one for her as long as its her choice and she takes the step herself rather than merely following along with someone else. She can only be led astray if she allows herself to be led.

However, the husband sees my independence and to some extent her independence a little differently. He thinks that too much independence can be a bad thing and that it could effectively make the people in her life feel like she doesn't trust them enough to allow them to help or guide her.

I've tried to explain that ideally what I would like is for Toots to grow up strong and independent, to always know her own mind and feel secure enough with herself to back away from or argue down a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with being a little reliant on others occasionally and I don't think she needs to spend her life alone to be independent. I certainly don't.

So what do you think? Can too much independence be a bad thing?

Hi there.

This is the post where you stop by and say hi.

There are quite a few of you who stop by here everyday and I'd love it if you left a little comment, just to say hello.

It really isn't hard and it only takes a few seconds. Think of it as Blog Graffiti. Kind of a "Smithy woz 'ere" type of thing.

Maybe I'm nosey but it would be nice to know who I'm "talking" to.

Otherwise I'm just that sad, lonely, weirdo bending the ears off strangers on the bus.

I hardly ever do that by the way.

Blown Away

Sometimes I'm just amazed at the generosity of others.

I finally signed up for Freecycle yesterday at around lunch time. I've been meaning to do it for a while but to be honest I either kept forgetting to do or I was caught up in something else.

But there has been some chat about it over on Folksy lately so I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try.

I offered a large artist's easel which the husband made for me in another life. I'm a bit of a hobby nut so obviously a flitted through painting for a little while. I'm rubbish so the only painting I do these days is with a roller and a tin of vinyl silk.

I had a quick look through the listings and once I was sure that one wasn't already listed I placed a "want" for a sewing machine. I said that I didn't mind if it didn't work and needed repairs because I'd happily consider anything.

I'm a bit handy with electrics and I can generally fix a fair amount of small problems, however the husband is very good with electrics so I figured if I couldn't get something to work, he could and if he couldn't then it maybe wasn't something that would be economical to fix.

Anyway, I placed the listing at lunch times yesterday and before the husband even arrived home from work I had a local artist lined up to collect the easel tonight and before I went to bed a lovely woman contacted me to offer her Singer sewing machine. She said that it had served her well for years, but she went to use the machine it "popped" so she packed it up with the intention of having it looked at and her daughter went out and bout her a new one.

"Popping" electrics is usually a good thing, best case scenario the machine has a blown fuse, worst case scenario is that some other part of the machine has shorted out causing the fuse to blow but either way it'll be a quick job to check and see which it is and then decide if the later is true whether it's worth having it fixed.

So fingers crossed I should soon have a functioning sewing machine.

If you don't already use Freecycle, you should definitely consider it. Bear in mind that we have big stores here now apparently dedicated to keeping serviceable and useful items out of landfill, however those stores scavenge their stock from local charity shops for pennies and in some cases even landfill. The items are cleaned up, a sometimes hefty price tag is slapped on and the owner makes a huge profit. Wouldn't you rather see the things you no longer need go to a good home with someone who genuinely needs it but maybe can't afford to pay those hefty prices.

And a lot of the time it can even be beneficial to you to list certain things. Someone mentioned on Folksy that she listed a quantity of flag stones from her garden to see if anyone was interested. Someone replied and then arranged to call at her house, lift the flag stones and take them away. The way they saw it, it was a bit of hard work for free flag stones which they needed and she was happy too because she didn't have to lift the heavy flags by herself and then pay her local Council to take them away for her.

Give it a go, there are local groups now all over the UK and Ireland, you might to find exactly what you're after or at the very least make a bit of extra room on the garage.

WFMW - Frugal Tips

I'm just back from the dentist. Thankfully all the work is finished now because I feel like an elephant has jumped all over my face.

It'll be fin later once the numbness wears off but for the minute it feels like both my cheeks are really swollen and I imagine I look like Pob or Buzz Lightyear.

I can't complain really. All in told I've had about £2,000 worth or work done completely free of charge, yet another benefit of being a SAHM.

Anyway, today's Works for me Wednesday is a themed edition. Best frugal tip.

I've loads, most of which I do now out of habit so when I'm asked what I do to save money usually my mind goes completely blank.

Still I'm sure I can manage a few.


Buy second hand clothes where possible. Kids grow so quickly that it would surprise you just how many brand new clothes, still with the labels attached or worn but in perfect condition clothes you will find in your local charity shops. Also consider buying in advance, if you spot a beautiful winter coat that won't fit them until next year, buts it an absolute bargain, buy it and store it.

If your own kid's clothes are in less than wearable condition when they're finished with them because of rips or tears or whatever, salvage the buttons and any cute patches or appliques before using the remaining cloth as rags or cleaning clothes. Kids are forever losing buttons off clothes and quite a lot of the time you can replace it with one from your stash or cover a little worn patch or hole in the knee of their jeans with one of those little appliques.

Limit day trips for little ones to free places such as the beach or forest, some museums also have "free" days (but please do leave a small donation) and pack a lunch from home when you're going on any trips out with the kids. Have you seen how excited a four year can get when allowed to play with your wooden spoons. They don't need all that paid for entertainment, besides an over stimulated child is a miserable child come bed time.

Learn to knit and pick up a few basic sewing skills and you'll be able to alter your kid's clothes to get an extra season out of them. Trousers getting a little short in the leg but still plenty of room in the waist, turn them into a skirt or shorts. And how many pairs of mittens, scarves and hats does your child lose throughout the course of a school year? These are all very simple things to knit which you can work on in your spare moments (?) so that you have a stash ready for emergencies.


Make your own household cleaners using bicarb, vinegar, lemon juice and salt. I usually just add a couple of tablespoons of cheap dish soap and roughly the same amount of vinegar to a large spray bottle and fill with water. It hasn't failed me yet. But do bear in mind that buying a huge bag of lemons out of season to clean your home isn't frugal, its green but it ain't frugal.

One of the higher ups at Barclay's Bank was once quoted as saying that he would never consider having a Barclay card because of the high charges. Now that guy was being very well paid by Barclay's and if he isn't brand loyal why should you be. Shop around, make sure you're getting the best deal and on larger items always ask for a discount, especially if you plan on paying cash. Everybody gets this idea that haggling is limited to market stalls but I don't think I've ever paid full price for anything and I've saved a hell of a lot over the years. £100 off our bed, £310 off our kitchen appliances isn't anything to be sniffed at.


If you happen to have the freezer space, bulk buy when the opportunity comes up. Throw a few £££ aside somewhere when you have it so that when you spot a good offer on meat or berries who can stock up without putting a dent in that week's budget.

Learn to make jams, chutneys and relish so that you can take advantage of a glut of produce such as strawberries, raspberries or tomatoes to name a few. Also if you happen to have a "pick you own" farm close buy pack the kids up and head out. You'll get a cheap day out in the sunshine, the kids will fill their bellies with good things and learn where food comes from and at the end of the day you'll have a mountain of lovely fresh fruit and veg to take home.

Use dried beans instead of the more expensive tinned variety. Yes they're more convenient in tins, but they tend to have virtually no texture left whatsoever. Take a bit of time at the weekend and boil up a huge pot of dried beans, whichever ones you tend to use the most often, once they're cooked rinse with plenty of cold water from the tap and then divide into sandwich bags and freeze for later use. You can even use them straight from the freezer, just allow ten or so minutes extra cooking time and you can do the same thing with rice for quicker meals, just very slightly under cook the rice, separate into bags, add a tablespoon or two of water to each bag and freeze. when you need them just open a corner of the ziplock bag and microwave from frozen for 2 or 3 minutes for perfect fluffy rice every time.

Bake your own bread. There really isn't anything to learn, bread is one of the easiest things in the world to make. Even a bad loaf can be whizzed in the processor and kept for breadcrumbs.

Why I'm STILL awake

It's actually the next day now, but last night, or this morning even, I was still awake at 4am.

I'll never understand or get to grips with my body clock, really I won't.

While I find it difficult to find the motivation during the day to finish tasks, I'll get a sudden burst of burst of energy around midnight and start to sew. Luckily I hand sew everything or the whole house would be awake with me.

It doesn't help matters that the husband mentioned a few days ago about us really knuckling down and starting to redecorate the house, so now my mind is in a spin thinking of all the lovely things I want to do with this room and that. I have my knickers in a complete twist over the child's room. I just can't wait to get started.

I worry about bills and money and appointments and letters I need to send, letters I'm expecting, the usual really but then who doesn't worry a bit about those things.

I worry about Toots starting school in four short months and I wonder if she's ready, sometimes she seems so small.

I worry about family, for no particular reason at all.

I think about the dozens of unfinished projects littering my home and whether I'll ever manage to finish them.

I worry about the husband heading out to work on these damp dreary mornings while Toots and I get to stay at home.

I spend far too much time worrying and not enough time doing.

And while Toots has just nodded off for a little nap after a particularly long morning walk and a lovely big lunch, I could be doing any one of a hundred things.

But what I really want is a nap. Forty winks with a blanket snuggled up under my chin, but if I do that, I'll be able to write to exact post again tomorrow. Only with a lot more spelling mistakes and possibly a big line of j;avmichnlihghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that I somehow didn't manage before scraping my face of the keyboard and hitting publish:)

Sleep tight everyone.

Menu Plan - 4/5 to 10/5

Last week was a very busy week around here and by Friday I was feeling a bit frazzled and run down.

We spent the weekend just relaxing and getting a few bits and pieces done and dusted around the house. The weather wasn't great for days out any how.

I'm trying to keep it simple this week and I'm also trying to squeeze in as much fish and vegetables as possible and cutting back on the red meat. I think it might help the sluggishness (so not a word) we've been felling lately. I've noticed that I feel a bit tired and over extended in the afternoons and the husband mentioned over the weekend that he had felt the same recently.

Monday The husband was off work today for the bank holiday and because of that we were a bit out of sorts meals and time wise. Basically we grazed all day, little meals, mostly a sandwich here a piece of fruit there, but I will admit I do feel a bit better for it.

Tuesday Prawn and vegetable stir fry with some chow mien noodles. I managed to fit in my trip to the Asian supermarket over the weekend and my fridge is jam packed with tons of lovely fresh vegetables. I'll make some extra vegetables for tomorrow.

Wednesday Minced chicken with vegetable (leftover stir fry) spring rolls, a side salad and a soy, garlic and ginger dip (more of a dressing really but its great for dipping spring rolls).

Thursday Tagliatelle and carbonara. I haven't made this from scratch in a long time and it took me ages to get it right in the first place so I don't want to loose the knack.

Friday Pizza, except the usual salami and pepperoni for toots and I and spicy chicken for the hubs will be replaced with garlic infused olive oil drizzled over the pizza dough, topped with fresh de-seeded crushed tomatoes, mozzarella and spinach.

Saturday I'll make a big pot of vegetable and barley soup (I'll use bok choi instead of some of the more traditional greens in the soup) and then we can just cruise back and forward from the pot throughout the day.

Sunday Roast chicken, steamed vegetables and roasted parsnips in place of potatoes.


I made a simple snacking cake today which was just one layer of basic sponge cake baked in a square pan, I topped it with a then layer of raspberry jam and sprinkled shredded coconut over the top before cutting it into squares. It'll be handy for the husband's lunches.

Scones again of some description, they're my "go to" through the week when I'm running low on energy.

French toast. Not really baking I know but I found that toots likes to have a stash in the freezer that she can make herself when she feels like a snack. I just make a stack of french toast (I'm a heavy on the egg, light on the milk and sugar girl myself), cool it, cut it into fingers and freeze it flat on a cookie sheet before dumping the whole lot in a zip lock, then Toots can just grab a slice and stick it in the toaster when need be. I'm trying to let her be in control of when she snacks, while I'm in control of what she snacks on. And if anything, she seems to be eating larger quantities at meal times.

A little bit of time....

Have you ever played balloon chicken with a four year old?

Where you blow up a balloon, hold it between yours and the four year old's forehead and then you both press against it until it either bursts or one of you chicken out.


Nah, me neither.

Perhaps a weekend off is in order.

I'll be back again on Monday.

See you then.