A friend asked me this week what my dream job would be, if children weren’t a consideration.

I found that pretty hard to answer, as I can’t remember a time when children haven’t been a consideration, and I’ve no idea what that would feel like. I already had one by the time I was 17, so I never experienced the luxury of being able to legally drink and drive (not together of course) without a child in tow.

If I didn’t have children, what would I do? Would I make the most of my freedom, skipping happily from the theatre to the gym, filling my days with fulfilling work and wholesome voluntary activities? Or would I be swaying from one cocktail bar to the next, an inappropriately young man on each arm?

Probably neither. If I didn’t have children I imagine I would spend quite a lot of my time loafing about at home on my own, watching re-runs of Sex and the City and imagining everyone else was out doing something terribly sophisticated, like having drinks and chatting about literature with Stephen Fry. Which is how I pass many an evening already really.

So what about as a child, before parenthood was even conceivable – what did I imagine my adult life would be like then? I gave the question some serious thought. I actually have a very poor long-term memory. Goodness knows what happened to me as a child, but whatever it was has been successfully blocked out. Most of my childhood memories come via my sister, who even at four years younger than me seems to have a much clearer picture.

I do have an image in my head that has stuck with me though, from a time when I must have been imagining life as a grown up. It is a really only a flash, and is basically me dressed in a lovely suit and high heels, letting myself into an elegant, tidy and sparsely furnished flat. That’s it, but the sense I get from it is that I am just getting home from a long day in some kind of stressful but rewarding office based job, and am looking forward to kicking off my heels and relaxing with a nice hot bath.

All in all, not very helpful in terms of career planning. The opportunity to wear a nice pencil skirt and a good pair of shoes is clearly important though, which makes me question my current work at home status. Much of my time is spent in trousers with elasticated waists and I barely leave the house, let alone let myself back in with a sense of exhausted satisfaction.

Obviously I like writing, which is lucky, given my line of work, but I do miss the social interaction. Half the fun of work for me is striking up some kind of inappropriate relationship with a colleague, and skiving off to look at facebook or send personal emails doesn’t give the same sense of wicked pleasure when you work for yourself.

In the back of my head I nurture a dream of being offered my own column in the Guardian weekend magazine, one I’m sure is shared by one or two others, but I have learnt in the last year that work to me is about more than just the job you do. It is about the company you work for, the people you work with and the person you become once you get into that pencil skirt.

As much as I love the flexibility that working from home gives me, I miss the banter, the camaraderie, and the reason to get dressed in the morning. So maybe I’ll stick with my journalistic dreams, but I need them to involve an office. An office with lots of other interesting people in it. And maybe an on site cocktail bar and a view over Manhattan.

Hang on, my secretary has a call waiting. It’s Stephen – he has a new book he’d like to discuss over lunch. Sorry – must dash…

Photo credits: Markusram and Alpha de Centaure

Like most women, I am a sucker for lotions and potions, so when a lovely lady from AVEENO® offered me some samples of their skincare range to try out I leapt at the chance. Free potions delivered to your door in an exciting parcel – what’s not to love?

I am cynical enough not to fall for most of the anti-aging propoganda that typifies the beauty market. I don’t believe for a minute that the latest pore-defining-pro-retinal-q10-derma-peptide face cream will transform my face into that of a 19-year-old swedish model, but I do love the idea that one little bottle or jar of cream has the potential to have some kind of life changing, age defying effect. I love the sense of promise and hope that you are effectively buying.

AVEENO® though aren’t claiming to turn back time, they are simply offering a range of natural and effective moisturisers, designed especially for women with dry skin. Now I do love a good moisturiser, especially at this time of the year when cold winds and central heating have combined to give me skin the texture of sandpaper.

I consider it a personal quest to find the moisturiser that will make my skin silky smooth and leave me smelling like I’ve been bathing in exotic perfumes in the middle of an orchard, overhung with boughs of ripe fruits, honeysuckle and jasmine. Not too much to ask I’m sure you’ll agree.

So with unrealistically high expectations I begin to smother myself daily with AVEENO®’s Moisturising Creamy Oil. It does sound promising doesn’t it? And actually it’s pretty good. It isn’t sticky, and it does leave my skin feeling soft. I particularly like the smell – it smells like I’m smearing myself in melted chocolate orange, which has to be a good thing.

I wish I could say the same about the hand cream scent wise, because it really is a great hand cream. I have a bit of trouble with hand cream normally, as I seem to have developed a habit of putting it on just before I am about to do something with my hands, like make a sandwich. AVEENO®’s hand cream does just what it promises though and absorbs quickly, leaving my hands able to butter bread and manhandle the cheese without getting it too sticky.

The down side is that the ‘unscented’ hand cream smells a bit like an old people’s home – that sort of sterile, overcooked veg, soiled trousers smell. It’s only very faint, and I do have a ridiculously perceptive sense of smell, but it is a bit of a shame. That said, I liked it despite the vague aroma of octogenarians, and would probably buy it again.

You may also want to check out the AVEENO® Discoverer programme, where you can sign up to a special website to become an AVEENO® Discoverer, recommend products to friends and relatives, as well as receive news and samples.

WARNING: This post in very uncool. If you are likely to be offended by the pleading of an angst ridden blogger, please look away now.

The world of mummy and daddy blogging has been buzzing this week following the launch of the new MAD blogging awards, aimed at celebrating the best UK parent blogs. There are several different categories and in most cases the winners are chosen by the public vote – the more nominations therefore the better.

Now there have been some people claiming that they don’t mind whether or not they get nominated, that perhaps having awards at all flies in the face of the ‘spirit of blogging’, but I must admit I’m not convinced . Maybe it isn’t the cool thing to admit, but I do care. I care if people like my blog. I’ve only been blogging a few months, but already I feel part of an amazing community, and other people’s opinions matter to me. Every positive comment I get makes me smile, I obsessively check my stats, and I am hugely grateful for every person that reads my outpourings.

There. I said it.

Maybe there are people who genuinely don’t care if one or one hundred people read their posts, but if I didn’t care I would just scribble my thoughts in a notebook and hide them under my mattress, like I do with my more private ramblings. (Note to Bee – don’t actually go and look under my mattress, it is a metaphorical mattress). I blog because I want other people to read what I have to say. I want to make people laugh, I want to strike a chord, touch a nerve, make people think. I want people to LIKE ME damn it.

So, with my fragile ego in mind, if you enjoy my blog then please nominate me! It will make me happy.  Thank you.

*picks self up off knees and looks sheepish*

It starts innocently enough. A thought pops into my head as a clean my teeth. “Oooh, I must make those dental check up appointments!”

This thought occurs to me every time I brush my teeth, but unfortunately my dental hygiene regime does not coincide with the dentist’s opening hours, so we are now two months behind. So this morning I decide to act on my thoughts, and set myself a reminder on my Blackberry. And so it begins…

I open the calendar and see all the other things that need doing tomorrow. I feel my pulse quicken ever so slightly. I hastily exit the calendar, and see I have had one text messages and 27 emails overnight. How has this happened? My pulse quickens a fraction more and I feel a funny tingling in my shoulders. I stretch them back, trying to nip the panic in the bud, but it spreads up the back of my neck and I feel my brain start to buzz.

I read the text message, but before I can reply my overactive brain has switched to the emails. Most of them aren’t important. I don’t think so anyway, but maybe I should check just in case, just in case today is the day I miss something crucial.

Lots of them are work related. It’s Sunday, but I know if I don’t look at them now it just means more to do on Monday, so I really should read and reply to some of them. My shoulders are creeping up towards my ears now. I’m replying to emails, when really I should be relaxing and reading the paper I bought yesterday. Why can’t I even manage to read a paper on the right day?

I wish I’d never cleaned my teeth. Maybe if I had just stayed in bed with the duvet up over my head I could have kept my mind blissfully blank.

The emails begin a torrent of other intrusive thoughts. I feel like a tower of glasses where you pour champagne in at the top and before you know it you have a waterfall of disconnected plans and tasks and Jobs That Must Be Done. And of course you never end up doing any of them, because you don’t know where to start, and if you tug too hard on the wrong bit the whole lot will come crashing down. And then where will you be? Just sat in a soggy pile of broken thoughts, dreams and to do lists.

I am standing in the middle of my bedroom, Blackberry in hand, eyes darting, fingers twitching. I begin to reply to the text message, but am distracted by the dirty clothes all over the floor. I must get some washing on, or we won’t have clean school uniforms tomorrow. Oh God, I should go to Sainsbury’s today too, or Belle will end up with one of the eccentric lunches I make when I have forgotten to buy real food – left over naan bread, some old ritz crackers, a pot of past-their-best raisins as a nod to her five a day.

I put on some washing, but standing in the kitchen I see dishes that need doing and a floor that needs sweeping. There are crumbs everywhere. I feel hungry. Maybe I should make breakfast. Where even are my children? I really must find them, unplug them, and spend some quality time with them. As soon as I’ve washed up. I stand at the sink and look out into the garden at pots of dead plants. I really should clear that up. But first I must write a blog post. And I must start researching the features I have waiting for me. If I don’t go on twitter I’m bound to miss out on something.

The red light flashes on my phone. I think I’ll just go back to bed.

Photo credit: Still Thinking

Yesterday afternoon was one of those lovely afternoons where you get engrossed in an activity and look up to find it has got dark.

Belle was at her Dad’s, and Bee came home from school to find me having a little lie down in bed, as you do, in preparation for having to stay up past 10pm later that evening. She came and sat in bed with me and decided she wanted to get herself some moo cards and stickers. If you haven’t come across these before you should really have a look – they are mini business cards you can personalise with up to 100 of your own photos on the back, so every card has a unique design.

Anyway, I digress.

I had recently uploaded all the old photos from our wind up, clockwork computer, onto an external hard drive, so we wouldn’t have to wait three days for every new picture to load, whilst listening to the tower whirr and grind like an old fashioned windmill. Blimey, am I really talking about hard drives? Gosh, this is a terribly dull post. Basically, the point is that we ended up spending a lovely two and a half hours looking through all our old photos and gasping over how tanned and plump and glossy we all looked. Look at these chubby cheeks:

I love this one too at the donkey sanctuary. Belle has such a serious expression on her face, as though she is presenting a Open University programme on donkeys:

Now last year, as part of a competition with my pregnant sister whereby I had to weigh less than she did at nine months pregnant (she is very thin, honest), I lost about 20lbs. At the time I was thrilled, but looking back I’m not so sure it has done me any favours. I certainly don’t generally feel happier because of it. Looking back I can’t help but feel that actually I looked pretty good with a bit of extra weight. Sort of fuller and rounder, and younger too. I don’t know. Like this one of me and Bee at a festival in summer 2008. Look at that cleavage!

I look at the three of us now, and I worry that we have lost our shine. We all look a bit pasty and tired. Our skin doesn’t glow like it did. I know it’s winter, and I’m sure we’ll all look much better in a few months time, but I do wonder if we should more often look back through at pictures of ourselves and pay more attention to our exteriors, as a way of looking at our interiors. It was obvious from the photos over the years when we were going through happy periods, like here:

You can also see when times were perhaps tougher. Yet it is so easy to ignore these obvious outward signs, albeit unintentionally. I’m not saying we’re having an awful time or anything, but I think it would be fair to say the last six to twelve months have been hard work, with lots of changes, and that this is starting to show.

So my plan for the next six months is to feed us up, get us out in the sunshine and shake off the cobwebs. By the end of the summer I want us all to have shiny coats, waggy tails and wet noses. Hoorah! Now where did I put that Dairy Milk