I love Christmas.

There. I said it.

I’m not ashamed to be one of the people who gets excited hearing Slade played in shops in November. It makes me happy.

It’s not the actual day so much, which tends to be a bit of an anti-climax, dominated by that slightly over-full-probably-shouldn’t-have-had-bucksfizz-for-breakfast feeling, it’s the build up I love. And the longer the better in my opinion. The smell of a Christmas tree in the morning, choosing presents, eating mince pies and brandy butter for breakfast. It’s all good.

To try and get even the scroogiest of readers into the Christmas spirit, I’m giving you the chance to win £100 to spend on presents in the Tesco Christmas Gift Guide. One hundred whole quid. That’s not too shoddy is it? View Post

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Chickenpox is one of those illnesses that as parents, we actively want our children to get. Allegedly to try and protect them from having a more serious reaction when they are older, and not just because we want them to be all listless and lie quietly somewhere.

Many of my friends got terribly excited when their kids were small if they heard of anyone with the pox, and would take their own healthy offspring round to ‘play’. I say play, but mainly it revolved around plenty of coughing, sneezing, and generally rubbing the children up against each other as much as possible.

In this UK we don’t vaccinate against chickenpox, but in the US they do, and parents worried about their children’s reactions to the vaccinations are adopting more extreme, alternative methods.

Like sending licked lollipops through the post.

I mean seriously, I know Americans have a bit of a reputation for not always being the sharpest tools in the box, but come on – licked lollipops? For a start, chickenpox is mainly an airborne virus, but even if it wasn’t, it’s just a bit gross isn’t it? Who wants to lick a second-hand lollipop that’s been through the postal system?

Weird.

Perhaps it will catch on in this country as a way to get out of school or boring meetings at work.

Don’t fancy going in today but don’t like that awkward phoning in and trying to make yourself sound ill? Simple, just go online and order yourself a half eaten sandwich from someone with D&V, or a partially nibbled Snickers from a leper.

I think I see a gap in the market. Dial-a-disease. You heard it here first.

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In my head, on the page, my story is real.

I am in the story, I can feel the characters’ breath on my neck. I sigh when they sigh, I see what they see. It is a work of genius. I sit upright. I’m smiling.

Read out loud to the group though my words become clumsy and uninspiring. Moments of intense pain sound hollow and cliché. The more I read the more foolish I feel for the smile I had on my face, the enthusiasm I had when I offered to read. My voice stumbles, I can’t catch my breath, I twist the ring on my left hand frantically.

When I’m done, people say kind things. But then they would wouldn’t they? I interpret the silences as awkward pauses, where no one can thing of anything good to say, so they decide not to say anything at all. I slump back in my chair, fold my arms across my chest and vow not to volunteer for the next reading. View Post

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This week I’ve been having a lot of fun designing colourful spreadsheets and creating calendars of work for the coming year.

I like this kind of planning. I think partly it’s just a complicated, technology based form of procrastination, but it also makes me feel more in control of work, and gives me the confidence to feel I can legitimately claim to be knowing what I’m doing.

Outside of work though, I find planning very difficult, whether it be the ‘what shall I take out of the freezer for dinner tonight’ type planning, or something a little more long-term. I just can’t help but think ‘How do I know?’ View Post

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“Only boring people get bored,” my Gran used to tell me.

This is now my stock response to Belle whenever the TV gets switched off.

“What am I supposed to do NOW?!” she wails, as though we don’t have a house full of Sylvanian Families, novelty stationery sets and ‘decorate your own fairy mirror’ kits.

“I’m sure you’ll find something,” I say. View Post

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Well, given that it turns out the hand sniffing was a bit weird, I thought I’d quickly change the subject to something that shows me a in slightly better light. Let’s just pretend the last post never happened yeah?

So, moving swiftly on…

Last Friday, I had a rather lovely day out, and I went up to London to have a look at the Littlewoods Christmas collection.

Normally I hate shopping – that moment where you catch a glimpse of yourself from behind in a brightly lit changing room is never great for your self-esteem – but it turns out that when I have a professional photographer on hand, and someone to do my hair and make up, it’s really not so bad. Who’d have thought?

Fuelled by a delicious cake selection and glass or two of mulled wine, I threw myself into the occasion, trying on everything I could get my hands on. Here is me working what I like to think of as my high-class hooker look:

Littlewoods review

I actually loved everything about this outfit, particularly the coat. It’s not something I would ever normally wear, but there’s something about it, when you put it on, you just feel lovely, like a friendly bear is giving you a big hug.   View Post

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My hands have a funny smell this afternoon. I’ve washed them, but it won’t go away. It’s a sort of bitter but slightly meaty smell. I wonder if it could be the three day old chilli I reheated at lunchtime, oozing out of my fingertips.

I can’t stop thinking about the smell and even though I’m at work, in an office full of people, I can’t resist the urge to keep sniffing my fingers, just to check if it’s still there. I appreciate that office based finger sniffing is not really OK, and so try to disguise it by scratching my nose at the same time.

I email my boyfriend at work to check that this is the kind of thing that other people do and not just me, because sometimes I tell him things that I think are quite normal, and he tells me I am a freak.

“My hands have got a funny smell on them that won’t come off,” I write, “and I keep doing that thing where you can’t help but pretend to scratch your nose and sniff them all the time. (That is a thing isn’t it?)”

His reply is not reassuring.

“You’re weird.”

I feel suddenly very aware of the other people in the office. I decide to keep my hands on the keyboard.

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Do you believe in God? Or angels? Or technology? Or yourself?

According to a recent survey, around 17% of the UK population have no doubt about God’s existence. Another 18% are sure the whole idea is nonsense. That leaves an awful lot of people in the middle, the people who think perhaps there is something, that we can’t just be doing all this alone, unsupervised by something or someone bigger and more powerful, but unable to put their fingers on exactly what that might be. View Post

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…is a lot of people. That’s more than the number of biscuits I’ve eaten in my lifetime, which is fair few by anyone’s standards.

According to the United Nations, 31 October – which is one week today – will be the day when the global population hits seven billion, for the first time ever. Sounds a lot doesn’t it? But when you think that their predictions go even further, and that by 2050 we could be looking at 10 billion+, well, suddenly seven billion seems a bit paltry, positively roomy.

I wonder what the world will be like in 2050?

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Working in the nursery industry, I come across a whole range of apparently ‘must have’ baby products. Some are genuinely useful, others I think we could probably do without.

There are some though that are just downright stupid.

I wanted to share with you this compilation from Baby Gizmo of some of the most ridiculous baby products ever.

Like the Daddy Saddle. Really? This is a baby product? Sounds a bit kinky to me.

This is the list – see what you think: http://www.babygizmo.com/news/ridiculousbabyproducts2011.php

What’s your favourite?

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There are some household chores, like making sure all my books lie flush to the edge of the shelves, that I really don’t mind doing. There are others, including anything that involves getting my hands wet, that I just can’t bear. One of these is making packed lunches.

I know it’s ridiculous, because it only takes a few minutes, but there’s something about knowing I’m going to be putting half of it in the bin in six hours time that makes the whole experience rather futile and depressing.

What’s the point in carefully chopping carrot sticks or crafting individuals cous cous filled pitta parcels when you know you’ll end up scraping most of it off the inside of the lunchbox lid at the end of the day? View Post

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This week has been back to school week. Like most years, it has rather snuck up on me, and I haven’t been terribly well prepared. Belle had been back for several days for instance before I got round to buying her a lunch box. Whoops. One thing at least I did remember this time was the in service training days, which makes a nice change.

At her new school in Bristol, Belle doesn’t have to wear a school uniform. I can’t decide whether, for a slightly ‘relaxed’ parent such as myself, this is a Good Thing or not.

On the plus side, it means you never have that Sunday night panic where you remember you have to wash the school uniform, and then turn the heating on, even though it’s technically still summer, so you can hang it on the radiators to get in dry in time.

It also means your child doesn’t have the humiliation of having to wear cheap, unbranded versions of things, because you refuse to pay £12 for a PE t-shirt, just because it has a logo on it.

On the downside, it does mean that Belle’s school friends are being exposed to the full force of her rather ‘flamboyant’ dress sense. Yesterday she wore black leggings, a pink floral skirt, a blue t-shirt with flowers on and a grey and black spotty cardigan. Bee does not approve. “You can’t let her go to school like that,” she chastises me, rolling her eyes in despair. I on the other hand, am more inclined to let her express herself through her clothes. It’s what I’ve always done. But then Bee quite often does the same eye rolling at the outfits I choose to leave the house in.

It’s what on the inside that counts though right?

Last year I was helped out on the uniform front by Tesco, who kindly solved all my worries by sending me one of their uniform packs. This year, due to the lack of uniform, I had to decline. “Well we don’t want you to miss out,” Tesco told me, “how about we send you a nice school coat and shoes instead? And maybe some vouchers?” Jolly decent of them I thought.

The coat is rather stylish, and Belle looks very fetching in it. Plus with the buttons done right up it disguises the flower/polka dot combo nicely.

As I mentioned, Tesco have given me a £15 online voucher to do with as I please. I have decided to use it as a straightforward bribe, to ‘encourage’ you to comment. What are your thoughts on uniforms? Good or bad? Pain in the arse, or a useful way to protect children from an inherent lack of style?

I’ll give you plenty of time – partly so you can give some thought to what is clearly a hugely important and contentious issue, but mainly because I’m way next week at Kind und Jugend, (about which I am getting quite excited).

A winner will be chosen at random once I’m back, and then you’ll have fifteen whole pounds to go crazy with. Every little helps…

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