When trainee journalist Rhiannon Davies asked if she could write a guest post for my blog I was very flattered, and excited too. When I read her piece on the joys of noisy sex though, I must admit I felt a teensy bit inadequate. Since moving to a smaller house, with children’s bedrooms either side of me, loud sex is rather tricky.

To comfort myself that my sex life is fine even if the neighbours aren’t banging on the wall, I asked mum of three Ella Tabb, aka Purple Mum, to give a different side of the story, and the explain why in her opinion, quiet sex can be just as good.

Which side of the fence (or should that be bed?) do you sit on? We’d love to know what you think – is noisy sex always better sex?

Rhiannon says…

We’ve all been there, whether it’s a new housemate at University with a tendency to, ehem, ‘voice their opinion’ in the bedroom, a noisy neighbour, or a new house where suddenly your kids are on either side of your boudoir. Culprit or victim, loud sex is a sound familiar to all of our ears.

"shouting"

For me, there’s no question that loud sex is better sex (have you never heard the phrase ‘scream if you wanna go faster’?). In my opinion, if you’re relaxed enough to belt out your pleasure, then everything is going to feel better. But then, I’ve never faked an orgasm, and having been the one desperately tearing my room apart to find my head-phones and drown out the noise, I can certainly see why the debate against noise equalling pleasure is there.

To prove to those of you who don’t believe in loud sex, I’m going to get out the big guns and rebuff you with science. Screaming-sex requires a lot of oxygen going in and out of your lungs, thus, oxygenated blood is spread everywhere, making things a lot more sensitive (girls, you have twice as many nerve endings as men, I am talking to YOU). Gym bunnies – why do you exhale when you lift weights? Because it lets your muscles r e l a x, the point of orgasm is a contraction of muscles, moaning releases the tension. Basic biology.

On an emotional level (and provided that you aren’t faking), loud sex lets your partner know that you’re enjoying yourself. How are you supposed to tell them what you like if you say nada? I’m a firm believer in being able to laugh during sex, and although I’m not suggesting you wake your neighbours up with well-placed humour, noise in the bedroom can be a great a bonding opportunity, stop wasting it.

I’m not saying go at it like a porn-star, but when it feels good, what’s wrong with saying so? Let’s face it, they’re going to hear the sound of the headboard banging against the wall anyway, so why not complete the symphony. If you don’t mind the idea of being loud, but hate the idea of being overheard, wait until they are out. If you can’t wait, well, it’s obviously too good not to share.

Ella says…

Science has proven that noisy sex results in better orgasms. I’m not entirely sure that in my case I agree. Ok first up I am not judging you if noisy sex is your thing. In fact I have to admit I’m a teeny bit in awe of you, but I don’t think I will screaming in the throes any time soon and here’s why.

"Lego man"Firstly I have children, three children in fact, and noisy sex could result in waking the children, this would not lead to a better orgasm! Basically when you’re a parent sexy time does change somewhat. Going from doing it whenever and wherever you fancy to grabbing a stolen moment when the children are asleep, on the rare occasion that you are not completely knackered from the sheer relentlessness of parenting. The location goes from finding somewhere new and fun to bonk to finding somewhere not covered in lego (ouch) and not too close to the children’s bedroom. Anyway I digress.

The other reason I am a quiet lover is that it basically doesn’t occur to me to make any noise. I am just naturally quiet in bed, which is odd considering that on any other occasion you literally cannot shut me up. I have tried to make more noise, thinking a little heavy breathed screaming might help my partner feel appreciated, bedroom applause so to speak. However doing so made me feel a bit silly, and took me away from the moment and into my head which is not very sexy at all. Virtually impossible to orgasm whilst thinking I really must make it sound like I am enjoying myself.

So there you have it, if noisy works for you then that’s great, and apparently your orgasms will be better than mine. I have to say though I am perfectly happy being quiet in bed.

Massive thank yous to both Ella and Rhiannon for such honest and entertaining posts.

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Some books you’ll never read? Tasteful bath salts?

Or maybe you’ll get something awesome because you’ve bought it yourself.

A survey by Barclaycard revealed last week that on average we spend a whopping £280 on gifts for ourselves every year. I’m not talking ‘treats’ either, I mean actual presents for ourselves for birthdays and Christmas because we don’t trust other people to buy us something that isn’t awful.

What’s not clear from the survey is if we actually get this money back – are we choosing our pressies and being reimbursed discretely at a later date, or are we simply buying our own presents, full stop?

With me, it’s often the latter.

Being a single parent at Christmas and on birthdays can be a little depressing. You fork out loads of money on the kids, and what do you get in return? Lousy hand-made gifts and cards.* There’s no one in the house apart from you with an actual job, so you get the rather short end of the stick.

A couple of years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands. I was fed up with being the only one of the three of us in bed on Christmas morning not opening a stocking full of gifts. Father Christmas had very kindly left bulging bags of goodies at the foot of Bee and Belle’s beds, so where was mine? I put a note up the chimney, but nothing, nada. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

I went to the cashpoint and took out forty quid. Then I came home and gave it to Bee. “Use this,” I told her, “to make me a Christmas stocking.” She looked a bit taken aback at first, but quickly came round to the idea, because who doesn’t love being given somebody else’s money to spend? “I want lots of things to open, but nothing crap.”

You have to be direct with children I find.

Christmas morning came around and hoorah! Santa had been for me too. It was very exciting and well worth the investment, even if most of the stocking budget seemed to have been blown on a teeny tiny iPod speaker in the shape of a jukebox. (I was more explicit the following year about what I meant by ‘crap’).

What do you reckon? Do you buy your own gifts? Or is it the thought that counts, even if the thought only goes as far as the bath salt aisle of Boots?

*This is a joke Belle. I love you hand-made gifts really. And the cute things you wrap up from your room.

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What did people say to you when you told them you were pregnant? After the congratulations were out of the way, how many times were you warned of the sleepless nights to come, the rollercoaster hormone ride?

How seriously did you take it though? ‘Oh yes, sleepless nights! How hard can it be? I’ll just nap when my baby naps, they have to sleep sometime right?’

*shakes head pityingly*

Of course sometimes it does go right. Take Bee for instance – she was a miracle baby, sleeping through the night from six weeks old. In my head it was all down to me and my chillaxed parenting style. I was more than happy to take all the credit for her amazing ability to sleep, right up until Belle was born that is. Then suddenly I was convinced it was nature and not nurture, how else could I explain Belle not sleeping through the night until she started school?

This is where Start4Life comes in. The Start4Life team of medical experts, midwives and health visitors has pulled together the essential information to help new parents focus on the most important things they can do to improve their health and to get their baby off to the best start. Whether it’s breastfeeding, post-natal exercise or just remembering to drink plenty of water, there’s a lot you can do to help keep your family fit and healthy.

Not only that, but they’ve given me three copies of What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ on DVD to give away. What To Expect When You’re Expecting follows the lives of five couples, dealing with the highs and lows of becoming parents, and concluding that no matter how hard you plan, sometimes life just throws the unexpected at you.

"What to expect when you're expecting"

If you’d like your own copy of the film, just leave a comment on this post with your top tip for new and expectant parents on things they can do to take care of themselves and give their baby the best possible start. The competition will close on 21 November and three winners will be picked at random.

Good luck!

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Bee has decided that she wants to enter the Great British Bake Off. She has downloaded the forms, and it asks questions about your experience of baking lots of different things like cakes, biscuits, pies and tarts.

Now Bee is good at baking, but it would be fair to say that she hasn’t attempted anything too complex up until now. Her ‘Tigger’s Spicy Biscuits’ are always a big hit, but are they Great British Bake Off standard?

So that she has something to talk about on her application, she is trying to cram in as much practice as possible, and so is helping me on my Whitworths baking challenge. Today she is making chewy oat and sultana cookies.

Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 100g Whitworths for baking fine caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 160g porridge oats
  • 100g sultanas

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4 and put on your pinny.

"apron"

Bee is well prepared

Lightly grease two baking sheets. Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the honey and egg and continue to beat until combined. Add the spices and flour, beat to combine and finally add the oats and sultana.

"Cookie mixture"

The mixture was very tasty at this stage.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking sheets – you should be able to fit eight cookies on each sheet.

"Cookies ready for the oven"

Omanomnom

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. When they are cooked, allow to stand before two minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

"Cookies fresh from the oven"

Pretty tasty at this stage too as it happens.

Make a cup of tea, put your feet up, eat three cookies and focus on the goodness of the oats. Wholesome right?

Well done Bee!

For more food recipes & restaurant ideas please have a look at Bingo Wings.

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Sat in the laundrette this morning, (waiting for my washing to dry, not just hanging out, drifter style), I spotted this story in the paper about a baby hedgehog that got stuck in a crisp packet:

"baby hedgehog"

This story sums up for me everything I love about the human species, and at the same time, everything that completely baffles me.

Within most people there is a basic level of kindness and compassion. As a species, we are blessed with strength of character and determination in the face of danger – the kind of determination that makes you want to spend three and a half hours trying to get a hedgehog out of a crisp packet.

Yet while I sat in the laundrette, dozens and dozens of people walked past the woman outside the little Sainsbury’s next door selling The Big Issue without even acknowledging her. Now I’ve nothing against hedgehogs, but where is the logic in that?

Of course our irrationality and lack of perspective manifests itself often in wonderfully unpredictable creativity and passion for the most bizarre of things, but it also means that while baby hedgehogs all over the country are being rescued, other actual human beings are living in poverty, being abused, and coping alone with other devastating problems.

Does this make sense to you?

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There are two types of people in this world. The people who get things done as soon as they know they need doing, and those that leave things until the last minute. Sometimes when I’m feeling super keen I am the former, but most of the time I still regress to my 15-year-old self, setting my alarm for 4am so I can finish my French coursework in time.

Why??

Why when I know I have weeks to complete a project, do I not start it until the latest possible minute? Why do I torture myself so?

This is the conversation I have with myself:

Sensible part of brain: Well, you’ve got lots of time for this work, so why not start now, get it done ahead of time, and be able to give it proper attention?

Silly part of brain: OR… I could have a little sit down and a biscuit, and start tomorrow? There is loads of time after all.

*repeat this conversation daily until the day before the work is due*

Silly part of brain, throwing biscuits on the floor in a panic: SHIT!!! I’ve only got a day!! Why didn’t I start earlier??

Sensible part of brain: SIGH

I found a cartoon today on my new very favourite website, Toothpaste For Dinner, that perfectly sums up my work style:

"The creative process"

I think that pretty much sums it up.

Working at home doesn’t help, as you’re surrounded by constant distractions that always seem so much more interesting. You know things are desperate when the hoover looks enticing. What strategies do you have for getting things done in a timely manner? Any top tips for avoiding procrastination?

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Happy Halloween!

Today Belle is guest posting for me with the beginnings of a spooky Halloween story, written all by herself. Belle has written her story as part of a competition being hosted by Asda, and inspired by her Asda Corpse Bride Halloween costume. The story that gets the most comments will win a prize so if you like Belle’s story, please do say so!

….

One dark stormy night two children set out trick or treating, but what they didn’t know was that this would be no ordinary night, it would be the night when the unusual thing happened…

As Baxter and Bliss stepped out the creaky door a shroud of darkness awaited them because this was the time of night when the known became unknown, the ghosts and ghouls came out of their dark, dingy hiding places, when zombies and vampires came looking for juicy children to snack on, skeletons and devils clattered and crawled out of their caves, witches made potions and werewolves prowled along the cobbled alleyways and grimy streets.

Bliss and Baxter wandered aimlessly down the slimy shortcuts and shadowy back alleys. They searched for houses without orange “no trick or treating ” signs up in the window or ones with lots of pumpkins. Finally they came to a house with lots of pumpkins and decorations saying stuff like ‘come in if you dare’ or ‘enter in at your own risk’ – stuff like that.

“Ha ha,” said Baxter laughing “I’m not scared of that rubbish, come on Bliss.” A wobble in his voice now.

Bliss whimpered.

“Don’t be such a baby, come on”  They knocked on the wooden door and it slowly creaked open….

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There, I’ve said it.

I love my Filofax. I love looking at it on my desk, I love sniffing it and I especially love walking around with it, carrying it proudly under my arm, and casually getting things out of it. (When I’m out with other people obviously, not just around the house on my own. Although…)

Since I got my Finsbury Personal Organiser* a couple of weeks ago, it has been settling in nicely with my other stationery items, and I’ve taken it on quite a few outings with me too. Oh yes, and it’s handy for writing things in too, but that’s secondary really to the sniffing.

Seriously though, it is very useful. I’ve always been much more of a pen and paper person. I have a Blackberry Torch, but I never use the calendar or address book. I prefer a white board and a stack of 17 or so notebooks for keeping track of my work.

One thing I love about my Filofax, now it’s getting towards the end of the year, is that I can have the 2013 diary insert in ready, and write next year’s appointment in the same place, rather than have to crack open a new diary or calendar and have two on the go at once. I’m also very excited about the different extras that you can buy to go in it. Father Christmas, if you are reading, I would like a Filofax themed stocking this year please.

Here’s a few photos so you can see what me and my Filofax have been up to:

"Filofax"

Settling in on my desk at home. The whiteboard markers have been showing it round.

"Filofax on the train"

On the train on the way to London, my Filofax has a little peep out of my handbag.

"Yellow filofax"

Most importantly though, does my Filofax match my nail varnish?

*This is its official name – long, like a pedigree dog. I’ve thought about calling it Finn for short, but I have a nephew called Finn, so that could get confusing. “Have you seen Finn?” I might ask my sister. “I think I left him in my handbag?”

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When you imagine Aunt Bessie, slaving over a hot Yorkshire pudding tray, what do you picture? A homely looking elderly lady maybe? A neat grey bun keeping her hair safely out of the batter, a lace pinny tied tightly around her not unsubstantial waist?

Me too.

But think again.

Although Aunt Bessie started baking up frozen Yorkshire puddings for Butlins back in the 1970s, it’s only since 1995 that you’ve been able to buy your own frozen Aunt Bessie’s puds in the supermarket. I know – crazy isn’t it? They feel like something that’s been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Last week I went to find out more about Aunt Bessie, and to test my own (poor) kitchen skills, creating some roasty treats alongside a group of other mummy bloggers. They gave me my own proper sharp knife and everything. And I only dropped it once.

After being shown the full Aunt Bessie’s range, we were set to creating our own lunches, to be accompanied of course by lashing of Yorkshire puddings, carrot and swede mash, and Aunt Bessie’s gravy. Purple Mum and I were on the stuffed aubergine station. If you’d like to make your very own stuffed aubergines, and why wouldn’t you, watch and learn:

Gather all your ingredients together in smart white bowls as though you are presenting a cookery show. (You don’t really have to do this bit, but it looks nice and professional.)

Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Cut two aubergines in half length wise. Cut almost through them in a criss cross pattern.

Cut out the centre of the aubergines, leaving four empty halves that you can stuff later. Roughly chop the flesh.

Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a pan and fry a chopped onion for about five minutes.

Add the aubergine and cook for another five minutes or so. Stir in one crushed garlic clove, half a chopped red pepper, a chopped courgette and a pinch of chilli flakes. (Try to avoid chopping any of your nail varnish into the red pepper. Just saying.) Season well and cook for another five minutes.

Tip into a bowl and stir in 200g chopped chestnuts, 100g of mixed nuts, toasted and chopped, 2tbsp of freshly chopped parsley, the zest of one lemon, a beaten egg, 25g grated parmesan and one slice of stale bread, cut into small cubes. Season again. If you have an incredibly phallic looking pepper grinder all the better. (Cue much cackling from mummy bloggers).

Spoon your mixture into the aubergine halves, drizzle with a little more oil, and bake for 20 minutes. Eat all the leftovers while you wait. (optional).

Meanwhile, cook your Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings, carrot and swede mash and gravy according to instructions. Crack open a bottle of wine or two, gather your three favourite family members, and tuck in!

 

 

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I have a few things I want to mention this week, and it would be hard to think of three things less similar. I’m going to do my best however to blend them into one seamless post. I’m sure you’ll barely realise I’m talking about more than one subject.

First off, ironing. There seem to be two schools of thought on this one – there are the people who spend Sunday afternoons ironing for hours whilst watching the Eastenders omnibus, and people who go more for the ‘fold it carefully before you put it away’ approach. Which are you?

I am certainly the latter, as was proven in the recent burnt-carpet-ironed-onto-back-of-Boyfriend’s-best-shirt incident. It is doubtful that I will ever be allowed to use an iron again to be honest, which is a bit of a shame, as it means I won’t get to play with our new Morphy Richards Power Steam Elite.

There are loads of things I like about the Morphy Richards Power Steam Elite. It’s really smooth and easy to use, it holds loads of water, and is Very Steamy Indeed. You can even use it to steam curtains while they’re up, if you like that sort of thing. One of the best things though is that it looks really snazzy and makes you feel like you doing a very important chore.

"Morphy Richards Power Steam Elite"On the downside, it does take up a lot of space, and as a complete unit is pretty heavy. Probably not the iron for you if you live in one of those tiny flats with an ironing board that comes out of the wall. (Is that a thing?)

From irons then, to…er…comics!

(Seamless)

It always annoys me that when Belle wants to buy a magazine, she basically has a choice between The Simpsons comic or something in various shades of pink, filled either with popstar gossip or pictures of fluffy bunnies sat in baskets with ribbons round their neck. The range isn’t exactly diverse.

We were really excited then to get sent some copies of The Pheonix, a story comic aimed at kids between 8-11, (although I enjoyed reading it too.) The Pheonix a really lively mix of stories and puzzles, and the illustrations are brilliant. Belle especially liked that there were lots of different types of drawings, rather than just one style of illustrations.

Anything that keeps her away from the TV for a bit gets my vote.

"Pheonix comics"

To keep me away from the TV, (slightly smoother), I’ve been reading the new book from Penguin about the London Underground – ‘Underground – how the tube shaped London‘ – celebrating its vibrant 150 year history.

I say ‘reading’ but to be honest I have been mainly looking at the pictures so far. You can’t blame me though, as it’s full of loads of really amazing photographs of the Underground over the years, plus lots of beautiful vintage posters.

Images © TFL from the London Transport Museum collection

"vintage train poster"

My top Underground fact so far though – can you guess what was built in a spare lift shaft at Holloway Road in 1906?

No?

A spiral escalator! Funnily enough, it apparently never made it into public service. The mind boggles…

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Following her very thorough Blackberry Curve 9320 review, I invited Bee back to talk about the joys of voucher codes…

In my house we are big on voucher codes.

I can’t go anywhere without someone saying “don’t forget to take this 2 for 1 offer/money off voucher/loyalty card with you”. In fact one of the highlights for the family this weekend (surprisingly I didn’t attend) was spending some vouchers in 99p Stores. They came back with all sorts of random things, the most obscure being the gift they got for me, which was a pack of 6 little tubs of tooth picks. I guess they could always be used as mini sticks for mini marshmallows around a Bunsen burner.

"mini marshmallows"

Anyway, this got me thinking, I could use voucher codes to my advantage, with Christmas just around the corner. Seventeen is an awkward age to be when it comes to buying Christmas presents, as people assume you are old enough to buy your own gifts, but you also don’t have as much disposable income as adults.

Also, truth be told, you’re just not as tuned in with the rest of your family as they are, meaning you’re never sure what they would actually like and what would be a waste of the £10 you had scraped together to get them a token present. So I thought going onto a voucher code website could kill two birds with one stone – (not literally. I would never throw a rock at a bird. I’m a vegetarian. And I don’t want an ASBO) – I could get some inspiration for good gift ideas and hopefully save some money too.

I had a browse through the discount vouchers at netvouchercodes.co.uk to see what I could find. Clicking onto the “popular vouchers” tab I found a code for £20 off when you spend £55 on Crocs. I didn’t think I’d be downloading that one. I may not have a passion for fashion but I do know where to draw the line.

Another awkward voucher I found was “20% off the Diamond Plus Service using this Divorce Online Voucher Code.” I don’t think I’d be invited to my Dad’s house for Christmas dinner again if I got him this. (Plus I wouldn’t want him to get divorced obviously).

One suitable voucher code did catch my eye though – “£20 off when you spend £100 or more on Premium Beauty using this Boots Discount Code.” Well there you go, I can get £100 worth of fancy moisturiser in a box for £80. That’s half of my Christmas list done. I didn’t even have to leave the comfort of my kitchen table; I could just use the Boots discount voucher, go straight to their website and order online!

Now that’s what I call Christmas shopping.

 

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It always feels a bit strange to be at the Baby Show and not be in an unflattering Cuddledry t-shirt, demonstrating the benefits of having two hands free to lift your baby out of the bath. Walking around the dozens and dozens of stands can feel a little overwhelming when you’re used to being on just one.

I actually really enjoyed my visit to the Baby Show at Earl’s Court yesterday though, wandering around, chatting to people and generally making a bit of a prat out of myself.

“Hello! I’ve spoken to you on twitter and you said to come and say hi!”

Cue blank stares from tired stall holders.

My best find of the day though, a little gem tucked away in a quiet corner, did remember me from twitter, so I immediately liked them a lot. Catherine Lobley is the founder of Poco Nido and creator of a range of adorable shoes, wellies and clothes for babies and toddlers, all designed in their studio in Sheffield and made using the very best materials.

I got this lovely little t-shirt for my niece. I tweeted about it obviously, as I am hilarious:

"Poco Nido"

A tweet within a tweet. Hahaha!

I spoke to so many lovely brands, that I thought I’d do a little gallery for you, just to give you a flavour of what you can do and see at the Baby Show if you’re visiting this weekend.

"Safe Dreams"

Visit Safe Dreams and check out their giant Patch toy. Have your picture taken with it, upload it to your facebook page, tagging Safe Dreams, and you’ll be entered into a draw to win your very own (normal sized) cot toy.

"Hip seat"

The hip seat from Hippychick is one of my absolute favourite baby products – a must have for parents with children who always want to be right there. Without it, I would never have been able to cook Christmas dinner in 2002 or 2003. Fact.

"Trunki"

I had a lovely chat with Trunki about their plans for Christmas.

"Snugglebundl"

Make sure you go and say hello to Snugglebundl. They are a fairly new product, designed to easily move your baby around when they’ve fallen asleep. Gorgeous designs and lovely people.

"Junior Magazine"

Just before I left, I accidentally bought a subscription to Junior Magazine. In my defence, it was a great offer – the magazine is normally £4.90 an issue, but I got 12 months for £20, plus a free gift worth £34.99. You’ll have to go and visit them yourself to find out what it was…

 

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