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.

Personally, I try to watch as little kids TV as possible. For me, the likes of CBBC is basically free childcare – why would I stick the kids in front of a cartoon, thus freeing up valuable time for messing around on the internet working, only then to sit and watch it with them?? It just doesn’t make sense.

Some of my friends though see a dual purpose for kids TV, namely the selection of attractive young presenters and the double entendres. OK, so sometimes this makes it worthwhile, but sometimes it is a bit much. There were far to many anal probe gags for my liking in Planet 51 for instance.

What I’ve never quite understood though is crushes on cartoons, Jessica Rabbit style. I know a lot of people secretly quite fancy a roll in the mud with Daddy Pig – like this mummy at Notes from Inside My Head – but I confess I’ve always felt slightly weird fantasising about a cartoon pig. Call me narrow-minded, old-fashioned, what you will – it just seems wrong.

So when the lovely people at Peppa Pig offered me a copy of the new DVD to watch, I thought the time had come to educate myself, and see if I could be charmed by Daddy Pig’s rugged good looks and assertive manner.

So what did the family make of ‘Peppa Pig – the Fire Engine and Other Stories’? Well, we loved it! Even my mum enjoyed it, but then she does have rather a fondness for kids TV. I actually bought her a Peppa Pig annual for Christmas, but that’s another story. Bee was a little disturbed by the idea of a pet ladybird that barked, but then she is 14 and rather pedantic. “Ladybirds just wouldn’t bark!” she protested. I tried to point out that as a rule pigs don’t talk and put out BBQ fires, but she wasn’t convinced.

I have to confess I didn’t feel any chemistry for Daddy Pig, although I did notice that Mummy Pig quite often comes over all coy and giggly in his presence, and generally looks quite pleased with herself, so he must be doing something right. Aside from that though, it was great fun. Forget blogging and wasting time on twitter, I think I might start watching kids TV in the daytime…

Peppa Pig – The Fire Engine and Other Stories is out on 29 March

Photo credit: Sarah and Mike ..probably

This post is a shameless boast. Not a boast on my behalf you understand. This is a boast on behalf of my step-sister, Rebecca Cobb, who is a little bit too shy to blow her own trumpet.

Rebecca lives in Falmouth, where she works partly in a lovely shop in the town centre, and the rest of the time as an illustrator. Rebecca has recently illustrated a book, written by Helen Dunmore:

Isn’t it gorgeous? She is really very talented :-)

The story of how the work came about is lovely too. The shop Rebecca works in is opposite a bookshop, and she had some of her pictures up in the window for sale. The owner of the bookshop happened to notice them one day, and popped into the shop to ask who had painted them.

It turned out that he was a friend of Helen Dunmore, knew she was writing the book, and thought Rebecca’s style would really suit it. How cool is that? Just goes to show you never know where your next piece of work is going to come from!

The story is set is Falmouth, but I’m not going to tell you what happens, you’ll have to buy the book for that – it is out on 1 April, and is available to pre-order from Amazon.

So now if you’re ever looking for an illustrator, you know where to go!

This morning I woke up feeling vaguely ashamed of myself and with a stiff neck. And not in a good way.

Last night, on my way to a meeting to present myself as a ‘safe pair of hands’, a secure and reliable fundraiser whom you can trust to act professionally at all times, I crashed my car into a verge. A shameful and embarrassing case of driver error. I was driving in the dark, on roads I didn’t know, and was taken by surprise by a rather sharp corner.

As the telegraph pole loomed up in front of me at speed, I had a flash of the last time a similar thing had happened, and was grateful at least that this time I didn’t have a box of eggs on the passenger seat. The car lurched to a halt, my passenger and I stopped screaming and my inner critic immediately began to tell me how stupid I was. My sub-conscious is not very supportive at times – it is very hard on me whenever I make mistakes of any kind.

In the pitch dark in the middle of nowhere, it was hard to know how to proceed. Not far from our destination, we opted to hobble on, arriving at our meeting late, both looking slightly hysterical and me with my hands covered in mud and oil. Always a great way to make a good first impression on potential clients.

This morning, I went out in the harsh light of day to inspect the damage. The dent was tolerable, but I was slightly concerned to see that the front tyres now seem to be pointing in different directions. Now I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t right.

An evening business trip that was meant to make me money, has ended up costing me. The biggest dent though isn’t the one in my bumper, it’s the one in my pride.

Photo credit: Kevin

Friday at last! This week has been a varied one to say the least. As well as being a single mum to two gorgeous girls, I also juggle three home based jobs – writing, marketing and fundraising. Add to this my obsession with checking my emails and blog stats and a chronic inability to concentrate properly on anything for more than five minutes at a time, and I often find my weeks become a jumble of writing features, lurking on forums and trying to flog baby towels.

To illustrate my point and to try and give myself a sense of having achieved something, I thought I would write a brief summary of what I’ve been up to this week workwise. Picture me doing the following, whilst of course at the same time blogging, emailing and maintaining some kind of relationship with my family:

Monday: Writing day today. Wrote and filed a feature on green baby products for The Source and a piece on breastfeeding and friendship for The Green Parent. Did you know that oxytocin, the hormone that causes the let down reflex, has been shown to increase levels of trust in humans, making the friendships you form while breastfeeding deeper and longer lasting? Well now you do.

Tuesday: Today I was very excited as I went out of the house for a meeting with real people. I wore a dress and everything. I am Marketing Manager for Cuddledry (remember them from Dragons’s Den?) and we were planning a revamp of the website. I came up with a fiendish plan for a relaunch of our blog with a month of guest Mummy Blogging – please get in touch if you would like to contribute!

Wednesday: Not a productive start to Wednesday. After dropping Belle off at school I felt a little bit overwhelmed and, unable to face returning to my empty house, I walked around for a bit trying not to cry until the snow made my feet too cold. However, after an hour or so of mild panic and several cups of tea, I managed to write a feature on food labelling for The Spark. In the evening I watched Avatar and felt rather silly wearing 3D specs over my ordinary glasses.

Thursday: Hmmm… what did I actually do on Thursday? …consults work book… Ah yes, I was in baby towel mode today, finding Mummy Bloggers for my blogging month – I have lots already, hoorah! – and trying to find a celebrity parent to be a judge for our Baby Bubble Beard competition. When I needed something non-towel related I pitched a few feature ideas, mooched about on facebook and ate some of the leftover Christmas chocolates.

Friday: This morning I had another meeting away from home (aren’t I the social animal this week?) with my two lovely colleagues from my charity consultancy. Next week we are pitching to run a capital appeal for the building of a new community hall, so we met to discuss our proposal and plan our pitch. And I had a lovely scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast. Yum. After a very successful visit to the St Margaret’s Hospice shop, where I bought a Next suit for £4, I returned home to write the appeal proposal, recruit some more bloggers, try and woo Dr Miriam Stoppard and think up marketing ploys for the women’s news website I have recently become involved in. Oh, and I just ate a bowl of porridge. Rock and roll.

Time for a little sit down.

Flickr image by Helico

Make cup of tea, stare vaguely out of the window for a little while, check emails in case someone interesting has decided to spontaneously offer me work and/or a love affair…

And so begins my first day back at work.

I work at home, and most of the time I love it. It can be difficult sometimes to get motivated, and admittedly a lot of my time is spent in forums, obsessing over blog stats, or compulsively refreshing my emails, but I’m pretty sure that’s what most people do in offices anyway, I just have the bonus of not having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder.

School holidays are hard though. My study is right there at the top of the stairs, trying to lure me in every time I go to the bathroom. My laptop stares at me, sometimes I swear it winks – it is trying to seduce me.

I want to switch off, to be spending Quality Time with the children, baking cookies, toasting things on sticks around an open fire and other such wholesome activities I am led to believe happen in other families. But it is difficult. How do you leave work behind you in the holidays when your office is inside your house??

Today Belle went back to school and I had six whole hours in the house on my own, the solitary day to myself that I have been craving for nearly three weeks. Oh the joy! The decadence of roaming the house alone, no Disney channel soundtrack to my day, nobody asking me things or wanting things! It is bliss.

For an hour or so anyway. And then it gets a bit dull and I wish there was someone there to gossip with, to look over my shoulder and ask if facebook really constituted work. Perhaps I’ll just have a little check of my emails, who knows what the last twenty minutes may have bought me…