Today, to promote their Mum of the Year awards, (Bee and Belle, if you’re reading, you can make nominations here, just saying…), Tesco have been asking people on twitter for the best piece of advice ever given to them by their mum. It got me thinking about all the weird things that I remember being told as a child, and also made me curious about what advice I’ve given that will stay with my children as they grow up.

I don’t have a very good long-term memory, and tend to rely on my sister, (who is actually four years younger than me), for key information from our childhood, but there are a few things that my mum told me that stick out in my mind, although I’m not sure I have remembered them completely accurately. I thought I would share them with you though, valuable as they are. It could save your life…

Scrambled eggs must be stirred at all times. If you really must do something important that can’t wait, like have a very quick wee, you’re allowed to stop stirring once, but no more.

"scrambled eggs"

Just once mind, no more…

If it’s raining, but you’re hopeful that the sun will come out soon, it’s probably a Clearing-Up Shower. I have no idea to this day whether or not this is a real thing.

Never ever run over the power cable when you are hoovering. You will die.

You see? Valuable advice indeed.

What’s the best advice your mum ever gave you?

“Do you think there is anyone in the world,” asks Bee, “who has never said ‘I love you’?”

We’re in the car, listening to Paul Simon’s Something So Right.

Some people never say those words I love you
It’s not their style, to be so bold...

"I love you"

“Yes,” I say.

“Really?” She sounds surprised. “Even to their mums? And I don’t mean babies or anything.”

“Well, how about orphans?”

This is one of Bee’s favourite games. The sentences always start with ‘Do you think there is anyone is the world who has never…’ or ‘Do you think there is anyone in the world who has ever…’ and they tend to end with something ridiculous like ‘…tasted a food beginning with a vowel?’ or ‘…eaten a moth on purpose?’

I tend to always just answer ‘yes’. It seems pretty likely to me that whatever you can think of, someone will have thought of it before you. Plus there are some really strange people about. Someone is sure to have deliberately eaten a moth.

I’m even more certain that there are people who have never told anyone that they love them. It’s sad to think about though, and even  sadder to think that there must be people who have never had anyone tell them that they love them.

How would you feel if you nobody had ever told you that they loved you? Worst still, how must it be to never have felt loved, even if by someone who couldn’t say it out loud?

Some people never say those words I love you
But like a child, they’re longing to be told…

We may still have a week of the summer holidays left, but already I’m thinking about Autumn breaks. It’s a bit sad really isn’t it?

I think it’s a positive thing though – I’ve enjoyed my summer breaks so much this year that I obviously just can’t wait to do it again. It’s not that I’m work-shy or anything, honestly.

"holiday in Turkey"

I’ve never been here. Looks pretty though doesn’t it?

Travelling and holidays with children is always a bit of a gamble, and not always terribly restful, as toddlers don’t seem to quite get the idea of lazing around on the beach. They tend not to enjoy sightseeing tours of cities much either in my experience, unless the sights you are seeing are play areas and ice cream vans, in which case you may as well save the petrol money, stay at home, and just pop to the park in the afternoon to be honest.

Going on holiday with friends has always worked well for me – friends who have children the same age and can share the ‘work’ of the holiday with you. When Belle was about a year old, we had a really lovely few days in Centre Parcs with a friend and her one year old, and it meant that the babies could amuse each other, while we concentrated on important holiday tasks like finding the corkscrew.

We’ve continued the holiday with friends idea ever since, and it has proved a big hit. Belle is ten now, but she still enjoys having someone to play with, and this year her holiday companion was her friend Ashley. He and Belle got to sleep in a yurt, climb trees and chase the farm dog, while Ashley’s mum Vicky and I had a little lie down with a book and a glass of wine. Are you noticing the theme here?

"yurt holiday"

Our holiday home this summer

Back in the spring, we were planning our holidays. “The kids will play of in the woods or something,” I say excitedly, “and we can lie around reading and drinking!”

“Hoorah!” agrees Vicky.

You see? Simple.

The risk of course, especially in small spaces like yurts, is that the kids start bickering and your friend drives you mad, but fortunately this hasn’t happened to me so far. It may have happened to Vicky of course. You’d have to ask her that…

Let’s face it, we all love pizza.

It doesn’t get much better than tucking into a crispy base, munching on the stringy cheese and getting your teeth stuck into a range of wonderful toppings – pure heaven!

Although takeaway pizzas and shop bought ones are always tasty, they can often be a bit costly, not to mention the damage they can do to your waistline. So how about putting the takeaway menu down for a night and making your very own? Not only will it be quick, easy and relatively healthy (depending on the topping) it’s sure to taste great too!

"Homemade Pitta Bread Pizza"

Firstly, don’t bother spending ages making the dough. A great idea is to use pitta bread as the base instead. This means the kids can have their own pitta bread and put whatever they like on it, which is always a lot of fun. It’s also great to get them involved in the kitchen. Here are the ingredients:

  • Pitta bread (white or whole wheat)
  • Tomato pizza sauce
  • Grated cheese (low fat depending on how healthy you want to be)
  • Dried herbs (oregano or basil)
  • Toppings of your choice

It’s always a good idea when cooking with younger children to get all the ingredients out ready in small tubs or on plates. This means they’ll be able to use the ingredients in front of them rather than searching around the whole kitchen! Here’s how to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to around 200˚C.
  2. Spoon pizza sauce all over the pitta bread and spread well.
  3. Sprinkle evenly with grated cheese.
  4. Scatter a few dried herbs.
  5. Add desired toppings.
  6. Place on a sheet of ovenproof paper and bake for 5-7 minutes or until cheese has melted.
  7. Slice evenly with a pizza cutter and tuck in!

Let the kids really have fun with this by encouraging them to make various patterns and designs with their toppings. Anyone on a budget should check out the various Tesco voucher codes available too to save some cash on their weekly shop. A good tip is to stock up on cans and tins that you can keep in the cupboard for a later date so you can make your favourite dishes time and time again. The little ones are sure to enjoy making (and eating) their own pizzas and will probably want to make them more often. Whether you want a quick snack or you’re planning the evening meal, these pitta bread pizzas are perfect for having some fun in the kitchen.

"Takeaway Pizza Boxes"

Alternatively, if you really must get that takeaway for a special treat, there’s no need to pay full price for it. Take a look at the range of discount vouchers at Pizza Hut on different days of the week and you’ll keep both the kids and your bank balance happy!

This week I have been in Amsterdam.

You know how I feel about pornography, but I couldn’t go to all that way and not visit Amsterdam’s Red Light District could I? Even if just to say first hand how seedy it is.

And it IS seedy. Let me tell you though how I got on, and you can tell me if you think it sounds sexy…

I’m in Amsterdam’s Red Light District on my own, and it’s about 9pm, and getting dark. The canal that sits serenely between the two rows of buildings is beautiful, but its hard to look at anything other than the windows framed in red neon, and the bright lights advertising live sex shows, each one claiming a better drinks offer than the rest.

In each window stands a young woman in her underwear and high heels, trying her best to look seductive. Most just look bored. One stands with her hand on her hip, weight shifted onto one foot, checking her phone. Nobody smiles.

Amsterdam's Red Light District

A lot of the attention seems to be on the clubs and shows. “Why are you looking so serious?” a man on one of the doors asks me. “Where are you from?”

“I’m from Bristol in England,” I say. “And I look serious because I think this whole thing is pretty shocking really.”

“I have a cousin in Bristol!” he tells me and I laugh.

“Of course you do! I bet you have cousins everywhere.”

“You think I’m playing you?” he asks, looking offended.

“Yes.”

“You think I like this job?” he asks. “I hate it as much as you do. I hate these people,” he says, sweeping his arms and genuinely looking fairly disdainful. “I just sell what’s inside, but I stay out here. You should never judge people. You see me here, you think I’m trying to sell you a lie. I’m not.”

He is distracted then by a young couple, loitering nervously. “Stay there,” he tells me, “I’ll tell you.” He turns to the couple. “You want to come in?” he asks them. “We have four shows, including a cigar show, and our drinks are much better than next door.”

“When does it start?” the girl asks.

“No start time,” he says, “they just do it on a loop.”

It sounds awesome. Who doesn’t want to watch a couple have the same sex they’ve had already half a dozen times that night? I shift my attention to a group of British men sat on some benches nearby, who turn out, surprise surprise, to be on a stag do.

“Look at this!” one of them says, and pulls up his shirt to reveal ‘BAD BOY’ written on his chest in marker pen. “A girl just wrote that with the pen in her you know…” and he raises his eyebrows and points down. “Pretty good isn’t it? The A is a bit wonky, but other than that.” He looks very pleased with himself.

“Wow!” I say. “It’s not bad is it? Nice muscle control.”

“Do you reckon you could do it?”

I laugh. “I’ve had two babies,” I say, “I really don’t think I have the pelvic floor for it.”

Another of the men chimes in, pointing to one of his mates. “He’s just paid 140 euro to have sex with two women,” he says, matter-of-factly. The friend looks a bit sheepish, but he’s smiling, like secretly he’s pretty pleased with himself.

“How did that work then?” I ask, both intrigued and appalled. “Was it two separate times, or both at once? Was it buy one get one free?”

His mate, the one so willing to volunteer the information in the first place, laughs. “Nah, it was buy one, get another at the same time for another 70 euro!”

He hasn’t done it before he says, but just shrugs when I ask how he feels about it. “It was fine,” he adds, not giving much away.

“That’s not what you said at the time!” says his helpful friend. “You came out and high-fived all of us!”

“So do you really think this whole set up is sexy?” I ask. “They just look bored to me.”

“One of mine was on her phone a lot,” he laughs.

“She was tweeting,” adds his mate. “I bet she was using the #worstsexever hashtag.”

They tell me about the live show they’ve just been to. Apart from the chest writing, they aren’t impressed, particularly not by the man who was dressed in a leotard, which he just pulled carefully to one side for the act itself.

“They were really old,” one of them adds. “And he was wearing kneepads!”

“Was it like watching your mum and dad do it?” I ask.

“I reckon my dad would have put more effort in to be honest…”

Have you been to Amsterdam’s Red Light District? What did you think of it?

*They did let me take their photos, and were happy for me to blog about them, but I’m thinking that the morning after, it might not have seemed like such a good idea. Would you want your photo on the internet with the caption ‘this man just slept with two prostitutes’?

Image credit – Amsterdam’s Red Light District from Michal_R / Shutterstock.com

I have to confess that I’m not really a terribly girly girl when it comes to skin care products and make-up.

As much as I’d love to believe that an investment of just thirty odd quid would keep me looking young forever, I just don’t. If it worked, no one would ever look old would they?

Dur.

I do like to moisturise, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. A basic, light moisturiser with built in sun protection is all you need – I’ve been using mine for about 20 years and I got asked for ID to buy a bottle of wine in Sainsbury’s just a matter of weeks ago, so it must be working.

I’m also not taken in by fancy pants shampoo and conditioner adverts, which show Cheryl Cole, inch deep in foundation, waving her extensions around over-dramatically, telling me I’m worth it. Worth what exactly Cheryl pet? Spending unnecessary amounts of money on a shampoo that will give the appearance of stronger, healthier hair? (When you listen, all the ads say stuff like that – it doesn’t actually make your hair healthier, it just makes it look it.)

"Pantene"

Wash your hair with Pantene and you too could have breasts like ripe canteloupes. Seriosly – WTF??

Stretch marks though are a bit different. As hard as I try to see them as a ‘badge of motherhood’, they really don’t do it for me. The trouble is, I’m a total skinflint, and would much rather spend my cash on a book or a nice cup of coffee, so the lotions and potions that friends use and swear by, and that might actually work, like Apothederm stretch mark cream, never quite make it as far as my dressing table.*

The paradox in my reluctance to spend money on skin care though is my love of bottles, boxes and pretty packaging. I love how it looks, just not what it does. I have happily over the years lined up my Chanel nail varnishes, still in their boxes, admiring the elegant, sleek black lines they makes, but you know what? They chip quicker than Rimmel. Fact.

Don’t get me started on ‘scrubs’ either. Who needs to pay extra for shower gels with bits in when you can just use a bar of soap and give yourself a good hard towel down afterwards?

But then if it were left to me, I’d probably just not wash at all. I never did like showers.

So tell me – am I missing out? Can you recommend any fabulous products you love that might lure me into the shower?**

*Lifts up t-shirt for a nose and wonders if it’s an investment I really should make.

**I don’t mean into the shower WITH you. That would be creepy. I would be using them in my own bathroom obviously. In private.