Books for your kids to love over and over.

I used to love reading as a child, but is that because TV and computers were not nearly as accessible, or attractive as they are now?  I wanted my children to have the choice and have tried really hard to offer a mix of their own reading, us reading to them, TV, cinema, computer games on the tablets and a games console.  Lucky that we had most of this stuff before we had children and became poor!  We push the school books as necessary, but there are also regular library trips for them to make their own choices; every bed time they get to choose their book and who reads it.

I know there are loads of lists of the top 10 books children will love to read, so I thought I would add another one to the saturated market.  Mine is a list of what they loved and why, along with some of the sentimental stuff that goes with this parenting lark.  And there are 11 titles in the list, so there is a slight difference.  These are all books that were either bought for us, or they chose themselves from the library, so don’t judge me, judge them :-). This is a list of books that they loved in their younger days, but they still read today.

In no particular order, here is a list of just a few of the booked my girls loved over and over.

1. Nosey Norman and Hello Dudley

These were bought by a friend of mine; her daughter is much older, so she is a pro.  They are monster hand puppets, which are attached to the books, so the reader gets to do the puppet show, voices and all.  There is mention of monster poo, so obviously this is popular.  Fun and easy to read, they could easily read them on their own, but these are adult participation books in our house.  Good one for a quick bedtime read, but be prepared for giggles and a less than calming read.

2. The Wizard of Oz

This was a present from the grandparents.  I have to be honest and it may be contentious, but I am not a fan of The Wizard of Oz.  It was on TV every Christmas when I was a child; I didn’t like it then and I like it even less now.  So their Dad used to get the job of reading this one to them, but I have now given in to pressure and read it too.  We were given this around 4 or 5 years ago, so the children were young and the text is hard to read, so be prepared to still be reading this for quite a few years.  It is the old favourite; a pop up flap book with music.  As you would expect it tells the very well-known story in just enough detail to keep little ones interested.  They love it and I know that, my sadly now passed Mother-in-law, would be thrilled to know she had chosen one of their favourites.  Guess it is just the right mix of action and sound effects that they ask for over and over again.

 wizard of oz

3. Who’s Afraid of The Big Bad Book

I don’t remember who this was a gift from, so I am going to say my sister; she is a big reader and has chosen quite a few from this list, so I can be forgiven for thinking she chose this one too.  It is written by Lauren Child, who writes the Charlie and Lola series of books.  It is illustrated in the same way, but that is where the similarity ends.  Herb falls into his own book of fairy tales.  Having drawn in it and cut bits out of it over the years, he feels the wrath of the irate characters for his actions.  As he travels through the book, he rights his wrongs as he comes into contact with some familiar characters, such as Goldilocks (who is hugely irritating in this book).  Is is a challenging read for younger children, but a brilliant book that really challenges their thinking and brings books to life.

whos afraid

4. What The Ladybird Heard

Another gift from my sister.  This has been read so many times, I can almost recall the words.  Julia Donaldson is a genius, I am yet to find a book of hers that is not well written and fun to read, but I would say this is my children’s favourite.  I love a rhyming book as they are so easy to read, but more challenging for children to read, so they were happy for us to read it to them for a few years.  It tells the story to the ladybird and the farm animals saving the day when two burglars come to their farm.  There is a sequel, but it has not been quite as popular.  Maybe one for the younger readers this one.

what the ladybird heard

5. Peepo

This is another present from my sister.  Sorry sis, but I didn’t get this book. However, in our house, I was the only one that didn’t get it.  Reading it you would think it was written in the 50’s, but is actually a modern book.  My husband, who was born in the wrong era, loves the pure innocence and simplicity of this book.  The girls both really enjoyed it and often asked for it to be read.  It it the story of a day in the life of a baby, through their eyes, but told in adult text.  Easy to read, but it is definitely a ‘read to’ book in our house.  The younger, ‘parent pleaser’ still asks for Daddy to read Peepo.  It is a lovely thing they share together, I always groan for effect when she asks for Daddy and Peepo.


6. Monkey and Me

This was bought for my oldest daughter by a baby group friend, when our children were 6 months old.  Sadly, we lost touch, but if she reads this, I would love her to know it is one of the girl’s favourites.  Very simple and easy to read; we added in sound effects for each of the animals they went to see.  Monkey and me go out to see people and then head home for tea; that is it, but for some reason, they love it. This has been read over and over again for 7 years, second daughter came along and loved it equally.  They still read it to themselves.  I know it word for word, which is not much of an achievement as there are not many words.

monkey and me

7. Princess Smartypants

This is one of my choices, but they really enjoy the story too, mainly because they like the idea of the naughty princess.  This is a twist on the old story of the Princes trying to win the hand of the Princess.  In this story the Princess just wants to spend life unmarried, living with her animals.  She treats her suitors terribly and ends up happily on her own.  It is a great one for the modern woman, just to prove that we can live happily ever after without a husband.  Fun and easy to read, suited to a slightly older reader.  The girls now easily read this on their own.

princess smarty pants

8. The Top Secret Diary of Pig.

This one is a library find; a trilogy about the life of Pig (I don’t have pictures of the other 2, but they are easily recognisable).  The only downside is that these books introduced the word fart into our world, amidst much shrieking and giggling.  Fart has probably replaced pump as the word, but I guess they are 7 and 6 now, so it could be worse. Pig writes his own diary in Pig language (which luckily, we can read), he tells us of his adventures on the farm and beyond.  I read the first one to them when we were on holiday, so it brings back good memories.  They begged me to find the second one as soon as we got back.  I chose a West Country accent for the voice of Pig, along with many other voices; I possibly had more fun than them.  Brilliantly written, they found them all so funny, but definitely for the slightly older children.  They read the third on their own, so the text is simple enough for young readers.

Pig book cover

9. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

This is a classic, which even if you chose not to read it to your children, they will probably get to re-enact it at school, or pre-school.  I have a friend who says she hates this book, so it is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s popular with my two.  We all know the story of the bear hunt and can make it as active and interesting as we like.  It was normally a bedtime book in our house, so we kept the actions low-key.  After many reads, like many people out there, I know all the words, so we used to do ad-hoc Bear Hunts on many an outing.  Too old now though, so catch them young with this one.

bear hunt

10. Turn It Up Doris

This is by Sam Lloyd, who wrote Nosey Norman and Hello Dudley.  I have added this one as a stand alone though, as it is slightly different from the other two books.  It has more of a meaning for my girls; they still read it now.  The oldest is particularly shy and suffers from anxiety.  She turned from this uncontrollable ball of energy to this terrified mute when she joined school.  Don’t get me wrong, she likes schools, but is so quiet, it is hard to hear her when she does finally speak.  She giggles a lot to make up for it.  In this story, Doris is too scared to speak up in a school performance, but needs to find her voice when her brother falls down a hole and they need help.  I don’t know if this book holds any significance for my children, as they don’t say anything about being nervous to speak out, but they frequently asked for the story, and still read it themselves.  They love the bit where they can shout out loud, and obviously the hand puppet is popular.  Fun and easy read, you can’t go wrong with a puppet!


11.  Rainbow Magic – Amber the Orange Fairy.

Last, but not least is a never end series of books about the adventures of Rachel and Kirsty.  Over the years, they have had numerous adventures with the Fairies of Rainspell Island, but ‘Amber the Orange Fairy’ is the favourite because of the name.  I am in trouble with DD2 though, as I chose a name that is not very well-known and so far there is no fairy for her.  We were given these by their cousin, who is now 16, so they have been out there for a few years now. These are written to appeal to readers from early years up to 9 or 10, the books get more complex for the older readers.  Not wanting to gender assign, but they are probably more appealing to the girls.  They are easy to read and my two can read them quite quickly, which appeals to them; they have short attention spans.  We did World Book Day as Amber the Orange Fairy as our first none Disney character.

Rainbow Magic: Amber The Orange Fairy Ebook

So that’s a list of books that appealed to 2 little girls, who enjoy reading, but are not great readers.  They are short and sweet, fun to read and easy for them to take over when their reading skills developed.  We have tried longer books, but so far nothing has caught their attention in the same way these did.

Happy reading everyone.

Please read this with my usual apology for spelling and grammar.


Beauty and looking younger – is it just a luxury for the wealthy?

We all know the saying, “Beauty is only skin deep.”  I am well aware that beauty comes from within, but there is so much pressure on us to maintain that outside beauty too.  I know I should be comfortable with my older me, but I was barely comfortable with my younger me, so it is proving challenging.  I am an older Mum, surrounded by fit, slim, naturally beautiful 20 and 30 something Mums in the school playground.  (To be honest, I am sure many of them think I am the Gran doing pick up!) I go home to check out the lycra gear and think better of it as I glimpse a look at the wrinkles, jowls and dark circles around my eyes – no way this is going to look good running, or should I say jiggling around the village.

So a couple of weeks ago at a Christmas Fair I picked up a voucher for a facial treatment.  I will guiltily point out that I was taking a bit of time out of job hunting and setting up the business, to check out crafty stuff in yet another bid to establish myself as a crafting master.  It actually just made me want to turn to the gin stall instead of pick up my wood shapes and paint pots.

Back to the voucher – I checked out the website and saw a Caci Jowl Lift and was sold on this idea.  Booked it, thinking this is a facial treatment, it will be almost free with my £20 voucher…. always read the small print!  Did not have a clue what the thing was, but I thought if it gets rid of the jowls, I’m in.  Had to postpone 3 times to fit in with my busy schedule, but today was the day.

I’ve never felt that I would go down the cosmetic surgery, or filler route, but that was when my facial muscles were not letting me down and my eyes didn’t feel the need to have their own bag for life each.  I was a bit terrified though as I had a sudden thought that I might have signed up to fillers; I am not sure I am up for that just yet.

After waiting nervously for 10 minutes, I was taken up to the nicely decked out treatment room.  I laid on the treatment table and quickly made it clear that I didn’t know what a Caci Jowl facial was.  The lovely therapist patiently took me through the whole thing,  al the time brandishing these funny looking fork things that looked that tuning forks (Do they still exist?)  She told me that the treatment had been designed for stroke patients, which made me feel incredibly vain and self-absorbed, but what the hell, I was there, so I might as well carry on.  It’s all something to do with electrical currents toning the muscle – quick flashback at this point to me in the noughties, walking around wearing a slendertone whilst drinking wine, in the hope that effortless exercise really did exist. Needless to say I got drunk and did not tone.

Back to Caci; she told me that I would feel pressure as she really needed to get into the muscle for this to work.  Then it began.  The pressure was firm to say the least, but the tingling current was fine, there was a strange metallic taste in my mouth, but that was OK.  She attempted to chat to me, but I felt like my body was rigid with anxiety and pain, so could only manage a few words between gritted teeth.  After half the face was done, which seemed like an eternity, I was showed the results on one side; I could see a difference, but I could also see these bright red marks, which I am sure will bruise later!  Off she went onto the other side, but saved the most painful under chin pinching part till last.  She told me some people fell asleep during the treatment, I must have one hell of a low pain threshold because I could barely unclench, let alone go to sleep.

So here are the results of my first 30 minute treatment – yes first, apparently there are many more to come.  I have gone for the really attractive selfie poses as you can see #nofilter

Left is the before and right is after – can you tell the difference?  There is a very slight difference, which I am told will get more noticeable after each treatment, but I am not really seeing it in the photographic evidence.

Then to the sales pitch; 2 treatments per week for a few months, followed by a treatment every one or two months for life!  The less than comfortable treatments are £28 pounds a time.  She also tried to sell me a vitamin serum that has apparently been scientifically proven to be effective in firming and toning muscles, think she said it was retinol, but after checking out the price, I erased that from my memory in shock.  Obviously, the usual over the counter versions would be useless due to the diluting down to keep costs low, so I need the salon brand at a cost of £65.

I got to use their makeup to cover the very red marks on my face, so that was a plus.  Always like to play with expensive makeup, that I could never afford.  Then I found someone to sort out the bill, it was all very laid back with no one at the desk, so I did wonder if it was free after all.  But, it goes without saying that the voucher was not valid, as apparently it needed to be an hour-long treatment,

“So maybe next time you could go for the hour-long option.” she said in a slightly patronising way, the way I feel people who know I can’t afford things talk to me, but maybe that’s just me and my paranoia.

I can’t imagine letting those fork things near the rest of my face and going through it for an hour.  The voucher valid hour-long treatments, which I think offer the relaxation and baby soft skin at the end of it, were at least double that price, if not more, so my little £20 voucher would have barely touched the final bill.  Sadly, I don’t see my budget stretching to any of those, in fact, it won’t stretch to a repeat visit to the fork lady either.

So, that’s me toned, but £28 poorer; it looks like a bill will have to go unpaid this month, thank God for interest free credit and an amazing Black Friday deal on trainers for the children – a guilt purchase for daring to spend money on me, obviously.  I would love to try her retinol serum and go back to fight the jowl war, but how can I honestly justify the cost in a desperate attempt to stay looking younger just a little longer?   I think I could be lured into the cosmetic enhancement business, if only I had the money. Just imagine how I could look if I was rich?

The end of my gluten love affair – “Gluten, it’s not you, it’s me.”

Cookie pic.jpg

The famous emoji poo biscuit.  Basically, I couldn’t be bothered to find a piping nozzle, so I just used a bag and squeezed out these little beauties.  But, there is a point to it all and it not just that I needed cookies.  That said, we never need a reason to make, or eat a cookie in our house!

I decided to try out the new Schar universal flour mix, and what better way than in a chocolate cookie?  The result was delish, even though I do say so myself.  Only downside for me is that the mix has sugar in it, so I am not sure how that works if I want savoury.  That does seem to be a major issue with gluten-free foods though; huge amounts of sugar to enhance the flavour.

So why be gluten-free when I am not a coeliac, am I just following a fad?  I have followed many a fad diet, that is indisputable; the last one was the ‘I Quit Sugar’ thing.  Did she make most of those ingredients up?  Seriously, why don’t I just not eat sugar?  It’s got to be less hassle than making all those weird and complicated recipes!  But on this occasion, it’s for good reasons. I have always suffered with IBS and all the associated stomach issues, but over the years things got worse and worse.  My go to comfort food would always be bread products, pastry, cakes, cookies, basically anything with flour in it.  Soup and toast have been a staple of my diet since leaving the farmhouse kitchen of my childhood.  When I was a teenager, if Mum suggested a diet, it meant that I only ate one cake a day, instead of a selection from the many home cooked bakery delights that were on offer.  Family of feeders 🙂

Things started to get worse when I was working as cabin crew; I remember being curled up on the floor of a shopping centre in Hong Kong in absolute agony.  (I do love to drop in the odd ref to my travels to Asia in a desperate attempt to  make me seem exciting!)  I think I just looked like a weirdo though as no one rushed to my aid.

I had known coeliacs before, but had never really understood the whole dietary side of it. I tried cutting out wheat products, this meant giving up my beloved bread …. it was hell,  my entire culinary repertoire gone.  Things didn’t improve much and I found it impossible to stick to it. After the arrival of my kids, things got even worse and I spent many an outing blaming the children for the farts, “Oh Beebs (pet name for youngest, no longer allowed to use it though), have you done a little pumpy?”  It eventually got to the stage when they would deny it and turn on me,

“Mummy, what is that disgusting smell, have you done a pump?”

Those local farmers took a lot of the blame for that.  Lots of other stuff happened, all far too much info to share now though.

It wasn’t until my friend’s daughter was diagnosed that I fully understand the severity of the condition and witnessed the absolute torture that eating gluten caused her.  I learnt about contamination and just how many things that gluten is in; things you would never imagine, like Smarties.  I decided to give full on gluten-free a try, things instantly improved.  Long story short, had tests, results negative, diagnosis IBS with gluten intolerance.  I dodged a bullet there and am incredibly lucky that it is not coeliac disease.

Luckily by the time I went fully gluten-free, the selection of GF things on offer was still expensive, but lots more variety than the ‘olden days’.  The old style gluten-free bread, or PG (pre Genius), as I like to call it; what even was that stuff?  It tasted like a disgusting rice marshmallow and had a lead like texture.  No offence to the manufacturers, we really needed it and are grateful for what was offered.  But seriously, how could a woman with the appetite the size of mine live on bread that small?  I am spoilt for choice now, but all still unfairly expensive, so I hang around the reduced aisles in hope of an offer.

It’s not just my stomach issues that have been resolved, but they are so much better.  Now I really can blame the kids and the farmers.  I used to get regular bouts of tonsillitis and mouth ulcers.  Now, I know if I have had gluten for many stomach related reasons, but often I get a mouth ulcer afterwards too.  Who knew things like that would be caused by what I ate?  I didn’t believe it for a while and kept thinking maybe I was just having one of my imagined ailments, but I’ve tested it out a few times and the results are always the same.  So that’s me GF forever now.

I get really excited by new GF products on offer, even things like scotch eggs and pork pies .. I don’t even eat those things!  But I did find myself testing out a GF pork pie once, just because I could.  It was OK, but I don’t feel the need to revisit that experience.  My most recent thrill was the arrival of waffles …. woo hoo, they are the best, but flipping tiny, I can do a pack in one hit.

This is not me telling anyone how to eat, or to go GF without medical advice.  But this is my story and it worked for me, so thought I would share, or over share maybe.

I do apologise to the true coeliacs out there; who I know have been through hell, but I promise you it’s not just faddy diet, or me desperately trying to be fashionable. So if you ever see me walking strangely around Sainburys, or blaming the children for the smell, you can probably guess that I have relapsed into my gluten addiction.

Stay at home mum or housewife, what is the difference?

So, I took the plunge and decided the job wasn’t working out.  I have to face facts, super Mum, I am not!  So here I am working out what to call myself when I get asked that all important question, “What do you do?” Should I be a stay at home mum or a housewife, why can’t I just be ….?

It seems that everyone is obsessed with what we do.  Up to having children, if I was asked what I did, I could always say I was a something (depending on what job I was managing to hold down at the time).  Since having children, I have tried all sorts of things from selling Phoenix Cards (other home based selling companies are available and believe me I have tried most of them, apparently sales is not my thing), to teaching antenatal classes.  My last venture was as a teaching assistant in a local primary school; a must have job for a Mum with no childcare cover from relatives.  It really was perfect on paper, until I worked out that I still needed breakfast and after school clubs for 2 children at the extortionate cost of £6,500 per year.  Those of you who work in schools will know that the salary is not exactly generous, so will understand that this cost took over half of my wages.  Anyway, I am rambling.  Back to now and what am I?

I am in week 1 of no job and the children at school.  If I am a stay at home mum, how does that differ from being a house wife?  I am a wife, I live in a house and I am a mum who stays at home. I have this terrible guilt about not doing enough, so feel like if I sit down for 5 minutes, I am being lazy.  But I would have a break and a sit down if I was at work, so why can’t I let myself relax?

I decided that cleaning could be the first job on the list of things to do; it looks like maybe I haven’t cleaned much since we first moved in 18 months ago.  Feeling quite smug about the shiny clean bedrooms, but have to admit that it was hard work and not exactly exciting.  I am feeling the key to this cleaning thing is to do it more regularly.  I am a stay at home Mum, so I feel that this is my job, but wasn’t it still my job when I was working?  I have never worked in the wage bracket that can afford cleaners.

I feel the need to turn into some sort of domestic goddess, but my children will only eat pizza and fish fingers bought from shops.  I tried making my own pizza; it was rejected as too tomatoey and too cheesy.  I have just made biscuits that resemble the emoji poo, so I think they might be popular.  I didn’t set out to make poo biscuits, but my oldest just came in and said, “Ooh look poopy things!”  Now they are rushing off to take a picture of my emoji poo biscuits.  Tomorrow I am going to buy beef shin to make a Jamie Oliver chile.  What the hell is beef shin and where will I find it?  This could mean a trip to the butchers; not something I have done more than a handful of times.  Local supermarkets are tiny here, so no beef shin on offer in Lidl today.  I still had to feed my children when I worked, so not much changed on this job, except this irrational need to take longer cooking it.

If I work out what I would have been charged to have my house cleaned, my food cooked and my children looked after, I think the costs would easily have ramped up to more than I was earning, so is it OK to stay home and do the things myself?  I have so much respect for every parent and carer who is currently doing it all.  There are more reasons than the cost of childcare as to why I find myself as a stay at home Mum, but they are for another time.  Why do I feel the need to justify the decision though?

Homework done, both children bathed, meltdown about who gets the frog sponge resolved, and dinner is cooking.  Now I have time to think through my day and wonder if it really matters what I call myself and whether I work, stay at home, be a housewife, or whatever.  Should we just be proud of who we are and what we do and stop this desperate need to prove ourselves as a somebody who does something?