REMEMBER, REMEMBER …

 

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I love the warmth and solidarity of November … the nights drawing in, the log fires, the celebration of all those that have given and continue to give their lives  for others.

Despite buying 4 or more (I always lose them or leave them on jackets) I remembered the Poppy etiquette that my Mum taught me many moons ago  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/11975066/Poppy-etiquette-Are-you-wearing-yours-right.html and always wear my poppy with pride.

When thinking of solidarity and loss, my heart goes out to all those affected by the recent Parisian incident, in fact all those across the world, touched by war, depravity, terrorism and poverty.  It’s easy to assume that our world is turning rotten and to worry for our children, but I refuse to be pessimistic. I am reminded almost every day of the strength and loveliness in the world; those constantly rallying for others, those random acts of kindness and gestures of support and friendship and I urge you to dwell on and encourage the positivity of those instead.

 

The Visitors Book

GHOSTLY TALES

Quite apt for this time of year, with Halloween just a groan away, I’ve just read a lovely little book of short stories; The Visitor’s Book and Other Ghost Stories by Sophie Hannah.  A really readable modern take on ghostly tales… fun, quirky and impressionable short stories… take a peek if you dare http://bit.ly/1T9D37J .

 

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HANDS UP FATTY

My name is S-J and I LOVE ice cream!  My weakness is this one, amongst others.  When I nipped to the supermarket last weekend this old favourite just happened to catch my eye and I simply couldn’t resist.  I’d bobbed it into the freezer and forgotten about it, until last night.

They say a bit of what you fancy does you good, and there’s a reason I normally decant a couple of heaped spoons into a small bowl rather than just grab a spoon …. I really should have stopped before reaching halfway!  Still, it was much needed, I enjoyed every mouthful and there’s a time and a place for everything.  It’s back in the freezer for now.  I’ll try to resist it for at least a few days before I polish it off … honest!

 

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HOW TO MAKE A FRIEND

Well, Fleur Smithwick isn’t making any (tongue in cheek) – that is the single most excellent, most infuriating and most cleverly composed book I’ve read in a very long time.  A psychological thriller of sorts which questions the why’s and wherefore’s of friendships both true and fictional.  An exceptional literary talent, Fleur has left me positively exhausted and questioning all there is to question about mind over matter. Read it … you won’t be disappointed. http://bit.ly/1NIJc6s

 

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IT’S ALCHEMY I TELL YA!

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Finally found my merry little way, with a little help from my friends, to The Alchemist in Leeds – and I wasn’t disappointed.  It stood up to the hype.  I’m so fussy (you don’t say!) so the somewhat attentive and obliging mixologist very kindly created the ‘SJ on legs’ just for me … a heady concoction of Absolut, Courvoissier, grapefruit juice, Angostura bitters, mint, crushed ice and dry ice – it certainly hit the spot and started the night off perfectly!

 

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RIOTING AT ROXY LANES

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So, moving on from a warm up cocktail at The Alchemist, I took my naughty pal, Andrea (who always leads me astray) & her ‘too cool for skool’ hubby Joolz out for her birthday and we experienced the gaming delights of the newly discovered (for us at least) Roxy Lanes … Such a great evening – game of bowling (we were all pretty terrible – but I blame the …), great cocktails, great food and attentive staff.  Big thanks to Manager, Katie – who was friendly, fun and efficient and introduced us to the unfamiliar and hugely competitive beer pong!  The beast inside me reared its ugly head and the girls well and truly thrashed the boys.  I wouldn’t be lying to say we stumbled out of the place several hours after we arrived!  Such a good evening….

 

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WHO REMEMBERS SHAWADDYWADDY?

We ended our night at the Belgrave Music Hall … literally ‘Under The Moon of Love’ … where in the roof top gardens we had a night cap (or two) and Andrea and I were serenaded by that lovely bloke from Shawaddywaddy (who’d been performing at City Varieties)… talk about ‘Good Timing!’

 

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POORLY POPPET

Big thanks this month to Nurofen the magic medicine that has helped my little poppet back to health.  All the germs and the nasty weather accumulated in Scarlett’s head and chest and  resulted in a really rotten cold and ear infection.  With lots of TLC, regular children’s Nurofen and a few hard-pushed early nights the lurgy is almost out of her system.

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HAIR RAISING

Scarlett has made me super proud – raising almost £500   for The Little Princess Trust by donating her hair and being sponsored for the cut.Despite feeling poorly, she stood in front of the assembly at school last week and explained all about it.  Apparently she was ‘right in the middle of confident and scared’ (her words not mine and perfectly put). I know that speaking aloud to an audience won’t have come easy to her (she doesn’t have her brother’s showmanship) – so that makes me even prouder!

Massive THANK YOU to everyone who has supported my little girl through her change and for donating. http://bit.ly/1FLvy59

 

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FEELING FRUITY

In the midst of the cocktails and party season, and in a desperate attempt to counteract the same, I was lucky to take delivery of a truckload of Vegesentials smoothies the other week and in the throws of the usual mania around here – it’s taken the pressure off my morning smoothie routine (I generally whizz one up for the troops from any raw ingredients in the fridge) whilst still ensuring our incredibly important 5 (or more)- a day.  They’re simply delicious and I love that the packaging tells you the benefits of each of the healthy ingredients.  Such a great idea and healthy’s never been so tasty!

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TAKE IT EASY

Another ‘winter warmer’ I’m coming to rely on is the wonderous little turquoise granules that are Temple Spa’s Take It Easy.  A scoop or 4 of these cold-relieving, stress-relieving granules in a deep hot bath sort me right out.  At £22 for a 500g tub it’s worth it’s weight in gold and looks rather splendid on the bathroom shelf too – bonus!

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 RHINO’S B-BOYZ

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A quick shout out for Jemster and his fellow Rhino’s B-Boyz with their new teacher RawGina Roberts, as she whips them into shape for their next on-pitch performance.  So proud of the amazing progress they make week on week… they’re all so much fitter, stronger and the skilful tricks just keep on coming!  If you have a young dude who fancies getting fit, having fun and learning some impressive moves (head spin anyone?) then get them down to the all-boys breakdance session at Carnegie Cafe Bar (Leeds Rhino’s Stadium); Headingley House, 39 St. Michaels Lane, LS6 3BR (Leeds Rhino’s Stadium) 6pm til 7pm on a Tuesday evening – all new-comers  will be made very welcome.  At just £3.50 a session (or £18 for a block of 6)…  there’s nothing to lose but your inhibitions!

 

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Speaking of inhibitions, or the distinct lack of them, my talented little man visited his management company Ology Kids Casting in  Lathom last weekend to do his Supernova film and to update his voiceover showreel.

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Jem never fails to impress me with his confidence and talent, or his mere cheek for that matter!  We enjoyed a ‘together’ day, finishing the session with a lovely family lunch at the local Cricketer’s  in Ormskirk, which came highly recommended.

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The food was presented beautifully and tasted as good as it looked and we enjoyed a heavy dose of laughter along with our feast!

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When Archie’s favourite tune came on; Ed Sheeran and Rudimental’s Bloodstream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Orq_75kFi8I&list=RDOrq_75kFi8I#t=0 (he’s got great taste) he got seriously giddy – I’d even go so far as to saying he’s almost got his ‘mojo’ back, albeit in small doses!

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A great place, and a great gas made moreso because the lavish lunch was unplanned and turned into something special.

 

Tranquility Day Spa

A LITTLE TRANQUILITY..

For someone who’s never really paid herself a great deal of attention (and more recently whose needs have been squished fiercely flat at the bottom of the pecking order) I’m fast becoming a convert!  MY day yesterday made me realise just how important ‘me time’ is!

Maura organised a wonderful ‘bespoke’ pamper package for my lovely girlfriend, Alex, and I at Tranquility Day Spa, Horsforth.  A much-needed de-stressing back, neck and shoulder aromatherapy massage with essential oils, a red and sparkly shellac manicure ( … it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas) and the most luxurious paraffin hand treatment (so lush we’ve requested an all over one next time!).

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Whilst Alex had a mini facial, I also had my lashes and brows tamed and tinted (not only looking lovely – but relieving the stress of getting made up every day and looking a tad less ugly without my face on).  I feel truly pampered, primped and polished!  The ladies took such good care of us both and the glasses of fizz and fresh fruit platter were a really lovely and welcome touch.IMG_2038 (2)

For good measure, Wendy snook me into her very busy schedule and has done a wonderful job of trimming and re-styling my lengthy locks – after strict instructions from Scarlett NOT to have a bob or go too short (I wouldn’t dare steal her thunder).  My hair feels so much lighter, healthier and shinier – and I got massive hugs from Scarlett, she approves, even Jem says he ‘loves it’ and is jealous all over again (I refuse to let him have his head shaved!)!

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BAR 166

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After such a lovely pamper we wanted to showcase our new ‘me’s’ so Alex and I went for a light bite, a couple of cocktails (I can see a theme here) and a good old gossip at Bar 166, Town Street, Horsforth.  The food was just as delicious and as well-presented as I remember (it’s been a while) and the cocktails too – even matching our manicures rather wonderfully!

 

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Thanks Wendy – as well as cuddles and girlie time this morning, my daughter and I are revelling in our new ‘do’s,’   I feel rather FABULOUS for the first time in such a long time.  What’s even better is due to my husband’s incessant snoring (not dissimilar to a herd of ruminating rhino) I haven’t slept a wink – so it looks equally as lovely as when I went to bed!!?*  I’m so glad my husband slept well … it means that at least one of us will be functional today! Obviously I should have taken up the invitation of joining Alex and Co at the gig in town last night after all!?*

 

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CRUMBS

In the very noticeable absence of my lovely Mum, and wanting to fill an obvious seasonal void for my Dad, I’ve made my own Christmas cakes this year.  First attempts were marzipanned and iced today and I think they look pretty good – but I just hope they’re edible.  I couldn’t find my Mum’s age-old and fail-safe recipe so, like with most making and baking, I totally winged it!  Only time and taste-testing will tell, so I’ve got my fingers firmly crossed….

 

 Less than 4 weeks and counting …. 

SHORT BACK & MOTHER’S PRIDE

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Yesterday was World Kindness Day … which for me paled Friday the 13th into insignificance!

I’m an emotional soul, and nothing warms my heart more (or moves me to tears) than a genuine display of ‘kindness’ or thoughfulness in whatever form.  There is a reason why I end every episode of DIY SOS, animal hospital, or very topically Children in Need, looking a lot like Alice Cooper!

Imagine my pride yesterday when that selfless act of kindness was performed by my 7 year old daughter.

Having a brother with profound special needs, and spending a lot of time in medical establishments and mixing with children with special needs, I’m pleased to report that both Scarlett and Jem are well versed and well adjusted when it comes to disability.  I’ve taught them to be mindful of others needs and or weaknesses and not to be afraid to ask questions.

Having spent the best part of 6 weeks in hospital with Archie recently, on one visit Scarlett became curious about two little girls she saw on the ward who had no hair.  I explained to her that often through illness, treatment and or the stress of the same, people lose their hair, as her late Granny Sue had with cancer.  I think it was possibly all the more concerning to Scarlett because these two girls were very close to her age – albeit slightly older.  After the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ I could almost hear her mind whirring – when Scarlett piped up that she wished she could have all her hair cut off to give to these girls to make them pretty again.  I hugged my thoughtful little girl close as tears fought to escape!

After some discussion, some research and no persuasion whatsoever, I enrolled Scarlett with the Little Princess Trust a charity which provides real hair wigs for children suffering from hair loss.  Scarlett was bursting with pride and excitement, and when I explained that we could also raise money for the charity through sponsorship of this ‘hair cutting’ event – she was thrilled… I can tell you now there is nothing more exciting for a 7 year old girl than knowing that by having a hair cut, friends, family and complete strangers will kindly donate money to an online account and watching that money mounting up and the pleasure in her eyes has been quite momentous!

Fortunately for us, I befriended Wendy, an accomplished stylist at Tranquility Day Spa in Horsforth, and she very kindly offered to cut Scarlett’s hair professionally for us (as per the guidelines expressed by Little Princess Trust).

Scarlett’s hair took a long time to establish itself and even at 3 years old, it was just starting to thicken and grow.

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Through no real conscious effort, despite regular trims (normally performed by Granny Sue or myself over the years – following Granny Sue’s training) Scarlett chose to keep her hair long.

There was a period of time, a couple of years ago, when Scarlett suffered from Trichotillomania, a compulsive hair pulling disorder where through stress, sufferers consciously pull out small clumps of hair uncontrollably.   Sam Faiers brought media attention to this condition around the same time of Scarlett’s suffering – which made me seek help and Sam’s openness about the impulsive disorder was really helpful to me.  (I suffered a similar condition in my youth where in times of stress I would pull out my eyelashes).  Fortunately for us, Scarlett’s experience with this condition appears to have been short-lived and with love and support seems to have been overcome.

I think a woman’s hair is more than just a statement of style.  It’s an extension of their personality, strength, health and well being.  I know how different and how fabulous a hair cut can make me feel and how when I am stressed and run down how it shows in the lack lustre and frailness of my locks.  Having seen my Mum lose her hair to cancer and Scarlett having suffered from Trichotillomania, I do think having her hair cut in this way to raise awareness and funds for charity, through her own volition at 7 years of age, is an incredibly brave and lovely thing to do.  It might not be a marathon or a grand gesture under extreme conditions, but neither is it ‘just’ a hair cut and I couldn’t be more proud!

Yesterday was Scarlett’s appointment at the salon and here is her story in pictures;

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When we arrived at the salon Scarlett (& Jem who had tagged along for moral support!) were made deliciously naughty hot chocolates with more squirty cream and marshmallows than were strictly necessary!  Such a lovely gesture and on a wet and blustery day and we’re talking chocolate and children here – this was the perfect ice-breaker for a little girl’s first salon appointment – and such an important one at that!

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Wendy undid Scarlett’s French plaits and assessed Scarlett’s hair (clean and in great condition), all the while talking to her and explaining what she was doing.

Then, as per instructions of the donation, Wendy re-plaited Scarlett’s clean, dry hair, banding it top and bottom, ready for the chop.

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HAIR CUT

With the two 10+ inch plaits removed, the cut was already taking shape and my little girl looked totally different, but now the proper pampering and styling began.

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After an hour of Wendy’s expertise in shampooing, conditioning, cutting, straightening, blow-drying and trimming my ‘Little Princess’ was sporting a FABULOUS new ‘do!’

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Thanks Wendy!  Scarlett loves it, I love it (I can’t wait to get myself booked in), – even Jem loves it….

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After standing in front of the mirror, twiddling the ends, flicking and swishing around the lounge room for some time … my little girl went to bed last night with a wonderful new haircut and a very big smile on her face.

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Massive THANKS to Wendy and Maura and the team at Tranquility Day Spa in Horsforth and to those generous people who have already donated to our justgiving site. There’s still time to support the Little Princess Trust via Scarlett’s fundraising page at  http://bit.ly/1FLvy59 or the collection box in the salon.

Perhaps her actions have inspired you to make a donation yourself?

It’s all been a bit hair-raising … but totally WORTH IT!

SHOT IN THE HEAD … October’s Lament

IMG_0980‘Lament’ is probably the wrong word (but maybe not)… as whilst I’m lamenting – I’m not bitter, nor sad and, albeit THOROUGHLY EXHAUSTED, I’m trying not to dwell on my life’s journey through the past couple of months. It’s been a pig of a year, but I’m not pessimistic as a rule.  My heart is always filled with optimism – But, when the chips are down – I’m a realist.   After a hellish time, Archie’s back at school today – which is a MAJOR test.  I feel like my right arm has been ripped off at source because I’ve been caring for him 24/7 for the best part of the last two months.  We had a mad hour at home this morning (I actually slept well last night – which is almost unheard of, and as such unconsciously knocked my alarm on snooze and when I eventually realised I should have been up an hour previously, I removed myself from my pit at the speed of a salted slug.  That sleep was SO good) but, after much ado he made it out the door!

MAJOR PAUSE ….

Damn it!!  That was my concerted effort to blog on Friday (30th October – end of the month … best laid plans and all that!)!

…  It’s now Tuesday, and, not wanting to sound like a broken record, as well as looking the epitome of the proverbial bag lady, … BUT an awful lot has happened since I started this post!!

I shan’t tell you all the gritty details, that despite having Archie out of hospital after nigh on 6 weeks and back at school, albeit by the skin of his grinding teeth, there have been more than a few hiccups, I’ve been back in A&E this time with my father, and my husband’s working overseas … To say the past three hectic days my life has pretty much imploded is an understatement, but I refuse to be beaten.  I am every inch as broken as I look, every one of those bags beneath my tired eyes has been terrifyingly well earned and every sigh I’m emitting is Oscar-worthy –  But I shan’t whimper … instead I shall sip my hot water (alcohol is currently forbidden whilst I’m in charge and on high alert) and, whilst I’m inwardly cowering – I shall outwardly rejoice on the good things that October has conjured up …

A GOLDEN WEDDING CELEBRATION

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In between the dark hours of hospital life – I spent a few hours with my Dad and my two youngest celebrating my Aunt and Uncle’s Golden Wedding.  It was really lovely to see family and friends that we don’t see anywhere near often enough .. but it was bitter sweet that my lovely Mum wasn’t there to celebrate with her brother and family and also that Archie and Pete were noticeably absent.  My Uncle’s local golf club (Malton & Norton Golf Club) put on a wonderful spread.  Jem was particularly struck by the mouthwatering proportions and it was really good to spend some time with him and Scarlett – as I’d been giving my all to Archie!

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I’ve noticed that my Mum’s rose has been blossoming beautifully the past few weeks … so I’m pretty certain she’s watching over us and quite possibly rolling her eyes at all our antics!

 TRUST ME I’M LYING 

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A really good read.  This one had me gripped and managed to while away a couple of sleepless nights in hospital.  I’d definitely recommend it. http://bit.ly/1hwt7Yc   It’s an easy read and a bit ‘tweenage’ but I enjoyed the cut and thrust of the storyline and the intrigue kept me guessing.

ESCAPEE

IMG_0204 (2) The best thing to happen last month, by far, was finally getting my little man out of hospital.   We’ve still got a really long way to go, and he only returned to school the other day – but, we’re on the right track.

 IMG_9962My nursing duties have gone up exponentially but I’ve got my medical head on and have every faith in my newly learned duties (famous last words!)!

 ACTING POTTY

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Once we got Archie settled in and Dad trained up on the medical front, Jem and I escaped to London for the day for a casting.  It was great to combine a bit of fun with Jem’s talent.  It was a late train back – but we managed to use our time wisely by visiting Platform 9 and 3 quarters and the Harry Potter shop at Kings Cross Station, and we had to have the obligatory photo call.  I’m thrilled with Jem’s … you’ll note I haven’t posted mine!!

 

 RAVING ABOUT THE RHINOS

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Anyone who knows us knows just how much my little man loves his rugby.  Not only is he making his mark playing for his much loved local team, Yarnbury RFC, and dancing on the pitch for his beloved Rhinos, but he loves nothing more than watching his favourite team from the sidelines too!

Jem’s been such a superstar helping Dad keep things together whilst I’ve been out of the picture looking after Archie, that when the opportunity arose to take Jem and his pal Callum to see the Rhino’s match against New Zealand it was a dream come true.  (Massive THANKS to the lovely Penelope Davidson and Jason Davidson – Head Conditioner for Leeds Rhinos for making this happen).  My little man was jumping out of his skin and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  The Rhino’s put up a great fight and we honestly thought they were in with a chance, but sadly the Kiwis did what they do best.  The Kiwi’s haka was a sight to behold http://bit.ly/1XpR3Nl  and Jem was beyond  thrilled when he got to meet a few of his Rhino idols after the game.  He was especially thrilled when Ash Golding  a recent signing for the Rhinos and set tipped for a great future with the club after his outstanding ‘Man of the Match’ display, took the time to have a picture taken with him!

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SCOUTING FOR GIRLS

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Just a day out of hospital and in desperate need of some fresh air and exercise I let Jem coerce me into a scouting enterprise!

As part of the Million Hands Project, Cookridge Methodist Scouts joined forces with the local Cubs and Girl Guides to help clear the grounds of the Bedford Arms Public House in Cookridge.  This initiative brought together youthful energy and adult manpower to help turn around the site ready for it’s reinvention by OPAL as a functional building for their members.

Despite the persistent rain I was more than happy to don my Ilse Jacobsen’s (possibly the comfiest waterproof boots around EVER and worth every one of their ridiculously expensive pennies – especially now my dancer’s calves have turned to ‘cankles!!’) to get stuck in.  In the two hours that we were there such an impression was made and it was great to be a part of a good deed.

 

PET PAL ACTIVITY CLUB

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To divide my time equally (3 kids – pah – what was I thinking?) it was only fair that a day was dedicated to No 3.  So, on Sunday afternoon I took Scarlett and her friend Abigail, via the park and naughty nibbles, to a Pet Pal Activity session at Pets At Home where they learnt all about Little Furries.  It was an interactive session (lasting approximately 30 minutes – although we were there nearly an hour!) where a trained member of staff imparted lots of knowledge about the animals and let the girls handle lots of small furry things (hamsters, chinchillas, degu, gerbils, rabbits, etc), whilst they bombarded him with a squillion questions, not all of which were animal related (poor fella!).  They thoroughly enjoyed themselves and I had to draw the line at pocketing their new furry friends.   I made it my job to thoroughly check pockets for Russian Dwarf Hamsters before we left the store – ensuring the only things we’d gained were their well-earned certificates!  I have a sneaking suspicions that small furry things will be appearing on at least two letters to Santa this year!!

 

A HAPPY HALLOWEEN

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We love Halloween in our house, (any excuse), so the dressing up and make up boxes got a good airing the other week.  I let Scarlett loose on my face first and she made a really good fist of my skeleton face.    I then had a play around myself and with a little help from YouTube managed to shoot myself in the head!  Whilst I was on nursing duties Pete took the kids round the neighbourhood to fill themselves full of sugar – whilst I camped on the doorstep … we must have had more than 25 callers.  I particularly liked the teenage boys who rocked up with plastic masks on (poor effort) – when I turned up at the door mid Archie sorting with a frantic look on my face, 2 syringes in my hands and a bullet wound to the head.  Until then I wasn’t sure my efforts were all that – but their reactions definitely restored my faith in my make up abilities… Still I was taught by the best MAC artist Terry back when I was a Harvey Nic’s chick!

 

HAIR RAISING

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Funny how I’ve been playing with Scarlett’s hair such a lot since I knew that she was having it all cut off!  Massive thanks to Elnett – 2 cans in 2 weeks must be a record!

Scarlett is super excited … we’ve been counting down the days until she visits the lovely Wendy down at Tranquility Day Spa … Friday the 13th is so very close now … Eeeeek.  The more we talk about it – the more I want to have mine done too … so I’m thinking the pair of us might both be having a change.  I’m SUPER proud of her and she’s already raised a very impressive amount.  If you haven’t donated and would like to please visit  http://bit.ly/1FLvy59 .  Every penny really does count and it’s for a great cause. THANK YOU.

Right … it’s after 9pm – all 3 children are in bed (although not quite in the Land of Nod) – and no crises have occurred in at least an hour.  So, there’s a glass of fizz with my name on it and I make no excuses ….  In fact I have it on good authority (Telegraph and Forbes) that 3 flutes of champagne a day aid Dementia, so in my reckoning I’ve got some swift work to do!

Chin chin (who’s counting?) …

Champagne this way