Friday, 25 October 2013

Oral-B Love Your Gums Challenge

When I was little I used to go to drama school on a Saturday morning. One week we working with a poem that stuck with me: "Oh, I wish I looked after my teeth, and spotted the peril beneath" by Pam Ayres. In the poem she looks back and regrets not listening to her mum and now it has become too late as false teeth are "beckonin' ".

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who has something stuck in their teeth? It is hugely distracting. You keep trying to look at their eyes, but your line of line of sight keeps dropping. Our mouths are important; they are how we communicate, not just with words, but with non verbal cues such as smiling, grimacing, frowning etc. The reason the poem stuck with me is it's a brutal reminder that if you leave it too late to look after your teeth and your gums you don't get another chance.

As a parent I worry about my daughter's teeth. She hates brushing them and I hate the tantrums that come with attempts to make her brush them. Yes they are her "baby" teeth, but her gums are for keeps. She loves to eat the toothpaste and chew the toothpaste, but brushing? That's a challenge. We normally manage it by getting her to "brush" my teeth while I do hers, but I can't help thinking there is another way.

9 smiles showing teeth from young to old

It is estimated that around half of adults have gum disease and it is the major cause of tooth loss. The risk of gum problems is even higher for pregnant women. Oral-B is running a Love Your Gums campaign to raise awareness of the importance of healthy gums.

This post is an entry for BritMums’ #ORALBLoveYourGums Challenge sponsored by Oral-B, promoting healthy gums – something especially important for pregnant women. Get tips and advice on

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Book review: The Slightly Annoying Elephant

 Front cover of The slightly annoying Elephant by David Walliams showing a big blue elephant and a small boy hiding behind his leg

Plot Summary: When Sam adopted an elephant at the zoo little did he realise the elephant would turn up on his doorstep. Sam soon realises that elephants don't make great house guests and that you should always read the small print.

Carefully what you sign up to
What my daughter thinks: This book has quickly become a favourite, M loves to say "Oh no" as she turns the page and sees all the trouble the elephant causes. I'm confident that she will continue to enjoy it and pick up more details as she gets older

M reading "The Slightly Annoying Elephant" with Grandma
What I think: This humorous story is David Walliam's first picture book, but he has previously written 6 children's novels (nope I didn't realise this before either, but you can find out more here). The clever humour and happy ending (for the elephant) are typical Walliams. The story is complemented beautifully by Tony Ross's illustrations.

Other details
Type of book: Hardback with dust cover
Age range: a great book for children of all ages, marketed at 3 years upwards
Words per page: Up to 50 medium print
Price: £12.99 RRP, but available to pre-order now from Amazon for £6.49
Author: David Walliams
Illustrations: Tony Ross
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's books
ISBN: 978-0-00-749399-9
Available from 7th November

Thank you to The Big Shot and HarperCollins for letting us have an advanced copy of this lovely book.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Plum Jam Recipe

Having fruit trees in my garden has given me an understanding of just how hard it must be to be a farmer. We have lived here for 3 summers now. The first year our plum tree had a good amount of fruit, we ate it all and enjoyed it. Last year a frost while the blossom was on the tree led to a very small harvest of about 1kg. This year the sun and rain have been at the perfect time for growing the fruit. My tree has grown more plums than it is possible for us to eat or give away.

I don't want to waste fruit so I have been looking at ways to preserve it and jam is a surprisingly easy way to do this.

  • 1.5kg Plums
  • Up to 1.5kg of Sugar
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 100ml water
  • A dollop of butter (optional, but meant to help remove the foam)

Collage showing: plums in a bowl; plums being cut; cut plums; plums mixed with sugar; heated plums with jam; early boil; rolling boil; putting jam into jars; jam in jars
  • Most recipes suggest equal parts sugar and plums, but I found this too sweet (at least when based on the pre-stoned weight) so depending on your preference and the sweetness of the fruit add less sugar.
  • You can use preserving sugar or normal sugar. The larger crystals are meant to make the jam clearer with preserving sugar. Unless you are entering competitions I would recommend saving your money and using the ordinary stuff.
  • If you don't get the setting point quite right don't worry. It just means the jam will be more runny (and not keep as long) or more solid (and harder to spread if at room temperature).

  1. Place a plate in the fridge to cool.
  2. Ensure you have sterilised jars and lids ready (I place clean jars and lids in on a baking tray in the oven for about 15 minutes).
  3. Wash all the fruit, cut and remove stones.
  4. Place the fruit in a large pan with the sugar, water and lemon juice.
  5. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit softens.
  6. Turn up the heat into a rolling boil (boiled quickly with lots of bubbles, see picture in collage).
  7. Stir the jam regularly and you will notice it start to thicken.
  8. Add the butter or skim the foam off.
  9. Test if the jam is ready by putting a small amount on the cooled plate. You can tell the jam is ready if you push at the cooling jam and it wrinkles.
  10. Pour or spoon the jam into the jars and add the lids.
  11. Put on some toast and enjoy.
A slice of white toast with plum jam on a white plate with a knife

Monday, 14 October 2013

Redundancy: 2 weeks in

I finished work 2 weeks ago today. In some ways the time has gone slowly; it feels a long time since I was around friends laughing at my leaving do. In other ways time is moving too quickly: my to do list hasn’t got any shorter; my blog remains neglected; my house is tidier, but not tidy; and I still don’t have a job.

Week 1
Week 1 started well. I was full of drive and energy, full of determination to use the opportunity of redundancy to enjoy life and progress my career. I gave my CV an overhaul, I browsed job sites, I thought about what I wanted to do, I applied for a couple of jobs, I went running. On Friday I received an invite to interview with a great company on the Monday.

I was excited and spent time preparing over the weekend, but we were up North visiting in laws so chances we limited. On Monday I went to the interview full of hope, but before the end I knew I had messed it up. A comment one of the interviewers said made me realise just how badly I sold myself.
The work I love to do is all about communicating with people, but I failed to communicate. I couldn’t recall the right examples, I kept repeating the same words, I went off topic. I wanted to kick myself.
I left the amazing building, the inspiring company, bought a cupcake from the Hummingbird Bakery next to the entrance and said goodbye to it all.

The next day I got the confirmation that I hadn’t gone through to the next round of interviews, but by then depression had kicked back in.

Week 2
Tuesday I spent the morning in bed before managing to drag myself out of bed and clear up downstairs. This was not a sign of motivation, more repulsion over the state of the house. The cats had shown their displeasure over abandonment for the weekend (and being shut inside) by using a sofa as their litter tray. This was impressive given the sofa was piled high with boxes, papers and all manner of other rubbish. We had cleared it up Sunday night, but a smell lingered. The cats also have fleas again.
I tidied, vacuumed (after spending an hour fixing my Dyson), flea treated and Febreezed until I was choking, but the downstairs of my house was once again habitable. This didn’t shift the depression.
Wednesday I had a haircut and colour booked for first thing which got me out of the house. I hate the end haircut, but that’s another story.
My husband was out in the evening and I had people coming over to stuff goody bags for a charity event I was running on Saturday. This got me through the evening, but I was just ticking boxes, going through the motions. The curtain of depression had shut out any positive emotion.
Thursday I spent much of the day in bed again. Sometimes when I am unhappy the only place I want to be is in bed trying to sleep. In bed I can dream and in my dreams I can be whatever I want. I leave my reality behind and become beautiful, funny, thin, successful. A better me. I become good enough for those that want to be with me and for the life I wish I had.
Black and white photo of sail boats at sea
All at sea
Friday and Saturday were spent in a whirlwind. Organising and running the charity event took over. A non-stop series of things to do that could not be delayed. On Saturday at the event people kept calling my name, asking my opinion, needing my help. I hadn’t realised just how much I had missed that since I finished work: leading people; having people respect my opinion; feeling I have value.
I felt alive again. I felt. That’s the big thing about depression, I spend a lot of the time numb. Yesterday and today I have felt free, happy, determined to succeed. I hope it continues.
I still have a deep sadness for what I have feel I have lost. All things end but when they do before you are ready, when there are still things you wanted to do, it hurts. I am grieving for what has ended and for what might have been. But the pain and the tears are good, because they are feelings and while I feel I am alive and I can use the pain to drive me on and succeed. I am scared for my future, but I wont get what I want by hiding in bed, by just dreaming.
What I fear most are the days when I don’t feel. Days when I have no strength. Depression and redundancy are a bad combination, but today I am fighting and one day I will win.

A blue sky with fluffy white clouds
Blue skies ahead

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Little ADVENTURES Challenge

Toddler wearing wellies splashing in a puddle with a doll in hat and gloves
View over a field at sunrise with trees without leaves
Toddler with wide eyes
Toddler sitting on grass touching a tree trunk

Toddler sitting on grass looking at daisies
Toddler asleep in a car seat with mouth open
A toddler peering out of the top of a hollowed out tree trunk
A toddler running being chased by mum
Toddler exploring a bucket full of clothes pegs

Barny sponge bar boxes and wrapper

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘Little Adventures Challenge’ in partnership with Barny, the bear-shaped snack providing a little discovery in every bite. Find out more about Barny here