Wednesday 29 September 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire - a Raku Workshop

Last weekend I had a very rare (in fact racking my brains, I think it is fair to say 'unique') day away from my shadow - aka my 2 year old daughter.

Myself and my mum had booked to attend a one day raku workshop in rural Milton Keynes. After the inevitable driving round and round various roundabouts and getting horribly lost, we arrived at the studios an hour late.

I was a little apprehensive about the day. To my eternal disappointment I am not in the least bit artistic - I struggle with drawing stick men. I have done pottery before, and after 3 years of attending evening classes with the old man, we are now the proud owners of lots of wobbly pots, a kitchen cupboard groaning with thick, heavy mugs and a very wonky homemade rhubarb forcer in the garden (which I describe as 'rustic'. Or do I mean 'primitive'. Or maybe just 'crap'?).  I gave up pottery when my pregnant belly could no longer fit in my overalls or allow me to reach the potters wheel. The part I always loved best about those sessions was the glazing and firing. I loved the alchemy of it. Of watching one colour magically morph to another and come out beautifully shiny and glazed.

Luckily for me, this one day workshop was not long enough to allow us to make our own pots. Instead there were crates of beautifully made, perfect little biscuitware pots and vases for us to pick and make our mark on.

Our course leaders Mark and Kirsteen made us very much at home, and were on hand all day to help and advise if we needed it - and of course to man the kiln.

The art of Raku is thousands of years old. It is an ancient Japanese technique whereby you remove the pot from the kiln while it is still glowing hot (over 1,000 degrees), and place it in a container of combustible material such as straw or wood shavings. Once these have caught light, the container is closed, creating a reduction atmosphere. The fire then searches for oxygen, and draws it from the clay and glaze and has extraordinary effects on the metals inside the glaze. The pot is then removed and plunged into water to cool it and fix the pattern. The result is fantastic lustrous, metallic sheens from the glazes and a crackle effect both from the glaze and the thermal shock.

Anyway, enough of the science - or at least my limited grasp of it. The point is, as long as you are relaxed about the process, and prepared to experiment, you really need no skill or knowledge to produce fantastic results. I'm not saying that true raku experts aren't skilled - it takes years and years of practice and understanding to produce a perfectly controlled raku piece. But to me, the fun is in the 'wait and see what happens' approach.  It is a dramatic process and a truly unusual way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Here are some pots I produced on the day.

I love the turquoise and copper on these. My daughter said 'Oooh, they are like peacocks!' and I think that's a perfect description of the colours.  I also love this one which has come out much more textured, almost reptilian in feel.  You wouldn't believe this one was made using exactly the same colour glaze as the ones above.

Finally we had a bit of a play around with some other decoration techniques. This final one was made by removing the unglazed pot from the kiln, and then while still hot, feathers were laid on leaving the burnt imprint behind and a ghostly feather effect. The same technique can be done with other organic matter, such as horsehair. The effect may be stunning, but the smell while you are doing it is most definitely not! Think singed fingernails on a candle...

You need no specialist knowledge or equipment to attend these sessions. They cost £45 for the day (10am til 5pm) plus you pay around £3 per pot you use.  All the other equipment and materials are provided. You just need to take a packed lunch, and maybe a pinny to protect your clothes.

As raku is an outdoor affair, if you want to book there are unlikely to be many more this year. M & K Raku generally run once a month, and the next one is 23rd October.  Join their facebook page for more information. I've already re-booked!

If you are not local, a google search for raku workshops should find you one nearby. Have fun!

Linked up with

Inspire Me Beautiful

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Potty Training on the go - My Carry Potty

Potty training has been ongoing for a little while now in our house.  Ruby is pretty much there now, after we spent most of the summer with her running around at home with nothing on!

I was asked to review the My Carry Potty a few weeks back, and as soon as it arrived I thought "I wish I'd had this weeks ago!"

Potty training at home has been fairly straightforward, with a few minor exceptions, but it was the prospect of leaving the confines of our home during this transition period that filled me with dread. We even put it off until after our holiday, I just couldn't cope with airports, long car journeys and little 'accidents'.  If only we'd had this product...

Made from durable plastic, with a vacuum sealing lid it can be used anywhere - no worrying about where the next toilet is. I have to admit, we barely went out of the house while she was learning to do without nappies. It was like being heavily pregnant again - always having one eye out for where the next loo is.

With My Carry Potty we've been able to have much more relaxed trips to the park, long walks in the woods and long car journeys without worrying she'll be caught short.  When the potty first arrived, although Ruby liked the look of it right away and was happy to carry it around, she didn't actually use it for ages (I suspect there was a little bit of stage fright. Having reviewed a few products, I think she feels now everytime I give her something new I'm going to whip my camera out and upload it onto the t'interweb!)

However, it was worth its weight in gold even in those first few days where she didn't use it. You see it's the freedom it gives you as a parent that I like most about it.  No more rushing from one place to the next for fear she'll shout "Mummy!! I need a wee!!!!", no more carrying potties around in carrier bags, no more panicking about what to do if she actually used the potty at the bus stop...where do you empty it?

Eventually, she did overcome her shyness, and we have used it in transit. At the park, in a lay-by, in a not-too-clean public loo.  Previously, if we had been at the park and she needed to go to the toilet, that would have been the end of playtime as we rushed home to get to the toilet. Now, she can break off, use her My Carry Potty and carry on.

The vacuum seal works very well, and kept everyting contained until we got home.  It is easy to clean, lightweight and comfortable for her to use.

The only suggestion that Ruby has is that she'd like wheels on it! She keeps trying to pull it along behind her like a wheelie suitcase.

It is truly an excellent product, and one of those 'why didn't anyone think of this sooner' ideas.

For more information about stockists, and the product itself, see the My Carry Potty website

This product was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of reviewing.

Monday 27 September 2010

I'm a Twitterholic - Twitter Meme


I was tagged in a post by the lovely Becca @Beckicklesie at who in turn had previously been tagged by Kate over at The Five Fs blog  

"I have been considering starting a Twitter meme for a while and I'm just getting around to it now. That's the problem you have when you have too many ideas for blog posts in your head.

I decided to start this, because I love Twitter more than is healthy for a grown woman. I had a slow start but it's now reached fever pitch, and there is no hope for me; I'm hooked. I am a Twitterholic So, I have concocted a few questions about Twitter and you, which I hope will make for interesting blog-type reading."

When did you join Twitter? (You can find the exact date at

3rd December 2009.

Why did you join Twitter?
I was initially put off, thinking it was going to be banal information like "I'm making a cuppa" or "Just had a poo", and not being a big fan of those people who detail the minutiae of their lives on Facebook, I wasn't sure about the whole thing.

However, I had been a 'comper' for a while, mainly entering competitions via Money Saving Expert's forum. I saw quite a few people posting that they had won prizes on Twitter and thought I'd give it a go.  I couldn't get my head around it at first, but some lovely forum members helped and talked me through it step by step (literally, I'm such a technophobe!) Within a couple of weeks, I'd already taken delivery of some lovely prizes. In one week I recieved 6 gourmet frozen pizzas, 2 bottles of champagne, 3 Brad Pitt DVDs and a foot pamper kit from Scholl! That made for a lovely Saturday night in.
I followed quite a few compers who I'd previously 'chatted' with on MSE, and soon I was hooked. Life on Twitter is boring if all you do is retweet though.  I've made some fantastic online friends -some of whom I feel more comfortable talking about problems with than my real-life friends. I follow some great charities, and try to help them where I can. I've also discovered the world of the blog, and this has opened up a whole new world for me. One of the other great things about twitter is all the small businesses you find, all the etsy sellers and crafters...I'm hoping not to touch the High Street this Christmas!

Who is/was your first or oldest follower? Who did you follow first? Tell me all about them. ( will give you this info)

I have just checked this and am amazed to find I have absolutely no recollection of these companies - mostly random foodie/recipe based.  I don't remember following, and am not sure why I did in the first place - they were probably running a giveaway at the time!
I am a very lazy twitterer. I rarely unfollow anyone. The only person I ever unfollowed was a vile jealous comper who likes nothing more than tweeting poorly spelt vitriol. She's firmly blocked and unfollowed now. Although I suspect she pops up from time to time hiding behind new, false accounts.

Do you have any celebrities following you, or have you ever had a DM from a celeb?
Ha! I can answer this one now. Last week Tom Cruise was tweeting that anyone who used the hashtag  #ICanChangeTheWorld  would be followed back. I didn't hold out much hope, but tweeted him anyway. The following day, checking my emails, I got one from Twitter saying 'Tom Cruise is now following you'. I nearly fell off the sofa. Of course, I sent him a DM - I don't ever expect a reply but it's funny as hell that I've got a DM in my outbox to Mr Top Gun.
If you could follow anyone not on Twitter - alive, dead, real or fictional - on Twitter, who would it be?

It would have to be a comedy great.  Writing a gag in 140 characters is genuis, and I'd love to know what someone like Tony Hancock or Ronnie Barker could come up with.  Kenneth Williams would be great too.  My favourite tweeter at the moment is @Catbinlady.  Not that I find it funny to put cats in wheely bins, but the banter between her and @Brendalovescats makes me chuckle.

Which came first - Twitter or blog? 

Twitter for sure. I didn't really know anything about blogging before I joined twitter, and I don't think I'd ever read a blog.  I have found some fantastic writers through here, and it's inspired me to give it a go.  There is amazing support for newbies too. I hear lots about cyber-bitching and trolls, but thankfully have not experienced this in the blogging world yet...the comping world is another matter!

So, that's me. It now falls to me to pass on this Twitterholic meme to some other great bloggers. I am therefore tagging to receive my wonderful Twitterholic award:

Kay @chaoskay at On the Brink of Bedlam 
Tracy @Mummiafelice at White Lily Green
Kate @grannysmither Welcome to My World
Zoe @splodz Splodz Blogz
Jo @Jo_Bryan Given to Distracting Others
to have a go. The rules, such as they are, are:

1. Nick the badge at the top, and mention the person who tagged you.
2. Answer the questions. (Duh!)
3. Tag some other great twitterholics bloggers.

Alternatively, tag yourself, mention me in your blog post and link to it in the comments below. I'd love to hear about your Twitter experience

Saturday 25 September 2010

Tell 'em about the honey, mummy.

He's back!!

Yep that big cuddly hulk of yellow fur is bursting back onto our screens to herald the arrival of Honey Waffles, the new cereal by the makers of Sugar Puffs.

I am so excited about this. I grew up on Sugar Puffs and with the original Honey Monster and loved the classic adverts with Henry McGee.

When I was sent some Honey Waffles to review, I was a little concerned that my daughter would refuse to try them, but she saw the new advert and fell for the clumsy lovable monster straight away.

Generally, when it comes to food, my 2 year old daughter knows what she likes, and likes what she knows. She is a creature of habit, and breakfast every day consists of a bowl of cereal with milk, followed by a bowl of cereal without milk (strange girl!).  There have until now, been only two types of cereal she'll deign to load onto her spoon.  There's the wholegrain one knitted by nanas which I try to steer her towards, or more often than not, the one that generally reigns supreme - the little 'O's. So I had some doubt that she would even entertain a new rival for her morning affection. But try it she did, and she wolfed it down, declaring it 'yummy'!

I do try to watch what she eats, so I did notice that Honey Waffles have considerably more sugar content than her usual cereal, although interestingly Honey Waffles have much less salt than her favourite hoops. 

I think these will stay in our house to expand her breakfast repertoire, but I don't think I'll allow her to eat them every day.  Mind you, the way her Daddy's scoffing them, she might not get the chance!

This is a sponsored post.

Get set for a great night of sleep with Badger Balm

As one who suffered almost 2 years with barely one full night of sleep, I know just how debilitating tiredness can be. Walking around in a fug, snapping and snipping at everyone and unable to string a coherent sentence together.

Even worse then, when your little one finally starts to sleep through, and you find yourself lying there, mind racing, just willing sleep to come.  On nights like these, I turn to my faithful old, not the old man, I am in fact referring to the magic sleep balm.

In our household, the term 'Badger' has become a verb. As in "Oh go on, I can't get to sleep, please badger me"!!  My long-suffering partner has become quite the expert is administering balm to my pulse points, and allowing me to drift gently off to the land of nod.

Rub a little balm on your temples and behind the ears (where you would apply perfume) in small circular motions and the organic essential oils quickly get to work to ease your mind and relax your body.

Even better, they produce a kid's version too so you can ensure your little darlings sleep peacefully.  This is not without its difficulties if you have a slippery little eel of a child like I do. I remember taking her to baby massage classes when she was 6 months old. All the other babies laid there serenely whilst their mummies bonded blissfully and learnt the strokes. I on the other hand spent every week stressed and sweaty chasing her around the room and trying to pin her down as she made swift bids for freedom on all fours!  If you are lucky enough to have a child who will sit still for more than 30 seconds, then using Badger Night-Night balm is a lovely addition to your bed-time routine.

The balms are made from organic olive and castor oil, beeswax and essential oils. You can even see how it is made and exactly what goes into it on their website. How cool is that?!  You can buy Badger Balms online, in larger supermarkets, high street chemists and health food shops nationwide at around £4-£4.50 per tin.

Don't ask me how it works, all I know is that it works for me. A totally natural and safe aid to restful sleep, there's magic in them there little pots.

As a little celebration for reaching 1,000 followers on Twitter, and a two-finger salute to the trolls I am giving away a tin of both balms. To enter, you need to be a follower of my blog. Then, I'd like you to leave a comment telling me what keeps you awake at night - this is not a confessional, I don't need your deepest, darkest secrets! Something funny will do. For example, I am kept awake by the old man's snoring, my daughter demanding drinks at 3am and next-doors flaming wind chimes.

Just a word of warning though, if you are kept awake at night because you are a bad person, then Badger won't help you my friend. That's just bad karma so don't bother entering :0)

For a bit of added fun for me, you can get an extra entry by tweeting about the competition.  To bait Barry the badger bot, please tweet "I want to badger you to check out @missielizzieb 's blog & win Badger Sleep Balm" Please leave an additional comment to say you've tweeted and leave your twitter ID.

Closing date is midnight Friday 01 October and the winner will be picked at random and announced on Saturday. Open to UK only, sorry. Good luck x


Wednesday 8 September 2010

Hooray for Humphrey's PJ week

Humphrey's National Pyjama week runs from 11- 15 October this year.

It is an annual event in which nurseries and pre-schools raise money via a voluntary £2 donation per child for The Children's Trust, a charity who work with children with multiple disabilities and complex health needs.

Last year over 10,000 children took part, and the aim is this year for 40,000 children to get involved, all wearing their PJ's to nursery. This is where we need your help!

I am proud to have worked with the Children's Trust organising a referral scheme and a special prize draw. We are asking parents, grandparents, aunties & uncles to refer a nursery to sign-up for the fun-filled event. Maybe you have friends who have children attending other pre-schools, or even know of a nursery group held in your local church hall or community centre. You can refer more than one establishment, and enter the draw for each one who registers.

There is a fabulous prize package on offer, including a £100 H & M voucher; £50 Next voucher, a huge bundle of books and Humphrey's Corner merchandise, and a fingerprint charm necklace all donated by The Children's Trust's wonderful supporters. Please see their site for more details.

Signing up your nursery is easy. We have done it with Ruby's and they are very excited about taking part. The nursery will get a resources pack for the event including activity booklets and certificates.

Simply download the referral registration form and complete your details at the bottom, before asking your nursery to sign up. There is also a newsletter/information sheet which you can take along explaining about the event and the charity.

So, get onboard, get involved and get entered into the prize draw!

Please help spread the message too by sharing this blog post (or writing your own if you're a blogger!), or following and retweeting The Children's Trust and HumphreysPJweek on twitter.

You can find out more about the event, the referral scheme's terms & conditions and the charity's work on their website

Monday 6 September 2010

Yummy Dresses from Bread & Jam

Bread and Jam have just launched their Autumn/Winter collection and I have a special discount for you!

If you knew how many hours I've spent fighting Blogger and cursing my virus-ridden, wind-up, clapped out laptop, then you'd realise how much I've sweated to bring you this post! Fear not though, shiny new pink laptop campaign is well underway. Anyhow, I digress...

Lovebirds Pick-a-pocket dress (£29)

For those that have not had the pleasure before, Bread and Jam sell simply gorgeous dresses for little girls (aged 2-8). They feature beautiful fabrics and classic timeless styles, giving you clothes you'll want your kids to wear everyday.

And that's just the point. These dresses are not meant to be saved for best. They are designed to be played in and lived in. Incredibly versatile, these dresses can be worn alone in the summer with a pair of sandals or Crocs, or teamed with woolly tights and a long-sleeved jersey when the weather is cooler.

I love the style of these dresses. Ruby is a bit of a chunky monkey, but the design disguises her 'full-fat-milk belly' very well (she inherits her pot from her daddy!!).

Ruby (and random sheep) wearing Climbing Green Runaway dress (£25)

Dressing girls can be tricky. Clothes tend to fall into one of two camps: it's either glitzy; logo'd; diamante encrusted mini-wag high fashion or frilly; girly; lacy; baby-pink froth. This is where I think this company is so different. They offer stylish, yet practical clothing for today's girls.

Bread and Jam is a British company, set up and run by Lisa Swerling and Sofia Dyson. Lisa says:

"Bread and Jam is still very much a cottage industry, although we try to get mentions in the papers, we rely very much on word of mouth to grow. Luckily our dresses are our best advertising and we love to hear from mums who have other mums asking where their adorable dresses are from".

You can tell these ladies have a passion for beautiful prints and design. The website has two styles of dress to choose from : The Runaway which is a simple, cotton shift-style in stunning prints with a contrasting hem and finished with a velour ribbon trim, and the Pick-a-pocket, a pinafore dress in 100% cotton fine needlecord, fully lined and features a contrast patterned patch pocket.

Ruby owns several Bread and Jam dresses, and I can personally vouch for the quality of these garments, even after many washes. Also (importantly for someone who loathes ironing) they press well and always come up good as new.

Ruby wearing Butter Blue Runaway dress (£25)

The very special thing about these dresses is that they are made in limited numbers. I love this because it means you are unlikely to see someone else wearing one the same. Every time Ruby wears one of hers we are sure to get admiring looks and asked where we bought it from. However, it does mean if you spot a dress in the right size and in a print you love you should snap it up - they sell out fast!

Take a look at their website here. It is a joy to navigate, has beautiful photos of the dresses, a great zoom function so you can see all the detail, and a handy sizing guide. Also, you really must sign up for their newsletter - from this month subscribers will be notified first of super-limited edition dresses. You'll also be the first to know about end of season sales and other offers.

I have a very special, exclusive discount code for my lovely blog readers. Yes indeedy, it's time to stock up, get some early Christmas pressies lined up or treat the little lady in your life. For one week only (expired 14th Sep) when you enter code MUMSWEEK2010 you will receive £5 off when you purchase 2 or more dresses of either style.

Best get my order in quick before you lot nab them all x

Thursday 2 September 2010

Toilet Training - The Next Step: A Review

The training is going fantastically well, and I'm so proud of my grown up girl who managed a
whole day out yesterday with no nappies or pull-ups, and used the toilet in various shops and cafes (announcing very loudly and triumphantly to all the customers, "Granny I did a big wee on the toilet!"). She also started back at nursery today, and came home clean and dry.

A major achievement, of which I am very proud.

The potty has had very little use in our house over the last week or so. Ruby much prefers to use the toilet, thanks to the fantastic 'Next Step' trainer seat from Bemis. If you have not heard of it, it is integral to the actual toilet seat and lid, rather than a portable plastic trainer seat.

The photo above, taken from the Bemis site, actually highlights the very reason why I wanted this seat for my bathroom. I am not a particularly tidy person, but I do have a thing about bathrooms! I hate the fact that when you visit some people's toilets, you get a snapshot of their life by the products they have on view - you can tell that they read on the loo, have dandruff, shave their legs...need I go on?! No, for me, everything in a bathroom should be hidden away.

On the odd occasions I get to languish in the bath, I don't want to be surrounded by an entire sealife centre of plastic creatures, or look at a potty or those ridiculous plastic toddler seats (I can't see one of those without thinking of those toothless old men in gurning competitions!).

This seat is ideal. It sits discreetly awaiting use. When the lid is closed, you would never know it was there. Plus you don't have unnecessary bits of plastic cluttering up the bathroom.

My daughter loves using it. I makes her feel independent, as she can operate it easily herself. It is safe and secure and there is no danger it will slip and slide (or trap little fingers or chubby thighs!). She loves being able to use the 'grown-up' toilet like mummy does, and mummy loves the fact that she doesn't have to slop around with a potty to empty!

Bemis say: “The durable wood, two-in-one toilet seat accommodates both adult and child users equally. The seat's design features a built-in potty seat that recesses into the seat cover where it is secured magnetically when not in use.

When the cover closes, the magnetic feature automatically picks up and secures the child potty seat in the cover recess, eliminating the need for adult users to manually lift the child seat. When it is time to use the potty seat, toddlers can easily pull it down into position by themselves, allowing them to exercise their growing independence and reinforce their "I can do it myself" sense of confidence. The built-in magnet is not visible to the eye and is just strong enough to secure the potty seat to the cover but not so strong that a child cannot pull the potty seat down into position.”

We installed this seat when we had our new bathroom fitted some 18 months ago. Granted, a little premature for our daughter, but it has been really useful having it in situ for visiting nephews and friend's children.

I have just replaced our seat like for like. Sadly we got a chip on ours, and I thought it might be harbouring germs. This is absolutely no reflection on the standard or quality of the seats - I don't imagine they were designed for 15 stone blokes locking themselves out, clambering through upstairs bathroom windows and knocking large fresh-matic air freshener dispensers from a great height onto them! I could be wrong though.

I trawled the internet, and while they are available to purchase from some of the larger DIY stores, by far the best value I found was with the online company, Replacement Toilet Seats at £29.99 plus postage. I can thoroughly recommend their online sales, fast delivery and email notifications of delivery updates.

I realise that this seat is much more expensive than a plastic portable trainer seat, but to me it is well worth the investment. It will remain on our loo for years to come, and hopefully serve Ruby's future brothers/sisters. (Well, you never know!)

The nice people at www.replacementtoiletseats have even offered a discount if you purchase more than one seat (perhaps installing one in both your upstairs and downstairs toilets). Just enquire with them via their 'contact us' form on their site.