Monday 31 January 2011

Winner of the Chocadores Valentine chocolates is...

I was overwhelmed by the amount of entries for this competition!!

It has taken me over an hour to count them all up and check the required question was answered.

There were well over 400 eligible entries, and most of you opted for the extra entries - you guys really want this chocolate, and who can blame you!!

Anyhow, the numbers were crunched by my mate Mr, however when I was going back to my notebook to check whose lucky number had come up, I pressed something and lost the screen (it went to some weird dice roll thingamajig!).

But I can assure you it was all above board, and the winner was....

@cheepcheepcheep Please can you DM me your address so I can pass it on to Chocadores.

Huge congratulations and thank you so much to everyone who entered.  Lovely that you all put so much thought into your entries, and I'm sure Chocadores are very grateful for all your suggestions - keep an eye on their news, who knows you may even see your suggestion in their store soon!

Winner of the designer textiles is...

Special thanks to From the Wilde for providing this lovely prize of items from Poppy Treffry, a Cornish artist and textile designer.

All your entries were put into and the result was....

The very first entrant!  So congratulations @lisalittlespud.  Please DM me your address and I will forward it to From the Wilde so they can get your prize sent out.

Thanks to everyone for entering x

Thursday 27 January 2011

Honking Horns! The London Toy Fair with Chuggington

A little while ago myself and some fellow mummy bloggers were appointed as Chuggington Ambassadors.  So I was really excited to be invited by the Learning Curve Chuggington team, along with the lovely Tracy from White Lily Green, to meet them at the Toy Fair in Olympia.

First of all, I couldn't wait to finally meet Tracy ( @mummiafelice on Twitter) as we'd been chatting for ages, and I already consider her to be a dear and trusted friend - even though I'd never met her in person.  We met up at Kensington Olympia station, and straight away I knew we were going to have a great day together.

Making our way into the exhibition centre our eyes were bombarded with every toy imaginable (in fact we were nearly literally bombarded several times by some bloke demonstrating a boomerang, who seemed to lob it towards me every time we walked past).  I'd never attended this kind of trade show before, let alone on press day, so I found it quite amusing that with all the toys and games on show the place was mostly populated by press photographers in grey suits - it looked like a good few years since they'd had any fun!

We found the Chuggington stand easily enough - it wasn't hard to miss with a massive Wilson replica standing at the front. 

The team were lovely and welcoming, and we were talked through the massive array of toys and given a sneak preview of toys to be launched later this year.  Ruby would have been in seventh heaven here with all the train tracks and die-cast models.

The interactive toys were fabulous, and if your little one is a Chuggington fan and you don't yet have any of these I can wholeheartedly recommend them.  They featuring SmartTalk™ technology, so the Interactive engines actually recognise and interact with each other.  Rather alarmingly they also randomly talk to me from the depths of the toybox, but I am beginning to get used to this!

I loved the chunky Wilson remote control train.  Designed as a first RC toy, it has basic forward and turn features, but looks very sturdy and robust.  We were shown a demo with two Wilson's and as they operate of the same frequency it meant we could see a bit of synchronised Wilson dancing!

If you're not a fan of battery operated toys, then I think you'll love the new Chuggington Championship Set.  It is manually operated, and you wind a crank to make your engine shoot around the track - very simple but very effective.

My favourite part of the session was meeting Don Toht, the executive producer and one of the creators of the series.  He was charming, and it was really interesting to hear how the concept developed, it's journey from paper to screen and to hear his genuine fondness for the characters.  He talked a lot about the child actors who provide the character voices, and how they bring their personality to the engine's characters.  He also told us they are currently working on a new series - Great news for Chuggington fans!

Image credit: Toy News, Intent Media

After our morning with the Chuggington team, there was just time for a cuppa and a chin-wag, a bit of mingling with the celebs, and a quick hello to some other Twittery toy companies before heading home. 

Tracy, Driver Dan and me share a hug

Me, Bob and Tracy

Back home, I was met by a very excited Ruby who was much more interested in finding out what I had in the goody-bag full of Chuggington merchandise, than in telling me she'd missed me!

Huge thanks to Chuggington for having me along, covering my travel expenses and for the goody-bag, and a special thanks to Tracy for being such great company.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Win some amazing prizes From The Wilde

I'm very pleased to promote this exciting giveaway run by From The Wilde and Always Thinkin.  They currently have a competition to win this striking, statement artwork by Sophie Backhouse - one of rare breed of female graffiti artists.

She’s a practicing graphic designer, typographer and illustrator. Not restricted by size or medium she works on canvas, paper a computer and brick walls. She’s influenced directly by nature, calligraphy and many art nouveau artists.

To enter the contest, simply click on the picture above and it will take you to the blog where you need to leave a comment saying why you think you should win (alternatively, follow the links through to From The Wilde's Facebook page, and leave your comment on the wall there).

The prize is an A3 print (the original canvas is worth around £200).  So, what are you waiting for?

As a thank you for promoting their giveaway, From the Wilde have also given me a lovely prize to host my own little comp here. Double bubble!

And that's not all, readers of my blog can also use code 1111 to get 10% of purchases from their site during February. Just enter the code at the checkout. They have some amazing contemporary design items in store, so please take a look.

So, onto my little competition.  Up for grabs is this cup cake themed badge and tea towel by Poppy Treffry, a Cornish artist and textile designer.

I'm going to make this nice and simple to enter.  To be included in the draw for the tea towel and badge set, just leave a comment below saying 'enter me please' (I get a cheap giggle out of this).  You must leave a way for me to contact you (twitter name, email, facebook name etc etc).

The winner will be picked at random after the closing date of 31st January 2011 at 8pm.  Don't forget to enter the artwork competition by following the links above, and make use of the 10% discount code.

Competition open to UK only. Winner drawn at random.

Thanks to From The Wilde for allowing me to share the Sophie Backhouse competition and for providing me with a contest prize.


Monday 24 January 2011

Announcing the winner of the Cutlery & Catering Competition

So many entries!! 

Thank you all so much.  I used to come up with the winner:

Who is.... @star100x  Congratulations!  Please DM me your postal address and I will pass it on to Cutlery and Catering so they can send your prize out.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Melt your lover's heart with Chocadores chocolates

Valentine's day is only a few weeks away, so it's time to get thinking of what to buy for that special person in your life, and leaving oh-so subtle hints about what you'd like. You know the sort of hints - leaving pages open on your computer screen; sticking post-it notes to the fridge; pointing things out and exclaiming "ooh isn't that lovely?"...

Over at Chocadores they are getting all loved-up and have a fabulous new range of gifts especially for Valentine's.  For me, this special day has always been about chocolate - fabulous, decadent and extraordinary chocolate.  The only disappointment I sometimes find with receiving this type of gift, is once it's gone, it's gone.  If you're an old softy like me it is nice to have a keepsake or memento.

Chocadores have got this covered.  They have a range special gift boxes which include some beautiful wooden heart trinkets.  The Valentines Chocolate Gift Box at £9.95 and includes 6 gorgeous fresh chocolates and a heart shaped box filled with Single Origin Madagascan Mini Buttons (you may remember the buttons from my previous review).  Plus each gift box has a beautifully carved solid wooden heart.

Then there's the Valentine's Chocolate Hamper at £19.95, which comes with a heart shaped box filled with Single Origin Ecuadorian Mini Buttons; a bag of Madagascar Single Origin Truffles and a box of 12 Fresh Handmade Chocolates presented in a red box with heart ribbon. To symbolise your ever lasting love each hamper has a beautiful carved wooden heart.

Finally, there's this amazing box of 24 fresh chocolates - a chocolate lover's dream.  The I love you box is priced at £24.95 and features a selection of 24 incredible flavoured ganaches. Each one beautifully decorated, they are like mini works of art.  I have tasted some of these, and they are truly mouth-watering. 

My personal favourite is the Mediterranean Orange.  The flavour is just immense, even thinking about it again is making my mouth-water and my taste buds jangle!  How do I describe the intensity of flavour??  Well, if a Terry's chocolate orange is an air-kiss to the cheek, then the Mediterranean Orange fresh chocolate is a full-on, passionate, open-mouthed kiss!  You may think I'm taking this too far, but seriously, you should try it.  They use the whole of the orange to make the ganache, so you get all the zingy, zesty, fruity flavour, which remains in your mouth long after you've finished eating it. 

Or, there's the romantic, delicate Raspberry and Rose, made from the finest rose oil and fresh raspberries.  Delicately fragrant, with the summery freshness of ripe raspberries.

Check out the fresh chocolate section, to discover the whole mouth-watering range.

In the spirit of Valentine's, we are sharing the love and Chocadores has offered a box of 24 fresh chocolates as a very special prize to my blog readers.  This is an incredible prize, so we're going to ask you to do a little bit of work for it! 

Chocadores have a fabulous range of chocolatiers and products on their site, and they are always looking to move forward and bring you exciting, quality products.  Recently they've introduced their hot chocolate cubes (these have quickly become a best-seller, and I am not surprised!), and their giant and mini-buttons.  They would really appreciate you taking the time to look through their site, and suggest a new gourmet chocolate product you'd like to see.  For example. I'm a massive fan of the marriage of chocolate and orange, so I'd love to see some chocolate covered orange peel.  What would you like to be introduced?


To enter the competition to win this box of chocolates in time for Valentine's day, you need to:

Follow my blog (use the 'follow' button over there on the right)

Then take a look around the store and leave a comment here, suggesting a new chocolate-related product you'd like to see stocked.

You must follow the above two steps to enter.  But you can gain additional entries for doing the following:

1. Follow @chocadores on Twitter

2. Follow @missielizzieb on Twitter

3. Like Chocadores' Facebook page

4. Like Me and My Shadow's Facebook page

5. Post on your Facebook wall "I'm entering MissieLizzie's blog competition to win a fabulous box of 24 fresh chocolates from Chocadores. You can enter too here:

6. Tweet "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog comp to win a Valentine's box of chocs from @Chocadores. You can enter too here  "

Please include in your comment which of the above steps you have completed, and remember to leave a way for me to contact you.

The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date of Monday 31 January 2011 at 8pm.  I will make every effort to contact the winner, but if no response is received within 5 days, a new winner will be selected.  The winner must provide a UK postal address for dispatch of the prize, which will be fulfilled by Chocadores.

This is a sponsored post, but any views expressed are my own.

Silent Sunday - What did she see?

Silent Sunday

Saturday 22 January 2011

Storybox - a quality educational magazine for kids

We were lucky enough to be sent the December/January issue of Story Box to review.  This is "a magazine to read-aloud and share with your children".  Published by Bayard, they produce three titles aimed at different age groups:  StoryBox (ages 3-6), AdventureBox (ages 6-9) and DiscoveryBox (ages 9-12).

Sadly the magazine sent to us delayed in the post because of the awful weather we had before Christmas, but it was still seized upon by Ruby who was eager to look at it.  Magazines are a bit of a problem in our house!  Every corner shop, garage and supermarket seems to sell the cBeebies type character magazines, and I usually get  talked into buying one.  But to be honest, they are poor value for money, flimsy quality, and have very little content.  Most magazines aimed at toddlers are very much a throw-away product, to be read once and then put in the recycling bin.

Storybox however is different.  Immediately you can tell from the feel of it that it is better quality. It is more robust, so can be thumbed through over and over without the pages all falling out.  There are full length stories which can be read over and over in each edition, and most importantly, at 50 pages long in this edition there's plenty to keep your little one entertained.

Ruby loved the story about the winter hare.  The pictures grabbed her attention, and it prompted lots of discussion afterwards about other animals that camouflage themselves (like polar bears) and animals that can change their appearance to adapt to different surroundings (like chameleons).  We spent quite a bit of time afterwards looking this up on the internet and looking at pictures on the computer.

The magazine is also packed with puzzles, games and facts - some of which were a bit too old for her, but I think would be well received by children aged 4-5.

Priced at £4.15, I think it represents good value for money.  We currently spend much more than this on weekly magazines which don't keep her attention for nearly as long.

Why don't you pop over to Bayard Kids Mags Facebook page. There you'll find a competition to celebrate their 15th anniversary, and they are giving away 10 annual subscriptions.

One copy of this magazine was received free of charge for the purposes of writing this review. All of the views expressed are my own and no other financial reward was received.

Friday 21 January 2011

Hearts & Crafts - Valentine's cards for the artistically challenged

Well, I'm pretty sure I've said this before, but I have no artistic ability whatsoever. Pretty soon Ruby is going to find me out and realise that my talents do not extend beyond dodgy looking stick men.

I still like to let her indulge, in the hope that she may have some artistic gene hidden away in there somewhere.  Valentine's crafts are my favourite, because Valentine's means hearts. Hearts are easy.  They are symmetrical, which means if you're using folded paper you only even need to draw half a shape, and better still I have my trusty heart shaped cookie cutters, so for most things I can get away with not drawing them at all!

I'm pretty sure I read something on Mumsnet's twitter stream about concern over Valentine's cards and pre-schoolers (what??!), so if that's correct, then here's my customary salute to MN.

Daddy always gets a Valentine's card from his little girl, and it's nice to send grandparents one too, so we tried out a couple of different designs today which were easy-peasy.

Cookie-Cutter Hearts.

You will need:

  • Card
  • Heart shaped cookie cutters
  • PVA glue
  • Glitter

Fold your cardboard in half to make your card shape.

Spread glue out thinly on a plate or tray.

Dip the cookie cutter in and ensure the whole outline shape gets glue on it.

'Stamp' the gluey heart shape onto the card.  Repeat randomly until you build up a pattern.

Sprinkle glitter over the card (red glitter would probably have been better, but our craft supplies are a bit depleted post Christmas!).

This is the magic part, because we used white card, it was hard to see what pattern we'd created until the glitter was shaken off.

'Butterfly' Heart Prints

You will need:

  • Card
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Paint
  • Glue

We all must remember doing these folded, squidgy butterfly prints at school.  Take your paper and fold in half. Draw half a heart at the fold and cut out.

Splodge your paint on one half only (cross your fingers for luck)

Continue until you are happy with the pattern (or you've run out of paint)

Fold over and squash, press and smooth.

Open out, and voila!

Once dry, mount onto your card with glue.

Now, I've just got to hope none of the recipients read this, or they'll know who their secret Valentine is. x

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Introducing Cutlery and Catering - Review and Giveaway

OK, so I may not exactly be a domestic goddess, but I do try! It's very important to me that I have the right equipment (alright, so I'll admit there are things in my kitchen drawer that have never seen the light of day, and if I'm honest, I don't even know what they're for!). I get sucked in by new fangled thingies that I think will make my life easier. They don't.  I'm happy to have found a company that focuses on the important items you need to run a family kitchen.

Cutlery and Catering are a well established online retailer, selling great quality kitchenalia. Here you'll find a lovely range of both everyday cutlery, and items suitable for more formal dining. What I love about this site is you don't get waylaid by useless flashy gadgets and unnecessary clutter.

They have a lovely range of 'proper' children's cutlery, by this I mean knives forks and spoons that look the same as adults, but scaled down and designed to be used safely by children. My daughter is fed up with her plastic kiddy forks and is desperate to get her hands on my knife every time we sit down for dinner, so the set of 3 for only £4 would be ideal.  Or, there's a beautiful boxed set which would make a lovely birthday gift for a toddler priced at a very reasonable £5.

Cutlery and Catering have been very generous and have offered me a lovely prize from their site.  Up for grabs on my blog then, is this set of extra large Windsor serving spoons.  Perfect for family mealtimes or dinner parties, they are stylish and practical. Made of high quality stainless steel, this set will last you many many years.

In order to enter the giveaway, you need to do the following:

First make sure you are following my blog (there's a button over there on the right where it says Google Friend Connect)

Then visit Cutlery and Catering's site and come back here to leave a comment stating what your favourite item is.

Make sure you leave a way for me to contact you should you be picked as winner (email, twitter name etc is fine).

For an additional entry, you can do one or all of the following, but please leave a SEPARATE comment stating what step you have completed.

1. Follow @cutleryncaterin on Twitter

2. Follow @missielizzieb on Twitter

3. Like Cutlery and Catering on Facebook

4. Like my blog page on Facebook

5. Tweet the following message: "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog comp to win a prize from @cutleryncaterin check how you can too: "

This giveaway closes at 8pm on Monday 24 January. The winner will be picked at random. I will make every effort to contact the winner, but if I have no response within one week of announcement, I reserve the right to select another winner.  The prize will be fulfilled by Cutlery and Catering, and dispatched from them direct. 

This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Things are gonna change...

Something strange has happened.  It may not be noticeable to the casual observer, but I can feel it.  It is slightly unnerving because of it's unfamiliarity, but it's there nonetheless.

You see, I have grown some balls. Metaphorically speaking.  Had I actually grown a pair I assure you that would have been worthy of it's own post (or a Twitpic at the very least). No, I mean I am slowly but surely learning to stand up for myself.  I have wiped off the word 'Mug' from my forehead and decided I will no longer let people walk all over me.

Two small things have happened to lead me to this conclusion, but it has set off a catalyst inside which has made me determined to do things differently.

You may remember the bother I had at nursery last week.  Well, today was her first day back since that uncomfortable incident.  I'm very grateful for all the comments and messages I had on Twitter offering support and advice on how to handle the situation.  So today, I strode in and said "I'd like a word please".  Very calmly (and with only a minor quake in my boots) I explained the rational explanation for Ruby's comments - you'll have to read back through the comments to see what that was).  There was clear relief on the nursery worker's face as it dawned on her it had been a misunderstanding, and she laughed in a kind of 'well, that's alright then' way.

Well actually it's not alright!  No, I explained to her that I'd been very upset by our conversation last week, and that I'd felt I was under some kind of scrutiny.  She looked mortified and assured me that was never the intention.  I told her I'd been upset by the insinuation that we had any kind of official planned visits to our home - oh no,no, that's wasn't want she meant...

Anyway, I said my piece and felt glad that I had done so.

The second thing that's happened is I've realised if I don't value myself and what I do, then people will take advantage.  Just as I'm not the best mum in the world, I'm under no illusions about being the best blogger in the world.  I still have tonnes and tonnes to learn, but that doesn't mean I should let people take advantage.

I've never had much belief in myself, and I absolutely cannot take any kind of compliment or positive remark.  But if I have no respect for myself, then why should anyone else...

Sweet fix from The Sweet Junkie

Regular readers of my blog will be forgiven for thinking I have a sweet tooth (guilty as charged m'lord).  The fact that I've said I have no resolutions to lose weight has been great because it means I get opportunities like this - to review the Traditional Sweets Shop - Sweet Junkie.

I love the way eating Old Fashioned Sweets can transport you back to a different time and place, with different varieties holding special childhood memories. 

My sweetie-eating hey-day was the late 70s and early 80s.  Back when a penny chew was a penny (actually back then we still had 1/2 pennies), you were defined by whether you were a Fruit Salad or a Black Jack kinda person.  Admitting you actually liked Parma Violets was akin to laying on the ground and asking the bullies to duff you up!  Much cooler were Refreshers - for the tough nuts who could handle the vicious fizz on the tongue, or Love Hearts - much loved by girls who pretended they didn't like playing kiss chase, but always allowed themselves to get caught!  Even just hearing the names of these retro sweets again has filled my head with memories of playground giggling and British Bulldog.

Sadly, a lot of towns have lost their Traditional Sweets Shop and it's difficult to get hold of a quarter of Cola Cubes. Here the t'internet is your friend. Browsing through Sweet Junkie's site is like being 4ft tall again and gazing up at the rows and rows of jars on the shelf; the big shiny silver scale pan and the little white paper bags.

There's all my old favourites including Liquorice Allsorts; Rhubarb and Custard and American Hard Gums plus some I've not had before like Dandelion and Burdock; Storm Guards and Sherbet Oranges

Sweet Junkie sent me some lovely samples to test and the Liquorice Comfits; Aniseed Balls and Liquorice Allsorts were all exactly as I remembered them.  I'm not sure how the samples were picked for me, perhaps this is part of a sweet shop owner's role, but he picked perfectly for my tastes - I adore liquorice flavours.

I also tried some Apple Bonbons. These were new to me, although of course I'm familiar with the strawberry and lemon variety.  I think I may just have found a new favourite.  I seem to remember bonbons clogged your teeth up with sticky toffee goo, but these weren't like that.  The gentle, fragrant apple flavour was fresh but subtle. The sweets were chewy, without being gummy.

Speaking of teeth, I love the fact that there is a section on the site dedicated to dental advice!  Actually, it makes for a fascinating read, but reading between the lines, and taking only the information which I find personally advantageous, it is far better for your teeth to scoff a bag of sweets all in one go, than to savour them individually leaving large gaps between each sweet.  Least that's what I'm believing!

There is a large sugar-free section in the store, and it's great to see so many different varieties, including some kid's favourites which I suspect my daughter wouldn't even realise were sugar-free.

Take a look at the shop, there's loads to tantalise your taste buds, and if you're looking for an unusual Valentine's treat, how about one of their adorable personalised sugar mice.

Worth a follow on Twitter too, you can find them @sweetjunkie  x

For the purposes for this review I received sample sweets. I did not receive any other reward, financial or otherwise and the views expressed are my own.

Monday 17 January 2011

7 things you didn't know about me - a meme

Yesterday I was tagged by the fabby 'Chelle aka @MammaMcCann over at You can read her post '7 things you didn't know about me' here.

Sounds like a simple enough challenge, right? Wrong! I've realised just how much of myself I share with you guys, both here on the blog and on Twitter, so I've struggled to think of facts about me you don't already know.  I think I've cracked it, but those who know me better may already be aware of some of these (oh, and Mum, if you're reading this you'll probably know most of it already!)

1. I am a twin.  I have a twin brother and he was born before me, so technically I guess that makes me the middle child.  I love both my brothers equally, and wouldn't say I've particularly ever experienced this mysterious 'bond' that twins are supposed to have.  Every now and then I get an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach - a sense of foreboding - and I have to ring him up to check he's ok.  It always turns out to be nothing though.

2. I am 37 next birthday. Which now I come to think of it is only a couple of months away.  Crikey, that means in 3 years time I'll be 40.  Pretty worrying since I still haven't actually figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

3. I am a tea fiend.  I generally drink between 10-12 cups (ok, ok - mugs) of tea per day. They reckon there's roughly half the amount of caffeine in tea compared to coffee, but frankly I don't believe this.  2 cups of coffee is enough to give me a banging headache and a racing heart, yet I can happily drink tea 'til the cows come home.  I hardly ever drink plain water.  I am well aware of the fact that I should drink much more H2O, but in all honestly, unless it's had a teabag dunked in it, I'm not interested.

4.  I've never been on a diet.  I guess I'm fairly lucky that I can eat what I want, when I want, although that's not to say I haven't put on weight since having Ruby.  The fact is I don't care.  Yes, my butt now wobbles when I stand and brush my teeth in the morning, but who cares?

5. I lied to my health visitor and my partner.  I never did my pelvic floor exercises ("yes dear, I do them whenever I'm doing the hoovering").  I am pleased to report that my slovenly attitude to my pelvic muscles has had no adverse effect, and I have never yet peed my pants.

6. I need to adopt a more 'Three wise monkeys' approach.  I really should learn to not get involved and to keep my mouth shut, but I'm afraid that is just not my way.  I have been called as a witness in court 3 times and am awaiting a date for a 4th appearance.  Why oh why do I ever agree to give statements?  Giving evidence in court is a truly horrible experience, and you always end up feeling like the criminal.

7. I cannot sing.  I mean I really cannot sing.  Even Ruby tells me to stop when I'm singing nursery rhymes to her, which is a bit ungrateful if you ask me.  I've mouthed my way through every school assembly, every wedding and funeral, and every parent and toddler group I've ever been to.

That's me.  I hope you now know a little more about me - any surprises?

The rules of this meme state that I now need to tag 15 (blimey, 15!!) other people to take up the challenge too, so here's my list:


Saturday 15 January 2011

Handcrafted Jewellery - by Sherieann

I've been chatting with the lovely Sherieann (aka @RedRoses4) on Twitter for ages now, and I was familiar with her hand-crafted jewellery and charms through her tweets.

It's lovely to see that she's finding an outlet for her talents, having now set up her online shop and started attending craft fairs.  Recently, I spotted a new addition to her shop, and had to snap it up.  It was this charming little owl bookmark.

I love owls, and it was such a bargain - only £3.  Frankly I cannot understand why she sells her beautiful items so reasonably, but as a customer it was amazing value for money, especially as the bookmark is so well-made; the price included postage; and the item arrived in lovely packaging including it's own little sparkly organza bag.

I think these would make wonderful little impromptu gifts - maybe a thank you present, or a gift for a teacher and they'd be ideal for an alternative Easter present for an older child (there's lots of Hello Kitty items in her shop)

I've never used this type of bookmark before (in fact I'd seen them at craft fairs and didn't realise what they were!), but I'm very pleased with how it functions.  It looks pretty and feminine so there's no danger of the old man nicking it off me!  I have loads of regular boring bookmarks scattered about the house, but in truth I never use them.  I generally leave my book face-down, opened on the page I'm at on my bedside table. However, after the umpteenth time of Ruby picking the book up and losing my place, I decided I needed a decent bookmark.  This is such a joy - it means now when I fall into bed, I don't have to spend 10 minutes trying to find where I'd got to!

There are some beautiful beaded bracelets which would be perfect for a Valentine's gift (hint, hint!), like this Hearts Galore bracelet with Murano glass beads and silver plated heart charms.  I can't believe it's only £5!

Sherieann also makes phone charms, handbag charms, keyrings and other jewellery.  My next purchase I think may well be a keyring as I'm forever fumbling about it the bottom of my handbag for my front door key.  Please take a moment to look at her store, I'm sure you'll find something you like.


I noticed last week that Sherieann had added a new line to her shop. She really is a lady after my own heart, as she is now repairing and selling recycled, vintage jewellery.  I wanted to update this post to tell you all about these fabulous items, but then I went and bought half of her stock! Oops, but at least you can see I do put my money where my mouth is!

I was taken by the gorgeous vintage green beads she had in her store, and knew whey would match perfectly with a jumper I have, so I snapped them up.  I was not disappointed. They have been expertly re-strung, a new clasp added, and now they can be given a new lease of life.

I have seen too many broken strings of beads, and necklaces with missing clasps languishing in charity shops, car boot sales and even in my own jewellery box.  It is heartbreaking, and to me Sherieann is a beady super-hero, rescuing and breathing life back into beautiful pieces, for people who don't have the time, skill or equipment to fix them.

Being vintage, these items are obviously unique, so if you spot something you love, you should snap it up quickly - I don't expect these beauties will hang around for long.  I love this unusual perfume bottle pendant necklace, and it's only £6.

Take a look at the vintage section and see if there's anything that takes your fancy, and if you follow @RedRoses4 on twitter you'll never miss new products being added.

This is NOT a sponsored post, but I was so impressed with my purchase I wanted to share. x

Thursday 13 January 2011

Suspicious Minds

Today I collected Ruby from nursery as usual.  As the door was opened for me, one of the staff said "err, we need to have a word with you before you go".  "OK" I said as I breezed in and went over to the table to collect her coat and bag.  As I'm wrestling her into hat, scarf, gloves etc, I noticed an accident form on the table, with her name on it.  Nothing unusual there - this nursery practically fills a form in every time a child sneezes.

I assumed they needed my signature on the triple carbon copied paperwork, so hung around waiting.  Then the nursery worker came up and said "can we talk in private?"  Still I thought nothing of it, and it was only when she led me and Ruby into a different room that I thought it was all a bit ominous.

"When you dropped Ruby off this morning her face was bleeding" she informed me.  "Really?" I replied - I certainly hadn't noticed my child's bleeding face as I unwrapped her scarf, removed her coat and kissed her goodbye.

"Yes," she went on "She had blood down her T-Shirt and on her hand, and her face was bleeding quite badly". I looked at Ruby, who seemed absolutely fine, but had the little, tiniest mark on her face -seriously, the size of a pin-prick.  Yesterday, I noticed she had a tiny scratch or spot or something on her cheek, and I explained about this. I didn't notice how or when she'd done it, but explained that she'd probably just picked the scab and made it bleed.

"The thing is," she carried on, "Ruby got very upset and was crying a lot.  We tried to clean her up..." (honestly, they were making this sound like a blood-bath!) "...and we put a cold compress on her face, but she didn't want us to.  When we asked why she was so upset, she said 'she didn't want the Ladies to come'.  Do you know what she means by that?"

I had absolutely no idea what this woman was talking about!  So I bent down to Ruby and asked her why she'd been upset when she'd hurt herself earlier.  At this point, of course, she decided to go all coy, and hid behind my scarf, refusing to talk.  So, again, carefully I asked her "who are these Ladies you were talking about?"

"Her" she replied pointing at the nursery worker before me!  At this point I decided that this 'chat' was more an exercise in serious arse-covering on their part, rather than genuine concern for her wellbeing.

The nursery lady went on, "you see this is where we got confused, because at first she said it was us she didn't want to come, but then she said she didn't mean us, she meant 'The Ladies' "  She said this with a very sinister emphasis! I told her not to worry, that Ruby had recently started getting quite sensitive about anyone looking if she'd hurt herself, or fell over and grazed her knee etc.

Clearly, I'd said this with too much flippancy for Miss Marple the nursery worker. She was like a dog with a bone. "We wondered, if perhaps you had any scheduled visits coming your home?"

Suddenly the penny dropped and I realised what she was implying. No! I don't have anything like that I replied, feeling super-defensive.  How dare she?!  What was she suggesting? That I'm on some kind of Social Services list? I was quietly seething, and frankly quite upset and embarrassed by this.

I wracked my brains to think who these people where, that she could possibly be referring to.  Then I remembered, on our walk in this morning, Ruby had asked me where I'd been yesterday (I'd been to a meeting and Granny had looked after her for the day). I explained that as Ruby didn't know the people I was meeting yesterday, I'd told her that I'd got the train and met some ladies.

"Ahh" the nursery worker replied, "that might explain it.  Maybe she associated her being in pain and needing her mummy, with you not being around because you were busy with some 'ladies'. Where you out for very long?" she asked.  Honestly, what was I now being accused of? I'd hardly abandoned my child!  I told her (quite firmly) that I'd been out for the day. She was perfectly happy being cared for by her granny, and it was the first time I'd spent any time on my own for months. Why do I have to explain this??!

Ever one to help my cause, Ruby then pipes up, apropos nothing "I don't want Henry to touch my leg!" Oh good grief! The look that the nursery worker gave me.  Carefully, I explained that Henry is her cousin. He is 4 years old (he's not some sinister old uncle who touches my daughter).  Could this conversation get any worse?

I signed the accident form and said goodbye as cheerily as I could.

I know I should be grateful that the staff picked up on this, and that they were only concerned for her welfare, but I tell you, when it's you who's on the receiving end of the squinty-eyed suspicion, it's not pleasant at all!

All things piggy

I realise my blog is turning a little 'foodie' of late, and the lovely Becca over at Beckicklesie is at least partially to blame for this. I am joining in her 'Oui Chef' club each month. A different theme is suggested and bloggers upload stories, recipes or photos related to that theme. You really should check it out, it's a great way of discovering new recipes.

This month's theme is "You Swine", and although I could have submitted one of many family favourites I have decided to write about pork and specifically, Suffolk pork.

We have been visiting the stunning country of Suffolk for many years now. Long before Ruby came along, we discovered the delights of Grove Cottages and their doggy-friendly attitude. Chocolate Labradors seem to be universally loved in Suffolk and nobody bats an eyelid there if you take your dog into the pub or a shop. We've since discovered that they are equally child-friendly!

To me, pigs means Suffolk. Practically as soon as we've crossed the border from Cambridgeshire to Suffolk the landscape opens to acres and acres of fields dotted with adorable pink piggies and their little corrugated huts. It has become something of a tradition now, but the first person to spot the piggies has to shout "Oink Oink" to celebrate our arrival in Suffolk. I'm quite sure the hauliers in their artic lorries headed for the ports think we're mental, as they thunder past the car and see a grown woman with her head out of the window, oiking loudly.

On one of our very early trips, we'd read somewhere (I think the Observer Food Monthly) about a shop and smokehouse which we were determined to hunt down. Emmetts of Peasenhall (doesn't the name just do it for you?!) is tucked away in deepest Suffolk, on a glorious little village High Street of traditional shops. It has been trading from the same premises since 1820, and their cured, smoked hams have a royal warrant and numerous rave reviews in the national press.

The Suffolk hams are made following a recipe that goes back to the early 19th century. Taking 10 weeks to cure a ham, it is steeped in Suffolk stout, treacle and raw cane sugar for six weeks (being turned every day), then hotsmoked over oak sawdust for two or three days. The taste is to die for!

The store now boasts a little cafe, so it's well worth seeking out, and you should stock up on bacon, charcuterie, preserves and chutneys, British cheeses and Suffolk pressed apple juice.

Another porkie favourite to visit in Suffolk is Jimmy's Farm.  We've been going here for years now, and although it has become more commercial over the years, and now has a restaurant, garden shop and even it's own music festival, it still retains it's charm.  They have an action-packed calendar with loads of activities and seasonal events throughout the year. Ruby loves the nature trail and the adventure play park, and there's plenty to do to keep the family occupied for most of the day.  The old man likes it because of what it stands for, because of the ethos behind Jimmy setting up the business, his passion for rare breeds and ethical farming, and his determined spirit.  I love it because you get to see the gorgeous piggies snuffling about for acorns in the wood, and because I have more than a little crush on Jimmy.

Image: Daily Mail. Oh to be that pig

The farm shop sells an amazing range of superb quality sausages, bacon and the best black pudding I've ever eaten. They also sell meat boxes for delivery so fear not if you can't get to them.

The final Suffolk pig related activity I want to mention, is something I have wanted to do for ages, but sadly funds don't permit and the moment.  Food Safari, based in Suffolk offer amazing workshops including a Free Range Pig in a Day course. Here you'll visit the farm to see how the animals are reared, and then:

After our farm visit, award-winning butcher, Gerard King, of the Suffolk Food Hall, will break down a pork carcass and talk about the different cuts of meat and their uses in the kitchen.  Most importantly, some of the meat, will go straight off to the kitchen to be prepared for our lunch!

Once the meat is ready we'll get hands-on developing our own sausage recipes with whatever takes your fancy; blue cheese, ginger, fennel, paprika. Then we'll make our own sausages to be barbequed for lunch.

The day will wrap up with a relaxed pork lunch with beer and wine.

Sounds perfect! Check out their other workshops which include a Smokehouse Tour, Seafood in a Day, Artisan Bread in a Day, Children's Food Safari and many more.

I've included links to the featured companies twitter pages where I can, so come and follow them with me, and join me in my piggy love, and do check out the other entries on Oui Chef. x