Archive for June, 2007|Monthly archive page

Car Boot Sale!

In house and home, just for fun, kids on June 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Despite the weather, we had a really great morning at a local car boot sale! It was just a small, simple one in the car park of our local community centre, but we bagged some great bargains, including this hat and coat for my little Angel:

They’re pure wool, absolutely gorgeous! And the best thing was that they were only 20p, for the set! Can you believe that?

I also found some bargain books: The Cat in the Hat (and also his return), and Sarah Waters’ Night watch in hardback for me, which were only 10p each. We went with a pocketful of change and only spend about £3 in all, though we all came back happy!

When the weather is warmer, we sometimes go to the major car boot sales out in the country, which can take hours to walk around! These sales are such a good place for bargain buys: we’ve built up a huge collection of Disney videos this way as they’re usually around 50p each (whereas new ones are upwards of £10 in the shops), and always look out for mirrors, beautiful vases, fittings and other household stuff that we can buy for next to nothing.

If you ever fancy trying a car boot sale yourself, here’s a few tips to get the most out of it:

  • Wear old shoes and trousers: car boot sales can be very muddy!
  • Have lots of loose change. When things cost 10p, you don’t want to ask for change from a £20 note! Also, it’s easier to barter when you have the right money!
  • Barter for everything! There are no fixed prices at car boot sales, and sellers almost always tell you a price higher than they will accept (even if it is already cheap!)
  • Take carrier bags, as sellers often run out!
  • Go very early if you want to find the best sales. Later in the day, such treasures will have already been snapped up!
  • Go quite late if you are looking for cheap bargains: as sellers are packing up, they are much more likely to sell you that beautiful green glass vase for 20p when their earlier asking price was £2!
  • Similarly, going on a day when the weather’s bad will help you bag the bargains, as sellers just want to get rid of their stuff and go home!

Car boot sales are great for buying kids toys too. Last year, money was a bit short so we went to the sales just before the kids birthdays and found loads of great stuff they wanted which we otherwise couldn’t afford. Clothes in every shape, size and design are found in plenty, so if you don’t mind laundering second-hand clothes, there are designer bargains galore.

If you want to find listings of car boot sales in your ares, try CarBootCalendar.com which features all major UK car boot sales, flea markets and antiques fairs. Friday Ads also have regular listings of such sales and you can narrow your search by postcode.

An alternative, If you prefer to keep your boots clean, is to visit visit ibootsale from the comfort of your own home! You can even list items for free if there are things lying about at home that you want to get rid of.

Do let me know if you’re a lover of car boot sales too by leaving your comments below. And if you’re a CBS virgin, why not go out and visit one with the kids? It’s a very cheap day out!


My dyskaryosis treatment

In health, me time on June 29, 2007 at 3:51 pm

A while back, a routine smear showed that I had abnormal cells: a pre-cancerous condition called dyskaryosis. I panicked at first, as I’m sure many women do when their smear results show abnormalities. After all, we don’t often discuss our private female parts!

I was more than relieved to learn that dyskaryosis is not cancer, merely a condition which could become cancerous if left untreated for a number of years. Ten to fifteen years, as the doctors explained, though of course I wasn’t taking any chances! I was referred to the hospital for a colposcopy (a detailed examination of the cervix) in order to find the most appropriate course of treatment. For me, this meant removing the affected cells using a treatment called diathermic loop: where heat is passed through a loop-type instrument to cut away the bad parts and cauterise the skin to prevent bleeding and infection.

It may sound painful, but believe me it wasn’t! I had my treatment yesterday, and I wonder now why I’d got so worked up about the treatment in the first place! After the initial consultation and explanations, the treatment itself only lasted a matter of minutes and I barely felt a thing. Just a little aching and light headedness. I still ache a little now, and was told to expect some bleeding for the next few weeks until all is healed. No tampons, bubble bath or sex for a whole month, but this is a small price to pay for peace of mind, I’m sure!

For the next few years, I’ll need smears more regularly than usual, just to make sure the problem doesn’t return. And if it does, early detection will ensure it is most easily treated!

Most instances of cervical cancer occur because women have “slipped through the net” and haven’t been screened as regularly as they could be. So, if it’s been a long time since your last smear, please do yourself a favor and have one done. I know they’re not pleasant and most uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, I’m sure you’d prefer to know you are healthy, or discover a small problem which can be easily treated, than leave it too long and discover the worst!

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The great Sheffield flood…

In issues on June 27, 2007 at 3:32 pm

This video may give you an idea of the great floods we have been experiencing here in Sheffield. My family and I have all been very lucky: our homes and businesses have escaped most of the flood damage and danger. For those whose homes have been wrecked by the bursting rivers, and those families tragically devastated by death and injury, I offer my heartfelt prayers.

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Tasty Tuesdays: Quick Kiddie Carbonara

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Continuing my Tasty Tuesdays series of quick, simple dishes, I’d like to present you with a really easy recipe my kids love to eat: Quick Kiddie Carbonara. Okay, so it isn’t strictly carbonara since it doesn’t involve making any tricky sauces, but it’s fast, fun and good for them. So why not give it a try?

Here’s what you’ll need to serve four hungry people (halve these amounts of you’re only cooking for two):

  • A packet of spaghetti (or your preferred pasta)
  • Four rashers of lean bacon (we use turkey bacon instead) chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • A cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • A knob of butter (or a drizzle of olive oil)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

And here’s how to make it:

  1. Boil your pasta as directed (the time will change depending on the type of pasta used)
  2. Fry the bacon in just a little oil until they are cooked. You could grill them, but be sure not to make them too crispy!
  3. When the pasta is cooked, rinse with hot water from the kettle, drain and transfer to a big bowl.
  4. Add a knob of butter (or a drizzle of olive oil), the mayonnaise and chopped bacon rashers. Mix well. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. You could always omit this step for the kids, and season only the grown-ups portions instead!
  5. Share between four bowls and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Enjoy!

You could make varieties of this using different ingredients instead of the bacon. We’ve tried and tested canned tuna and cooked chicken breast, which are also heartily enjoyed in this recipe. The kids love to help me cook this as it’s simple enough for them to do a lot of the preparation themselves!

Next week, I’ll be posting a recipe for us parents to enjoy. In the meantime, why not have a look at previous Tasty Tuesday recipes for more simple recipe ideas?

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Things to help you feel better on a rainy day

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Here in Sheffield we’ve had the worst rainfall in many years. We’ve been issued severe flood warnings, rivers have burst their banks, traffic is at a standstill, and several people have been hospitalised due to the floods.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Safe at home we’ve been devising a list of things to do on a rainy day, to help you and your little ones feel much more cheerful amidst the rainclouds!

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

  • Find an old shoe box and fill it with bits and pieces from around the house (scraps of paper, magazine cuttings, unused fabric, feathers, stickers, etc.). Let the kids decorate the box with all the bits and pieces you’ve found. This can become your “rainy day box”!
  • Get dressed up in all your waterproofs and wellingtons, then have fun splashing around in puddles!
  • Venture into the back garden to find snails. The kids can have great fun seeing how many snails they can find, comparing the shells etc.
  • Find some pictures or postcards of warm sunny locations and make a collage.
  • Then, the kids could get dressed up in summery clothes and pretend they are on holiday instead!
  • Create a rain-themed karaoke with any “rainy day” songs you can find (eg: “singing in the rain”, “When it’s raining it’s raining”, “Sunshine on a rainy day”). Or just sing nursery rhymes about the rain instead (Mama Lisa has some great ones here)

We’ve stuck this list to the inside of our “rainy day box” with room to add more as we think of them. Then next time it rains, we can be sure the kids won’t be bored!

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Introducing Blogger Buster

In Blogging, custom blogger on June 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm

I love blogging, and since I’ve been asked so many questions about the customisations I made to this blog, I decided to start another: Blogger Buster!

My new blog is solely about blogging, featuring posts about customisations, domains, SEO, widgets and loads of other blogging inspired posts. I’m no expert at blogging, but I do like to help others out when I can, so my posts are about things that I’ve tried and successfully accomplished myself.

You can see my new blog here:

Please let me know what you think, or if there’s a specific blogging question you’d like me to try and answer in a post!

I wish he’d thought of that in the first place!

In house and home, keeping him happy on June 23, 2007 at 5:00 pm

I’d almost finished decorating the bathroom. Three weeks, it has taken me to get most things done, since I only had an hour or two at a time, when Little Angel wasn’t around to put hand prints all over my newly painted walls. All that was left was putting up the waterproof paper on the back wall.

Then Hubby Dearest had a brainwave: “I think we should move the sink and the radiator around.” Yes, it was a good idea: the sink was underneath the window, so we couldn’t have a mirror on place for shaving/make-up and the like. Great, fair enough. Except this means that I have to redo most of the painting again, once the walls have been re plastered!!

And he did it, which surprised me immensely since we’re also creating a “patio” on the back garden, and I didn’t think he could manage two major household projects at once! So now I’m almost back to where I started, and need to do all the painting again. At least the layout looks miles better than it did! What’s more, Hubby has finally become interested in the finished look: he’s chosen some bathroom cabinets and fittings for when it’s all complete, and has even bought the floor covering I had my eye on!

Thanks, darling! I do love you, you know 🙂

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Can your household become 90% greener?

In house and home, issues, observations on June 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Over at Simple Living, Miranda, Sharon and other participants have set themselves a very honourable task: to cut their personal carbon emissions by 90% of that of the average American: the approximate amount people in the rich world need to reduce by in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

Anyone can join in this task by linking to the Simple Living blog or commenting on their posts. Their blog features loads of great energy saving tips which not only help save the environment but will also drastically cut down on household and utility bills too! What a great idea!

The goal is to cut down to 90% of the average American’s emissions over the course of a year (or your country’s average emissions if you don’t live in the US). What with our family’s reduction on amenities and such lately, I do believe that we’re already below the UK average, though I’ll certainly be reading through Simple Living’s advice to see what else we can do to reduce even more. It would certainly be a difficult feat for us to reduce by 90%, but as the video shows, there are a great many ways we can help protect the environment simply by making different choices about the way we live our lives.

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My Blogging Story!

In Blogging, me time on June 21, 2007 at 11:25 pm

Chili over at Don’t Try This At Home, has passed out an invitation to all bloggers to write their own blogging story. And lately, blogging is something I love to talk about at every opportunity, so I just couldn’t resist writing my own! The story is based on a series of questions about how you began blogging, your motivations and readership. Once you’ve read this, why not hop on over to read Chili’s post and see what others have to say too? I’ve found some really great reads from her Mr. Linky…

Anyway, here is my own blogging story:

How did you start blogging?

I “discovered” blogging a little over three years ago, when researching material for a creative writing project. It was Blogger’s caption: “Push button publishing” which inspired me to read more. Then I realised that I could actually write for the web, that anyone could (and perhaps would) read what I wrote. And comment on it. And link back to me! In effect, discovering Blogger was like opening a can of worms: I immediately became addicted, started my account, and created my first blog: The Urban Kunoichi.

After a little while, I realised there was much more to blogging than a Blogspot could (then) currently offer, and so I migrated over to WordPress, and bought my own domain. Now, of course, Blogger is a much better blog hosting company, which is why my two new blogs are hosted over here. More about that later…

Did you intend to be a blog w/a big following? If so, how did you go about it?

To answer this, I’d have to say that I hoped to be a blog with a reasonable following, but in no way expected that I would be. In fact it took quite a long time to get a regular readership, and even now, my oldest blog doesn’t have too many subscribers, though it does receive quite a few hits from search engines.

In regard to my two newer blogs: Glamumous! and Blogger Buster, then the answer is “yes”: I did set up these blogs to attract a readership. These days I know a little more about blogging, web design, SEO and such, so I’ve implemented some tactics such as joining blogging communities, posting daily, and giving a lot of link love to other blogs I admire.

I want to write posts that people want to read! This is especially true of my Blogger Buster blog, which is all about blogging, and my way of sharing the knowledge in this subject with others who might need it. I love to help others out, and blogging is my favorite hobby!

What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?

My goals for my old blog were simply to write on subjects I enjoyed writing about, and to have my posts read. I think I achieved this to the extent I was willing to push it at the time.

With Glamumous, my plans were somewhat different: this blog is more personal: it’s about being a wife and mother, keeping house and family and staying sane. As well as attracting a readership, I wanted to have an outlet for my feelings at a time when I was feeling somewhat confused about what I wanted from life. Although I’ll never talk in my blog about those issues which concerned me as I started to write, I do honestly feel that writing Glamumous has helped me feel better about myself and change the things that needed it.

Blogger Buster can be seen as an offshoot of Glamumous: after a few of my Custom Blogger posts attracted some attention, I began to realise that writing a blog about blogging would be a great way to attract a readership, and a way to help others by sharing information about the tips and tricks which have helped me. Blogger Buster is a very new blog, and only time will tell if I am successful at achieving my goals!

Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?

The answer above may well answer most of that question! But there is one more thing I may as well add. A few weeks ago, I discovered Dooce (you know, the blogger who became infamous when she was sacked for blogging about her colleagues?), and something I read in her “about” section really caught my attention: her blog generates enough from advertising to support her and her family! They don’t have to go out to work, and can still pay all the bills, keep a beautiful house, maintain a car and probably go on holiday too!

I know it’s about as likely that I’ll ever be able to do that as winning the lottery! Yet it gave me hope that if my blogs become popular, my ads may pay off a little bit so I might be able to afford the odd weekend away, or a pair of shoes I don’t actually need!

In the meantime, I know I’ll need to put in a lot of hard work!

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

Put lots of link love out there; read other people’s blog’s regularly and comment on them; write for your readers if you want them to come back. And if you ever plan on having a custom domain for your blog, do it early on! Otherwise you’ll have to try and let all your readers/blog rings/directories/etc know your new blog address, and it can be a real drag!

Do you make money with your blog?

At the moment, I make pocket change from the Google ads on my oldest blog (just about enough to cover the hosting fees!), but as yet I haven’t made anything from Glamumous and Blogger Buster. I would like to though, and have already put the ads in place because I wouldn’t want them to “suddenly” appear!

I do try to make the ads relevant to my readers though! On Glamumous, you’ll find more affiliate links, since the Google ones didn’t match up to my expectations (probably because it’s still so new!), and I’m still working on those at Blogger Buster. After all the hard work and effort I put into my blogs, I don’t think it’s a sell out to include ads; if they even pay enough to cover their domain registrations and a Starbucks coffee every now and again, I’ll be a very happy bunny!

Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?

Hmm, tricky question. My sister and Dad know about my blog and sometimes read it. Hubby Dearest knows I run websites (as he explains it), but doesn’t really know much about blogs or blogging. He doesn’t seem particularly interested in reading it, probably because he doesn’t spend a fraction of the time online that I do! One thing I ensure each time I post is that no-one (including myself) would ever be offended or troubled by what I write, either now or at any time in the future.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any friends or family who blog (though I am still trying to remedy this!). I would like people I know to be more interested in blogs, especially mine of course, but it seems that “blogging” isn’t yet a growing trend in my social circles.

What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?

  1. Write about the things you enjoy writing about, be it your family, your favorite hobby or your latest business venture! If you enjoy your subject, you are much more likely to stick at it, write better posts and attract a readership through your passionate writing!
  2. Don’t expect to be a success straight away! For a blog to become popular, it needs lots of hard work, time and effort before a readership will arrive! Don’t be put off if it takes months or even longer for your blog to attract subscribers! It took me a long time and many mistakes to realise this.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blogging story. If you want to join in with the carnival and write your own, head over to Chili’s blog to read more about it, and submit your post to her Mr. Linky!

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Living room or lounge: what’s yours?

In house and home, kids on June 21, 2007 at 12:06 pm

I have to ask this, as it’s starting to become something of an issue in our house: does your home have a “living room” (a communal area complete with a scattering of toys and kiddie stuff) or a “lounge” (mum and dad only; kids are virtually banned; the room is tidy).

We don’t have much of a choice here at home as our house has only two bedrooms: a smaller one for the boys (my son and stepson) where they keep their computer games, toys, books and all, then the “master bedroom” (I hesitate to call it such!), where Hubby Dearest and I sleep, keep our stuff, and also share with Little Angel and my step-daughter. There is no space in either room for Little Angels huge chest full of toys, her amazing collection of beloved cuddly things, her rocking horse or anything else.

This all lives in our “living room” instead.

I don’t mind this too much while Little angel is young, but Hubby dearest really hates this setup. He wants the room where our sofa lives to become the “lounge”: no kids, no toys. A place where we can relax at the end of the day and not have to thoroughly tidy up beforehand! He complains that guests must think we have a messy house because of the toys in there. I assure him that people understand: after all, we have children, and children play!

Eventually, we both agree that the bathroom will migrate to the lower portion of our bedroom, and the old one will become the (perhaps a little small) girls room. And there will live the toys, the cuddlys and all their other stuff. But for this, we have to wait: we’re still renting from the council, and until we either buy this house or persuade them to do the work for us, we have to live in this scenario.

I would really like to know how you other mums and dads organise your living space: do you have toys in the living room, or are they relegated to the bedroom? Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a playroom, where the kids can play without fear of making a mess? Please leave your comments below. Any suggestions for creating a temporary harmony amidst these toys would be much appreciated!

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