Monday, 28 April 2014

Blog On 2014 - It's nearly time!

It scarcely seems like five minutes ago when I was nervously filling in my details and buying my ticket for this year's Blog On at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.  Well, that was February and now its the end of April and less than a week until Blog On!  Eeek!  I'm still a bit nervous, can you tell?

Well, Laura who blogs at Tired Mummy of Two and who is also responsible for organising everything at Blog On (no wonder she's tired really!) has started a linky for attendees so that we can introduce ourselves.  She's posed us a few questions as ice-breakers.  Here are my answers.

Name:  Philippa (but never Pip or Pippa)

Blog URL:  You're here already but its

Twitter:  @soundinglike

Facebook:  Don't have a Facebook page for the blog yet

Location:  Cheshire - near the posh bit

Kids:  Five, of various ages, sizes, cleanliness and politeness.  Generally I'm finding that the older they are the taller they get but the cleanliness and politeness declines somewhat.

Favourite food:  No favourites here, its all good

Tea or coffee?  Both

Cat or Dog?  Neither

Left handed or right handed? Left

What came first the chicken or the egg?  Well we had eggs for breakfast the other day so I'll say the egg.

Dietary requirements?  None (does intravenous gin count?)

Special talents?  Indecisiveness, procrastination and not doing the ironing.

Describe Yourself In Seven Words:  Mother of five, winging it, likes gin.

What Is The Best And Worst Thing About Blogging?  The best:  Writing something that makes someone laugh.  The worst:  That empty-headed feeling that you get when you can't think of what to write.

What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever done?  I manage to make everything I do embarrassing - its a skill...

What would your superhero name and power be?  All I'm saying is that no one has ever seen me in the same room as Wonder Woman - there's a reason for that ;)

What will you be wearing at Blog ON?  A nervous smile.  Oh, and clothes, there will definitely be some sort of clothing.

What’s your favourite blog post you have written this year so far?  That's easy, this one. I had fun writing it and it became Mumsnet Blog of the Day, netting me a few thousand page views in hours.  I very nearly didn't post it too!

And because I really want to know the answer - If you choke a smurf what colour does it turn?  Purple

While you are here would you like some cake? What kind?  In order of preference, Coffee and Walnut, Lemon, Chocolate.  But I don't really mind - cake is cake, right?

This will be my first blogging event and despite the nerves I'm looking forward to learning lots of new things so that I can put them into practise back here on the blog (providing I manage to turn up and not get lost in the centre of Manchester trying to park!).  If you are going, see you there!

Blog On

Friday, 25 April 2014

Word of the Week

So this week everyone has gone back to school and work.  Everyone except me.  This week I have been

I've not been alone all the time though.  The twins still only go to pre-school for half days and DH worked from home yesterday which meant that I have had some company, just not as much as I would like.

It isn't that I don't appreciate some down time occasionally, when I can bake or just hang the washing without interruption.  It is more that it isn't as exciting as having other people about.  The hustle and bustle and slightly chaotic ways of our home are something that I've come to cherish just lately.

On Monday evening I finally got around to accepting the twins' places at school.  There has been no drama with school places this time.  No second or third choices, just one, although I did have a slight panic that I hadn't filled the forms in correctly when there was only one email from the council, but it appears they put twins on the same offer letter - phew!  Accepting the places just felt so final, another step towards being all alone from 9.00 am until 3.30 pm every weekday come September.

What word best describes your week?  Click on the badge below to read some other words of the week.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Adventures In Baking - Mini Banana Muffins

It appears that over the holidays we didn't get through much fruit (not surprising with all the Easter eggs we seem to have accumulated), and so with several over ripe bananas waving at me from the fruit bowl this morning I decided that it was high time I resurrected my adventures in baking and made something with them.  

I originally thought I might make a sort of tray bake but after a rummage around in the kitchen I came across some mini muffin cases that looked a bit past their best (goodness knows what I'd bought them for) so I decided to use them to make some mini banana muffins.  I thought that they would be perfect for putting into lunch boxes for school and, in the twins case at least, might gain me a few extra smug mummy points with the lunch box police (I don't have much time left to earn them after all as the twins will get some of Mr Clegg's marvellous free school meals soon so no more lunch boxes - can't wait).

Anyway, on with the recipe:


100g butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g sultanas
zest of half a lemon
4 small very ripe bananas
200g self-raising flour


Cream the butter and sugar together until well combined.  Add the eggs and beat in to the mixture one at a time.  I used an electric mixer for these steps as it is quicker but you can do it all by hand just as well.

Stir in the sultanas and the lemon zest and then mash the bananas up (they need to be quite well mashed) and add them to the mixture and stir through.

Sift in the self-raising flour and then fold in thoroughly.

Once everything is combined, put the mixture into the cases using a couple of teaspoons (one to scoop the mixture up and the other to push it off the first spoon into the case).  You need to do this quickly if, like me, you haven't got any fancy mini muffin tins to put your cases in.  The mixture is quite thick and heavy and will push the cases out of shape if you leave them to sit on a baking sheet for too long before placing them in the oven.  The mixture will fill around 50 small cases so you may also need to bake them in batches - I did as I only have two baking sheets suitable for this.

Pop the filled muffin cases into the oven at 180ยบC for around 10 minutes or until the muffins are golden on the top and well risen.

Cool on a wire rack then stuff into lunch boxes and feel smug that you have not only baked something delicious but have also disguised the hideous rotting fruit as something edible.  Result!

My eldest daughter said the house smelt so good after I baked these.  She is a banana refusenik and so they must be OK for her to say that.  Praise indeed.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Word of the Week

Apologies for the late link up but it will become apparent why in a moment.

My word this week is


What does it take to get my children outside these days?  Well, it would appear that some sort of wifi blackout would be useful, or maybe a nice garden in which they enjoy spending time could be the key too.

At the beginning of the week we had neither - we still have wifi, I was joking about that on account of the teen needing to sever himself from YouTube for long enough to notice the good weather, that would be my only hope you see.

So, this week we've had reasonable weather here which has meant that I've felt the need to locate garden tools and other things required to make the garden a haven rather than a hazard.  On Wednesday we were fortunate in that work was finally completed on the fence shared between us and our neighbour - all down to them and in honesty I'm truly grateful as it means that we could crack on with getting the garden straight for summer.  

Wednesday was spent pottering about and attempting actual grown-up gardening while the youngest children played and ate ice cream on the lawn.  It was quite pleasant on the whole although I managed to get sunburnt.

It's fair to say, I'm not built for sun worship...

Our garden still wasn't anywhere near ready for all the good weather we will no doubt be getting this summer (ha!) and so I decided to enlist the help of my mother who fortunately knows her way around a pair of secateurs far better than me.

Today we chopped, we weeded, we dug and we replanted.  With the bribe of another ice cream we ended up with several small volunteers to help (and the wifi was still connected too!).  It is true that many hands make light work and while getting the garden in order seemed like an impossible task initially, we got there in the end.  

You'll have to excuse the rough pictures but just to give you an idea...

The "before" shot - taken in February

The "transformation" - still a little way to go

The grass still needs help and there are very few flowering plants at the moment but that's a work in progress.  We spent the rest of today outside as a family, even the teen spent a brief bit of time in the fresh air without complaint.  We were in the garden for so long that I've had to promise the twins a picnic lunch outside tomorrow just so that I could persuade them to come in and go to bed.  I had honestly forgotten how much I liked our garden and I'm so glad that we've managed to reclaim it at last.  It feels like we've gained an extra room.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


Hasn't the weather been gorgeous this week?  Here, even in rainy Cheshire we've at least had a few hours of sunshine every day and this means that at the weekend we were able to do one of our favourite things, spend some time in the garden.

Sunday was perfect - warm sunshine, a gin and tonic in hand and the children running around on the lawn playing with a ball while we relaxed on our comfy reclining chairs - bliss!  That was until I noticed DH looking at me in an odd kind of way, head tilted and squinting slightly. "What are you looking at?" I asked.  "Well," he said "I'm looking at all your grey hair, there's lots".

He has a point to be honest, I'm turning grey and, unfortunately for me, it isn't happening as slowly as I thought it would.  As if the 39 years worth of wrinkles weren't bad enough, now I have this to contend with too.

What to do though?  I'm not an immensely vain person.  13 years of staying at home has put paid to that, although I still do like to put a bit of makeup on for the school run and make sure I'm presentable (for that read, not frightening small children). The obvious option would be to dye my hair, which frankly I'm a bit worried about doing.  What if I get the wrong colour, what happens when the roots start showing?  Won't it cost a lot?  What if it doesn't suit me or goes green like that girl I used to go to school with?  If I pay someone to dye it then that means I'm duty bound to visit the hairdresser every six weeks for the rest of my life.  That's just too bloody difficult.  I have never dyed my hair, I don't think I'm about to start now.

Why should I need to cover it up anyway?  A year ago I had just finished reading Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, and I announced to everyone that I would be following her lead and not worrying about my grey hair when it arrived.  Instead I would be distinguished, and just let it happen.  After all, as Caitlin herself pointed out, if men can do it then why not women too?  I liked that idea and I was going to be that women (apart from the fact that I can't be arsed to do the dying thing on account of the reasons I mentioned above).  Unfortunately, I noticed a few months later, a tweet from Moran herself, stating that she was off to get foils done at the hairdresser the following day.  Rather disappointingly she doesn't follow her own advice then.

I think my main problem is that I feel sad about the onset of the grey.  Sad because it represents an end to the glory years when I had my youth and fertility and the kind of get up and go that I just don't possess these days.  It shows that, at best, I've been rotting away at home for the past 13 years while everyone else I know seems to manage to look quite normal.  The twins are starting school in September and I'm already noticing that compared to the other parents whose offspring are about to embark on their reception journey, I look far older than most of them.  At this rate I'll end up being mistaken for my children's grandmother.

Still, I suppose its not all bad.  My hair now needs washing far less than it did when it wasn't grey, its a bit easier to style too.  My children (the younger ones at least) tell me that it is shiny and sparkles in the sun which I think sounds quite pretty (or maybe a bit too much like a My Little Pony, I haven't decided).  They don't seem to see what the greyness represents in terms of lost youth and opportunity.  They just see that Mummy's hair looks a bit different, and I can live with that.  On balance, sticking with the grey seems the better of the two options for now, at least.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Word of the Week

This week has marked the start of the Easter holidays for us.  Wait a minute, Easter still isn't for another week yet - why am I having to deal with the holidays already then?  Anyhow, I digress.  My word this week is a word that I'm sure like me a lot of parents will be feeling, or to be exact, hearing over the next few weeks:


What is it with children these days?  They have more stuff that you can shake a stick at and yet they are still bored.  My lot are particularly bad at this.  They have access to computers, tablets, games consoles, toys, books, board games, art and craft stuff, the great outdoors and the television if they really must, and they can't think of anything to do!

I would quite happily let them do all or any of the above for as long as they liked, if it meant that I'd have five minutes peace to do something for me, instead I have been sent into the loft to search for toys that I didn't realise were there, been asked for money for a trip to the library to rent out a video game (no wonder my purse is always empty) and spent most of the early part of the week reorganising our stash of Lego for ease of model building.

The result?  Well, DS1 and DD1 picked up their video games and also a book or two, DD2 has spent the week playing with dolls rather than being glued to Cbeebies, and DS2 and 3 have been building Lego models happily rather than playing on the Xbox.  

I've decided that being bored isn't always a bad thing.  My children have been content with their own company, there have been less arguments than normal and I'm sure our electricity bill might have actually come down a bit.  If only I could get them all to have a lie in occasionally!

The Reading Residence

Monday, 7 April 2014

Dear Mumsnet...

Dear Mumsnet

For ten years now you have been my companion through motherhood.

You have never steered me wrong, or so I thought.

You have supported me through pregnancy and twin birth (I couldn't have done that without your advice).

Told me which pushchair to buy, which Amazon lightning deals are the best.

Introduced me to Green & Blacks and Lakeland, told me that I must cut pizza with the kitchen scissors (it really works!) and given me awesome recipes for cake.

You've even made me understand why there are those little pushy in bits at the ends of the cling film boxes - who knew!

I have delighted at such classic threads as Mad Tablecloth Lady, The Mumsnet Rhapsody (skaramoosh, skaramoosh!  Will you drink your bloody Tango!) and not forgetting the River of Sweetcorn.

Thanks to the Shopping List thread we now buy "Daytime Wine".

You see, Mumsnet, you are like the big sister I never had, always giving me the sound advice I need to get through family life with a smile on my face and a Boden Breton top in my wardrobe.

Even big sisters sometimes play tricks on their siblings though.

We used to be closer, and I visited you every day, but these days I am too busy for that. We still keep in touch, only by email mainly.  I look forward to these emails - they alert me to those must have shoes, the perfect pair of jeans, that miracle beauty product that will make me look ten years younger (I can live in hope!).

Opening my Mumsnet Swears By email a few weeks ago I was excited to see another food recommendation.  Not just any food but a spread made out of actual biscuits!  I felt like all my Christmases had come at once!

I squealed with happiness when I spied a jar of the "crack spread" in my local supermarket (tbh dh thought I'd lost it at this point - although he thanks you for the cling film trick that's about his limit I think).

Remembering its awesome power (and calorie content) I decided to hide the jar until the perfect moment.  Then, Friday night came and everyone was asleep (even dh was snoozing in his armchair), the spread was calling me...

Loading it onto a slice of particularly nice bread I took my first bite...

...and my last.

Seriously?  Wrong.  Just wrong.

You know when babies eat rusks and then dribble up rusky dribble onto their bibs?  It was as if somebody had scraped a million rusky dribble bibs (plus the bits off the babies hands) and then put the resulting goo into a jar.  Then sold it to me.

This may have been some sort of early April Fools trick.  I am sure someone is laughing somewhere (possibly the makers of Lotus spread).

My children say they like it, but that's no recommendation because they eat anything.

Mumsnet, you will still be an influence in my life - without you how would I decide if IABU?

For now, I feel cheated, not just of the £1.79 Tesco charged me to sample this "delight", but also because you have wronged me. You have a lot of making up to do.

So, I'm off to make some of SuzyWong's chocolate brownies (remember them?) while singing the Mumsnet Rhapsody and drinking daytime wine.  That way I can blot out this biscuity disaster remember all the good times we had.

Anybody want a slightly used jar of Lotus Caramelised Biscuit Spread?

Hell in a jar - All you need is a jar of this, some bread
(and a stronger stomach than me)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Labour of Love

I wasn't planning to join in with Magic Moments this week, but isn't it just funny how these sort of things just creep up on you?

After the upheaval of having sick people at home all last week and trying to sort out a few jobs yesterday morning, I thought I'd quickly check my emails.  There was one from DD1 who, after school assembly, had sent me a quick message.  Unusual since she normally would text me, but something I've said recently must have sunk in to her head because her email was a picture (I have banned picture texts because we get charged as they aren't covered by our tariff - grrr).  So, she listened (good girl!), but that isn't the magic moment.

Here's the picture

Yes, an award which, if you can't quite make it out, is for Smartest Uniform!  Now I'm quite proud of this, for two reasons.  Not only does she take the whole uniform thing very seriously and make sure hers is correct when other kids her age don't really seem to care, but because my own labour of love has been recognised.  I spend what seems like hours some weeks, washing, ironing and replacing uniforms in chests of drawers and wardrobes, making sure blazers are clean and that my family are well, nicely turned out.  Nobody thanks me (and I don't expect it), but it's just something that I take some satisfaction in doing.  How nice for someone to take notice at last.  Oh, and no, DD1 didn't share her prize with me!

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