Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Goodbye 2015 and Happy New Year!

A usual I like to do a post reflecting on the year that's about to pass and think about the future. It's pretty self indulgent, but it's something I've done for a long time and it's quite a therapeutic exercise.

First of all I can say that this year has been much better than last year. We had such an awful time in 2014 with Star's neck and numerous operations, and of course the dreaded halo that she had to wear twice. This year has been relatively tame in comparison.

The beginning of the year was the first time we had all three children at school. The Little Man had started reception the previous September and Star had returned to school full time after her recovery. It was strange not having a child in the house all day, but I coped.

In February we celebrated the Other Halves birthday by seeing his favourite group Ocean Colour Scene play live which was really good.

In March I grieved for the loss of my favourite author of many years, Sir Terry Pratchett. He was taken far too soon by the embuggerance, as he called his dementia.

In April I went with my eldest daughter to see the Gadget Show Live at the NEC Birmingham. We had V.I.P. tickets which meant we not only enjoyed the exhibition but we got front row seats at the Live Show. We also went on stage to have a look at Jason Bradbury's Back to the Future DeLorean before having a back stage tour, then meeting the cast of the t.v show for chats. It was a very exciting day.

The DeLorean at the Gadget Show

Also in April I went to Blog Camp Birmingham. This is a fantastic event put on by Tots100 and I try to go every year when they come to Birmingham. There is always something new to learn about blogging and it's great to meet up with blogger chums too.

Skipping May, which wasn't exactly boring, but not really exciting either and onto June where I found I out I had made it to the finals of the MAD blog awards. This was the second time I'd made the finals and I have no idea how, I guess someone must read my blog then? Also in June I did the Race For Life and raised some money for Cancer. I will be honest, I didn't run, I've never really been a runner, but I walked the full 5k in exactly one hour! Not bad for an old bird!

The Race for Life


July was rather exciting, kicking off with a theatre trip to see Peter James' Dead Simple. I really do love live theatre so I was thrilled to be able to review this show.
Then we had a really fun day at Hatton Farm starting with the kids testing out bouncy castles.We also had some fun at the adventure farm. Hatton really is one of our favourite places to visit.
Then just as the school summer holidays began we joined in with the Big Hoot in Birmingham, where we had to track down 98 fabulous owls. We didn't manage to find them all but we found loads and had lots of fun.
Finally, at the end of July it was Boo's 8th birthday and we had a cooking party for her and her friends where they made pizzas and knickerbocker glories.

Buttons, the Cadbury World Owl from the Big Hoot

In August I took a very excited Boo on a trip to London to meet the lovely Bee Berrie for a cookery class. We had loads of fun, and even more fun trying to carry all the cakes and cookies she had made on the tube and train home afterwords. This was the most exciting part of being a Happy Eggs Ambassador.

Boo and Bee Berrie at her cookery class

We also had several days out starting with a lovely meal and play at Brewer's Fayre, some more owl hunting for the Big Hoot and trips to the park where we enjoyed some paddling in the stream.
August is also birthday time for Star who opted for a family trip to Pizza Hut and the Little Man who had a bouncy castle birthday party.

Bouncy Castle fun


In September we had our first tragedy when we lost one of our older cats Scribbles. She fell ill quite suddenly and after a few days at the animal hospital we had no choice but to say goodbye to her.
On a lighter note, September  was also the time of the MAD Blog awards and I got to stay at the lush Royal Garden Hotel and enjoy a fabulous evening with some great people. I didn't win, but I never expected to, it was an honour to be there.

In October we had our second tragedy when our other older cat Suzie fell ill. The vet said that there wasn't anything they could do for her but I couldn't let her go until I felt the time was right, so we took her home and had a few more precious days with her.

In November it was time to face something that I had been dreading all year, my birthday. It was not just any birthday though, this year was a milestone and I made it to 40, I mean 50, yes I'm 50, I just don't know how on earth that happened, who stole all those years from me? Actually, it's not as bad as I expected it to be.

Then on to December where we got to see Treasure Island at the Old Rep which was really good, I think me and OH enjoyed the show as much as the kids.
December also brings the Christmas celebrations and this year we had the Little Man's nativity as well as the girls music celebration. We also enjoyed carol singing on the hill, a trip to the Christmas Market and the kids enjoyed their school Christmas parties. We had a lovely Christmas with just our little family and a visit from Santa.

Some things I've not blogged about this year;

Star's health - Although her neck has improved greatly since her fixation she has had other ongoing issues including a trip to A&E with a sprained ankle. She already fractured one ankle without us knowing and then subluxed the other with took a long while to heal, in fact it still hurts now, months later. In March she had an official diagnosis of Elhers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, which we believed may help us when we sought help for her injuries, but it seems we have a way to go before doctors will listen. We have also been back to her psychologist who diagnosed her autism and she is arranging help for Star at school and for her transition into secondary school next year. Finally, we are getting a lot of help from the gastroenterology doctor with her stomach problems which she has had since birth but we've always been told that she would grow out of them. Well, she's ten now, and she hasn't grown out of them so they are helping at last.

My health - To celebrate reaching my half century I've had a couple of nasty health scares this year, one which ended up in me being blue lighted to A&E for the first time in my life. I don't remember that being on my bucket list of things to do before I'm 50! Things seem to have settled down for now and I don't have any real answers, but I'm getting the help I need.

At home - We have now been living in our house for over two years and after having to wait 12 months for the plaster to dry and the house to settle before decorating, we have finally managed to decorate the whole of the ground floor of the house as well as the girl's bedroom.

My Wishes for Next Year;

I'm hoping that Star's health doesn't deteriorate. We are going to see a geneticist in February who may give us more indication of what we have to look forward to. I'm also hoping that she copes with secondary school, at the moment it's my biggest fear and something constantly on my mind. 

I'm also hoping that I can move my younger two children to another primary school. I've thought long and hard about this and I really don't think there current school is the right place for them.

We are all really excited and looking forward to our holiday in June to Devon. We've not been away for a few years because of Star being so ill, so it's going to be a real treat. It's already booked and paid for and piggy bank of spending money is already growing, I want to make sure it's a really special holiday. The Little Man can't remember ever going on holiday before. He has been away but he was too young to remember.

I also help that my health doesn't get any worse. I want to be able to enjoy life with my children as much as possible without worrying about my health. 

Of course I'd like to wish for peace in the world and an end to all this violence and war, if only there was a simple answer.

A cure for cancer would be good too, I've seen far too many people inflicted with this dreadful disease, it's time we got rid of it forever.

Now, I feel that my wishes have kind of escalated rather quickly, so I'll leave it there and whatever happens I wish for a Happy New Year to all who read this.


Happy New Year!
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Saturday, 12 December 2015

My Sunday Photo - 13th December 2015

Yesterday my niece turned 18! I made her birthday cake, it's vanilla on the bottom and chocolate on the top, decorated with butterflies and feathers.




OneDad3Girls

Monday, 7 December 2015

Treasure Island - Review



We were thrilled to be invited to watch a performance of Treasure Island at The Old Rep. Birmingham last week. The show is running until the 3rd January 2016 with two performances most days and tickets starting from £12.95 and costing £55 for a family ticket.

The Old Rep is on Station Street Birmingham and can be found directly behind the station, or opposite the new John Lewis store. There are many places to park in the city, the Old Rep offers parking for 4 hours at the NCP car park on New Street. It was built in 1913 and has a lovely classic theatre feel with a steep auditorium, giving every seat a good view of the stage.

Steve Eagles, the writer, has adapted Treasure Island from the original book by Robert Louis Stevenson. The story is condensed and the characters bold. We also have an additional female lead character in Jesse, sister of the book's hero Jim Hawkins.

The show is brought alive by the music of Steve Allan Jones. The tunes are catchy and will have you tapping your toes or clapping along, or you may find yourself charmed by the beautiful mermaid song. From the very start to the very end, the music and dancing is the  soul of this production.

Jesse (Charlotte Swarbrick) and Jim (Gianni Cantone) do a fantastic job of involving the audience, getting the children to join in by helping them and learning their secret handshake. While the wonderfully evil Israel Hands (Barry Shannon) gives the audience the opportunity to boo and hiss. The silver tongued, not quite peg-legged Long John Silver (Ian Crowe) was equally funny and evil with a little good thrown in. There was even a talking, rapping parrot called Beaky Rascal (Adam Bailey) "I say Beaky, you say Rascal"

My girls were captivated by the beautiful mermaid princess (Ella Vise) and her lovely aria. Not quite so the Little Man though, who audibly groaned by her fourth appearance (boys will be boys) But even he was caught up in the mermaid song as he picked up on the waltz beat and started tapping and counting along to the music, 123, 123.

Star has autism and has a fascination for words. She likes to jumble things up and talk with what we call 'wixed up mords.' So, imagine her delight at the appearance of Ben Gunn (David Heywood) who spoke with all his words mixed up. He was most certainly her favourite character of the show. (Sorry, mermaid princess)

The entire performance is fast paced, exciting and fun and will not fail to entertain children of all ages and their grown-ups. It doesn't get too scary or over excited which is great for children like Star who sometimes find performances like this overwhelming. My Little Man is five years old and like a typical little boy finds it difficult to sit still for any length of time, so the fact that he managed to sit through the whole performance shows that it has a good pace of action.

On stage with the cast


As a special treat at the end of the show we were able to meet some of the cast. My children didn't let me down by putting forward really important questions like Boo asking "is the sky really real" and Star asking "was the dead man at the beginning really dead?"

The Little Man was completely thrilled to be given a demonstration of how the ghost appeared from the treasure chest. Oh the fun he would have had if he'd been allowed to play with that box!

I would like to thank the cast and crew for their hospitality and making our visit really special.

Boo, with the Mermaid Princess and Jesse

Disclosure: we were given tickets to the show in return for promoting the show's art competition earlier this year. Star, Boo and Little Man also entered the competition and were thrilled to see their work on the wall at The Old Rep.



Friday, 4 December 2015

Feeling Melancholy

It's not really been a bad week, we put the Christmas decorations up the other day and they look lovely. Everyone is relatively well at the moment, we have lots to look forward to before Christmas and even an exciting weekend ahead. However, the past day or two I've been feeling quite melancholy.

It's around this time of year that I start missing my mum the most. It's the time of year when it all began. Back in 2008 my mum was taken into hospital on 30th November, on the 11th December we heard the words that no-one wants to hear, ever, terminal cancer.

I'd always been close to my mum but there was always someone who needed her more than me, either my younger brother, my step-dad or my nan. I was never number one, but I accepted that and tried not to give her too much hassle, we had a nice relationship and were always able to talk about anything. When I was 19 I told her I was getting married. My older brothers had got married young so it wasn't that unusual. She didn't fully approve but instead of going against me she did her best to make my wedding as special as possible. I don't think I'd have been able to have planned it like she did.

Mum always loved Christmas, and I always loved spending time at Christmas with my mum. It was always a fun family time full of fun and food, from making our own decorations to baking delicious mince pies. She always made it real special. It was harder after nan passed away but we still tried. It was while before we had a big family party but we had to celebrate the new millennium in style.

That's the night things started to go wrong. Two days later I had a falling out with my mum and we didn't speak to each other for five years. I think this was one of the toughest times in my life. I'd just split with my husband, I had two children, one had just received a diagnosis I'd not expected, the other had suffered a trauma, and I was trying to hold down a full time job while being a single mum. How could I do all this without my mum's support. For the next two years lots of horrible stuff happened but I survived. I also found a new partner.

I started speaking to mum again when I was expecting Star. It started with a card that I gave to my auntie to pass on. (It was so bad I didn't even know where she lived!) Then I received a letter in reply. (Which I still have.) It took nearly nine months for us to get to the stage of seeing each other and a further two years to seeing each other on a regular basis. Even then we had bars on certain conversations. I can't talk about what happened, but for the record neither of us had done anything wrong, we'd just taken sides with others. She'd sided with someone who needed her more than me, and I'd sided with someone who needed me more than her.

2008 was going to be our first Christmas together since the turn of the century. We'd repaired our relationship to the stage where we were able to share this special day together again. We'd made plans on what we were going to do, what food we were going to buy, even what tv programs we were looking forward to.The previous Christmas I'd called her on the day, this year I was going to see her. As soon as they appeared I picked up as many of the shops Christmas catalogues as I could and we browsed them together. We wrote lists, lots of lists.
I did spend the day with her, but it wasn't how we had planned.

When the Doctor told us it was cancer we wanted to know what the treatment was, when it would start. The Doctor said there was nothing they could do but make her comfortable and that she only had weeks left. It was only 13 days to Christmas, our first Christmas together in 8 years.

Mum wanted to go home immediately.

I understood.

I took her.

She wasn't home for long, my older brother decided she'd be better cared for in a hospice.

Christmas morning came. I had two little girls then, Boo was just a year old and Star was three. They opened their presents and I put them in pretty dresses and we rushed off to visit nanny. I had to spend Christmas with her, we hadn't spent Christmas together for so long and it was going to be our last one. Our last Christmas.

We walked into her room and I immediately got Dad to take the girls out again. They went to play in the relatives room.
I sat by mum. She was asleep. She didn't wake up. I spent my last Christmas with my mum while she slept.
I said goodbye to my mum on that last Christmas Day together.

Before my mum was laid to rest I endured a second bereavement that Christmas. Someone that needed her more than I had ever done but I'm not ready to share that story.

Seven years later and the pain eases, but never goes away. Some days I feel it's all I have left. Some days I enjoy the happy memories instead. Grief never leaves you, but then neither does love.

I miss my mum and I feel robbed of that last Christmas together, but at least I had the chance to be with her.



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Thursday, 3 December 2015

How We Made Over The Kids Bedrooms

Today I'm introducing a guest post from Sally Morton, a very savvy mum who shows us how she made over her kids bedrooms on a budget, giving the kids a valuable lesson in the process!



My kids have been hinting that hey have outgrown their bedrooms for some time now, so I decided that maybe it was time for a makeover and an upgrade. And after I sat down with the kids to get an idea of what they were looking for in their new bedrooms, I pulled out my budget and started working out some numbers. I figured that it was going to take some serious cutting back and our holiday budget may suffer because of that, but thankfully I managed to find some pretty useful Discountrue coupons for Hotels.com  which allowed us to enjoy both he vacation and the makeover!
Soon I laid out the plan to my kids, they agreed to the deal and started planning what they wanted their personal spaces to look like.

Step One

First of all, if we knew there was something basic we were going to need to buy, such as paint ad sandpaper, we looked for special occasions. We also decided to go the DIY route so that we'd save even more. It was logical that the primary colour for the rooms should be something as plain and neutral as possible, because they cost the least. And then each of my kids added their own personal touch to make their rooms to their personal tastes.

The Walls

My son adores Batman, and I'm pretty sure he always will (I haven't met a single boy who doesn't think he is the coolest superhero ever) so he decided he was just going to have a more grown up version of that theme in his room. He painted one wall black (my poor heart!) and then painted a large stylised version of the Bat Signal in yellow. This cost us a little more than planned because our idea of projecting the mural onto the wall didn't work with the particular image he chose. We ended up making the image half the  he originally wanted and creating a 'blackout' stencil then sort of winging it!



My daughter love the ocean and anything mystical like fairies, mermaids or unicorns. So to personalise her room she created a feature wall using a rich ocean blue and and fading into a bright sky blue.  To make the tow colours blend together better she first divided the two paint colours out in equal parts (we had coffee tins all over her room!) then roughly divided the wall into five sections from top to bottom. The very bottom of the wall got pure ocean blue , and the very top got pure sky blue, the middle section got an equal blend of the two, while the other two sections got a blend of three to one parts (more ocean at the bottom, more sky at the top) We than used a sponge to 'smudge' the dividing lines into each other. And finally she finished the wall with a large vinyl decal of a tribal style mermaid.

The Decor

We then headed for a various stores and browsed yard sales to find some old furniture and the other odds and ends (like lamps and picture frames) we needed to finish everything off. y son found two different black and yellow comforter sets online which he got at over 50% discount by combining coupons with a seasonal sale. My daughter searched forages and eventually found one comforter set and duvet set that perfectly matched the colours she'd chosen for her feature wall and suited her ocean theme, although her savings weren't quite as dramatic as my sons!
For my son's room we found an old steel 3/4 bed that he fell in love with so we decided to stick to that idea an found an old army chest to use for a side table come storage space, a steel and wood desk that we replaced the top of, and old metal office shelving that we had sandblasted to get rid of rust and old paint. Finally we painted everything in a gunmetal grey and bought clear plastic storage containers so that everything on the shelves can be arranged as neatly as possible (as neatly as any boy can manage!) WE finally covered a huge cork board in black felt, made a yellow frame from skirting he conned a neighbour into donating and mounted it on the wall.
The first thing we found for my daughters room was an old wooden L-shaped wiring desk with drawers. So we sanded it downs and painted it in a sort of silvery pearl white colour, then replaced all the wooden handles with silver ones. Her bed has drawers underneath it and she loves all the storage space it gives her, so instead of replacing it, we simply disguised the dark wood by jury rigging a white night frill/curtain to hide the drawers.Then we used an old duvet and layered scarves in different shades of blue over the headboard. We found a matching set of  battered wooden chairs which we refinished in the silvery pearl we already had, used on for the desk an and two as side tables while the  last found a home in my studio/office. Finally we copied the cork board form son's room, although my daughter's is covered in a satiny silver material.

Done!

And there you have it. All together the whole project still cost me a pretty penny,which is why I had to save up for three months beforehand. Now that may seem a little extreme but this is going to be the last major upgrade my kids get before they head off to college and their own lives so I decided to spoil them a little. Plus I really liked the fact that they both tried hard to stick within their assigned budgets and were careful to only choose items that they could see themselves still liking years from now! In fact within the first week of saving I already had both them coming to me with questions and ideas about what was possible withing their budgets! And that made me feel good because it meant all my hard work has paid off and i have saving savvy kids.


Thanks Sally, I'm looking for ideas for my son's bedroom and I'm pretty sure he likes Batman too. My girls already have their room done and went for a purple flowery theme.




Images:
"JuJuHd" by Trollen67 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay



Some people only write reviews when things go wrong with products, which is good because it lets people know that there could be potential problems. I've also seen negative feedback with say things like, I had to return this item because the colour did not suit me...is this useful?

I write reviews on most items I buy because I like to give genuine feedback. If I have a genuine problem with a product I will write my review in the appropriate place.

I write reviews on my blog too, but they are mostly positive. Why? Because I only write reviews for the things I've loved. If I don't love them I let the person who sent me them know with details why and then let them decided if they would rather me write a negative review or not write one at all. It's always the latter.

This is my blog, my place and I'll let you know about the things I love. If you want to find out what other people have hated about the product then you will need to look elsewhere.

My reviews may all be positive, but they are still genuine.
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