24 Dec 2011

Jamie's Flavoured Butter Turkey - for a tasty moist turkey

Now the gravy is frozen and Son2 has strict instructions to remind me to remove it early on Christmas morning (which of course, he won't), it's time to turn to the turkey.
My favourite recipe is, once again, from the god of chefs, Jamie Oliver. It makes for an incredible flavoursome, moist turkey that practically bastes itself.
Ready? Here's the ingredients, taken from the recipe page on the JO website

• 1 x 250g pack of butter • 75g dried cranberries, really finely chopped • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked • a few sprigs of fresh sage, leaves picked • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper • 1 clementine.

First, I took the butter out for an hour to soften it, then added it to a food processor with the cranberries, herbs, zest and seasoning. JO says to mix it by hand, but whizzing it up in the blender on pulse saved me time.

Whizz up the ingredients 
Then, using a spoon, I carefully separated the skin from the breast as far back and across as I could, making an opening for the butter.
Separate skin from breast starting from the arrow
Then I pushed half the flavoured butter in the space I'd made. James says to use your hands, but I have this hands slim soft spatula from Pampered Chef that does the job and is much less messy.
Carefully stuff half the butter mixture in the space
Then I used the remaining butter to cover the top of the turkey, finally covering it with clingfilm and putting it back in the fridge until tomorrow morning. Make sure yo get it out when you get up so it has time to warm up a bit before you put in the oven.

Smother the top with the rest of butter
We had this last year as well and I can safely say it's the best, moist and flavoursome turkey I've ever had.
A reminder of the recipe page on the JO site. And to make The Best Turkey in the World, check out this page for cooking the bird.
My  well-used Christmas JO 'Bible' - note greasy smudge marks!

All that's left is for me to wish you all a fantastic Christmas. If you like this blog, please follow, or subscribe by email or RSS so you never miss another post. (At the top of the site)
There are several other recipes in past posts such as:

Merry Christmas!
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23 Dec 2011

It's more faff than Bisto, but Jamie's Get Ahead Gravy's worth the effort

So, 23rd December, and I've started the gravy for the big day. This may seem extreme, but it's to save me the hassle of it on Christmas Day and to make sure I serve up the best gravy of the year.
I'm making Jamie Oliver's Get Ahead Gravy. As far as I'm concerned, Jamie Oliver (my fondue disaster not withstanding) should be knighted in the New Year's Honours and then made Prime Minister, or perhaps King. Or both.
Here are the ingredients:
• 2 celery sticks, trimmed and roughly chopped • 2 carrots, roughly sliced • 2 onions, peeled and quartered • 5 fresh bay leaves • 5 fresh sage leaves • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary • 2 star anise • 2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, the best quality you can afford • 8 chicken wings • olive oil • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper •
4 tablespoons plain flour • optional: 60ml sherry or port • 2 heaped dessertspoons cranberry sauce, for finishing.
How I did my best impression of the great J.O 
So first, I put all the staring ingredients (see above) in a roasting pan, added some fabulous olive oil that we brought back from Tuscany this year, then some salt and pepper. I put it in the oven for an hour at 200c.

Put all the starting ingredients into a big roasting pan
When I got it out, it was all golden. I got a non-scratch masher as Jamie instructs, and mashed it all up hard.

When they come out of the oven, mash them up
I scraped the bottom to make sure it was all mixed in. Then I added two tablespoons of flour bit by bit and made sure it was all stirred in well.

Scrape the bottom of the pan
Then I added two litres of hot water and boiled for ten minutes, then simmered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 2 litres of water, then boil for 10 mins and simmer for 25mins
After than I added a glug of port. This is optional.

Add port if desired. I desire very much.
Then sieve. I first sieved in a colander as my sieve is quite small. This got rid of most of the mashed up ingredients. Then I strained it again in my sieve into a freezer box, let it cool and popped it in the freezer until Sunday.

Strain it, put it in a freezer box and freeze until the big day.
On Sunday I will get it out first thing, defrost it and put it in a pan. When the turkey is done, Jamie says to add 2 large dessertspoons of cranberry sauce (which is good as there's always too much) and the skimmed juices from the turkey.
Decant into a gravy boat, and there you have it, Jamie Oliver's Get Ahead Gravy. It's a lot more faff than Bisto gravy granules, but it's Christmas!
And click here for the link again to the full set of instructions from the Jamie Oliver website
Images on this post are All Rights Reserved c. Tania Tirraoro. Use Contact form to request reuse.
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22 Dec 2011

Women of the Year 2011 - My personal list

This year I've published two books, one fiction - a romance- and one non-fiction, aimed at helping parents get special needs help for their children.
In this endeavour, I've formed friendships both online and in person. As this is the time of year for 'best of' lists  here's one of my own, giving a big thanks to those who have inspired, steadied, encouraged and helped me.

1. Mel Comley
Mel Comley
 Mel and I first became friends when we launched our books on Authonomy in 2010. Since then I have watched her grow as a writer and been amazed by her ability at reaching out online to people, making them aware of her books. Mel lives in France and in January we were able to meet in person when she came to stay with us. We attended a writer's workshop in London together and I'm pleased to say she'll be coming over again in May for another event.
She has published a trilogy of crime novels featuring DI Lorne Simpkins as well as a number of romance and short story books.
Mel has supported me, advised me of opportunities, cheered me up when I was down and sent me the biggest box of Christmas chocs I've ever received. A special mention to her mum, Jean too, who is fab.
Find Mel here

2. Libby Fischer Hellmann
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Libby, a well-known Chicago writer, is one woman I look up to. Her writing is flawless and in the YouTube video I watched of her giving a writer talk, she exudes the sure confidence of someone who knows what she's talking about. I love her Chicago PI, Georgia Davis - a worthy successor to VI Warshawski. When I grow up, I want to be Libby Fischer Hellmann. Find out more about Libby here.

3. Linda Prather
Linda Prather
Linda is a woman of many talents - an author, psychic and paranormal investigator whose books leave an impression on you long after you have read them. Linda is kind and generous with her time and I look forward to reading more Jacody Ives mysteries in 2012 as well as her forthcoming book, Find Me.
Read more about Linda here.

4. & 5. Lia Fairchild and Valerie Maarten
Valerie Maarten
Lia Fairchild
These two woman live on opposite coasts in the US and they are promotional powerhouses. I am astounded by the number of ways they come up with to promote their books and the energy they have in going about it, despite having busy family lives. It is something I can only dream of matching. Lia is also about to become an Amazon Encore author with In Search of Lucy and has a series called A Hint of Murder. Read more about Lia here.
Val has four books out, all great reads, including the salutary tale "Into Thin Air". Find out more about Val here.

You should watch out for all these woman in 2012. They've put in serious ground work in 2011 to pursue their goals of making it big in books. I wouldn't bet against them.

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21 Dec 2011

The Teen Party - I survived but Son2 almost didn't

So, the day of the much anticipated teenage party arrives. Son1 is cool about it as usual. I am running about checking he's thought of everything before I realise that it's his party and if he can't be bothered to pre-plan, then neither can I.
Apart from, of course, ordering in all the food and soft drinks that will be inhaled by the party goers. This is my job, to be welcomingly silent, remain in the kitchen and produce copious amounts of refreshments.
As I'm setting out cans of drinks (less easy to spill than glasses, I reason), Son2, 12, enters the kitchen. He's not been having a good time lately, his Asperger's has rather taken over.
"I'm going to sit on my bedroom balcony for a bit," he announces. Distractedly, I reply that he doesn't have a balcony. We've just refitted his Technolair but a balcony was not on the specifications.
Minutes later, I hear a rumble and then Son2 falls past the kitchen window, crumpling to the hard patio floor outside.
I shriek and dash out as he picks himself up and dusts himself off. "Oh My God! I screech, what did you do? Are you hurt? You could have been killed!"
"I slipped," he says calmly. It turns out that his 'balcony' was his windowsill and he had slid down the small half-roof under it and tumbled to the ground, falling ten feet. He grazed his knee, nothing worse, luckily but my nerves were shot.
I locked his window and poured myself a calming sherry.
Minutes later the first party goers arrived. My visiting sister, unused to teenagers, took herself off to her room and shut the door. Then she evacuated the house entirely for the relative peace of the nearby pub while I tried to ignore the noise level that only twelve teens, girls and boys can make.
I think the party was a success. Certainly Son1 was happy. I shared a glass of wine with some of the Mums at the end and the house was ours again by nine thirty. The Sky+ HD remote control vanished, never to be seen again - no one has admitted responsibility.
Would I let him have another party? Well, yes, I think I would. His friends are all nice young people, polite and respectful. But most of all, I cannot say enough how wonderful it is for Son1, whose ADHD & undiagnosed Asperger's when in mainstream saw him with almost no friends and an angry child. Now, with four years at the right specialist school with intensive social skills training and support, he's doing well and his recent review at school described him as a popular boy. This thrilled me more than any academic success.
I hope that with the continuing support of his school, he can turn these newly found skills into second nature. He's going to need them - he's climbing Kilimanjaro in 2013.

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12 Dec 2011

Term ends - with a teenage party. Gulp.

So here we are, the last week of school - well part of a week anyway - before the Christmas holidays. Term ends on Thursday lunchtime after a carol service, collection for a good cause and a round up of the autumn term from the Headmaster.
It has been something of an eventful term after what turned out to be, thankfully, a malicious call resulted in all boys and staff being locked down int he PE hall for five hours, surrounded by armed police. The police were fantastic and someone was tracked down and arrested before the day was out. Can you imagine the aroma of an already smelly PE hall stuffed to the gills with 500 people, most of whom are adolescent boys?
Everyone is exhausted. Son2 has been ill with a virus, but has spent the weekend moving into a new, bigger bedroom, or Technolair, after we made some internal alterations. We then had to get a range extender for the router which took me an hour and a half to make it work. We found one in Maplins which, for him, is like a magical emporium. He plans to get a part-time job there when he's old enough.
Son2 turned 14 this term. We took him, his brother and eight friends paintballing. We hadn't been before so we naively expected there would be somewhere warm to wait. We were mistaken. My husband also had to make a dash to the nearest supermarket to stock up on drinks and snacks for the boys between each session because teenage boys are rather like locusts, devouring everything in their path. We also shelled out, rather unexpectedly, a small fortune on extra paintballs - something anyone considering such an outing should factor in to the overall cost.
And so, can I relax after Thursday? You're joking. My sister arrives on Thursday afternoon, so I have to make sure the spare room, formerly Son2's bedroom, is set up and tidy.
And then on Friday... it's Son1's first TEENAGE CHRISTMAS PARTY. The capitals are supposed to convey anxiety and trepidation on my part.  It was supposed to be a joint one with his brother, five people each. But Son2 isn't interested and wants to go out instead, so Son1 decided that meant he could have ten, now, eleven.. how about fourteen.. people of his own. Mind you, I'm not sure he's actually invited anyone yet. Am I supposed to hear back from people's Mums at this age? I have no idea.
But, in theory anyway, there will be girls as well as boys, including his newly acquired girlfriend. I'm rather looking forward to that bit - I will, of course, be utterly charming.
Mainly, I will remain busy in the kitchen, providing the locusts with food and soft drinks and will be otherwise invisible but with my ears open over the sound of my new Michael Bublé Christmas album.
My biggest concern is whether to place throws over my two brand new sofas and where to put the dog for his own safety.
If anyone has any tips for me - please leave them in the comments section - they'll be much appreciated!

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6 Dec 2011

Read an excerpt from a FREE Christmas anthology

I've got together with a group of fab women writers to publish a sparkling Christmas anthology of short seasonal stories, Season's Readings. You can download them for FREE from Smashwords in any ebook format, PDF or just read online.
I also designed the cover which I hope captures the festive feeling that will soon be grabbing us all.


Click the image to go to the book page
Eleanor surveyed the scene of quasi-devastation in the living room. Gaudy wrapping paper torn away and then carelessly discarded, littered the floor. Presents were piled up untidily on the coffee table. And her husband of twenty years, Roger, slumped groggily in the armchair, mug of tea balanced on his rounded stomach that was wrapped in a tartan robe.
Under the robe, he wore pale blue cotton pyjamas that he preferred to be ironed, even though they were the non-iron variety. Roger was the chief financial officer of an insurance company in the City. He worked long hours and had amassed them a considerable fortune that had made it unnecessary for Eleanor to find paid employment ever since she'd given birth to the first of their two sons, now aged fifteen and seventeen.
The teenagers had returned to their lairs, otherwise known as their bedrooms, after they had ravaged the Christmas wrapping paper that she had so carefully folded over their expensive ipods, computer equipment and designer clothes that she had bought for them.
Roger was pleased with his aftershave, new leather briefcase and Cartier cufflinks. Eleanor was happy she didn't seem to have made any faux pas, present-wise.
"Darling, you haven't opened your present yet." Roger's voice broke through her thoughts. He indicated a bulky package that was far too neat to have been wrapped by him.
Eleanor smiled. "Thank you," she said, perching on the arm of the sofa as she carefully opened the parcel. Inside was a fluffy robe from...she cast a closer look at the label…Marks and Spencer. Eleanor's smile faltered and forced it to remain on her lips. "It's just what I wanted," she said, a little too brightly.
Seemingly satisfied, Roger went back to reading the sports section of yesterday's Telegraph. Eleanor felt like screaming. She had worked so hard to think of nice things to buy him. The briefcase had his initials embossed on it, the cufflinks had cost a small fortune.
Then she thought of the expensive Prada wallet she had bought for his personal assistant on his behalf. She knew without asking it wasn't Roger who had chosen the robe. She glanced at it again. Pale pink, size 16. Eleanor was a svelte size 10. She shouldn't be ungrateful, she told herself. Roger provides for us so well and she could always go and buy what she wanted whenever she wanted. But as she rose and turned away towards the kitchen, the long silk robe she had bought for herself just months before swishing around her, she couldn't stop her lower lip from trembling, just a little.
The problem, she reasoned, was the lack of thought that had gone into it. It wasn't that she had wanted something expensive, but it would have been nice if Roger had actually thought, just for a few moments, what she might like as a gift. He rarely did these days. When they met and they had both been newly minted accountants, they had had so much fun going places together, being spontaneous. Flying off on a short break on a whim.
After they married the good life had continued, working and playing hard. Roger was on a fast-track promotion route and when Simon was born, it just made sense for Eleanor to give up her job and devote her time to looking after the baby and Roger. She became the perfect corporate wife. Coiffed, toned and tanned, despite producing two babies, two years apart. That had been their life ever since.
She had spoiled the boys, given them all her attention to make up for the fact that their father worked long days and often weekends. They repaid her by leaving their dirty clothes scattered on the floor wherever they took them off, just as they had done since they were children. They often took dishes of food they had asked for upstairs and rarely brought the empty plates down again. They hardly ever said thank you when she took them to sports practice and picked them up again. They seemed to think the clothes fairy picked up their things, washed and ironed them and replaced them neatly in their drawers.
Eleanor never chided them for their slovenliness. They were only children for such a short time, she told herself. Now, as she tossed the half-wrapped M&S robe on the chair in the hallway and set about preparing the Christmas lunch, she regretted letting them treat her like part of the furniture. To them, she was largely invisible, just a wispy outline behind the wheel of the Range Rover, a chauffeur come housekeeper.
The actual housekeeper, Mrs Jarvis, always tutted at her for letting them treat her with such disregard. Eleanor usually just gave a wan smile and a small, defeated shrug.
But today, Christmas Day, she felt differently. She took out the potatoes she had peeled the night before and left in a pan of water. She cut them into odd shapes so the corners would be sharp when they came out of the goose fat, all brown and crispy, and put them back into the pan in fresh water for par-boiling later.
She checked the turkey, which had been in the oven for some time already. It was basted in cranberry butter that she had forced under the skin for added succulence carefully following a Jamie Oliver recipe. Satisfied that everything was on track, she went up for a shower.
Eleanor paused at the top of the stairs listening to the various sounds coming from each boy's bedroom. Simon was strumming his acoustic guitar and 'singing' along as he played. Jonathan, her fifteen year old, was playing his new shoot 'em up game on his X-box. Neither of them had bothered to buy her a gift or a card.
She put her shoulders back, lifted her head up and crossed to the large bedroom suite she shared with Roger. It was beautifully fitted out and she had a large dressing table upon which sat her expensive Crème De La Mer moisturiser and her Chanel make-up bag.
She opened her top drawer and slid out a packet of blister-wrapped tablets, popping one out and swallowing it without water. Prozac, mother's little helpers. She sat to brush out her hair, feeling miserable and taken for granted.
Her face reflected in the mirror was unlined, thanks to regular non-surgical face-lifts and her honeyed bob had been perfectly highlighted and cut at Vidal Sassoon in Sloane Street just the day before. Securing it back with a band, she shrugged out of her robe and matching silk night-slip and crossed into the en-suite wet-room.
The water took seconds to heat up and Eleanor stepped under the powerful jets. Before she knew what was happening, before she could rationalise her misery any further, her face crumpled and huge tears rolled down her cheeks. Her head dipped forward, the fierce water jets wetting the hair she had meant to keep dry. Eleanor angrily snatched off the band keeping it back and threw it to the floor of the shower.
She knew what she was, she was a bloody Stepford wife and she hated it. She hated her life in a gilded cage, doing just what was expected of her while no one cared how she felt. She was 48 years old and a walking stereotype of a well-heeled woman.
Over the hammering of the water, she suddenly hear Roger calling, "Darling, are you almost finished? Mother will be here soon."
Bugger, she thought. Bloody Regina. Why couldn't the old bird just hurry up and die? Roger's mother always came for Christmas lunch. Regina was 79 years old, a widow of a more than a decade, after her own husband had worked himself into an early grave. She was the epitome of health and showed no signs of following her husband to the world beyond. Or the world below, more likely, thought Eleanor, grimly.

Read more by downloading the book for FREE or read it online - just choose your preferred format
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2 Dec 2011

Coming to terms with parenting teens

Tomorrow is my eldest son's 14th birthday. It already seems like he has been a teenager forever. He now stands a head taller than me and his voice is so deep I am constantly wondering who on earth is the strange man talking downstairs?
These physical changes have taken place over the past year and I, as his mother who has had 13 years of having two little boys, am still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I have one big boy (12) and one young man on my hands.
The job is made more complicated by their Asperger Syndrome. Which aspects of their behaviour are because they have AS and which is just because they are adolescent? It can be hard to tell.
It is also hard to change your parenting behaviour. While it is still necessary to give them firm boundaries as well as love, the position of the boundaries, by necessity, changes.
What is difficult is knowing which boundaries to change and where to move them to. Bedtimes have become more lax. Sometimes he will go for a shower unasked, sometimes he needs to be reminded to wash his hair because it needs it - after all he's getting used to having a new body and hormones as well. I suspect there are plenty of teens this applies to.
Communication is also something that is changing, in that he doesn't particularly want to, at least with us. He's often on Facebook chatting with his school-friends and I sometimes hear his deep voice talking on his mobile late in the evening.
The other week he had some friends over for a sleep-over before we took them paint-balling the next morning. They disappeared into the conservatory where they were sleeping. "Don't you want to watch TV?" I asked. "No, we're going to talk," he replied. When I remarked that he never talked to me, all the boys collapsed into what can only be described as Smash Alien-type laughter.
I know what they were talking about: girls - another area for worry. He goes to an all-boys school but they get together with girls from a nearby girls' school for theatrical productions. My son likes girls very much and they like him back - since he was six up until he went to the boys' school, he always received one or even two Valentine's Cards every year from smitten primary schoolgirls, much to my younger son's disgust.
I have decided the best thing to do about girls is...nothing. Unless he asks. I will just keep my eyes and ears open although as he tends to keep things to himself, this is a challenge.
I am working my way through Thomas Phelan's "Surviving Your Adolescents" and have found that I am making lots of mistakes - such as 'the insightful comment' hoping to instill my wisdom into him, usually when he's stuck in the car with me. This is apparently a no-no. Oops.
I'm also getting some things right as well, which is a relief not to be totally useless. I remember being a teenager and, I can promise you, I was a lot worse than he was and I turned out alright, I think.
I bought him a book, "The Teenage Guy's Survival Guide: The Real Deal on Girls, Growing Up and Other Guy Stuff". "I got this for you," I said, casually leaving it on the table. "You might like it, have a look if you want". I left it at that. It's now on or next to his bed, so it's apparently a hit.
Other boundaries haven't changed, for example, I try to make sure we eat together at the table as often as possible. We had a little talk the other day about how I was going to try to treat him in a more grown up way, although it was hard for me to adjust. Then I said that he would also need to take more responsibility for things within the family. He looked at me sharply. "I'm not that old," he said. I smiled to myself. It's a long journey, this growing up stuff.

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24 Nov 2011

Ten Tips- Both Practical and Profound

1. Nonno told me this: After you've opened a jar of olives, always add a dash of vinegar to the brine to stop the olives going mouldy. If you love olives, like I do, this is a very important tip.
2. Jayne told me this: Attach your house key to your car keys so you never leave home without it. This seemed obvious when she told it to me, AFTER I'd locked myself out.
3. Keep your mobile by your bed at night in case of emergency. If there's no electricity, your mains-powered house phone won't work.
4. Back up you important documents and photos to a remote online service. If your house burns down, your back up discs and drives will melt too... Try Google Docs and Picasa for free services. Your ISP may have one, but what if you change ISP?
5. Never put anything on Facebook you wouldn't mind the world knowing. Or your boss. Or your kids.
6. Now and then, take a moment to stop and really look at your kids - freeze frame their young faces in your mind. Because before you know it, they'll be grown.
7. Try to do something kind for someone every day. Sometimes, maybe even often, it should be for yourself.
8. Maya Angelou said in one of her books that she realised the first words out of her mouth whenever she saw her son were critical of him - small things like tidiness, state of hair etc. She resolved to change that. This takes determination, I have found!
9. Take a moment to think of yourself as others see you. Do you like what you see?
10. Tell your family often that you love them. After all, you never know what the day will bring.

Okay, these are my tips - what are yours?
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14 Nov 2011

A word about your underwear, Madam..

Call me obsessive but I have a thing about underwear. For a start, it has to be matching - the top half to the bottom half and the underwear to the outerwear. Black bra and white top - how very dare you!
It's not expensive to have nice underwear and what's more, it makes you feel good. When the world has gone to hell in a handbag, at least you know if you get knocked over by a bus the nurses won't be sniggering in Accident & Emergency over your mismatched bra and pants. One less thing to worry about!
You may be the kind of person who love to choose underwear by the first thing you dragged out of your drawer - and if that's you, far be it from me to frog-march you down to M&S or even Tesco to get you kitted out to my satisfaction. Or you may think that matching underwear should be reserved for special occasions. I used to think this, until I decided that as you never know when your last day on Earth may be, you should treat every day like a special occasion.
Next Lingerie, pretty & practical
I mean, come on ladies, what are you thinking with your seen-better-days grey cotton briefs and an elastic-all-but-gone ill-fitting bra? I know  you're busy, but really, when you can order online or grab some while you're in the supermarket clothes aisle, there's no excuse.
Now, let me make it clear I'm not talking to our twenty-something younger sisters or even daughters here. Young women can pretty much get away with anything - they have youth and attitude on their side. But once you're past the first flush of youth, you might want to spare a thought for the state of your smalls. Comfort begins to take precedence after a certain age as well as practicality - but they don't have to mean ugly undies.
First, you need to leave the kids with your husband/parents/best friend and get yourself down to your local department store to be measured properly. There's nothing worse than spilling out at the top or a back-strap that's slid up to your shoulder blades.
These days there are specialist companies online that make bras for the larger lady (even regular companies go up to G cups), and you can get breast-feeding or post-surgery bras much more easily than you used to be able to do. But these groups aside who have particular needs - when was the last time you were properly measured?
The last time I was, I discovered that I was bigger in the front and smaller round the back than I thought I was - and boy, what a difference it made. You don't stay one size your whole adult life - dieting, pregnancy, age - they can all mean you end up with the wrong bra size.
And pants - now ladies, there's no point kidding yourself your bum is smaller than it is. Your knickers will just dig in, ride up and cling to your clothes - not a good look. There's no shame in buying a larger size to be more comfortable. I'm a UK6 (US,2)  in jeans, but I always buy size UK12 underwear. They're just more comfortable. Don't ask me how a 12 fits inside a 6, but they do.
Also, there is NO excuse for VPL these days. You don't need to resort to a thong (unless you're aged 22 in which case comfy pants mean nothing to you). Marks & Spencer, Next, Debenhams and more - all have well-priced pants that sit invisibly under clothes.
And they don't last forever. Elastic loses its zing, so make sure you check them over every month to see if they really should be in the bin. I know it's sad and it seems wasteful but if they've lost their twang, they won't be doing a thing for you.
Style & Comfort matter too. I hate fussy bras whose seams you can see through your clothes. Next and other retailers have seam free technology that allow comfort and style to go together. They lie flat at the sides and round the back so your clothes don't cling to the outline of your back-strap.
For me, there's nothing worse than spending the day in uncomfortable underclothes or worrying that my clothes are revealing a bit too much about what's underneath. I might only be dressed casually in jeans and jumper -  but I want them to look as good as they can and knowing that what's underneath is invisible, comfortable and most of all pretty, makes me feel pretty good too.

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10 Nov 2011

Boys safety threatened- Teachers and Police make swift response

Big drama at our boys' school yesterday. After a phone called threatened extreme violence against the school, the boys, who all have some type of special educational need, were speedily escorted to the large sports hall where they stayed along with staff, teachers and even the builders for the next five hours, protected by armed police and the police helicopter.
By all accounts, the boys behaved impeccably, despite the lack of lunch - even the catering staff had to seek sanctuary in the hall.
Parents were kept as informed as possible, given the circumstances, although we were understandably frantic, not knowing what was happening and if our sons were in any real danger.
Debbie Cox, Mum (Meridian TV)
After the police ascertained that it was safe to do so, the boys were let out and the fantastic catering staff got to work to whip up some lunch for the boys, aged from 8-18.
I would like to thank all our school's brilliant and talented teachers and staff and Surrey police who looked after our sons so admirably in an unexpected time of crisis.
The police response was swift and decisive - a lesson to anyone who thinks they can terrorise vulnerable children for any reason. The person who allegedly made the phone call was apprehended before the day had ended on suspicion of making threats to kill. I'm really not sure what makes anyone do such a thing or even if he had the means to carry out his threats, but our police officers are to be praised for their response.
Today, the teachers set about reassuring the boys. My own youngest, who has Asperger Syndrome, was so anxious that we kept him at home for a recovery day.
Today, Meridian Television put together a report on the incident featuring some of our boys, our Deputy Head, Andy Williamson and gorgeous mum, Debbie Cox (not Knox as titled!)
You can view the story here:


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4 Nov 2011

Charity book highlighting dog cruelty released

My friend, author, Mel Comley, has just released a new book. Already in e-format and soon to be published in paperback, the book highlights the horrific practice by unscrupulous owners of killing racing dogs when they're past their useful racing best. Mel has turned this into a short novel featuring her character, DI Lorne Simpkins from her "Justice" novels.The blurb is as follows.

"It may not be homicide, but to DI Lorne Simpkins... ...it’s still murder 
When a reporter friend of DI Lorne Simpkins gives her a tip about a story involving old racing greyhounds, Lorne is sceptical. But after looking into it, she's horrified to discover the grisly fate of racing dogs that are no longer useful to their owners-and she's determined to bring the cruel and uncaring owners to justice."

Mel said, "I’ve released a novellette in ebook format, with the intention of sending all the royalties to a Dog Rescue charity that is close to my heart. About a year before we left England, we met a wonderful lady called Sheila Tremellen. We’d just come back from a holiday in Florida and discovered one of our dogs, Lady, had died in the boarding kennels. Devastated, and needing to find another companion for our other dog, Angel, I bought the local paper and saw Sheila’s number being advertised. When I rang her we clicked immediately and she invited me to her beautiful old cottage, which had a small kennel attached at the side where she cared for the abandoned dogs she rescued. Sheila showed us a litter of border collies that had been found abandoned in a box. I was immediately drawn to the runt of the litter, the only male in the pack, who was picked on by his sisters. We named him Henry and he now features prominently in my books. Almost ten months later we moved to France, but we’ve never lost contact with Sheila. Every Christmas she sends a lengthy newsletter to the people who’ve adopted one of her dogs, highlighting the dogs she has saved and re-homed during the current year. I was so proud of her achievements when in 2002, Sheila won a BBC UK Animal Award for her charity work. Then in 2006, her work got the recognition it deserves when she was awarded an MBE by the Queen. Over the years Sheila has saved a staggering 1040 dogs. From the minute I met Sheila, I knew I had to help out in some way, but donating a small amount to her charity at Christmas wasn’t enough for me. Unlike many other charities out there, I know that every penny donated goes to the dogs in Sheila’s care. Therefore, I have decided that all the royalties I make from selling my story about the plight of ex-racing greyhounds, will be winging its way to PUPS charity in Worcester. So I’m urging people to buy the book at: But if you’d like to make further donations to this worthy cause please contact me at impjust AT orange DOT fr (substitute @ and .!) and I’ll put you in touch with Sheila."
The book can be found at:



I'll add the paperback link when it's ready.
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1 Nov 2011

My Jamie Oliver Fondue Disaster

Ah, the kids are back in school and it's the half term that runs up to Christmas. It's always a busy time - Christmas Fayre at school, so books and unneeded things to dig out and it's my eldest son's birthday in early December so lots of things to think about. This year, now he has a good group of friends, he's having a paint-balling party.
One thing we won't have to worry about this year though is the neighbourhood Christmas party, because we did it last year, so it's definitely not our turn.
Cheese Fondue.. just not like ours.
We live down a dead-end, un-paved lane, hidden away on the edge of a town. We have lovely neighbours - families like ours and older couples whose children have flown the nest long ago.
So last year, I bought in everything I might need - stocked up ahead of time, taking advantage of supermarket offers.
We decided to make it a bit retro and do a cheese fondue.
One of Jamie Oliver's Christmas magazines that I ferret away each year had a nice looking recipe, "Easy Cheese Fondue", so I checked out the ingredients and made sure we had everything in. We even had a genuine seventies fondue set, courtesy of my in-laws. How hard could it be?
The night arrived and I was super-organised - everything ready except the last-minute fondue. I had a nice table arrangement with candles, which we lit.
The boys skulked about, not sure if they were looking forward to the party or not. They knew all the guests and the kids - no nasty surprises - but still, they aren't used to lots of people in their home space. I put my eldest in charge of entertaining the children, as he is the oldest child in the lane. Thankfully, they perked up and planned some things.
Now for the fondue!. Following the directions to the letter, we lit the meths in the fondue burner and added the Cheddar, Gruyere and Blue cheese to the other ingredients, stirring gently.
For a while, it was looking good. It was difficult to control the burner underneath but we did our best.
Then, disaster. The mixture started to go lumpy, then gloopy and elastic until you could pick the whole lot up in one solid mass. This did not look like Jamie's lovely picture at all. Curses! I think it was very possibly over-heated. Stupid seventies fondue equipment! (That's my excuse and I won't be budged!)
Then, I started to smell burning.
I looked up from the toxic waste that had been cheese fondue. To my horror, the burning candles had set the Christmassy centrepiece alight and it was on the table, engulfed in flames. I shrieked loudly enough to make even the boys think there was something worth investigating.
Leaving the solidifed cheese fondue, I grabbed the base of the burning centrepiece, opened the double doors in the kitchen that leads to a patio area and hurled it into the snow that still lay on the ground from earlier in the day. I grabbed a few handfuls of snow and threw them on top of it to extinguish the flames. Fortunately nothing else had caught alight inside the kitchen, which was lucky as there are sheer voiles hanging only inches away.
As I opened up the double doors fully to let the acrid smell of burning pine cones out, the doorbell sounded and the first guests arrived, trudging up the path in their wellies. Our across-the-lane neighbours had brought their slippers to change into - see, that's what nice about neighbourhood gatherings, no need to dress up!
Everyone came and a good time was had by all, with rest of the evening passing off without incident. Even the dog was well-behaved.
Does this ever happen to Jamie Oliver? I think that's most unlikely, don't you? If you want to have a go at making a proper job of his "Easy" Cheese Fondue (Ha!), you can find it here
What's your worst party disaster? Leave a comment...

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31 Oct 2011

Bamboo Clothes - soft, breathable and eco-friendly too!

From This....
I happened upon a website a few weeks ago advertising clothes made from Bamboo. Excuse me? Bamboo?
Now, I'm a progressive sort of gal, we have strand-woven bamboo flooring in our house that's hard as nails and beautiful to look at. Bamboo is a grass and grows much faster than hardwood and so is more easily replenished and can be harvested more often. It's also more water-resistant than wood such as oak.
Okay, so flooring.. but how are you going to make it into clothes? Apparently, bamboo fibre is produced from the raw materials of bamboo pulp. It's then made into fibre through a process of crushing and mixing with caustic soda, a low impact chemical.
It has excellent wicking properties for sports and performance clothes,  because it absorbs and evaporates sweat in seconds, which means bamboo clothing will keep you dry for much longer.
Bamboo fibres also have a special microstructure that remains present in textiles. Thanks to this microstructure, bamboo clothing has a thermo-control, staying cooler during summer and warmer through the winter. In fact, it's been proven that, during hot weather, clothes made from bamboo will keep you two degrees cooler than those made from other fabrics.
To this.. (unshaven husband modelling BAM
 top & socks)
Bamboo clothing is anti-static, so it doesn't cling and it cuts out 98% of harmful UV rays. If that isn't enough, it's apparently also anti fungal, so it keeps your clothes fresher for longer - no more smelly socks!
Alrighty, then, I'm convinced to give them a whirl. I explored the website, Bamboo Clothing or BAM, and as I was in the market for some new socks, ordered three pairs for myself and a natty looking long-sleeved black polo-top for my husband, smart enough to wear for 'Dress-down Friday' at work. And best of all, not too expensive.
Wow, was I impressed. The socks are FAB. They feel nice and weighty in the hand but fit beautifully and are sooo soft. My husband's top is also really soft, doesn't crease and the fabric feels lovely next to the skin.
So on to the washing machine test. No problems there at all. Tumble dried? Brilliant.
I am planning to buy my husband some running tights and I might even splash out on some underwear for everyone. I am obliged to get some socks for my 12 year old son who I caught walking off with a pair of mine that I hadn't opened.
The range isn't huge at the moment, but I'm sure that will change in time. But if you're into sports, (unlike me) they have a great range of baselayers and other activity wear.
One more group of people that Bamboo fabric is good for - those with allergies, because of the lack of harsh chemical treatments in the fabric. The fibre is smooth and round, so is a non-irritant. This last point brings me to a very special set of people who could benefit - those with sensory issues that arise from autistic spectrum disorders and similar problems. Many people like this find scratchy, rough or itchy clothes intolerable so this maybe one solution for them.
To check them out for yourself, visit: http://www.bambooclothing.co.uk/
This is not a sponsored post - it was written for no incentive, because I was genuinely impressed. However, those nice people at BAM did send me a pair of socks when they'd seen it to say thank you. Which was very nice of them.

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26 Oct 2011

Ritalin, talking therapies and what I think our kids really need

On the Mumsnet blogger site there was a piece by MP Pat McFadden about the increase in prescribing of ritalin. I wrote about it on my www.specialneedsjungle.com blog, but as it's something I feel so strongly about, I'm reposting it here.
Ritalin, talking therapies and what I think our kids really need…The Health Minister, Simon Burns has said that the chief medical officer and the NHS medical director are planning to write to clinicians to remind them of the full range of NICE guidelines on conditions—including ADHD—that affect children’s mental health. It came in response to an adjournment debate called by MP Pat McFadden on the rise in prescriptions for children of the drug methylphenidate (Ritalin, Equasym etc) used to treat people affected by the symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity. These symptoms affect behaviour and the ability to learn and as well as being found in ADHD, are also co-morbid in young people with autism, Asperger Syndrome and other similar development disorders.
Mr McFadden made a plea for the Minister to carry out a proper, comprehensive review of the use of these drugs involving professionals from the medical, psychology and teaching fields, as well as the families of those who have been prescribed the drugs. He asked the Minister, “Will he commit his Department to carry out a proper research project into the use of the drugs, including the age of the children receiving them? Secondly, in the light of the huge growth in prescriptions, will the Government carry out a proper review of practice in the field, as called for by the Association of Educational Psychologists, before the new guidance comes into effect in 2013?”
Mr Burns said he himself had a family member who was successfully being treated with Ritalin. “Across hospital and primary care, the prescribing of drugs for ADHD increased by around 12.5% between 2007 and 2010, the latest four years for which data are available, and by around 6% in 2010 alone. Prescribing in primary care alone increased by 22% in that four-year period, reflecting a significant shift in prescribing activity from a hospital setting and into primary care. Looking back further, one sees that prescribing in primary care has tripled in the past 10 years.”

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22 Oct 2011

The Things We Take For Granted (well I do, anyway)

We have been spoiled, I realise that now. Let me explain. Our dishwasher isn't working. It took me a few days to realise that the reason the dishes were coming out greasy was that the water wasn't heating up.
What to do? Get it fixed or buy a new one? It is seven years old, after all and was in the house as an integrated appliance when we moved in.
£400 for a new one or equivalent spec or £163 to get it fixed including a 12 month support contract. I went with the latter, strangely enough. After all, the contract with the repairers says if they can't fix it, they'll replace it new for old, so I can't lose.
c. Tania Tirraoro. All rights reserved
But they're not coming to fix it until Tuesday so I have been having to WASH UP BY HAND! I know, for many people, this is what they do every day, but when you're used to just bunging plates into the dishwasher it has been a rude awakening. It's so time consuming, and you have to do it after every meal or you run out of dishes or room to stack them on the drainer (no, I'm NOT drying them too).
Technology has revolutionised our domestic existence in so many ways. There is no worse moment for me, appliance wise, than when the washing machine breaks down. There are three grubby males in this house who produce copious amounts of dirty clothes. And yet, my grandmother's generation managed without washers and dryers. Took them all day though, but then looking after house and family was their main job - and no-one lambasted them for it. Mind you, working mothers get it in the neck too, so you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I am lucky that I can work from home and have the best of both worlds, but that is only because of technology and the internet.
We had a power cut the other week. I was unable to get online! Imagine! Much of my work relies on the internet but with the power out, I felt strangely free. I read a magazine. It was Mslexia, a women's writing periodical so I still felt it was work-related, but still. I worried about the fridge-freezer though, if the power didn't come back on. There was the dog's frozen minced tripe in there and it stinks at room temperature. It's not that pleasant when it's frozen either.
The children moped about. No Xbox. No Minecraft. No Electric guitar (mercifully) though of course, the acoustic still worked. Oh, boys, look at this, it's called a book. You don't need to plug it in!
I started off this post saying we were spoiled. Actually, perhaps that is not accurate because it compares what we have now to what we had twenty or thirty years ago. Times move on. Clever people invent stuff that become a daily part of our lives. Not everyone has a dishwasher but a large percentage of the population do. In another thirty years, I might look back at 2011 and think, oh poor us, we didn't have flying cars or world peace and the eradication of poverty. Okay, those last two are not that likely, but flying cars? Hmmm...

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19 Oct 2011

In memory of Sonia, my friend.

Sometimes news knocks you sideways.
Today, just as I was driving home from lunch with my husband and feeling pretty pleased that I'd found a pair of black jeans that actually fitted me, I received a phone call.
My beautiful friend, Sonia
It was from the partner of an old friend, Sonia Robinson, who has been battling breast cancer for the past few years. He was calling to tell me that she had lost the fight earlier this month. She was just 46.
I have known Sonia since I was 19, more than half my life. We met when we were assigned rooms next door to each other in Halls of Residence in Tooting, South London. She was from Birmingham and two years older than I. I was from Warrington, an immature, know-nothing teenager.
We became friends, even though on the face of it we had nothing in common. We would sit on our respective window-sills and talk through the open window or go for a drink in the Student bar. Sometimes we would go up into the centre of London for an evening with very little money to spend, but we always had fun. On my 21st birthday, Sonia plaited my hair tightly into two so that by the evening my poker straight hair would have waves for our evening out. Times spent with her were always easy. When you did something questionable she would give you a 'look' but you knew that you were not judged.
That friendship has lasted 25 years. We were not in each other's pockets, and our contact through most of that time has been sporadic as we got on with our lives and families in different parts of the country. But we always sent each other birthday cards when we could - our birthdays were two days apart.
We were the kind of friends that could speak or see one another after months or years of silence and pick up where we left off. Still, I feel a pang of guilt, wishing that I had been more in touch in the last couple of years. The last time I spoke to her she said she was tired but recovering. Since then I have thought of her often, but always at times when it was too late in the evening to call or when I was out doing other things and something brought her to mind. I must call her, I would think. Now, it's too late and I am angry with myself for not being more organised.
Sonia had a son, who is now grown. She also had a daughter, who is the same age as my eldest son. I pray for them. I lost my mother when I was 38 and that was way too young. She was also taken by the evil that is cancer. To lose your mother when you are not even grown is unthinkable.
To me, Sonia was always a wise, stoic person. She knew how to have fun but I sometimes asked myself when decisions came up in my life, what would Sonia think of it?
She had a beautiful smile and there was a regalness about her that I admired. She had the most amazingly expressive eyes that could say so much with just a glance.
Her partner told me that she was cared for by a hospice in Birmingham called the John Taylor Hospice that included Macmillan cancer care. Just as I was starting to write this post, the doorbell sounded. It was a young man from Macmillan, looking for people to sign up to give monthly. It seemed like a sign, so I immediately invited him in and signed a direct debit monthly pledge.
I'll be sending an additional donation with my card to Sonia's family that will go to the hospice itself. I'm told they cared for her with dignity and that is all we can ask for when our moment comes.
I recently read a book about dying. The book, by Raymond Moody had charted many thousands of near death experiences, where people have been revived to tell similar stories of being met by loved ones, of seeing a bright white light at the end of a long tunnel and going through an all-encompassing life review. When I read that, I resolved to live my life so that I would not be ashamed at my own life review, whenever that happens. I am sure that Sonia's will have shown the love that she had for her family and the happiness that she gave her friends, like me and that her loved ones that had gone before were waiting to take her into their care.
My thoughts and prayers are with Sonia's family. Her partner of so many years, Trevor, told me she was at peace. I believe him.
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18 Oct 2011

How do your children see you?

Have you ever wondered how you children see you? My 13 year old was watching Disney's "Good Luck Charlie" the other day and pointed at the slightly eccentric but savvy and lovable mum and said, "She's just like you."

"What do you mean?" I enquired.
"Mad," he replied. Mad? MAD?
"I think she's a cool mum. She's always one step ahead of her kids," I said, defensively (Yes, okay, I have been known to watch it with him).
My son, teenager that he is, rolled his eyes and gave a derisive snort.
Am I mad, I wondered? Okay, so I sing along in the car to the sound coming from his headphones, but this is a deliberate way of illustrating just how loud he must have them. I laugh at my own jokes even when no one else does. And I do silly dances in front of him when the music from his "Disney & ketchup" programmes are on. But this is because it amuses me to see him squirm and I wouldn't do it if he had friends there. After all, what's the point of having kids if you can't have a little fun at their expense now and again?
This got me wondering what my younger son, who's 12, thought of me. I know he thinks his Dad is 'soft as a pillow' because he's kind and softly spoken and lets them get away with stuff. I called him into the room.
"Son2," I said. "What do you think of me?"
He gave me an uncertain look, clearly wondering if the truth was required. Apparently, it was. "You're shouty and stern," he said. Then seeing my hurt expression he quickly added, "But a nice person and... a good bloke. Is that it? Goodbye." And off he went back to his techno-lair, also known as his bedroom filled with geeky stuff.
So, what am I to take from this? Mad, shouty and stern but a nice person and a 'good bloke'. I suspect the last bit was just because son2 couldn't think of anything else to say.
I think I'm okay with it. After all, we can't both be soft as a pillow - someone has to lay down the law and make sure stuff gets done in a timely fashion. Sometimes that means being a bit sergeant-majorish, but that's what parenting is all about - giving your kids boundaries as well as loving them to bits. They're not going to like it when they're pulled up about things, but I'm not their mate, I'm their mother. It's in the job description. They may have special needs but I try to treat them as normally as possible. And I don't think that being like the Mum is "Good Luck Charlie" is a bad thing to be at all.

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10 Oct 2011

My new book for Special Educational Needs

In October 2011, I published a book aimed at helping parents with SEN statementing. It's available on AmazonUK & WH Smith among others as a paperback and an ebook. Here's the press release:
A mother of two autistic boys from Farnham, Surrey has published a new book aimed at helping other parents navigate their way through the special educational needs jungle.
While there are other books about the SEN system available, this book, by the creator of the www.specialneedsjungle.com website, Tania Tirraoro, takes a parent-to-parent approach, explaining in detail how to prepare an application for a statutory assessment of special educational needs.
Tania said, "Since I started my website in 2008, it's become clear how daunting parents find the SEN process. Many parents of children with ASDs or dyslexia are affected by the conditions themselves and need help with organising and getting started on their applications. I've helped many parents with their applications and I realised that what they need is not an overview of the whole system that you find in other books, but a basic 'how-to', written in an accessible way. That is what I hope I've achieved."
The book has a foreword by SEN campaigner and former parliamentary candidate Maria Hutchings, who famously hand-bagged Tony Blair during the 2005 election over the closure of special schools. It also contains a section on what to expect if you end up at an SEN Tribunal by experienced SEN Advocate, Julie Maynard.
Maria Hutchings said, "I only wish that I when I was going through the statementing process striving to get John Paul the right education, speech therapy and respite for the family, that I had read this book. Being the mother of two children on the autistic spectrum, Tania has a deep sense of empathy for what it feels like when you have to fight for everything to ensure your child’s future. Tania captures that deep sense we all have as mothers and carers, to do the very best for our precious children."
The book takes parents through the process from a very personal viewpoint with examples from successful applications and relevant quotes from the SEN Code of Practice and Education law.
Tania said, "I've been through the process twice and my boys, who both have Asperger Syndrome, now have access to the kind of education they need to help level the playing field in their future lives. ASD is a lifelong condition and they will always battle the difficulties of their Asperger's, but because I had the ability to present their cases methodically, they got the help they need. Why should other children not have the same as my boys?"

About the Author:

Tania Tirraoro is an author and journalist and has already published two women's fiction novels, This Last Summer and Sweet Seduction, one as an ebook, the other available as ebook and in paperback. She is a former television and radio journalist, having worked as a reporter and news presenter for Meridian Television and NBC/CNBC, and BBC Radio Berkshire among others. She also works as a press consultant for three heart rhythm charities.You can find the SEN site at www.specialneedsjungle.com.
Tania's author site is at www.taniatirraoro.com
She also has a blog at http://notasadvertised.blogspot.com
Twitter: @TaniaLT  @SpcialNdsJungle
Tania Tirraoro can be contacted at info@specialneedsjungle.com
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2 Oct 2011

Trying out "The key to the fountain of youth"

Call me gullible but I received a marketing email the other day from Biovea, from whom I usually buy my Melantonin.
It was pushing a supplement called Hyaluronic Acid, not be be confused with Hydrochloric Acid, which is something very different...
Anyway, this Hyaluronic Acid is apparently also known as the 'Key to the fountain of youth'. Hmm, I thought, I could use a bit of that.
I read the blurb. Apparently in a Japanese village where people usually live a long time and often have perfect skin into their 80's or even into their 90's their diet is rich in a starchy vegetable which is particularly high in HA. A pharmaceutical company in Japan began R&D on a pill supplement containing HA. When they tested the pills on one thousand individuals, around half of them reported smoother skin and even improved eyesight.
Okey dokey, I thought, tell me more....Hyaluronic Acid is plentiful in our bodies when we are born, but its levels gradually recede over time, which may be a big part of the ageing process. Hyaluronic Acid occurs in the deeper layers of our skin known as the dermis and it appears to help keep the skin smooth because of its water retention qualities. It's claimed that HA appears to help maintain collagen levels.
Furthermore, the blurb went on, HA makes up about eighty percent of the human eye and is, apparently, a sort of shock absorber to the retina, which helps to prevent trauma to the eye.
That clinched it for me as I have a rare retinal disease called Punctate Inner Choroidopathy which leads to scarring on the retina and some loss of vision. Great skin and better eyesight? AND it's on sale?
But before I hit the order button, I looked it up on the internet. It's approved by the FDA and is used in other forms injected into arthritic joints and as a dermal filler. I couldn't find anything particularly bad about it, so I decided to give it a try.
Well, mine arrived this week and I have been taking it religiously. I shall update you on whether I am appearing so youthful that people are mistaking me for my sons' older sister.
If your interest is piqued, I got mine from here.
PS, I have no connection with Biovea, other than as a long-time customer.
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8 Aug 2011

The World According to Leo the Labradoodle

Hello, I am Leo the Labradoodle, doing a guest post. This is the world.. according to me.
1. The human who decided kibble was the most complete nourishment for a dog, is evil. And don't think that disguising it with a meaty topper makes it any better. Cat poo tastes better. I know, I've tried it.

2. On the subject of cats, they are the spawn of the devil. No ifs or buts, the spawn of the devil, I tell you!
3. On the subject of poo, fox poopy smells better than Chanel No5, especially when I've rolled in it. I don't know why they always bath me as soon as we get home. Spoilsports!
4. The human boys in this house are very unpredictable. They insist on picking me up and hauling me around. When I hear them coming, I pretend to be asleep. Sometimes this doesn't work.
5. Wet tissue that I find on the ground is a real delicacy. I have to wolf it down quick before they wrestle if off me.
6. The only time I'm allowed upstairs is when I have to have a bath. I forget this EVERY TIME, until I'm on the landing and it's too late to escape.
7. Good things come in crunchy packets. Chocolate biscuits must be tasty too but I'm never allowed one.
8. Begging works.
9. I'm not sleeping, I'm thinking about how to get them to give me a chocolate biscuit.
10. Some other boy dogs have round things between their back legs. I'd like to know what happened to mine. Wait...you did WHAT?!!
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11 Jul 2011

Communication and Kindness are the Key to Lasting Relationships

A woman I once knew was married three times, and each time she made the same mistakes. She didn't communicate, she kept secrets, she was intolerant to foibles and thus she became dissatisfied.
Now partly, she had rushed into things and probably married the wrong men, but her problem was also that her expectations were too high and when she felt they weren't being lived up to she didn't communicate her unhappiness, she just pulled away. She always thought the grass was greener, when in fact, it was just different. She was in love with the idea of being in a relationship, of being cherished and nurtured and loved and when the man of the moment didn't measure up, she became disillusioned and gradually began to look for her ideal elsewhere. She never found it.
I have learned lessons from this lady. When my husband and I married we decided that there would be no 'no go' areas for discussion, because one 'no go' area becomes two and then three and before you know it you can't talk about anything for risk of umbrage being taken.
Just as importantly, we are kind to each other, forgiving each other's weaknesses, supportive and understanding when one of us is down. I have to say that in the course of our marriage it's my husband who has had to exercise most of the 'patience and understanding' that we pledged on our wedding day. We are two individuals but we operate, especially where our boys are concerned, as one unit, pulling together and backing each other up.
He is my best friend, the handsomest man I know and he can still make me laugh with his dumb jokes. I often think of the Carly Simon song, The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of  "What if the Prince on the horse in your fairytale Is right here in disguise? And what if the stars you've been reaching so high for Are shining in his eyes?"
Now, not every marriage is built to last. People make mistakes, sometimes unforgivable ones. Sometimes the person you marry truly turns out to be someone completely different from the one you thought you'd married, and not in a good way.
At the heart of every lasting, happy relationship there has to be love and mutual respect. And if you keep talking, keep being kind, keep looking at each other with love and not mistrust, you're half way there.
I have a lot to thank that lady for. I have learned from her bad luck which, she would be the first to admit, was often of her own making. That woman was my mother and I know it brought her great happiness to know that, through her mistakes, I had learned a better way.
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5 Jul 2011

My article in Hampshire Llife Magazine

Hampshire life
I've had an article published in the July issue of Hampshire Life magazine about Hampshire Farmers' Markets and some of its producers who bring local food to various locations throughout the county. If you'd like to read it online, you can find it here: http://hampshire.greatbritishlife.co.uk/article/hampshires-farmers-market-33217/

You can also download the whole edition digitally - my article and byline is on page 83.
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21 Jun 2011

Lovely 5 star review for Sweet Seduction

Had a lovely five star review from Jazzielady on Amazon.com. Thank you, I really appreciate it and it means a lot!
Here it is:
I have read quite a lot of romance books and I have to say this is by far one of my favorites. It's not the usual cheesy romance for which you already know the gist of the story by reading chapter 1. Tania is a very good author. I love the pace of the book - not too sexual from the get go and I love the characters. Livia is sweet, sensitive and not a pushover while Rufus is unlike the usual hero - not too overbearing or downright jerk. This is the first time that I've written a review about a book and this is a big deal coming from me :-) I will be buying her other book later. I hope Tania will write more romance books, she is my new favorite author :)
See the review here on Amazon
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6 May 2011

Great Review from Good Book Alert

I had this wonderful review from Good Book Alert that  I had to share with you. Heartfelt thanks to Cindy!

Maddie Chambers reports shocking news about other people – until the emotional disturbances she normally broadcast make her a front-page story. Maddie’s mum is alive and well living in town – problem is Maddie’s mum walked out on her family ten years earlier. Maddie’s brother has Asperger Syndrome, and she fears his reaction to dear mum might devastate him. Her father’s heart has never mended, and Maddie’s heart has long since turned to stone.
On top of this explosive drama Maddie becomes involved with another journalist, one with dark unruly hair and a naughty boy air. An office affair may be just what she needs, except this naughty bloke has more than his share of problems. Maddie needs one more thing to send her over the edge – so, her dear mum gets diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
This is an emotionally packed drama that will have you turning pages faster than you can blink. Immediately, I bought into the character of Maddie, a woman with unshaken courage to move forward despite being abandoned by her mum. She is focused, and self-sacrificing. Maddie’s emotions and choices she makes in this book are completely in character, and inline with how most people might react to her situation.
However, Mum is not heroic, or easily forgiven. I often saw Maddie’s problem with her. Her father, brother, and Grandmother’s behavior doesn’t help Maddie, and her office romance becomes more complex. Maddie is her biggest antagonist, and the author, Tirraoro really pours out the inner turmoil. There are extreme moments of inner dialogue that pulled at my heartstrings. From the beginning, this story has a bittersweet solution that provokes tears and laughter.
The story telling web was woven with a careful balanced sequence that kept me on track. I never had to question my place in the book. Tirraoro did that for me. My only draw back in the book was the plausibility of the Mum’s actions. I had trouble understanding how someone could continue to make the choices she did after abandoning her family. On the flip side, the main protagonist, Maddie made up for her mum in so many other ways.
Tirraoro puts her years as a TV reporter and her experiences as the parent of sons with Asperger Syndrome into the heart of this novel. If you are looking for a tearjerker, with romance, this is your book, and it won’t disappoint.
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2 May 2011

The Ebook Survey RESULTS!

The results of the recent ebook reader survey are in! Some are quite surprising. When asked what the most important factor was when looking for ebooks, the strength of the blurb was top. Ebook authors take note - no matter how good your book, 31% of people say if your blurb isn't up to scratch, you're likely to miss a sale! Just as important it seems and not far behind is good reviews. 29% of respondents said a review was a key indicator in their ebook buying process. Readers pay attention to reviews, especially if by an unfamiliar author, it seems. Price and genre are not too far behind.
Conversely, what actively puts people off buying an ebook? Price here is key again followed hard on the heels by poor reviews. Not far behind is a blurb that doesn't grab the attention.
So at what price should you pitch your ebook? A third said it needed to be under £1 or $1.50 with another third saying they would pay up to £3 or $3.50 for an ebook by an unfamiliar author. 15% said it just needed to be under £5/$6 while 12% said price wasn't a leading decision maker for them.
When it comes to genre, crime and thrillers were way ahead in this category, followed by Sci-Fi/Fantasy. There was a reasonably even spread of people who cited women's fiction/romance, literary fiction, action/adventure and paranormal with other genres less popular. This surprises me as I read that romance was the biggest selling genre but maybe that is due to the profile of the survey respondents. Respondents could pick more than one genre but it is still a good indication of what people are prepared to read.
Is a price of 99c/70p off putting? A third say they would buy at this price as it seems like a bargain but more people - 40% say they would use the same critieria whatever the price. More than a quarter of people would download a sample first - so those opening chapters are crucial!
So, what does this all tell us? Firstly that reviews are key and price is just as important. And while crime and thrillers seem to stand a greater chance of big sales, genre isn't everything - individual blurb is more important.-So make your book blurb sparkle to stand a chance of that all-important sale!
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