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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