Friday, 26 July 2013

MY KINGDOM FOR A HOLIDAY

I'm going to confess something now and you're all going to think I'm really weird:  I hate going on holiday.

I know.   But I hate it, oh I really really do.

I put this down to three things:

1. Being an introverted hermit type whose idea of bliss is 3 days on my own, pottering about in my house with nobody to disturb me.

2. Having the sort of pale skin that burns and blisters at the first ray of sun peeking through the clouds in March.  No sunbathing for me.

3. The family holidays of my youth.

Lets take a closer look at my childhood family holidays, shall we?  While all my mates were off to Magaluf for sun, sand and dubious holiday resort kids clubs, we stayed in the UK; Cornwall, if I was lucky, but usually Yorkshire.  These holidays would involve walking boots and steam trains and endlessly driving around identical bits of moorland while it rained.  They also never failed to feature a stellar parental row in the car because my mother can't read maps, which would cast a cloud over the entire fortnight, usually culminating in her packing her suitcase, storming out of the holiday cottage and swearing that she would never come back to us (and just swearing in general to be honest).  Now, seeing as my parents have never been the Jeremy Kyle type, I can only put these uncharacteristic bust-ups down to the stress of going on holiday with kids.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that a holiday with kids on it doesn't count as a holiday.  It's just the daily grind but in a different place but with long car/plane journeys and without all the toys that you'd usually use to distract them.

However.

We haven't been able to afford to go on holiday since I was pregnant with Rory.  Not one.  And it's amazing what you miss when the option isn't available to you.  Plus being at home with a child all year is really really boring and I'd do anything to have a holiday just to break it up.

I find myself scouring the internet for a family holiday deal like a lonely single man cruises for porn.  I start small; happy with the idea of a week in Whitby with ice-creams, buckets and spades and a crab or two for Rory to anger.  Then I get carried away, and the next thing I know, I'm all over month long cruises and 3 week sojourns to Canada and even Disneyland, which shows you how desperate I am, because theme parks and I do not mix.  I blame my parents and their British walking holidays for this.  Sod the rollercoasters, where are all the tea rooms and the quaint village wishing wells?  And why is it so damn SUNNY?   Truth is, I think I'm going ever so slightly crazy, having been stuck here in Cheshire (land of drizzle) for the last four years   I definitely need a holiday.  A big, tasteless hot one that involves going on a plane. I'd moan the entire time about wanting to come home, but that's all part of the fun, right?  Right?  Or maybe I should just stick to drizzly crab angering in Whitby.



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Monday, 22 July 2013

Personalised Wall Art by Vertbaudet (for free!)

I was contacted by Vertbaudet recently to ask if I'd be interested in promoting a new feature on their site.

They've created a personalised poster thingy (here: http://www.vertbaudet.co.uk/page/personalised-posters.htm), where they provide various designs that would fit well with the decor in a child's room, and you add some text to add a personal touch.

There are five designs to choose from: Butterflies, a jungle theme, a blossom tree, cars and tractors and the Eiffel Tower.  I picked the vehicle themed one (Rory being worryingly obsessed with all things car related), and as it was his birthday recently, I added some appropriate text.

Here's how it turned out:


At this point, you can print your poster put on any sort of paper you like - bargain.  However, for the purposes of the review, they sent me a large A3 version of it and asked me to style it up any way I liked.

Rory's room was in need of a bit of TLC anyway.  When we were first thinking about moving him into the big spare room, I have plans to do it up in a kind of log cabin theme complete with wooden flooring, wood panels on the walls and a classic red, white and blue colour scheme. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA is all I can say to that.

What actually happened was that two days before Christmas, we thought "SOD IT" and moved him straight in, crappy carpet and all.  It soon became apparent that any sort of colour scheme was going to be pushing it somewhat, so instead, I've worked with what we already had (ALL of the colours, a lot of homemade stuff and a 30 year old rickety wardrobe that was originally bought for my brother's room when he was a baby).  To be fair, Rory loves his bedroom, and after putting up a feature picture wall over the weekend, so do I now.

Here's how it looks now. (look out for the Vertbaudet poster):


We already had the Superman canvas, and the other pieces are either art that we bought for his nursery when I was pregnant or bits of fabric, family photos and birthday cards that I framed.  To keep costs down, I bought a load of old frames from a charity shop and a few tester pots of paint in colours we liked, painted the frames up with Rory's help and framed everything.  Total cost: a tenner.

This got me thinking that for those times when you've run out of money a week before pay day (this is always us) and there's a small child's birthday/Christening/whatever looming, you could print out a Vertbaudet poster and use this technique to frame it: a personalised gift for about £2.00.  It's the thought that counts and so forth.

Here's some more of Rory's bedroom, just because:


Clockwise from top left: Chair rescued from my in-laws house when they were about to throw it out, cushions made by me, Les the Meerkat and Superhero Daddy (knitted by Granny), Close-up of photo wall.  Tell me you love the Ladybird book art as much as I do? I would happily wallpaper my entire house in it, Stuff on the bookshelf including the big letter R that we made a couple of years ago, Lego on a biblical scale.

And just so that you don't think I've gone all 'home style blogger' on you, here's the horrid, cheap carpet, and the bit where I dropped the iron on it whilst ironing and it melted.  Look, just be impressed that I was actually doing some ironing and not dangling upside-down from the sofa, watching 60 Minute Makeover and eating Wotsits as usual, OK.  Now, lets never speak of this again.












The Ultimate (Disgraceful) Summer Driving Playlist

Moneysupermarket want to know about our ultimate summer driving playlist for this competion here :http://www.moneysupermarket.com/car-insurance/competitions/ultimate-summer-driving-playlist/   Now, I can't drive yet, but that doesn't mean that I don't have opinions on this subject.    A playlist is an important thing to have in place when you're attempting a journey of anything over an hour long with a resident child bleating about being bored in the back seat.

The first thing to remember is to turn the music up as loud as it will go.  This serves two purposes:

1. Drowns out the noise of bleating child.
2. Ensures it can be heard over the racket having the windows wound all the way down makes (because the air conditioning doesn't work).

Next, we need to think about content.  A summer driving playlist is no place for music snobbery, especially when you have a child.  What you need is a set of tracks that conjures up memories of similar journeys from bygone days and sets the soundtrack for more to be made.  I have to explain this to Richard every year because he starts fretting that Rory will never grow to appreciate the work of Johnny Cash if he doesn't have constant exposure to it.  Miserable husband.  What we really need is...

1. Anything by the Beach Boys.  Seriously.  Anything.    Apart from Kokomo, maybe.  And Help Me Rhonda.  Help Me Rhonda is a sore point.  It reminds me that I am merely my husband's rebound fling, despite having been married to him for 6 years (haha, poor effort Richard).

2. Telegraph Road - Dire Straits.  Nothing brings back memories of feeling travel sick in my childhood like a bit of Dire Straits.  Telegraph Road is the chosen track purely because it reminds me of my dad and I doing epic performances of it down various motorways in the 80s.

3. Strawberry Fire - Apples in Stereo. OK, I said no personal taste required for this playlist, but you can't have a summer playlist without the Apples on it, and it sounds so familiar even if you don't know it that I reckon I can get away with slipping one in.

4. In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry.  Back on track with the irritating generic summer songs now.  Reminds me of lots of beaches on our honeymoon.  And every summer ever.

5. Gold Lion - Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Driving about with Richard in his ill-fated Polo during the summer I met him.

6. Love in an Elevator - Aerosmith.  This is the song that officially declares the transition from 'being out for a quick drink after work' to 'BEING ON ONE.'    It works at any time of year, but particularly summer.

7. Summer Night City - Abba.  Another carsick holiday tune from my youth.  Worryingly sexy, considering it's performed by Abba.  Also profound.  It's a dream, it's out of reach. Scattered driftwood on the beach. YES. *air punch*

8. Spiderman.  We have no choice over this one.  If we don't play the Spiderman theme tune in the car at some point on a journey, Rory will sing it repeatedly, and increasing in pitch and volume until we want to cut our ears off.  He only knows the bit that goes "Spiderman, Spiderman, spins a web like a spider can", and he makes up the rest of it.  The thought of it is actually making me twitch right now.

What's on your summer driving playlist?  Tell me here or join in and write your own blog post for Money Supermarket.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Time Has Come to Say Goodnight...

To many people, the above is just a blog post title.  To any UK parents of children under the age of 5, it will instantly evoke the feeling of knowing that you can have a glass of wine really really soon combined with wanting to punch Alex Winters hard in the nadgers.

To clarify with those of you who don't have small children, this is what I'm talking about:


The CBeebies bedtime song, which comes on every evening at 7pm just after Macca Pacca has finished washing his stones and Iggle Piggle has run amok with his blanket. ("Somebody's not in bed.  Who's not in bed? Iggle Piggle's not in bed."  WHERE ARE IGGLE PIGGLE'S PARENTS?  Will somebody just put the disobedient little scrote in bed in the style of Supernanny until he learns to stay there).

Sung by Alex and Cerrie, this song has been the soundtrack to my insanity as a stay at home mum for the past four years.  I would like to know if anybody genuinely likes it.  is there anybody out there who genuinely thinks 'ahhh, yes, we had a lovely day, here's to another one tomorrow' as they put their toddler to bed safe in the knowledge that it won't wake up until a sensible time in the morning?

Because here's how it goes for me: (lyrics in black, my thoughts in red)

The time has come to say goodnight (THANK F*CK)
To say sleep tight 'til the morning light (Why isn't your father home yet?)
The time has come to say goodnight (He'd better have a seriously good excuse, or at the very least, a Big Mac)
it's the end of a lovely day. (It's the end of another monotonous day full of whining. Jesus).
The time has come to say goodnight (I want a gin)
To say sleep tight 'til the morning light (PWAHAHAHAHA, AS IF I'M NOT GOING TO BE UP AT HALF PAST BASTARD BECAUSE THERE'S A FLY IN YOUR ROOM/YOU CAN'T SLEEP/YOU'RE JUST AWAKE AND BEING A PAIN IN THE ARSE)
The time has come to say goodnight (It's not acceptable to have a G&T whilst bathing your child, is it?)
it's the end of a lovely day. (Whatever)

We've had so much fun today (I think you'll find what we've actually done today is walk to the One Stop Shop and back in the rain, which took 2 hours instead of 20 minutes because you were pratting about and insisting on examining every stone and throwing a wobbly because a snail looked at you funny, followed by watching telly, and a fun period of time during which you decided to draw on the walls, spread food everywhere and do some generalized whinging while I cleaned it up.  It's also quite probable that I had to rescue you from peril at some point because you climbed something hazardous. Plus I mopped up a reservoir of piss, did the washing up, cleaned the bathroom, sang nursery rhymes and read every Thomas the Tank Engine book ever written. We could have done the educational and fun art activity that took me ages to set up for you, but noooooo, you took one look at it and screamed.  You're right, we had so much fun today).
Tomorrow's just a dream away (It's not so much that I want death to take me in the night, but if tomorrow could be substantially further than just a dream away so I could recover and get some proper sleep for once, that would be nice)
But now it's time to say goodnight at the end of a lovely day. (And you, Cerrie, are getting right on my tits).

Or, at least, that's how it went for me for about three years.  Rory starts big school in September, and suddenly the Bedtime Song has started to take on more significance.  Because by the time your child is 3 or so, you suddenly find that you are having a lovely day, and you don't really want it to end (the lovely day or, in fact, them being at home with you all the time, because in a cruel twist, the pain in the butt dictator you'd happily have handed over to someone else for the first couple of years of their life has turned into an absolute delight.  Now when the Bedtime Song comes on, I don't find myself desperately craving alcohol.  I find myself sobbing and snuffling quietly and I cuddle my boy and smell his hair because it's breaking my heart that I'm going to have to let him go in a few weeks.

To preserve my dignity, I took the decision to never to have CBeebies on at Bedtime Song time again.  Instead, I've defected to Nick Jr, where they have a song called The Jimmer Jammer Song instead.  What a load of shite.  Seriously - WTF is that all about?  It's distracted me nicely from my misery by giving me something else to be enrageded by, so comes highly recommended to those of you who may be feeling similarly afflicted at the moment:

Swagbucks: How Insomnia Could Conquer Poverty*

*Mild exaggeration.

Who else is skint?  Really skint?  Since I took a break from my teaching career 4 years ago to look after Rory, we have found ourselves in the unenviable situation of  having...well, no disposable income at all, really.  It's like being a student again but without the summer job and not ever being able to go out.  Actually, now I look back on it, I was rolling in it back then compared to now.

How does this happen?  My husband earns a good salary.  I work a bit.  We're in our mid 30s and everything should be rosy.

Everything is not rosy.  Due to getting on the property ladder at an unfortunate time, a debt from my husband's distant past (still bitter that his ex got to go on loads of good holidays etc with him while he was racking up said debt, but we haven't been able to afford a holiday for 5 years.  Where is the justice?) and him earning the exact amount that ensures that we pay vast amounts of tax whilst not qualifying for any form of tax credit or other financial help, we are financially screwed.  Please someone else tell me that you too spend the last half of every month poking around down the back of the sofa for pennies?

"What's for tea?"
"Well, there's a couple of tins of tomatoes in the cupboard and an onion that I can probably scrape the mould off, oooh, wait though, I found a squashed packet of Mini Cheddars in my bag the other day. That's almost like canapes. And I think I've got a coupon for a free experimental cereal bar somewhere, so..."

In this scenario, any extra pennies help, and that's why I've been trialling Swagbucks; a website that allows you to earn virtual currency for using their search engine, purchasing things you were going to get anyway and going through their shop referral page, watching short video clips, and completing surveys and tasks.  When you reach a certain amount of Swagbucks, you can exchange them for Paypal or gift cards.
At first, I wasn't too sure.  The main problem for us is that we can't afford to buy anything anyway, so the online shop referral scheme is useless to us, although I can imagine that it would be useful for most people.  But I've been using the search engine regularly, and that can add up.  I didn't think I could be bothered sitting and watching videos and doing surveys to earn money though - seriously, who has time in the day to do that?  But then I realized that I could make my insomnia work for me.  Pay attention here, those of you who regularly can't sleep or who have babies who are up awake all night: Instead of lying there and being taunted by your brain, which has seen fit to list every bad or humiliating thing you did ever just to torture you/watching Bullseye at 3am, you can potter about on Swagbucks and earn money for your sleeplessness.  Once I'd worked this out, I was well on my way.

Who else wants to earn cash for buying things they were going to buy anyway and filling dead time?  You all do.  

Good job I've got a referral link for you all then:  swagbucks.com/refer/domesticdisgrace

I earn Swagbucks for every person I refer to the site via this blog who then signs up, so you could help to keep the Disgrace family in squashed Mini Cheddars and tins of tomatoes for another month, plus you'll be entered in a monthly sweepstake to win a £50 gift card.


Go.  Sign up.  Make your lack of sleep pay.  Then come back and tell me how you got on.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Pox on the Varicella-Zoster Virus

Hey there everyone.  Enjoying the sunshine?  Basking in the first proper British summer for years are we?  Picnics in the park, you say?  Barbecues?  Trips to the beach?  Pond dipping?  Oh, it's lovely isn't it?  Super.

It's a good job that Rory hasn't come down with raging chicken pox in the middle of it all really, isn't it?  OH WAIT; YES HE HAS.  And I, my friends am fuming.

It has rained non-stop where I live in Cheshire for - oh, I don't know - about 4 years.  (Apart from the one unseasonably hot week in May when Rory had Rotavirus, and we had to spend the whole time inside wielding buckets and washing bedding), and now it's finally hot and sunny, I'm stuck in on the sofa with CBeebies, a vat of Virasoothe and the grumpiest, spottiest child in the North West.  I feel just like I did in 1996 when I came down with Glandular Fever after my A-levels and had to stay in bed for 2 months while all my mates were out celebrating and getting drunk.  Except this time I haven't brought it on myself by kissing too many boys.  Summer is the one short time of the year when you think you're guaranteed good health before the onslaught of germs from September onwards, and I feel betrayed.

Not only that, it's the last day of term tomorrow, and I have therefore been denied the rite of passage that is sobbing copiously as I pick my little boy up from his last day at preschool.  I actually work at preschool, so tomorrow he's being looked after by Daddy, while I go to work and witness all the other mums weeping as they take their children home for the last time and wave goodbye to their babyhood.  This is the sort of thing that really matters when you've only got one child, because I'm never going to get to do it again.

*Breaking off here to go and rub some more soothing stuff into rank, crusty pustules and be growled at by said precious only child*

God, I'm bored.  Nobody loves a poxy household, not even in the summer.  Feel like everyone else is down at the pub having fun without me.  Because my child having chicken pox is all about me after all*.  Me, me, me, me, me, and how fed up I am.  Nothing to do with the sad little barnacle who's covered in itchy spots in 30 degree heat and feeling awful and missing his mates and a trip to the seaside.  Poor little dude.  I wish I could make it better.  Time to fill up the paddling pool with calamine lotion again.


*Actually, it really is about me, because I'm not immune to chicken pox and have had it 4 times already, so am pretty likely to come down with it myself in a week or two and lose the rest of summer to itchy, blistery hell.  Pox off, pox.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Bloglovin code - ignore.

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