Spring is springing!

Since my last post it’s been a cold winter, though no snow for us here, and now signs of spring are all around. It’s a time of year I love, especially with the dark nights now drawing out fast. The bulbs we had just planted have come up and some are in bloom – the narcisusses and crocuses are looking lovely. It has been a nice surprise to find lots of daffs appearing in the borders.

On a larger scale we have been very lucky to have a gardener friend helping me plan what is pretty much a bare canvas of a back garden. We’ve shortlisted the plants we want to include and this week we’re going to sit down, make a planting plan and figure out how many we need of everything. It’s so exciting! For anyone interested in what we have in mind I created a pinterest board so I could get a feel for how they might work together.

And while I have been picking plants that ideally work in a sensory garden, for the benefit of little ‘un, and ones that are good for wildlife, for the benefit of us all, I am feeling very guilty. We have (well, had) two small willow trees in the front. They don’t do a lot for me and I wanted something that provided fruit or berries for the birds. One was also in the way and had to come out. Typically the morning after removing that one the other was playing host to various birds.

Partly through guilt, and partly having been inspired by a visit to Bicton over half term I’ve been shopping this afternoon, and raiding my mum’s garden. I am hoping that my newly acquired sarcococca confusa (sweet or Christmas box) and a strawberry tree will go some way to making it up to the wildlife. Both bear sources of food for the birds, and the sweet box smells lovely. I’m looking forward to getting some planting done, and when I do I’ll share some photos. Wish me luck!

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Getting green fingers

Wow, it’s been a long time! Life has been pretty hectic since I last posted, from the regular appointments for madam, to (finally) moving into our new home via a couple of months residing with my parents, and most recently madam starting school.

We are delighted with our house, even if it did take weeks of cleaning, redecorating, plastering and recarpeting to make it habitable. We’ve been in for a few weeks now, the tide of boxes is subsiding and I am beginning to turn my attention to the garden.

When we arrived the garden was overgrown and the only apparent plant life was pots of bindweed growing more than 7 feet tall, some giant dandelions and various assorted weeds among a few dead roses.

I am loving the chance to potter and clear it all out, and have now started putting things in to make it beautiful. Yesterday my nan and I, ably assisted by little ‘un, planted a number of allium and tulip bulbs. Today I bought some lovely plants which should enjoy a spot in our south facing garden. These should be complimented by the lupins we’ve grown from seed, and the lemongrass destined for the herb/wildlife raised bed.

It has dawned on me that it would be great to keep track of what I am planting and when, so from now on this blog is shaping up to be a bit of gardening journal, with assorted other things liberally sprinkled through. I am sure it’ll be useful for me, when I forget what is what, and I hope others might find it interesting too.

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Adventures in Comping

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last posted! This autumn seems to have bypassed me and at the rate we’re going it’ll soon be Christmas. I have one reasonably good excuse for my lacking of blogging – namely that after a 3 month plus wait we finally got a date for Abi’s heart surgery at the start of the month, and have had to attend a pre-op session and then return for the surgery itself. In the grand scheme of heart surgeries it was a fairly simple op, but when it’s your child on the operating table that’s not any real comfort. Happily she is recovering well, and hopefully a check up tomorrow will give her the all clear.

Now while I would like to claim the rest of my time has been spent burning off energy and stress at the gym that is only partly true. I have to confess that my competitioning habit has been taking up a lot of spare time. I started entering competitions back in the spring, having seen a friend enjoy win after win, including some amazing prize bundles. I started off as she suggested using The Prize Finder website, plus doing comps on Twitter and Facebook. It took some time for the prizes to start trickling in but it was worth the wait.

More recently I’ve been introduced to some groups on Facebook that share competitions and found one that particularly focuses on prizes for kids, what with Xmas on the horizon. With Abi also due in hospital I thought it would be great to try and win some extra treats for her, and help put some things away for her and my nieces too. So, I now spend a bit of time most days checking through the groups. And the funny thing is the people are very supportive of each other and keen to share competitions they’ve found with others. You’d expect people to try and improve their own odds by keeping quiet but it’s totally the opposite, which is great. The groups also seem to enjoy seeing other members win, maybe not as much as when it’s your own win, but it’s still a nice community which was a bit of a surprise to me.

I’ve also seen a bit of the other side of comping too though, and it’s amazing the lengths both compers and promoters will go to. Join an active comping group on Facebook and you will soon realise there are a lot of cheats out there, running multiple Facebook, Twitter and email accounts to get around rules about single entries. I have no idea how they have the time to do it, and part of me says if they have the time and energy to juggle so many accounts good luck to them, but the other part thinks why should cheats prosper when there are a lot of genuine people like me who spend time sat at home – some with kids, some physically unable to get out – who would rather be entering comps than watching TV or playing computer games, hoping they can win a few treats for their families and friends. I am sure there are people out there who will enter anything for the sake of winning, and then flog what they never really wanted on ebay, but my experience is that largely people only enter comps for things they want for themselves or know they could give to a friend or family member who wants or needs that item.

Now I don’t see any harm in that, but I have noticed some companies, and indeed some bloggers, who have a real problem with compers and the idea of someone who enters lots of comps as a hobby winning their prizes. I find it an odd attitude, as we do the same things to get a valid entry and are also spreading the word about goods and services being promoted, so I don’t think the contempt I have seen in some instances levelled at compers is reasonable. Anyone running a competition needs to be aware that there are rules and Codes of Practice in place that need to be followed, such as The British Code of Advertising, Sale Promotion and Direct Marketing (known as ‘the CAP Code’) I have seen bloggers talking on Twitter saying they would redraw a comp if the winner randomly drawn was not someone who regularly interacted on their blog – not cool and I suspect against the rules.

In fact some of the worst behaviour I have seen has been on the part of promoters. Just like week a company found itself in trouble when it posted a tirade against people who comp as a hobby and tried to refuse a prize to the winner who had been randomly selected because they were unhappy about her being a comper. They tried using technicalities but failed miserably, got a lot of negative attention and in the end made an online apology and sent the winner a massive bunch of flowers to say sorry for suggesting she was fake.

Most people heard about the Blue Peter debacle some time ago, but I think the most loathsome thing I have seen was in the last few days. A competition had been launched on Facebook by a company with a page that had only just been created. It was for a prize worth about £1500 and unsurprisingly attracted a lot of attention. However when the company failed to respond to certain questions and no winner was announced after the closing date it began to look a bit suspicious.

Eventually after a number of posts on the wall the company announced a winner who, despite entries from all over the place, coincidentally came from the same town where the company was located.  One individual was so convinced there was something off about that they dug a bit further, realised the winner’s FB account was newly created, had no friends and one picture and also noticed they had not submitted a entry to the competition. They decided to go a google image search on the winners profile picture and they turned up a few hits – for a lady from another country who had died in a car accident. Strangely when this was put to the company both their page and the winners page disappeared. Terrible behaviour for the sake of some Facebook likes.

It’s a funny old hobby comping, but on the basis I’ve won over £750 worth of goods (from jellybeans and pens to a Barbour jacket) in 7 months it’s not one I’ll be giving up soon. If you’re a blogger running comps who is sceptical about compers why not try and engage with some of us, we don’t bite and lots of us will make extra special efforts to promote companies and services that do because it goes with the territory.

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Silent Sunday 22nd September






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NDCS and us

When we were told, at 3 weeks old, that Abi was deaf we were shocked. My pregnancy has been pretty uneventful, her delivery via caesarian as she was breech and would not be budged went just fine, and we felt like we had really dodged a bullet when the heart issue they thought would require surgery didn’t unfold the way they expected. In comparison failing her newborn hearing screening was nothing (I should say not getting a clear result, they can’t have the little darlings failing anything at that age). The woman who administered the test gave us a laundry list of reasons why it hadn’t shown a clear result and told us follow up tests would be a mere formality.

Hmmm. That wasn’t quite how it went. I remember that day in November so well. My first question in response to being told she was deaf was to ask whether it would stop her scuba diving. Our lovely audiologist later assured me that wasn’t the daftest questions she has been asked when giving a diagnosis but I suspect it’s right up there. That day was the start of a beautiful friendship with our wonderful audiologist but also the with National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) They’re one of those charities you probably haven’t heard of unless you or someone you know have needed their services. We hadn’t until she suggested we take a look at their website for their numerous useful publications. Nevertheless their services are invaluable as we have found out over the last few years.

They provide all sorts of information and support for families, and I can’t begin to tell you how important they have been in our lives to date. I don’t think we’ll ever repay them for what they have given us, although we have tried to raise money to support their work in a number of ways. This weekend madam and I had the pleasure of attending their first South West family weekend. Our first weekend with them was when she was about 6 months old, it was a weekend for families with newly identified deaf children, and we learnt so much and were delighted to spend time with other families in the same position as us. This weekend I was attending as the parent of a pre-schooler, mired in the middle of the statementing process.


The weekend was held in a wonderful location, Hannah’s at Seale Hayne near Newton Abbot, and comprised of a mix of family activities, workshops and 1:1 information sessions. The workshops included invaluable topics like Communicating with your child (sounds like it should be straightforward but there is a dazzling array of options which can be mixed and matched to suit your family) and the Deaf child at school. Getting advice on the mindbending Statement of Special Educational Needs was also pure gold. However possibly the most important aspect of the weekend was the socialising.


This may sound like I am snubbing the work NDCS does but in fact I think they might be pleased to hear this. Parenting a child who is “different” can be challenging and lonely. Being a child who is “different” ditto. That’s why it’s so important to spend time with other families. Although we have friends with deaf children who use various technology and different forms of communication there is nothing quite like being in a room full of kids of all ages wearing aids and cochlear implants, and who are signing, cueing and talking. What better way to make them realise they are far from alone. And as a parent it’s a brilliant to compare notes with other people and find out nuggets of information that they have been able to mine from the reams of information that is out there as long as you know where to look.

I could write an epic singing the praises of the weekend, which is totally free to the families, and NDCS but I think suffice it to say that the highlight was seeing my gorgeous girl making new friends, and in particular walking hand in hand, hugging and chatting with another deaf 3 year old who we will definitely be meeting again in the future. The work NDCS does is valuable on so many levels and I have left feeling reinvigorated and ready to take on the world again. It’s definitely time to start planning another little fundraising effort to try and say Thanks! NDCS is a great source of information and support, and long may they continue their good work.

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House of Marbles, Bovey Tracey

Last week I had some running around to do, and on the way back from Moretonhampstead with my sister and our three littlies was wondering where we could take them for an hour or so as we had stuck them in the car for a while and felt bad about it. Having missed the signs for the miniature pony centre I remembered The House of Marbles. I had visited last winter  to take Abi and a friend to Santa’s Grotto. On that occasion we didn’t really venture outside as the weather was frigid but I remembered the handy play area and thought it was worth a visit.

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The House of Marbles is a working glass and games factory that offers lot to do and see, and I calculated that as long as we could get the kids safely past the glassware it would be fun for them, interesting for us, and cheap as there is no entry fee (just a shop chock full of temptation!) The site is just a small part of what used to be a pottery, and there is a pottery museum on site which includes a model showing what the whole site used to look like. Some of the kilns remain, and the architecture shown in the photo I used for Silent Sunday (left) has generated a lot of interest. There are also collections of glass, games and marbles, with the last being my favourite of the museum collections. They have some gorgeous and some less attractive but impressively old marbles on display.


The kids adored the various marble runs, especially the ones they could press the buttons to set off. Abi was also fond of the giant marbles inside. The sign asked that no one sat on them but no mention was made of hugging them!

The most nerve-wracking part of our visit, but very interesting and worth trying to herd the girls through the showroom without knocking anything over for was Teign Valley Glass shop. You can watch the craftsmen (and women) creating beautiful items in the glass workshop from a mezzanine above it. The heat was a bit much on a hot summer day but watching the glass blowing was fascinating, and it was hard to leave the shop without a purchase in hand. I might have to go back and buy some of their beautiful Christmas tree ornaments.

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The inside was negotiated with the promise of a play outside if they were good. The outdoor games garden is attractive and a lovely spot to have a drink or something to eat from the restaurant. There is a giant floating marble centre piece, a couple of games involving marbles, giant chess and jenga and the most beloved part, a play park structure. It’s all set out on a suitably bouncy play park surface and is pretty well contained so we could stand back and let the girls play for a while as we enjoyed the sun!

My sister and I were able to spend a bit of time browsing in the shop, which stocks a range of beautiful things from clothes and furniture to toys and games. Of course the main attraction in the shop is the display of marbles, and there was no way we could leave without buying the girls some. Armed with a small amount of money each we helped the girls choose some marbles and they were very proud of themselves taking their selections and their coins to the counter and paying for them themselves.


As a kid I had loads of marbles and always looked out for really pretty ones, but they were nothing compared to the offerings here (I know that for sure as I still have a lot of mine and have compared) They offer a range of sizes and so many beautiful styles and colours. This picture simply doesn’t do them justice! Marbles are such a simple pleasure and there are lots of games you can play with them that I’m more than happy to encourage a collection of them.

It turned out that visiting The House of Marbles was a bit of a brainwave on my part. We were there for well over an hour, there was plenty to hold the girls’ interest but also things for us mums too. Had we arrived around lunchtime and had something to eat too we could have killed most of the afternoon there. It’s rare to find somewhere that offers such a range of things to do without having to pay an entry fee, and if you don’t get pleas for the more expensive toys you can escape with only a small dent in the wallet for a few marbles. We’ve definitely put it on our list of places to visit with the kids.

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Silent Sunday 8 September

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Silent Sunday 1 September 2013



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Gromit Unleashed

The last couple of weeks have been madly busy for us, some days for good reasons, others not so much. That’s why it has taken a bit of time to get round to posting about our recent trip up to Bristol. I had to take Abi up to the Royal Children’s Hospital to get some tests done last week, and fully aware that we were going to be in the hospital all day, that she was going to have to fast and that they weren’t going to be very nice tests I decided it was more practical and would take the edge off the experience a bit if we had a nice day out and then booked into a hotel the night before.

I already knew about the Gromit trail because a) it’s been on the local news more than once and b) we saw the one located at Paddington Station when we went up to London in July. I had been thinking of visiting science museum @Bristol but thought as the weather was good and my companion for the trip, my mum, hadn’t been to Bristol for decades, that wandering around Gromit spotting might be as much, if not more, fun.

It also seemed apt, bearing in mind we were there to visit the Children’s hospital, that the Gromit Unleashed trail is part of the fundraising by Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal which is the charity for the hospital. Anyone who has visited may tell you that one of the things that makes them smile there is the voice over in one of the lifts – done by Wallace and including lines like “Eee, watch you trousers lad” and advising that one of the floors (which are different colours) is the colour of cheese. Madam may be too young to appreciate it but it always makes me and her dad smile.

The basic premise is that there are 80 Gromits, mostly in Bristol. They have been designed by different artists and celebrities and once the trail is over (the event runs until 8th Sept) they will be auctioned off to raise money for the Appeal. There has long been a shop opposite the hospital selling W&G items but for the duration of the trail they have additional space and are selling all manner of items to raise extra money. We came away with a tea towel, Gromit print and some wristbands, and I’m sorely tempted to buy one of the figurines via the website 

A trail map is available showing the locations and providing details of the artists and sponsors, and there is also an app (which I tried to buy but have issues with my phone!) For serious Gromit collectors there’s even a little passport that you can collect embossed stamps in at 6 of the locations. We didn’t have a lot of time so only clocked up eight but were in good company as there were loads of families armed with maps and cameras strolling around the centre of Bristol. If you are in the area and looking for something to do that isn’t going to cost you much (if you avoid the shop and nagging) then it’s a fabulous idea and a nice way to see some of the city.

Sadly there is no way we’ll have time to go back up and clock up more sightings, and as much as I’d love to buy one I don’t have the space (or the cash as I suspect and hope they will raise a good amount each) Maybe I’ll divert our attention to seeing more of Great Gorillas in Exeter and Torbay instead! Without further ado here are some of the Gromits we found.


Doodles at Cabot Circus


Gnashional Gromit at the Marriott


Lancelot at Quakers Friars


Malago at Broadmead


Hero at Subway Harbourside


Salty Sea Dog at the Cascade Steps

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Silent Sunday 25 August



Silent Sunday

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