About this Blog

This blog started as an online diary and place for me to rant about annoyances in my family.

However since July it has become a place for me to catalogue and express my views and opinions on the treatment I have recieved following the diagnosis of a potentially cancerous tumor in my bowel.

On 3rd August 2011 I was told that it was cancerous. In April 2012 I was given the all clear.

October 15th 2013 I was diagnosed with peritoneal disease and liver metastases. The cancer was back and this time it is inoperable.

It is a little bit out of date as the NHS doesn't tend to have a WiFi connection in hospital and I can only post when I get home and posts take a while to write.

It is NOT about individuals or the nursing profession. It is about some of the inadequacies in the system and the way the NHS is failing some people.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What else can I do?

So you know a little bit about my volunteering experience as a Guide Leader, Rainbow Leader and all the passion I have for that. 

But that's only a few hours a week, so with only 2 children, and 22 weeks minimum to go until number 3 arrives I need a bit more of a challenge.

In July 2011 when I was taken into hospital & told that I had cancer one of my major worries (which in hindsight was rather silly) was that I wouldn't see Isaac start or graduate from preschool (I hadn't even thought about real school).

The preschool were fantastic in supporting Isaac and I through that horrible time of chemotherapy & numerous appointments so I knew I wanted to give something back.

Our preschool is not local government funded, it is not centrally funded, It is funded by the  generosity of the parents and the tireless efforts of the volunteer committee to raise awareness and money.

So, in April once I knew I was cancer free, I spoke to the staff and offered my services. September & the new term arrived and I was being introduced to all the new parents as the chair of the preschool committee. 

I am in a slightly strange position in that Imogen is not due to attend the preschool until April 2013 (3/4 weeks before bump is due to make an arrival, well timed Ruth!!) so I am not interacting and meeting the parents everyday and am not an ever present force. But I am passionate about the preschool & raising as much money as I can for the benefit not just of my children, but all the children who will go on to attend the preschool in the future. 

Something that has been taking up a lot of my time recently is recruitment. The manager of the preschool has recently decided that the role is not what they want and has asked for the opportunity to step down. As a committee we agreed and so I have been thrown into a whole new world of recruitment.

I do have some experience in this matter. I have dealt with staff & staffing issues before. You can't manage a bank, even a tiny branch like I did, without having to recruit staff & interview them.

But this was a whole new kettle of fish. I have, in the last 6 weeks,

  • Written a job advertisement 
  • Negotiated with the local paper a reduced rate for placing the advertisement
  • Placed an advertisement with the job centre
  • Written a candidate specification & job description
  • Read, reread & analysed CV's
  • Written interview questions
  • Sworn at google a lot!!!
Alongside this I have still been 'mummy' on call 24/7, I have still been running my Rainbow unit, and juggling the multitude of hospital, Dr, Midwife and other appointments that go with being pregnant, being in remission from cancer and having 2 children who have both had chicken pox.

Now I am coming to the conclusion of this process, I am about to start the interview process. I could not have got here without the insight of the committee & a certain person with a lot of experience in this matter. So thank you.

Yes, its hard work & it doesn't always fit in around family life. I was hoping to get lots of the work done in the evenings. Unfortunately a lot of the companies that I have had to deal with do not work evenings. This has led to some stress on my part as I tried to negotiate a toddler, school run and numerous phone calls.

Do I think I have taken on too much? No absolutely not. Not only am I giving back to the community, but I am gaining transferable skills that when I come to resume my job hunt & enter the world of work I can say I haven't just stayed at home. Look at what I have done!!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Volunteering is hard work

Don't get me wrong, I love having the opportunity to help others and giving people other opportunities but sometimes it is incredibly draining.

I have the privilege of volunteering for some amazing organisations and really helping other people but also gaining invaluable skills for when I am eventually in the position to return to the work force.

Lets tell you about what I do...

1. Girlguiding UK. 
I have been involved in Guiding (Girl Guides, when I joined) since I pulled on a brown dress, at age 7, not dissimilar to this one here, and have loved it ever since. 
I loved the Pack Holidays to random church halls, often with not much to do locally but lots of washing up, cooking & cleaning. 
I loved camping even when it was raining and muddy and everything I had taken with me was wet. 
I love the opportunities it has given me from the opportunity to discover I love climbing, but hate abseiling, the chance to go to Poland not once, but twice to the chance to really find out things about myself as a person.
The international camps, the chance to cook wonderful food on open wood fires and discover that there is no temperature control and some food that you would not eat at home tastes absolutely wonderful when eaten outdoors with slight (read burnt) charring.
Who am I to deny these fantastic opportunities to a new generation of girls & inspire a new generation to reach their full potential?
So I hit 18, gained my warrant and promptly left to go to university where it was difficult to fit in the regular weekly meetings, so I joined SSAGO and had some fun. 
Then I graduated and started working - shift work is not conclusive to Guiding, but looking back now I realise that just working is not enough, I needed another challenge.
When we finally moved back to Sussex I could not wait to get stuck in. A friend needed an Assistant Guider and that was it, I was back in. It was great to get back into giving back. I had a chance to walk it the Lord Mayors Show, visit Our Chalet in Switzerland & attend my first Catholic Church Service. 
When I fell pregnant with Isaac I started looking for a unit closer to home and found a fantastic unit where I made some fantastic friends and created centenary memories not just for me, but for Isaac & Imogen as well. 

Our family on the 2nd Crawley Down Guides Centenary Trip to London, July 2010. Riding on the London Eye

When I had Imogen, I found that helping run a Guide Unit was not conclusive to family life, especially when I had a husband who works night shift. Eventually after much sole searching I decided I needed an option that fitted with family life. 
After a quick meeting with some NCT friends it became very apparent that there was a need for Rainbow Units in Crawley and several emails later I appeared to have agreed to help set one up. Which we did. 
That unit is still going strong and has helped rejuvenate a fellow guider. In the meantime I became aware of a unit that was going to close. This was a far more local unit to me & the one that I probably would have wanted Imogen to attend. I had a couple of meetings with the guider there and was all set to take it over & then BOOM Bowel Cancer struck (see it creeps in everywhere) & I had to take a back seat. I could not have run a demanding rainbow unit and dealt with all I have. ,
But when chemo ended in April 2012 I was raring to go. So I have joined a new unit (the old one had to close unfortunately) and already met some lovely people and done some incredible things. 
So what is involved in volunteering for Girlguiding UK? 
Honestly as much or as little as you want.
I probably put in a couple of hours a week plus an hour long meeting. But its not work, it's browsing sites like Pinterest, iChild & activity village for ideas & crafts that might work. It's being able to delegate the paperwork (now mostly on-line) to someone else ;)
And it is about giving those girls the time of their life and giving them the spark that I was given so many years ago.

That was a lot longer than I anticipated, so I shall tell you about my other work later.

If in the meantime you are interested in finding out more about Girlguiding UK or volunteering & inspiring a new generation of young people, why not visit The Girlguiding UK website

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Ignorance can be Lethal

Here at Knitting Novice Headquarters we have spent almost the last 4 weeks dealing with a common childhood illness that can be fatal to some.

We had the dreaded chicken pox. 

I was lucky. Isaac had so few spots I wasn't sure it was chicken pox and got Tony to take him to the GP to confirm. He didn't complain of being itchy, he hadn't been ill beforehand, he wasn't ill with it. Exactly two weeks after Isaac came out in spots, Imogen did the same. She had (I suppose she still has) a lot more spots than Isaac, far more on her face and in her hair. This made brushing her hair which she hates at the best of times a trial (& I gave up, I will master brushing her hair, but that is a battle for another day). When asked though she wasn't itchy either, she wasn't ill beforehand and wasn't ill with it either. 

So all we did was stayed at home - for 6 days with Isaac & 5 for Imogen. I did have to take Imogen to Horsham for the day as our next door neighbours have the builders in & she couldn't hear Peppa Pig due to the Jackhammering (?)

I was shocked though by the attitudes of some people who didn't understand why we stayed in for so long. I had various comments:

'Everyone has to get chicken pox, it doesn't hurt to take them out'
'They have to touch him/her to get it'
'Chicken Pox isn't dangerous'

Well, actually all of these are false.

Here is the NHS Choices page on chicken pox.

The reason I am so cross about this misinformation is that this time last year if I had come into contact with someone with chicken pox (which I very nearly did) I could have ended up back in hospital. One of the most serious complications with chicken pox in people with suppressed immunity is meningitis. Yep, if I had been exposed to chicken pox while undergoing chemo I could have developed meningitis. I know it is probably a very low risk, but really would you want to take that risk? 

So, you can tell if someone is pregnant and you know that chicken pox is dangerous to pregnant women. But you can't tell if someone is having chemo or has a weakened immune system for any other reason.

So I urge you, if your child has chicken pox, please keep them isolated until they are all scabbed or crusted over. You can't tell if the person in front of you in the queue at Sainsburys or Costa is having chemo and has a weakened immune system. But your failure to follow the HPA guidelines on keeping your child isolated for 5 days could result in someone's mum or dad or child being admitted to hospital with something much more serious because 'chicken pox is a common childhood illness'

Thank You

Friday, 2 November 2012


Lets take a second to think about all that I have put my body through in the last 18 months.

Before I even knew I had cancer there was the 'anaemia' & 'low blood pressure'
Then there was the Cancer, and not just cancer, lets not forget I had a stage 4 tumour. The only saving grace was that it hadn't spread and was confined to my bowel. 
There was surgery involving an anaesthetist unable to find a vein to inject the anaesthetic and having a central line put in while concious (something I never want to go through again).
Then there was the chemo - only 4 rounds of oxaliplatin as my body just couldn't take it and 8 lots of capcecitabine. It all took its toll.

And now the most amazing thing has happened. I thought that this would never happen again.

I'm currently 15 weeks pregnant with my third child. Against all odds I have managed to not only beat bowel cancer, suffer chemo and all the side effects but about 4 months after getting the all clear my body felt sufficiently healthy & strong to go about the incredibleness that is creating another life. 

So to quote an incredibly annoying cbeebies programme which made me incredibly cross when I was going through hell last year

Brilliant Bodies

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


I have never been what you would call ambitious. I have always felt like I have fallen into things. 

When I went to University my main criteria was to get as far away from home as possible. I ignored courses that I may have been better suited too and instead went as far away as possible. This worked out well in some ways, I met Tony and made some amazing friends. But I didn't end up doing the course I wanted to do (Marine Biology) & ended up with a degree, that although I learnt a lot of new things, didn't really lead to a career that I wanted. 

Then there was work. When I graduated I was working nights at Woolworths (now defunct). I happened to see an advert in the paper for call centre staff at Northern Rock (now defunct) and the rest is history. But I didn't want to work in banking. I did what I had to do to hit targets, and train staff but I wasn't an ambitious corporate type. When I moved south, it was even worse. I applied for and was the successful applicant for a managers position. I'll be honest I am a terrible manager. I need support & training to become a manager. Being thrown in at the deep end, having never worked in a branch before was tough and led to a nervous breakdown. I was far more comfortable as a Mortgage Advisor but I still didn't love my job.

Honestly, I was relieved when I was made redundant while on Maternity Leave with Imogen. The thought of another 30 years of doing something I didn't love was starting to get me down.

Being a mum has been incredibly fulfilling, but I am starting to want to be more than just mummy. I love being at home with the children, but as they get older I need to have conversations about something other than potty training, eating, tantrums etc. 

This leads to me to the point of this post. I had a job interview last week. I was asked 'What are your ambitions?' It made me realise that I don't have any.

The more I think about it the more I realise that the reason I don't have any ambitions is because I am scared. Scared I might find the thing that I really want to do and then CANCER might come back. Scared that the thing I end up loving will be taken away by CANCER. 

I don't want to blame CANCER & I hate that I am living in fear like this. Even writing this I am in tears because people tell me that I have been so strong over the last year and a bit and here I am admitting a major weakness. I have no ambitions because I am scared that CANCER will come back and take away what I have. 

So in the meantime I have found some thing I am good at. I am bust volunteering, building up some experiences and skills to add to my CV so that when I feel up to it I can say 

'I may have had CANCER, I may have been a stay at home mum, but I have worked hard to get some new skills to make me a person you want to employ'

Thursday, 27 September 2012

51 weeks on & some reflections

51 weeks ago, I knew I had cancer, that the tumour had been removed and was about to start the gruelling chemotherapy regime that consumed my life for 6 months.

But looking back and reflecting on what I went through last year has really made me reassess not only my priorities but also take a look at something else you never really think about, and that is financial provision.

When I heard that the Mumsnet Bloggers network were looking for people to blog about income protection and what's available to employees I was interested.

When I was admitted to hospital I was lucky, I wasn't working so I didn't have to ring my boss at 3am in the morning saying I won't be into work tomorrow. I didn't have to have those difficult conversations about returning to work during chemotherapy and following surgery. I, also, did not have to worry about not being paid for 3 days because generally you don't get sick pay for the first three days of any period of 'sickness'.

I have been through the 'sickness system' before. During the summer of 2007 I had a nervous breakdown and was signed off work sick for 6 months. I remember the worry then about affording things & the stress about speaking to mangers and HR and arranging doctors appointments and finally return to work interviews and phased returns and all the faff it entailed.

Sorry, I digress slightly.  I started thinking about how we would cope if it hadn't been me who had been an emergency admission to hospital but Tony. 

I don't work, so there would be no option to increase my hours to cover the loss of income we would have suffered. If Tony didn't get paid for his first three days of sickness then we would probably have lost somewhere around £450, maybe even more. 

Then there is the length of time that you receive sick pay for - most large companies only pay full pay for 6 months. Lets look at my timeline.

Initial hospital admission - 8th July 2011
Discharged from hospital - 13th July 2011
Readmitted to hospital - 18th July 2011
Abdominal Surgery - 21st July 2011
Discharged from Hospital  26th July 2011
6 weeks recovery from surgery - 1st September 2011
Chemotherapy Start date - 5th October 2011
Chemotherapy End date - 14th March 2012

That's a total of 8 months potentially only 6 months of those at full pay. So what can you do?

I asked Tony to talk to Sainsburys about what they would offer.

This is what we established he would definitely be entitled too. 

Sainsburys offer 6 months full pay, with the possibility of early retirement if there is no possibility of improvement in your long term health prospects. There is no income protection policies available & it is unclear how flexible the 6 months is. For example, in my specific case would I have been able to take one week sick for the first week after chemo and then go back to work for 2 weeks without it affecting my pay. 

I would like to see more employers considering the flexibility of the sickness benefits they offer to cancer patients & survivors. Cancer is not a finite illness. Once you have had cancer you live with the ever present fear that the cancer will return & also the side effects of chemotherapy can be cumulative so although they may be relatively mild after the first treatment, following treatments 3,4 or 5 you may be considerably worse.

So what are we doing to protect ourselves in case the worst happens. Actually, we can't afford to do anything. When we took our mortgage out and we were both working full time we were paying about £85 a month for decreasing term assurance, Critical Illness cover and Income Protection. When Isaac was born, we should have been increasing this protection and adding him in. Instead we looked at our financial position and decided we couldn't afford it so we dropped the Critical Illness Cover & Income Protection and kept our decreasing term assurance, which reduced our bill to just shy of £20 a month. 

Do I regret this? In hindsight yes, but you never think it is going to happen to you. I am proof. It happened to me and it could happen to you. Are you covered if the worst happens?

Rest assured that when I manage to secure employment, one of the first things I will be looking at is if I can get cover and what kind of cover we can get to protect our family.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, a group of parent bloggers picked by Mumsnet to review products, services, events and brands. I have been asked by Mumsnet and Unum to blog about income protection. I have received a voucher for this blog post but I have editorial content and retain full editorial integrity

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

from 0 to, well only 2 actually

I promised I'd update you on the jumper saga and here it is. 

Honestly, I can't fault Ray. He has gone beyond his job description to ensure that Isaac has a jumper to start school tomorrow. 

He is a man who understands the power of social media and the mum in her living room (watching Great British Bake Off) writing about her experiences. 

I gave him about 40 minutes this morning then gave him a call. He had to call me back once he had spoken to someone and came up, not trumps, obviously I wanted logo'd jumpers for Isaac, but with a solution. 

He offered to personally deliver a sample plain jumper at some point today. 

And at approximately 17:30 today he did. I have a maroon plain sweatshirt for Isaac to wear to school tomorrow.

However in the meantime news of my plight had spread, again thanks to the power of facebook & twitter and I received a phone call from  a friend whose middle daughter goes to the same school. She had mentioned my dilemma to her next door neighbour who reached into the charity shop bag by her front door and said 'here, my daughter hardly wore it, it's now to small & I was going to send it to the charity shop. Give it to her'

As I write this I do have a tear in my eye, because I am overwhelmed by the generosity of a women I have never met who has given my son a like new school jumper.

So the jumpers, polo shirts, trousers & shoes are named. The lunch box is packed and in the fridge.

And tomorrow morning at 8.40am my eldest son will start a brand new adventure, who knows where it will take him?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Warning, May contain irrational ranting (mostly about school uniform)

This week marks what should be one of the most exciting events in Isaac's short life. On Wednesday he starts infant school.
I should be preparing by ironing/sticking/sewing on name labels and fretting about lunch boxes.
Instead I am doing battle with yourschooluniform.com.

Following parents evening back in July we were informed that we had to order the school logo'd sweatshirts/cardigans from the above mentioned website. There were non available from the school (or if there were then they were limited sizes) and the school do not run a second hand uniform shop.

I finally ordered the sweatshirts at the start of August when funds permitted. The confirmation email confirmed the sweatshirts would be delivered within 21 - 28 days. Fine, I though that still gives me a week before Isaac starts school. They'll be here in time.

So we waited, 21 days came and went. I logged onto my online account to find out that they were still in production. No problem as long as they are dispatched within 28 days they'll be here. 28 days came and a card for a parcel through the door. Oh good I thought the jumpers are here.

Imagine my disappointment (& horror) when the parcel was not school jumpers but more NCT things, which I do not need nor want & am not entirely sure why I am being sent other than being the treasurer or toddler group coordinator.

So straight away I log on and see 'In Production'. Sorry, still in production, no surely some mistake the email says delivery within 28 days this is day 30 surely there is a computer glitch.

So I trawl their website looking for a phone number - 22 minutes on hold later - while being told by the annoying american autovoice 'Your call is important, the queuing time is one minute' I get through to a real person.

No, its not a mistake my sons jumpers for his only first day at school are still being embroidered due to a delay with their supplier. 

I start off quite rationally:

  •  Why have I not been emailed to tell me there is a delay?
  • Why is there nothing on your system to tell me that there is a delay with my order
  • More importantly what are you going to do to make sure that I have a jumper for my sons first day at school?
Well, she says, It's not our fault it's the suppliers. No not really. You can email/put a message on affected accounts/make sure your paying customers know that they might not get their orders on time.

I realise that I'm not going to get anywhere here, so ask for a manager to call me back. I have worked in enough call centres & customer facing roles to know that you can't get anywhere speaking to a call centre operative you have to go to the top.

So later on Ray calls me, he is the area manager for the account. He understands, the school know about the problem and are aware children might not be in correct uniform, he will contact the warehouse and find out the exact situation with the orders. Here is his mobile number, I can call him on Monday and he'll be able to let me know what the situation will be.

So I spend a pleasant weekend. It's our 10th wedding anniversary, so we have a family meal, and a long lie in on Sunday and I prepare myself for battle on Monday.

I give him the morning to find out what is going on. I also have a look in Sainsburys to see if I could buy a plain one. This will be a problem as the school has chosen Maroon which is not stocked by Sainsburys & my stubborn streak tells me I shouldn't have to buy a plain one when I ordered my 3 logo'd ones.

Come lunch time I give him a call & voicemail, so I leave a message. Still no contact so another call and another voicemail. 

I'm getting quite cross now, come 4.30 and still no call I call him again. This time he picks up. I am not determined to be awkward, but I haven't thought to get my order number to hand, I am trying to cook tea for the children and they are playing happily on the iPad where the email is easy to access.

He isn't so friendly this time. The 'system' says that the jumpers will be dispatched early in the week. Have they been sent today I ask? No he says. Well then they are not going to be here in time then are they. 

He then brings out the 'have you spoken to the school'

Well, technically I haven't, but I'm not going to let on. I have friends who have told me that the school have no uniform to sell. It has to be bought from yourschooluniform.com

The school told us in July that they didn't hold the uniform in stock. I have no reason to believe that this would have changed. 

Then 'Have I looked into getting a plain one' Actually Ray, I have and they don't stock them & why should I have to buy another jumper when I ordered 3 from you to be delivered in time for school to start.

Then my gem & final piece

I only get to experience my sons first day at school once and you are robbing me of the chance to remember it

Really all I want is one jumper for Wednesday, I don't need all three. 

So I tell him, I want you to arrange for a jumper (don't actually mind whether it is logo'd or plain) to be couriered to me tomorrow so that Isaac has a jumper to wear to school on Wednesday.

I told him I use social media and blog and that I would be writing about this.

So loyal readers I shall let you know what happens tomorrow when I call him

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunday at the seaside

Making the most of the british summer we have come to the beautiful dorset coast.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

How to feel completely normal

Its been said on here before and I will say it again, but last summer was pretty crap for me. In fact this time last year, although I had had a large amount of my colon removed and felt pretty rubbish I still didn't know what was wrong with me, or the fact that the ordeal was only just beginning.

Fast forward a year and I have a guaranteed way to make you feel normal again. In fact, scrub that, not even normal, but almost super human. 

So do you wanna know what it is....

You do, don't you...

Shh, it's a secret.

OK then here it is, are you ready, there's a special recipe

Take 10 scout aged children - boys and girls, both are equally valid and as much fun as each other, 
a selection of adults, some of whom will be there all week and some who won't,
2 toddlers,
An immense amout of food,
some tents
and mix together on a sunny campsite just north of Devils Dyke

Yep, it was Scout Camp time of year and I had the honour of being asked to cater for summer camp this year and I accepted with a little bit of trepidation and a lot of inventiveness.

The menu was varied and included such delights as chicken, rosemary and tomato parcels, sausage casserole, tomato and chorizo pasta hotpot. As well as much maligned deserts - Fruit Flan, Dream topping and one of my personal favourites Angel delight.

The highlight of the catering has to be something I never thought you could cook on an open fire... Pizza. The children made the dough from scratch, then cooked it over the embers, before topping it and returning it to the heat. They were a little overcooked on the bottom, but honestly it was so much fun. This was followed by a 'guiding' classic chocolate & marshmallow bananas and chocolate oranges.
Pizza dough cooking on the BBQ
Chocolate & Marshmallow Bananas and Chocolate Oranges

As a given on any scout camp there were the activities as well. We, and when I say we, I mean, me, Isaac and Imogen and the scouts went hiking down Devils Dyke, Caving, and or course there was the obligatory rope swing.
After caving
After Caving

 Playing with the rope swing

A well deserved drink while walking down Devils Dyke

I have to say a massive thank you to the 4th Worth Scouts who came on Summer Camp, yeah you teased me about being a Guide Leader, but you ate everything I told you to cook & more importantly you looked after my children wonderfully. I was nervous about leaving you with them & them with you but the two of you who took Isaac on the treasure hunt know who you are. The rest of you made them feel so at home, & Isaac has already asked
'How many minutes til the next Scout Camp, mummy?'

Roll on WS 2013

Friday, 20 July 2012

Cancer, one year on

Ok, so not strictly one year on as I didn't get the final diagnosis til 3rd August.
But never the less this last week has been really hard for me. I have been coming to terms with the fact that this time last year we knew there was something wrong but not what. In the last year I have undergone 8 hellish cycles of chemotherapy, been told that potentially I might not be able to have any more children and have lived with the very, very real fear that this might come back. 

It is certainly easy to say think positive but I defy even the most positive of people to not have their down days. This week has been a down week. 

There have been some lovely memories made this week. The olympic torch arrived in Crawley and we headed down to see that. A friend actually got to carry the torch in East Grinstead and Tony managed to get his hands on it too. It has also been Isaac's last week at pre school. 

Now that is quite significant for me. In my downest moments last summer I occasionally thought that I wouldn't get to see him start pre school, let alone graduate. But I did, I fought the cancer and saw my brave little boy graduate from pre school, and now we have the next big adventure, Infant School. He is so excited about the new challenges and adventures ahead and so am I. I am entering the world of lost jumpers, reading books, homework and lunch boxes. On top of all of that I am so proud of the way that he has coped over the last year. I don't know if the children understood how significantly ill mummy was, but I do know that last summer was probably a bit of a let down for them.

So this year we are going to have the summer of our lives. 

Tomorrow we are off to Scout Camp for a week, then there will be at least one trip on the Bluebell Railway, the Tulleys Farm Maize Maze, hopefully some picnics with some very good friends who have supported me massively over the last year. Then there are 2 massively significant events. 

Beautiful days Number 10. Last year it was all I kept asking my surgeon 'Can I go, Can I go?' So we went, it was hard work but I felt normal. This year will be awesome. I am planning heart bunting, heart t shirts and a fab menu.

Then there is Jo's Jump for Beating Bowel Cancer. If you haven't sponsored her yet, I urge you too. I will be there, albeit on the ground cheering, taking photos and generally being there for her as she has been there for me over the last year.

Beating Bowel Cancer have been a huge support to me and continue to support me even now and every penny raised goes towards raising awareness of this disease.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Baking wednesday

To counteract the miserable weather this afternoon we dusted of the spoons and bowls and came out with these. (Isaac's are the round ones, Imogen got more adventurous)

The biscuit recipe is great, no refrigerating, not sticky and like playdough. Its on my pinterest cakes board do take a look.

I also took advantage of a bargain in coop earlier and bought some very cheap bananas which are currently being baked into a gorgeous smelling banana cake.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Technology - Bonus or hindrance

Welcome all to more of my nonsensical ramblings.

This weekend has been pretty epic.

We have had our first camping trip of the year. A lovely couple of nights in the tent about 5 minutes from home at the Scout Hut. Yep we camped in Crawley at the scout hut. 
It might seem silly to camp so close to home but just getting away from home for a couple of nights was lovely. I was going to put getting away from technology but that wouldn't be true.

The scout hut has a wifi connection. I have an iPad and 2 toddlers can you guess what happened. 

BBC iPlayer has been a bit of a babysitter. 

Now, just to make things clear, the children did not sit in front of the iPad watching cbeebies all day. They spent a lot of time running around and causing havoc but really when you need 5 minutes to try and pack a picnic or make their breakfast then being able to stick them in front of something you know can entertain them is a godsend. It also helps come bedtime. 

It's July, which means that it doesn't get dark til about 10.30. Try explaining to the children that it is sleepy time despite the fact that they can hear the other children running about and, in Isaac's words 'I can't sleep until the moon is up mummy'

So you stick on a couple of episodes of Octonauts, or Mike The Knight, read them a couple of stories and bargain insanely and finally they snuggle down in their sleeping bags and eventually after much delaying they fall asleep.

Then you have to rescue them from between the two airbeds or the airbed and the side of the tent. Then you have to be as quiet as is possible when you leave the tent and go and have adult conversation. Repeat as quiet as possible when you come to bed. 

I digress. The main reason I took my iPad was to watch the Andy Murray match on Saturday night & to entertain the children when they woke up at stupid'o'clock in the morning. 

Andy Murray YES
Children awake at stupid'o'clock NO

Yep that's right the children slept like logs and both mornings we woke them because we had to get up to go to the toilet not them!!

So was technology a bonus or a hindrance?

Well actually a bit of both. It makes life easier especially when packing the tent away to be able to keep them out of harms way, but did we need it?



Would I take it next time we go camping. Absolutely

Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Journey with Bluebell

Before the assembly process began
So today was Isaac's fourth Birthday and as you may or may not know he is a bit of a train geek.
When he was asked what type of Birthday cake he wanted he originally asked for Stepney. OK I thought I can do this he wants a birthday cake shaped like an engine I can do this.

As his birthday got closer I suddenly had a panic, He actually wanted a birthday cake shaped like a steam engine!!! Yep, an actual steam engine. 

Then he moved the boundaries. The conversation went something like this.
Me " So, Isaac, it's your birthday party soon, do you still want a cake shaped like Stephney?"
Isaac "Mummy, I love the Bluebell Railway. Bluebell is my favourite engine, can you make a Bluebell cake?"
Me " So you'd like a cake shaped like Bluebell"
Isaac "Can I have 2 cakes? A Bluebell cake and an Archie cake?"
Me "Isaac you can have one birthday cake - Bluebell or Stepney?"
Isaac "Ok, I'll have Bluebell, Next year can you make me an Archie cake?"

So there you have it, my nearly (& now) 4 year old knows his own mind and wanted a Bluebell 323 engine cake.

So now came the logistics. Do you have any idea how many bits there are to an engine? 

Luckily we spend a lot of time at the Bluebell Railway and I have a lot of photos of Bluebell to compare and work from. We did go again and I did take a lot of photos so that I had things to work from.

 We started with the wheels. I was quite proud of this. I made, from scratch, 4 swiss rolls.
I had never made a swiss roll before and was really surprised as to how easy it was. I found the recipe here and they were very easy and so light when I had to eat the offcuts later!!

So after the wheels then there was the base board. I made a total of 6 sponge cakes to be able to manufacture this masterpiece.

The sponges were a basic 4 egg, 8oz of caster sugar, flour & margarine and baked for 20 minutes in a 180C oven. I used a square silicon pan and a rectangle one to give me shapes that I could cut easily and use to assemble.

Once the base was assembled and stuck together (I used buttercream for that) I had to cut the final swiss roll to form the boiler

I then used the rest of the rectangles and cut them into sections to form then cab and bunker. I sandwiched them together with buttercream and jam to provide some variety in the taste.
I also used 2 square offcuts to form the tanks on the side of the boiler.

The finished item before icing began

 As this was my first attempt at I cake I have to confess that I cheated a little with the icing. I used shop bought ready made icing in blue, black & red.
I used a circular cutter to make the wheel shapes and front of the boiler and rolled rectangles to cover the remainder of the cake. 

I had a slight panic when I ran out of blue icing and it took a while to find some more in Sainsburys.

I also used red around the bottom of the boiler & cab and above the wheels and coloured some white icing yellow to form the dome.
Leftover cake bits

 And here in all its blue, red, yellow and black glory is the finished product. I used ready made piping icing to add the detailing and because I couldn't write Bluebell small enough I wrote it on the cake board where I had planned to put Isaac's name and age
A small boy with the 'real' Bluebell
and with his birthday Bluebell

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Monday, 18 June 2012

If you've got a moment

This is my incredible sister, Jo. 

You may notice a couple of additions too my blog layout today. It's because of Jo that they are there. 

On the 27th August 2012, she is going to do a skydive to raise money for Beating Bowel Cancer.

Please take a moment to click on the link and sponsor her. She has been an incredible support over the last year. From driving across the country to pick me up from the hospital and help me look after the children for 1 night. To sending me little packages through the post with things I might like or need in. I could not ask for a better sister. 

And now she is going to jump out of a plane to raise money for the charity that has provided me with the most support over the last year and ongoing support even now.

Beating Bowel Cancer is a charity which provides support to bowel cancer patients and their families. I have used their patient information leaflets, their forums and have found them so supportive and informative throughout the horrible year I have had. 

Please support my sister in her incredible challenge

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Imogen's Cushion

 So, I posted a picture of the Winnie The Pooh crossstitch when I finished it. As soon as Imogen saw it she was nagging (as much as a 2 year old can) for it to be made into a cushion.

I knew how I wanted to do it. I have a large amount of fabric remnants and knew that I would be able to find one large enough to make an envelope style cushion cover. 

However I wanted to do something a bit different and so I combined a granny square I made with the fabric and the crossstitch et voila, the completed cushion.

Imogen loves it. She has bought it downstairs to show visitors but must remember to take it back upstairs as she cuddles up to it every

I am so proud of it. It is loved by her and hence makes me happy. But it is not just that. This wasn't just a slap dash project. I thought about it and took my time and consequently I am very proud of it.

My daughter may love it but she would not pose for a picture, so you'll have to make do with a cheesy Isaac (& living room mess!!)
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Friday, 8 June 2012

A coupe of quick crochet projects

So, I finished the granny square for the back of Imogen's cushion. But that will have to wait for an upload until its finished. Instead this evening I have knocked up these. The card was inspired by some fuzzy felt cards I saw years ago. It struck me as a novel use for an everyday toy and since learning crochet last year I have wondered about the market for crochet cards. Lets see how well this one goes down.

The other project is supposed to be a rose, I always seem to screw up the sewing up. But it should do to accessorise my wedding outfit for tomorrow.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Another finished project

So here is my latest finished project. Yep a crossstitch. Imogen has requested that I turn this into a cushion for her so I am going to do a big granny square in sirdar crofter dk and find some plain fabric to back theme both.

Next up, thomas the tank engine crossstitch for isaac.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Some more toddler photography

By Imogen, say cheese mummy
So last week I blogged some of the childrens photos taken at the Bluebell Railway. I thought that that was quite fun and Isaac has kept asking if I can put more of his photos on a website. So rather than starting toddlerphotography.com (not available yet, although I am considering it!!!) I thought I would give you some more toddler photographic gems 
Imogens foot self portrait
Imogens photo of mummy & Isaac
Imogens action shot of Daddy
Isaacs photo of the trains on the Bluebell for Southern at War
Isaacs photo of the U boat at Southern at War
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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Take 2 toddlers

What do you get when you give a 2 year old and a 3 year old a camera each and access to the Bluebell railway engine shed, platforms and a range of rolling stock?


As you can see, the results are interesting!! These photos have been taken by isaac and Imogen over the last year using a Kidizoom Plus (Here) and my Samsung PL50
Adams Radial Tank
If you know me or my children, you'll know that taking them to the Bluebell Railway is like taking them to the sweet shop. They adore it there. It is improved by the fact that Stepney lives there so they can go and see him whenever they want.
Think this is a C Class
Bluebell ( I think mummy or daddy might have helped here!)
Looking back through these makes me realise how proud I am of my children and what absolute sponges children are. 
The Great Northern Railway Directors Saloon
 How many other 3 (or indeed 2 year olds) can tell you that thats not just a tank or tender engine pulling your train, but that it is a Standard 4 (Tank engine) or the U Boat (Tender Engine)
Bulleid Coaches and RMB
 How many will tell you that Sir Archibald Sinclair currently has boiler problems (boiler sludge according to Imogen) and is in 'the sodor steam works' Ok so Thomas has a lot to answer for.
The C Class
 Who am I to take this away from them?
The U Boat
 On the bad days when I can't seem to see where things are going and especially during chemo and my treatment I would remember the delight and absolute look of pleasure on their faces when we pull into Horstead Keynes car park and they realise where we are and what we are going to do.
 I feel incredibly privileged to have this amazing piece of history on my doorstep and will do my utmost to continue to provide this kind of education to my children.
 Apologies if you found this blog by looking for something steam train or heritage railway related, but remember my 2 toddlers are the future of heritage railways and we need to do everything we can to encourage their enthusiasm and passion for these fantastic pieces of engineering

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