Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A surprise in my pyjamas - Whitworths

There was I on Saturday morning considering making honeycomb crunch. Now this is reasonably unlikely behaviour for me, to be honest.

I love to cook but I'm far more likely to be considering making a bacon and avocado wrap or wondering what else will benefit from the addition of melted cheese.

But two things have happened lately to change this. Firstly, Boy One has become fixated on baking. He's the only child I know who only wanted a trip to Lakeland's flagship shop in Windermere for his 13th birthday. This means I've got to watch him having fun with food - and seeing the alchemy. And, perhaps more importantly, we've got all the stuff in. Proper ingredients, in date.

The other thing is that I've been asked to do some work for Whitworths helping to promote their Baking SOS as well as all their baking goodies.

They sent us some recipes to make. And while I was looking at them to make a shopping list for the supermarket delivery I had a mini lightbulb moment.

We had all the ingredients for honeycomb crunch and I had the ten minutes the recipe said it would take.

Ten minutes later - ta-da. Honeycomb crunch. Sugar alchemy.

200g Whitworths fine caster sugar
4 tblsp golden syrup
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Oil a baking tray (supposed to be 30 by 10 but I guessed with a square one).
Gently heat sugar, syrup, vinegar and vanilla in pan, stirring to combine. 

Allow to dissolve completely and simmer until it's the colour of maple syrup. If you try to take a picture of this lovely stuff your lens will steam up. 

Add bicarb and whisk until combined. 

Pour in to the tin and leave to set. 


I am paid to talk about Whitworths, but that doesn't make the sweet stuff any less tasty.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Extreme parenting - motherhood doesn't get much tougher than this

Children: It's downhill from here
If I could be bothered with video it would show my shiny face shouting into the camera and lots of zoomy, angled shots to try to create excitement where there is none.

But I can't, so tough.

I thought I might share my current parenting challenges and some possible solutions.

Move along there if you've got urgent sock drawers to sort out.

Hand hygiene

I know that a dollop dirt is supposed to be a good thing, but Boy Two takes it too far. He's a manky little article who will go to unreasonable lengths to avoid the soap. The best solution I can offer is to grab him and scrawl something embarrassing - preferably in pink - on his hands.

Toilet training

Trying to do something about Boy Three's persistent feral behaviour is proving testing. The other day he had managed to piss all over my Karma long before breakfast time. Thing is, he manages to be clean and dry at nursery for the nursery ladies but at home it's a different story. Sometimes he bothers, when the bribe is big enough - but most of the time he doesn't. Occasionally he even gets creative and political - think H Block in the 1970s.


Supernanny moots the idea of a certain amount of time on a naughty step appropriate to child and crime. I now can't remember what he had done, but Boy Three was dispatched to the naughty step to think about things. A few minutes later - slightly disconcerted by the lack of bellowing - I called him back. He skipped into the room crowing that he had, in fact, been on the step above the naughty step the whole time.


Boy One - he the Aspie - has a school compartment and a home compartment and doesn't want to mix the two. Much like the way he can't mix his beans and his fish fingers. I tried quite hard to find out what was going on at school, but mostly he didn't want to tell me. I sneak a look at his school diary, but his handwriting is spidery I didn't learn much. So I decided that if something was wrong, I'd hear about it and left him in peace. However, at parents' evening I collected several looks of horror and am probably under discussion in the staff room for not having a clue what my boy does at school.

Conflict resolution

What would M Poppins do? The biggest dispute of Sunday began when Boy Three chucked a turd at Boy Two. Fortunately he's a bad shot and a crap makes an ungainly missile. On the upside, he might have paid attention to my instruction not to poo on the floor by catching it in his hand.

And to think I'm supposed to be considering writing a book on the subject of parenting...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween post: a bad day in the land of cars

Asda Spooky Scribes Challenge

Whooooo. Yup it's the time when front halls up and down the land fill with the smell of slowly decaying pumpkin and the annual sweetie circulation begins. 

Are you scared yet? 

To help get us in the mood Asda asked if we'd like to take part in their Spooky Scribes Challenge and sent us a bag of goodies. 

Boy Two cheerfully volunteered to write a spooky story for the occasion. Brace yourselves.

Baby Face Car (in red obviously) smiting an innocent car
Once upon a time in the land of cars on a boring day, all of a sudden, Mr Baby Face Car appeared out of nowhere!!!! He started to stomp on all the other cars and was being a big poo and then he jump on all the houses. So Batcar, Ironcar, Supercar and Hulkcar started to destroy Baby Face Car.. but failed miserably. In the end, Supercar flew to space to get Green Car (Green Lantern) to help fight Baby Face Car. Green Car made a big hammer and hit Baby Face Car over the head with it .... boom!! Baby Face Car exploded into space and they all lived happily ever after...   or did they?

The End

Meanwhile, the author decided he'd make a very sinister clown and his little brother turned himself into a decidedly troubling (if well nourished) skeleton.

Asda have asked us to point out that they have lots of fantastic stuff for Halloween including fancy dress costumes for everyone.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Everyday sexism - get your examples out for the boys

It was a sunny day towards the end of the last century. I was leaving my job - again - to go off and mess about on boats. (I did this several times until motherhood put a stop to it.)

My colleagues at the newspaper I'd been working at had clubbed together to get me a present. They all stood around while I unwrapped two whole melons.

Apparently, this was a joke because I had big breasts, also known as melons. Geddit. I was mortified, but smiled, pretended I didn't understand the joke and got a sharp knife to cut the fruit into vicious cubes.

Not long after that I had a breast reduction. It wasn't that they hurt my back or any of the usual excuses. I was sick fed-up of being the joke with tits - groped, gawped at and always commented on. At the time I thought it was my problem...

Anyhow, it's just another example of the everyday sexism that swills around polluting things.

This week Boy One skipped off to school very excited because they were going to see a heart dissection in biology. Over breakfast we discussed how much blood there would be. Both Boy One and Two were disappointed to learn that there wouldn't be any - probably not a drop.

"The girls will still scream though," said Boy One.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because they won't like it... We were all given the option not to watch and it was only girls that said they didn't want to."

What followed was a very long conversation about why girls were no different to boys and some people may feel squeamish about seeing an organ being cut up. Only girls might think it unseemly to show too much enthusiasm for such matters and boys, however queasy, might fear a ribbing.

It's everywhere, all the time is sexism. Follow @everdaysexism on twitter for some examples and you might like to add yours.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Brotherly love... death is not enough

This charming notice has appeared on Boy One's bedroom door. 

Interesting to note that moron was rejected in favour of baboon and that death is not enough as the ultimate threat appears to be the naking of his stuff. 

UPDATE: An expert handwriting decoder (AKA a primary teacher) reckons the ultimate threat is braking his stuff. Nonetheless...

Review: Hot Wheels Power Tower

The ads have started - it's really difficult to pick the good playsets from the, frankly, flipping awful ones. 

So when we got offered the chance to review the Hot Wheels Power Tower I accepted as a matter of public service. Nah - who am I kidding. I already knew that quite a few of the people in this house love a Hot Wheel. 

What does the blurb say? 

A motorized elevator moves cars to the top then releases them onto the track. Will your cars make it through the moving saw and chomping monster? A full-colour poster makes the perfect bacground for non-stop action. Includes one die-cast car and safe-for-walls Command strips from 3M. 

The set up

It took a Boy Two a matter of about 15 minutes to get the thing set up and running - and he'd have been much quicker if Boy Three wasn't excitedly jumping up and down and generally being annoying. 

NB It needs batteries that aren't in the box. 

What's good about it?

It works. All the bits fit together and the car whizzes round. 

Everyone loves it. It is one of the most satisfying play sets. Not too complicated, but interesting enough. 

What's less good?

The sticking to the wall thing. It didn't stick very well. Luckily we had spare sticky things so it could go back up again even after the spares in the box were used up. I'm going to set Boy One and Boy Two the task of trying to set it up not stuck to the wall. 

It needs quite a bit of clear wall. Not everyone's home has this, nor do they want it permanently decorated by whizzing cars. 


Include an extra car - we have lots of other Hot Wheels cars but if this is your first experience of the HW, one seems a bit mean. 

Include something to fix the poster to the wall. 

On balance. 

A good toy. Hot Wheels are fantastic and I totally recommend them. However, if I was picking, I'd perhaps go for one that doesn't need to be stuck to the wall (not, of course, that the kids would agree). 

My kids are 3, 10 and 13 - and they all enjoyed it. It costs around £35. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Why shouldn't porn stars be in panto?

Craig Chalmers
Craig's not going to the ball this year...

Poor Craig Chalmers. He has just been sacked from his next job, Playing Prince Charming in patio in Dunfermline

Craig was doing ever so well. Since appearing on Andrew Lloyd Webber's Any Dream Will Do he had established himself as a talented performer. 

I took my kids to see him in Joseph a couple of years ago. In my mind he wasn't a patch on Jason Donovan, but that probably says more about me than his performance. 

Since then he'd hardly been out of work and was just about to start a lucrative slipper-fitting gig. 

So, what went wrong? 

Someone - anonymous - had noticed that Craig has a bit of a sideline as Ryan Ryder, star of adult movies and owner of large equipment and, ahem, assured performance. So they told theatre bosses who promptly told Craig to sling his hook while the world sniggered at the panto porno star headlines.

But I'm a bit baffled about why it should mean that he must hand over his doublet and hose to his understudy. 

Apparently, the fact that he sometimes gets his dick out to have sex on film for the adults who like that kind of thing means he isn't a suitable person to pretend to try a shiny shoe on a man dressed as a woman in front of children. Go figure.

Its not like he will get his jobs mixed up one day and really give the children reason to yell "he's behind you".  Kids won't be aware in any way that Prince Charming sometimes has a ball of a very different kind. 

Speaking of balls, this is complete bollocks. 

Why shouldn't Craig make a few quid as Ryan while he can without being punished for it?

This is knee jerk nonsense of the very worst kind. Just because in an entirely different organisation a very unpleasant man's abuses have been overlooked for years, doesn't mean that what another man does for consenting adults is anywhere near the same thing.  

Where will it stop? If we have anything to do with children, does it mean we can't do something adult from time to time? 

I have friends who write erotica to make some money, are they to be banned from the school gates? 

Utter rubbish. The point of being an adult (there has to be one after all) is that we are mature enough to know what we should be doing and when. Within the law our choices are up to us and we shouldnt' be punished for them. 

The villain in this piece deserves a big boo for drumming Craig off the stage for something that has nothing to do with his day job. 

PS While we're on the subject let's consider some of the other panto stars considered suitable to entertain kids. Jim Davidson, Pamela Anderson, The Krankies, Linda Lusardi, Denise Welsh and Julian Clary to name a few. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Things intended to be funny, that aren't.


The boys and I popped into Ikea for a meat-ball based lunch and found, to our utter disinterest, that it was a family day. That's why there was a torn-faced clown wandering around spinning plates. Clearly bored riged, he tried to strike up conversation. The topic? Our local undertaker. 

Top Gear

Three grown men acting like teenagers as they read out lines from clunky script. There are cars. 


Shell suits and shouting isn't enough to constitute Scottish sketch comedy. Or, in fact, sketch comedy from anywhere.

Everything else

'Funny' slogans. You don't have to be mad to live here, but it helps. No it doesn't. 

Putting a hand out to shake then taking it away. Rubbish. Never funny.

See-you-Jimmy hats, fake tits.

Real tits. Especially to the person who owns them.

Women pulling up men's kilts.

Most photoshopped pictures

Most sit-coms. Should be called sit not-coms.

Politicians' jokes. 

Posters (cards/mugs/keyrings/printed knickers) that begin Keep calm and...

Vic Reeves.

Anything that is introduced by: "You'll love this, it's hilarious..."

Monday, 22 October 2012

What your Soreen says about you.

Soreenly happy whichever way you slice it...
Soreen. Oh yes, put butter on it... and eat.

Not so. There are as many ways to scoff Soreen lunch box loaves as there are kinds of people (almost).

My extensive study of the subject has shown that one's approach gives a clear indication of their personality type.

Use your loaf: what kind are you?

Churned up
You use your Soreen as a vehicle for beautiful, buttery butter. More the better. It has to be salted butter. Obviously. If you prefer your Soreen this way, you clearly have some unresolved inner turmoil.

Slice of life
It's a loaf, right. Therefore treat it like a loaf. Teeny tiny slices with a button of butter on each. You are certainly a time-waster and jobs worth. Lighten up and break some rules.

Over the top
Finesse is lost on you as you slather a topping over the loaf. You whatever you want, you want it now and lots of it. Try slowing down and smelling the roses...

You are so hot you're on fire. No, really. You probably are on fire if you've managed to get one of these tiddlers back out of the toaster. If you managed it you are have wasted talents. Make more of yourself.

A bit dippy
If you dunk your little loaf - into tea, hot chocolate, whatever - then you must be a few sarnies short of a lunch box. Why? Because Soreen doesn't dunk, you just end up with a nasty blobby mess.

A little bit wooo
Peanut butter, jam, Marmite, cream cheese, hummous, you've tried them all on your Soreen lunch box loaf. I'll bet you have. You think that you're a bit different to the rest of us, don't you? Well you know what, you are.

Among others, I have a commercial relationship with Soreen.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Coming off Citalopram - crying in the car...

Don't worry this isn't a sobbing into my shredded wheat kind of post.

I just thought that there might be some interest in how I'm doing since I decided to come off Citalopram.

I have, for once, done exactly what I said I was going to do. I cut down dropping half a tablet here and there until the point when I couldn't remember whether it should have been a full or half tab. At that point I decided I would take only a half dose every day... I suppose you could say I'm half way there.

How does it feel?

Good question. Serious introspection isn't really to be recommended. Or at least I don't like it. It's impossible to know exactly what's going on, because rather inconveniently life carries on.

What has actually changed?

The biggest thing I've noticed is that sometimes - and usually in the car - I am moved by things, music or stories on the radio. Tears prickle and threaten. This is something that hasn't happened for the whole time I was on Citalopram but used to happen before. I don't think this is a symptom of any great mental turmoil, it just happens.

Otherwise, this week I was feeling a bit flat, a bit tired and somewhat crabby. This could be for any one of a dozen reasons: I haven't done enough exercise; I've got PMT; Boy Three keeps waking me up in the middle of the night; I'm bored; I'm hungry; I'm 45; I'm coming off Citalopram.

Next steps.

I'm going to spend a couple of weeks on a half dose and then start cutting down from half to nothing following the same pattern. Watch this space. I'll report back.

By the way, am I the only one with a tendency to Radio 4 induced bouts of sentimentality in the car? Surely not.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Spelling mnemonic: Jimmy's a vile man

There's only one l in Savile and that's how to remember.

Every day brings more revelations of vile abuses be the children's presenter once considered to be a national treasure. And we shake our heads and ask ourselves how this can have happened.

When I was 10 or 11, I went on an Outward Bound course at the centre's base on Ullswater. I can't remember much about the week except a vague sense of adventure and fun.

I do remember one of the girls - I think her name was Hilary. She was something of a celebrity in our dormitory having been on Jim'll Fix It playing a musical instrument - a clarinet if memory serves.

Fascinating. I wanted to know what it was like, who she had met and any other bits of telly land gossip. She wouldn't be drawn. "It was OK," was all she would share. I felt cheated. I, among every child in the land, had written and written to Jim to have my dream come true.

Now, though, I wonder if Hilary the Clarinetist had another story she couldn't tell.

And then when you looked closely, as we all did, do you remember the children's faces? None of the cheeky animation and lively responses of children on TV today. Down the telescope of time, they all looked a little dazed and wary.

It's easy now to condemn and criticise, tut and shake our heads. It could never happen now. Or could it?

Of course it could.

In the main it's unlikely there was a huge conspiracy to protect JS and his unorthodox preferences. Instead there was a jigsaw of people with pieces of information.

Some, the victims, would be fearful of not being believed, of speaking out against such a Good Man. Others may not even have known that what happened to them was wrong, no matter how bad it made them feel. Maybe they blamed themselves or justified it because of who their abuser was.

And the rest? For all the people who knew or suspected something was wrong and tried to do something, there were many others with suspicions or uneasy feelings who put their concerns aside and got on with life?

It'd be fabulous if there a few investigations and some enquiries might make sure it wouldn't happen again. The real way, though, is to make sure no one sweeps nagging doubts under their mental carpets and any accusations however preposterous get an open-minded hearing. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Review: Monkeyfarts by David Borgenicht

What happened to the blind skunk? 
He fell in love with a fart

Why don't monsters eat clowns?
Because they taste funny

What's orange and sounds like a parrot?
A carrot

What kind of crows stick together?

Are you groaning yet? Yup - me too. 
These are just some of the gags that fill the pages of Monkeyfarts. 

Boy Two who is ten and quite a connosseur of the bad joke had a look. 

Here's his verdict: 

"It's got all the classics and lots of new ones.

"There are knock-knock jokes, if you're a knock-knocker. Doctor, doctor jokes, chicken jokes - they're all there. 

"I'd recommend it to my frends. And I'll probably read it again. 

"I'll certainly look at it with Hallowe'en coming up. It's great for learning some new jokes for trick or treating. 

"In fact, I'll probably take it with me when I go out. Oh, and a torch because it'll be dark, won't it?"

He only had one criticism. "The index could be better. When you're trying to find a certain joke, it's hard."

So there you have it.

Monkeyfarts is published by Grantham Book Services and costs £5.99.

PS The name comes from that old chestnut - What's invisible and smells like bananas?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Time-saving tips for busy bloggers

Too much on and to-do list as long as the queue in the ladies at a Daniel O'Donnell gig? 

Yup. Me too. 

So when I carved a few hours out to go to Tots 100 Blog Camp in Manchester, I was determined it would be good use of my time - my me-time even. There would be lovely people to meet, relaxed day dreamy train journeys and I'd come home positively oozing enthusiasm. 

One of the best bits was the final session when Cathy from Nurture Store, Charlotte The Mummy Blogger, Geek Mummy Ruth, Tina Mothergeek and Cheshire Mum Claire.

At a blistering pace, they cantered through a startling array of tips and suggestions. I barely had time to say "oh, yes, why didn't I think of that?" before they were on to the next.

So on with walking the walk..  the tips.


Be intentional. Do what works for you and don't bother with things that don't.

Love your blog. I takes up too much time and energy to be anything less. 

Write things down on a bit of paper. A few puzzled looks here, but then one or two confessed it was the only way to keep track of the to-do lists.


Set a timer. It's so easy to let web time run away with you, know exactly how long you've got and stick to it. 

Focus on social media channels that work for you. 


You can't do it all. If you follow all the blogging advice, you'll be utterly frazzled. Don't compete on all fronts, stick to what works for you. 

Do it on the go. Work out which tools and apps help you take advantage of every moment. Ruth, impressively, records messages and blogs while she's driving (safely, of course).


Understand what you do with your time. She suggests keeping a diary in 20 minute chunks of exactly what you're doing, not what you should be doing. 

Have permission not to do things. If you're exhausted, stop and recharge. You'll do better later.

Turn down the noise. Unsubscribe to everything you don't need. 

One time only. Read each email only once, when you read it deal with it. 

Top down. If you keep going at your inbox from the top, by the time you get down to the dregs at the bottom some will have resolved themselves just like magic. 


Do it on the phone. She does a lot of the work of blogging on her iPhone while she's out and about 

Stack up the posts. Save drafts for time times for when you're too busy to produce fresh content. 

App-y talk. Programmes, gizmos and apps for an easy life. 

Things to look at in all the time you've gained by following the above. 

Oh and one from Mistress Tots herself, Sally Whittle: Don't get it right, get it written

Sunday, 14 October 2012

What are your babies made from?

Did you crave anything particular with your pregnancies?

Tuna and banana pizza, anyone? It's common to go off and on to certain foods while up the duff.    It was something different for each of my Boys. 

Boy One

HarlanH via Flickr
We lived on Gran Canaria at the time so it was rather convenient that I couldn't get enough gazpacho. They even sold it in McDonald's. I suppose gazpacho is fairy bursting with vitamins -less so the bread and aioli that went with it.

Boy Two

rexipe via Flickr
Kebabs. Any old kebabs would do, but in particular the large lamb kebabs from Chillies on Woodlands Road in Glasgow. Plenty of protein and quite a lot of attitude.

Boy Three

Soreen. Yup this chap was made of malt loaf. Lots of sweet chewy fruity goodness here. Only best served with lashings of butter and occasional chunks of cheese.

What we're your babies made of?

I am being paid to talk about the wonders of Soreen at the moment, and it got me thinking about my various encounters with the squishy stuff. 

Silent Sunday

Loch Tay

Love All Blogs

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Enchanted Forest and other wonderful things

All ready for our adventure

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Enchanted Forest, Faskally, Pitlochry

Scottish Crannog Centre
We may regret Boy Three observing the fire making

Scottish Crannog Centre
Boy One using a bow drill to make a hole in a rock

The view across Loch Tay

I have wanted to visit the Enchanted Forest ever since I first heard of it. And this year it all came together - a weekend where we were all free and some spectacular weather. 

My photos don't do the site at Faskally near Pitlochry anything like justice - all I can say is "go". We'll certainly be back. 

The Boys were fascinated although Boy Three did announce that his very favourite bit of the whole adventure was going on the bus. We really should take him out more often. 

We stayed at the very cosy and welcoming Kirkmichael Hotel. On our way back there from Pitlochry the night was so clear we stopped in a layby and stood with our heads back gazing at the heavens counting shooting stars. It was a light show just as magical as the one in the forest. 

Next day, at the suggestion of the hotel owner - we were looking for something to amuse us on our trip home - we visited the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay. 

If I tell you it's a unique reconstruction of an Iron Age loch dwelling you probably be yawning already. Don't. This place is fascinating - not least because of the passionate and knowledgeable guides and hands-on equipment. 

In the course of a couple of hours here's what I learned: 

  • You can make cloth from nettles. Really nice cloth. Why don't we still do this?
  • You can make a satisfying hole in a stone without too much trouble. Why don't we still do this? 
  • You can keep fire in a tinder fungus. Why don't we still do this? 
  • The people who lived in the Crannogs were quite civilised and didn't poo in the loch. 
  • Someone brought opium to Iron Age Loch Tay. 
  • You don't always need a chimney for your fire. 

And over the weekend, I learned some things too:
  • The Enchanted Forest is magical.
  • Perthshire is beautiful. 
  • Getting out of Scotland's Central Belt causes at least one blogger to exhaust her supply of superlatives and other gushy expressions. 

50 Shades of Mince - Family Supper at the Fisher's Hotel, Pitlochry

Mince: full of beefy potential
Ooft. The smell of mince hit us as soon as we found our way to the 'family' dining room. Every adult in the place bore the look of someone who had just been momentarily transported to their school lunchtimes only to realise it was just a trick of the mind. 

Perhaps it was that shared relief that led us all to stay where we were, with the minciness all around us. Who knows? But stay we did. 

We had booked the family dinner at the Fisher's Hotel, Pitlochry, specifically laid on for families leaving - just outside the front door - for the Enchanted Forest.. The website - no food details given - offered two courses for just short of a tenner and kids under 12 half price. 

We didn't bother with a starter, particularly because startering kids could pick from just soup or melon. The kitschy retro vibe of this went over their heads. 

Mains for adults were  mince and tatties, sausage and mash, haggis or macaroni cheese. Mains for kids were  sausage and mash, macaroni cheese, mince and tatties or ham salad with fries. 

As it happened we had sausage and mash for lunch and so no one much fancied that.

There was nothing to get one's teeth into just lots of versions of mush. Plus I know of no children who would choose a ham salad for supper, even when enhanced by chips. 

Equally I know of few adults who order unadulterated mince - lasagna, Shepherd's pie, chili, spag bol, burgers or meatballs certainly, but dull, boring naked mince, no.

We consdiered going elsewhere, but time was pressing and Boy One - prone to anxiety - wouldn't cope, so we ordered. 

The food arrived suspiciously quickly - garnished only by skin on the sauces and a scatter of chives. Then pudding - think school dinners without the redemption of custard, didn't really improve matters. 

As well as a bad taste I was left wondering: 

  • When this is the Fisher's Hotel - also evidenced by angling-themed decorations - why was there no fish on the menu? 
  • Elsewhere in the hotel - restaurant and bar - they promise crispy, fresh and green things, why not here? 
  • Children might like simpler fare, but there's no reason to think their parents do. 
  • Even if a menu is designed for speed and profit, there's no reason to miss taste out of the equation. Or make it quite so obvious.

We didn't let our beugh supper at the Fisher's Hotel in Pitlochry spoil our wonderful trip to visit the Enchanted Forest. However, I would urge anyone else to go elsewhere or take sandwiches. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Advice for a new mum on her due date

You will think your baby is cuter than this no matter how many chins it has
My friend Julie Scrumptious is expecting a baby - her due date is today. 

It's a little over 13 years since I sat there all fat and fed up waiting for IT to happen. I remember how it felt - a little bit exciting and a lot terrifying. And that was in the days before social networks really took hold. 

Back then I only got scary your-life-is-over-now stories from the folk I actually met in the flesh. 

Now though, poor JS only has to mention her gestation on facebook and dozens of people offer advice, suggestions and anecdotes. It must be bewildering - what to listen to and what to ignore?

So I thought the most helpful thing I could do was to add to it. I would write a post for JS offering some top tips... some of the nuggets I'd wished I known when I first sat there wondering if it was a Braxton Hicks or the Real Thing. 

Here goes:

  • It will pass. However grim, painful, tiring, overwhelming it is, it will pass and get better if you just hang on. 

  • Breastfeeding is hard, don't worry if you can't do it, your baby will be fine. Your happiness is more important in the mix than the statistically tiny benefits your well-fed, middle-class baby will get from breastfeeding. 

  • If someone offers you help, accept and have a list (mental or otherwise) of things they can do for you. 

  • Ignore any advice that you don't like - there are hundreds of ways of most things none of them are wrong. 

  • Your baby will not care how expensive its clothes and equipment are.

  • It's perfectly normal to occasionally feel rubbish and wonder what the hell you've done.
  • However, if you consistently feel rubbish and wonder what the hell you've done, ask for help. There is no shame.
  • In fact, if you are considering whether or not to ask for help, you must ask for help. 

  • There will be poo in the delivery room - yours. 

  • It took nine months for your body to do the miraculous job of making another human being, it will take at least this long for it to recover.
Good luck, Julie Scrumptious. I can't wait to meet your Scrumptious baby when he or she decides he or she is ready. 

Thanks to @cabowick, @PJ, @Creesidelife, @violetposy, @mummylimited, @manaiasmama, @vwallop, @thepottydiaries, @Iainpope73, @caroljs and @pureartifice for their excellent suggestions and advice. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Twitter for Business

Recently I gave a talk about how to use Twitter in business. Ever one to recycle, I thought the abridged notes might be of interest. 

First thing I did though was read part of Dorky Mum's brilliant Twitter Is like... post.

Why tweet?

  • Twitter can be the easiest kind of networking you’ll ever do.
  • Twitter can be the quickest source of information.
  • Twitter helps you with market research.
  • Twitter is human.

But first things first. How do you get started?

Go to and sign in. Create a profile and have a look around.

If you’re familiar with Facebook, forget all you know – Twitter is nothing like Facebook.

Twitter is like a flowing river of chat – you don’t have to read everything. In fact, you’d quickly go mad if you tried to. And, to a certain extent, you can be fairly relaxed about what you say and do as it’ll have flowed away before too long.

Obviously – follow the rules of real life online too – tell the truth and play nice.

Take time to have a look around – follow some people (Everyone follows king of tweeters Stephen Fry) –  but what you do is not binding, you can unfollow people whenever you like.

Experiment. Try searching for some things you’re interested in. Look for your friends and say hello. If someone follows you – if you like the look of them, follow back.

Have a look at people like you and people you like. What are they doing? How do they look?

About now, you’ll decide that you probably need to do something about your Twitter profile. Please upload a photo of yourself that looks like you.  For two reasons - Twitter is the interaction of people therefore knowing what the person looks like helps. And if you do meet them in real life, they’ll know who you are and vice versa. I very much dislike talking to people on twitter if they only have a logo – or worse still, the generic twitter bird logo.

Then fill in a few words of profile. It takes a few goes to get this right. Explain what you do but – above all – be a real person.

So once you’ve got a profile and a few people to follow. What next?

Search for yourself and your business. You might be surprised – hopefully you’ll find positive feedback, but if you don’t you have the chance to talk directly to someone doing the complaining.

Search for your competitors. What are they doing? Can you do it better?

Search key words and terms. Is someone talking about your specialism? Do they want something you can help with? Are they talking about something you need to know?

Search other relevant things – I imagine Three SistersBake will also search for “Quarriers”. They might find someone asking if there’s somewhere you can get a cup of tea near the cycle path.

What are you going to tweet about?

By all means tell Twitter what your business offers – but not all that often. People will very quickly get fed up with it.

Tweet about new things in your business. ‘I’ve just created a new rhubarb and custard inspired wedding cake’. You can tweet pictures – ‘Look at this wonderful cake I’ve created’.

Tweet about your industry – “What do you think of government measures to increase the tax on marzipan?”

Offer your special knowledge generously and for free – what goes around comes around. For example – does anyone want our fool-proof Christmas cake recipe?

You don’t need to limit yourself to business related tweets either. “Did anyone see X Factor last night?” “It’s pouring down here, when’s it going to stop?” Think about that extra room full of people you’d like to talk to. What might you say to them?

Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Do – be genuine. Try to talk in as human a way as possible. Remember it’s a wee tweet in a flowing river, don’t get knotted up about it.
  • Do – be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It’s useful to apply the ‘would I say this to the person’s face?’ test. If you aren’t sure – don’t do it.
  • Don’t – tweet while angry or drunk.
  • Do tweet regularly, but not too frequently – you’ll find your pace. If you’re not sure aim for two or three tweets a day. If you’re too busy to do this, you can use a programme like tweet you later to schedule your tweets.
  • Do – check regularly for responses, people taking to or about you and respond.
  • Do - follow people back. Generally it’s a good idea.
  • Don’t - link your tweets to your Facebook or linked in profile. They are different things should be used differently. Be careful if your twitter feed appears on your website too.
  • Do - use hashtags. A hashtag is a way of catching all the tweets and twitter conversations on a certain subject. It’s an easy way of fishing the tweets you want to follow from the twitter stream. For example an event like this might use #business&bagel, during a game of sport or tv show, you’ll find tweets on a subject by searching the hashtag #oldfirm or #xfactor, say. It means you can see what people you don’t directly follow are saying.
  • Do - use lists. Once again it helps you find what or who you want quickly. You can create lists of people under a certain topic. For example you could create a bagels and business list. You can also follow other people’s lists – does a competitor have a list of industry people they are interested in? Then you can follow that list too.
  • Do - listen as much as you talk. More than even. Reply to other people – answer their questions.
  • Do - be generous. Share things you like, recommendations and kind words. It goes a long way.
  • Do - be nosey. Use twitter to see what people you’re interested in are saying, what they are posting. Talk to them if you want to get to know them.
  • Don’t - be a stalker. Don’t bombard one person.
  • Do - delegate if you’re too busy. But make it clear which human being is talking, better still start twitter accounts for each person in your organisation.
  • Do - talk privately. Use the Direct message – DM - facility to talk privately when you need to.
  • Do - let people know what’s new – have you written a new blog post or offered a new service for example.
  • Don’t - hesitate to block and report people. Spammers and idiots are a pain for everyone, just get rid of them.
  • Don’t - be miffed if no one replies to you. There are a lot of tweets out there. Have another couple of goes and if it doesn’t work maybe you’re not saying something that‘s engaging people.

The last one – above all 
  • Do relax and have fun – once you get the hang of it, it’ll be the easiest kind of networking you’ve ever done.

If you want some one-to-one advice about how to set up and run Twitter for your business drop me a line, @ellen27 or

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