Social Pix — 2nd December

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21 Ways to Manage the Stuff that Sucks up Your Time


When I read a book with a title like this I think “I could have written that” as I am always trying to find ways to streamline my life and find ways to make it so much easier.   It is how my Dotty Diary was born!

This is a little book, just 100 pages but it is bursting with fantastic time saving tips, with 21 chapters that give you great advice on a theme.   Such as “handle it once”.     This is such a great tip and one that adopted years ago.   Paperwork comes in and I deal with it, and then file in diary or file away.   It doesn’t get put to one side lost for a month and then waste time as I hunt for it.  Grace Marshall gives great tips on this theme and how to deal with invoices / emails and to do lists.   All that make perfect sense and that you can actually implement.

There is nothing worse than reading self help books and thinking “well that is all very well but …. “.    This book is great.

My favourite chapter is “How to say No and stay nice”.    I think I need to read this again and again.   As I sit here with glandular fever and have been told to take it easy for three months!

All in all this is a great little book that really packs a punch and one that I am going to recommend to a few friends that are constantly swamped or chasing their tales!

It is available now from all good booksellers

Disclaimer:  I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Christmas Decorations MummyB Stylee

It’s December 1st so I am now trying to get into the Christmas spirit.   We have an embargo on Christmas until after E’s birthday on November 16th but now that December is here there is no excuse.   And doubly there is no excuse for me to not ramp up the excitement since this year I am a Christmas Ambassador for Sainsburys!!!

So this first Christmassy post is all about decorations.   I follow a lot of crafty people on Twitter so thought that this year I would have a go at making some decorations.   Out of character, I know.

Alison at Five Go Blogging told me how to make Christmas decorations with the help of a book or magazine.  Literally.

Et voila:

Ta da!  How amazing is that?!  That ladies and gentlemen is the Sainsbury’s Christmas gift guide.  Simply folded and transformed into a Christmas Tree.  The Star is from a page of Heat (snuck into our Sainsbury’s trolley by Miss E on a weekly basis) and please don’t ask me how to make it.  She is the origami whizz.

But how to make the tree is simple.   Just three folds:

Fold one


Fold two


Fold three


Keep doing that until each page is folded and then when you stand it up you have a tree!

So simple yet oh so effective.    Don’t cha think?

Or how about buying some wrapping paper and making these?  These are another of the origami queen’s favourites but my amazing talented friend Sophie at Strange Case Collective did a proper tutorial for me because it is what she does:

Now this might look complicated but it isn’t!  We made a whole pile of them last weekend for a homeless shelter that Annie is helping to brighten up.

So if we can do it so can you!

There are loads of decoration and gift ideas in Sainsburys this year and this is the first of my Christmas Days Ambassador posts.   Next Saturday I am going to do a foodie one and competition to win a Sainsburys gift card so please keep an eye out for it!


Ranty Friday — Daily Misogynist

Once upon a time I used to read the Daily Mail.  I actually used to buy it and read it on the train on the way to work.

Then when I stopped work and was a stay at home mum I had it delivered.

Until one day I woke up and read it for what it was.   Misogynistic, xenophobic tripe.

Whenever I look at the side bar of shame on line (yes, I still look at it online because …. well I don’t know why if I am brutally honest) there is another story that makes me want to rage.  Not necessarily the content of the story but the angle that has been taken, or the accompanying headline.

Yesterday they stooped to an all time low:

What sort of a non-story is that?  A woman who, quite frankly, looks stunning performs on National TV and this is the headline?

The headline was quickly pulled and altered but not before people had screenshot it.   Somebody approved that headline.  Allowed it to be published.  Presumably whilst doing the first draft of this devastating story:

Do they not get it?

Do they not see that all the time the press are printing ridiculous stories about size 10 or 12 women being chubby girls are killing themselves to be thin.   Either by starving themselves or by taking their own lives.

The Daily Mail should be ashamed of themselves this morning.

And should be making a heartfelt apology to Leona Lewis and to every other woman they belittle on a daily basis.



This is my Ranty Friday for this week. Below are other people having a rant.  Do visit their blogs!


Should parents write of their disappointment in their children?

Did you hear about the guy last week who wrote to his three children?  He signed it off  “… bitterly bitterly disappointed, Dad”

I read that and the first thing that I thought was that he needs to take a good look at himself as a father.  Surely any parent who writes a letter like that has failed and should be disappointed in himself, not his children.   This is the letter in its entirety:

Dear All Three

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us. We don’t ask for your sympathy or understanding — Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best — probably misguidedly — to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.

Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement. Far from your children being able to rely on your provision, they arefaced with needing to survive their introduction to life with you as parents.

So we witness the introduction to this life of six beautiful children — soon to be seven — none of whose parents have had the maturity and sound judgment to make a reasonable fist at making essential threshold decisions. None of these decisions were made with any pretence to ask for our advice.

In each case we have been expected to acquiesce with mostly hasty, but always in our view, badly judged decisions. None of you has done yourself, or given to us, the basic courtesy to ask us what we think while there was still time finally to think things through. The predictable result has been a decade of deep unhappiness over the fates of our grandchildren. If it wasn’t for them, Mum and I would not be too concerned, as each of you consciously, and with eyes wide open, crashes from one cock-up to the next. It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven, and then helplessly to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you, their parents.

I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness. If you think I have been unfair in what I have said, by all means try to persuade me to change my mind. But you won’t do it by simply whingeing and saying you don’t like it. You’ll have to come up with meaty reasons to demolish my points and build a case for yourself. If that isn’t possible, or you simply can’t be bothered, then I rest my case.

I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed.


I am just appalled that any parent would write that to anybody.   Children who are talking to their mum about problems in their lives being berated.    How does he know categorically that the marriage failure could have been the total fault of his child and not as a result of a failing by the other party?

Not having a “fulfilling career based on your education”.   What the hell does that imply?  That, presumably they went to private school and maybe university and are now not doing some mega bucks job in the city?

What happened to just wanting our children to be happy?  Would he rather his children stayed in loveless, maybe even abusive, marriages just to keep HIM happy?  Do a job they despise, just so their bank accounts satisfy dinner party guests at daddy’s house.

Is it not our job, as parents, to “listen to your miserable woes”?   I love that my children come to me with a question or concern.  They might not take my advice but at least they asked me for it.  And they know that I will respect their desire to make their own choice, and possibly mistakes, but that I will be here to pick them up afterwards.

He has grand children yet where is the joy?  Where is the thanks for that?   The love.  It is certainly not evident in that letter.

What a shocking approach to parenting this letter appears to be.    Not a shred of love comes from this letter to his children.

All I want for my children is to be happy and content.   I couldn’t give a fig if the marry and divorce and re marry ten times, as long as they are happy.   Or if they go to university or empty bins.  I don’t care.

And what is important is that my three know that.  They know Mr B and I are not insisting they go to university “just because you must, you have had a good education”.    We are not insisting they get high flying jobs.    We are bringing them up to know we are here for them, no matter what.

Are these children a failure?  Or is he the failure?  Does he have impossibly high expectations?  I certainly think so.


Christmas Games

Well it wouldn’t be Christmas without some board games, would it?  Part of Christmas law to play games and have a row about somebody cheating or playing by different rules.

I remember as a child we often had Christmas with another family and they introduced us to a game called Pass the Pigs.  A very simple game where you simply throw too small pigs and depending on how they land, you score points.   Think Jacks with legs.

Imagine my joy when I came across Giant Inflatable Pigs this year!

A game so simple but great fun that even Cheeky wanted to play

Not sure how many points that combination gets though

Or if you fancy something a bit more cerebral but just as much fun how about Bananagrams.  Heard of it?  If you haven’t you are in a minority.   It has swept the world because it is so portal and can be played anywhere, literally with the tiles and nothing else.  And games last just minutes.

Going on holiday, shove it in your hand luggage.  To a restaurant?  In your hand bag.  Hell you could even play it on the train.   Literally anywhere.

Mr B and I are huge fans of words games (our first dates were playing Scrabble) and crosswords so love this game:

Play it once and you are instantly addicted.  It is all about anagrams so couldn’t be more simple or suitable for the entire family.

So if you are looking for games to play this year, or presents for hard to buy for friends, I really recommend these two.   And if you are coming anywhere near Barrow Towers in December.   Be prepared to play a quick game or two.

You can buy both these games, and many others, from the Winning Moves website



This is a review post.  For more information please see my disclosure policy.

The Gallery — Eyes

So last week I did a Gallery post of my own since Tara hadn’t set a theme for us to link up to.  I picked “Eyes” as she was off having hers lasered.   A posted a pic of our cute dog Cheeky who has the best puppy dog eyes ever.

Tara this week, unsurprisingly, has gone for Eyes as the theme.   Which leaves me needing a new pic of eyes.


I need a new pic of eyes.

Or i’s


A pile of i’s.   Countdown is a bit of a guilty pleasure on a wet afternoon so having given you a pic of real eyes I thought I would go off on a bit of a tangent.

Conundrum anybody?

Blog Content

This is a bit of an odd post but one I have had in my head that I wanted to share with you.  To explain I guess.

A long time reader left a comment on a post recently about my reviewing an expensive item and that made me stop and think.  Which in turn sparked my wanting to explain how I blog.  And what I blog about.    This is in no way a “dig” at them, they raised some valid points.  Points I didn’t want to address by simply replying to their comment as I wanted others to see it.   If they were thinking it, maybe other people are.

They remarked how they were not sure about reviews as us bloggers are sent things to review.  I get that.   The thinking being that we only say nice things simply because we have been sent them.  Maybe we are not honest.  Maybe we gloss over the flaws and just “blow smoke” because we have been sent the item for free.

I can assure you there are many threads on various blogging forums that start “How can I say I hated it”.    If I get something to review that I absolutely flatly detest I go back to the company and tell them I am going to be brutally honest and that I can’t find one redeeming feature.   If they say, please don’t review it, then I won’t.   Maybe that is wrong, maybe I should say I hate it.  But at the end of the day many of these companies are giving away products because they want a link to their website (this is a whole different blog post but in a nutshell) because it can boost their ranking in Google results.   It doesn’t matter that the link is within a damning review.   They still get bumped up the rankings.    I don’t want to give them the satisfaction if I hate their product.  So I don’t write it.

Though sometimes I have been brutally honest, look at the Foxtrot Oscar post.   That was a very frank review.

Sometimes bloggers are paid money to talk about something, again in exchange for that link being in a blog post.   Not sent a product but sent cold hard cash.  And that cash can be very attractive in some cases, in others not so much.   Offers start around £20 and whilst that can be attractive for simply writing one blog post it would mean that my blog is simply full of “paid for” advertising.   I turn down more of these offers than I accept.   Not because I think I am worth it but because I don’t want you to read it.

If I have accepted it then it is because it is something I think you might be interested in, or is something I can write around with humour.

I didn’t start this blog as a way to make money or to review things.   I started it because I had things in my head I wanted to get out.  I have an opinion on lots of things and since I don’t go out to work I can’t debate them over lunch.   I can’t stand in the office and share what happened at the weekend or the mad thing that one of the children came out with.    The opportunity to do that comes from this.  My blog.

It might not seem like it but I do think long and hard before I hit the publish button.  Is this funny?  Is this just yet another angry ranty post?  Is this another review?  is this about a TV programme I know nobody watches?    I do try to balance what I blog about on a weekly basis.   The Gallery post on  a Wednesday for instance, I try to not make it “just a picture” to go with the theme.  I try to write a story around it.   Silent Sunday I always try and pick a picture I think you will all like.   Ranty Friday I have tried to keep light hearted so it is not just me raging and might something that makes people smile, or nod, or comment to say they disagree.

I started my book club to try and get people talking.   And reading books they might not have otherwise picked up.   Trying to keep the content varied on my blog.

Both the book club and the ranty Friday posts are my trying to foster a community spirit, trying to get people to link up.  So that you might see a blog you haven’t seen before.  Driving more traffic to other blogs.  Reading other opinions.

At the end of the day having a blog costs money.   We have to pay to host it and to attend blogging events (travel is rarely included) so making money so our blogs pay for themselves is vital.    And also giving something back to my family is vital because they do see me hunched over a laptop writing blog posts or disappearing off for a day to an event.

If that means they get to share the chocolates, watch the DVD, get an overnight stay in a hotel, or a pair of slippers as a birthday present, then I will put my hand up when I see a PR email and say “who wants to do this”.

Hopefully the resulting blog post does come across in such a way as it doesn’t just read as “I got these / did this.  I like it.  You should buy it”.    Believe me that would be the easiest blog review to write and would take me minutes.   I spend a long time writing reviews and trying to make them a fun post to read.  And doing my own photographs for the majority of them.   Even if not all readers will want to buy the product somebody might.  Or maybe it is something that my children would never have normally got.  Like Ugg slippers that cost £100.  I make no apology for accepting that product and reviewing it on my blog.  I accept that it is out of the price range of most people, myself included, but I know that some people have gone on to buy them off the back of that review.

Whilst still trying to add a liberal dose of Barrow Towers to the blog mix.   I have twenty five blog posts all in draft at the moment, some review, some a throw away line that somebody has said that made me think “ooh I want to talk about that”.   Some might just be a headline, some are almost finished.   They all sit there and I tinker and then hit publish as and when.   Paying a lot of attention to what the post the day before might have been.  Trying to make sure there aren’t two reviews in a week, that there are more tales from Barrow Towers.

As I said at the beginning, this is by no means a dig or a rant.   The points that reader raised are valid and no doubt others of you are thinking the same.   So I just wanted to explain a little bit

Normal nonsense will resume tomorrow.

Advent calendars

Do you remember the time when they were a simple cardboard affair with 24 small windows?

That you opened from 1st December until Christmas Eve?

With pictures depicting various seasonal items?  A robin perhaps?  Or a snow man? or the little baby Jesus lying in his manger?

They cost a few Pounds and if you were lucky they would have little glitter on them.

Then a few years ago, for reasons best known to merchandisers we got chocolate advent calendars.   With Justin Beiber on the outside.  Or the Telly Tubbies.  Or High School Musical.

What they had to do with Christmas is anyone’s guess.

And then we got some that carried on until New Year’s eve.   Why?  I have no idea.  It is not an advent calendar anymore.

And now ladies and gentlemen.  This year.  I give you this:

This is a wooden advent calendar to which you may add your own items behind each window.

It retails for £95 from Fortnum and Mason:  Advent Calendars



Just why.

At least this one is only £80 and comes with gin:


What does that say about Christmas?