Maidenhead MUm

Monday, 24 February 2014

Winter warnings- don’t get into deep water!

I'm known for doing a good strong power march around town – I walk everywhere that I can. Or at least I have done for the last few years. Living in London and then in New York there was no need to drive anywhere. And even moving to Maidenhead I chose to live within walking distance of work and the train station. Every morning I walk to Nursery and then walk to work- that’s a 40 minute power march. Who needs the gym?!

I spent 6 months in NYC- good times!

No need for a car in Camden

So for the last few years, when it came to preparing for Winter I rationalized that for me, investing in good shoes and a good coat was the same as other people getting their car serviced or buying new tyres. (Or at least that was my way of justifying the money spent on a pair of Dr Marten Boots and a proper winter windproof/rainproof/breathable jacket!) Plus, I still love my Docs. Random people stop and talk to me and tell me little stories from their youth when they wore docs!

Posh winter coat... expensive but worth it a million times over!
This year though, it’s been a little different.

In April last year I finally passed my driving test. Yep. Not content with having a baby and buying our first house within the same 12 month period, I also added in passing my driving test. In the space of a month! There were moments when I thought I’d lost the plot: revising for the theory test was a struggle – it had been ages since I’d had to actually learn new data and it felt like there was limited space available for facts and figures when I was a full time stay at home mum. That’s not to discredit stay at home mums in any way, just that I found there’s only so many things I could personally focus on in one day. Looking after baby and me being number one….Getting enough sleep at number two…. Learning the Highway code…. A little further down the list!

Passed first time. Amazing feeling of relief!
But I did it, and passed first time. Which was a huge relief because secretly I’m a bit competitive, mostly with myself, and I like to take pride in doing things well. Or that’s my version of the story. Perhaps it’s better explained by the fact that my other half refuses to play Words with Friends with me. Or any board games come to think about it!

This year though I’ve realized that I need to think a little differently. The posh practical jacket and Doc boots have still been used in abundance, as have the new yellow wellies that I had for Christmas. This year though, its not just about me and my battle with the elements, its about me, the car and the little one. Crikey. Responsibility.

So I thought I should do a bit of homework about driving in Winter. Admittedly we've made it to February without any snow, but this is England, it can snow in April! But the biblical rain and rising water levels in and around Maidenhead over the last few weeks prompted me to go online and read about what I should do if I find myself in deep water. According to the AA there are currently 16 severe and 128 standard flood warnings across the UK! 

Photo from Maidenhead Advertiser 

Here's the tips from the AA on driving through flooded roads. I admit, I wasn't really aware of how dangerous driving through floodwater can be:

Wow, that’s pretty serious stuff.

It’s divided the office at work with some people willing to take the risk and drive on through closed roads and others preferring to work from home. Reading through their facts and figures has definitely made me think twice about driving across flooded roads.

Even if you’ve been driving for years, its unlikely that you’ll have seen this much flooding- it’s been years since the water levels have been this high in and around Maidenhead.

The AA even have their own emergency response team that are sent out to deal with bouts of really bad weather, like the ‘storm chasers’ you see in America following hurricanes. You can even follow their ‘Special Operations Response Team’ on Twitter 

Photo from the AA
At the point that you or I would rather retire on the sofa with a cuppa or glass of wine, it’s someone’s job to get out there and deal with the weather head on. That would definitely earn them the title of a ‘Very Nice Man’ (a very, very nice man) in my book. Or am I just showing my age with the reference to a classic TV AD?! 

Click here to watch it  (an oldie but a goodie!)

This was a paid blog post for the AA. As with everything I write on the blog, my opinions are my own and not affected by any gifts or payment that I receive to write the post.

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to read my blog on a regular basis, you can follow me on Twittervisit my website or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to get my posts sent to you by email.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Mess is Good. The learning curve of a new mum

I've had a few friends give birth recently and its funny to look back and think of the massive learning curve that you face with a newborn. Alongside all of the conventional parenting things that you have to learn, you also realise that you have to accept that mess is good. My inner self twitches as I watch the little one splash water everywhere and drop food down herself, but its all part of her learning curve and its fun.

You get to face these inner dilemmas most when you wean them. Some mums are really excited to wean their babies and get them onto solid food. I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant to make changes - we had a  pretty nifty routine going thanks to Jo Tantum's book, Baby Secrets. We had nap times, feed times and play times, why would I want to change that?! But eventually I braved opening the Annabel Karmel books and we gave solid food a go. 

Like a rite of passage for all new mums... Pureed Butternut Squash.
The first thing that struck me was how orange most baby food is. And that it stained everything, even the plastic spoons! I remember asking my friends on Facebook how to get the stains outs of the clothes. (In my secret group on Facebook mind, not on my profile page, I didn't want people to take the mickey for me being toooo mumsy!)

I had various suggestions:

"Remove clothes from baby before feeding"

"Lower your expectations about having super clean clothes"

"Dress her in Orange clothes" (this one being my favourite!)

A rare example of non-orange baby food.

So when I was contacted by a marketing company asking if I would like to try out some Vanish for the blog, I agreed. Now that she's older, there's a whole host of mysterious stains that appear on her clothes, or get sent home from nursery in little bags so there would be plenty of uses for something good at stain removal.

The mysterious packages from nursery. I dread opening them...!

Feeling a bit like one of the ladies from an advert on TV, I gave Vanish a go on some of the little one's clothes. You wonder if they just tell them to wear their food when they're at nursery. This was the sight that greeted me when I took her clothes off.

I had success getting the food stains out. Emboldened by this I thought I'd give it a try on some really stubborn stains, although I think I was a little bit too optimistic and a little bit too late as they'd been on the the item in questions for a few months....! Here's what happened when we did some 'painting' at my friends house a while ago - thats quite a stain removal challenge.

White top no longer *quite* as white!
But we learned our lesson the next time we gave 'painting' a go- just take the clothes off her. (and remember to have the bath ready and waiting!)

Sadly Vanish didn't quite work on the paint stained top - although I think that the 'washable' paints were perhaps not really that washable at all. Happy to confirm that it worked on the other stuff, including a mysterious red wine stain on my top.... Its not like me to waste wine!

What about you? Have you found any magic tricks for keeping things clean? Do you start to twitch when things get a bit messy too?! Feel free to leave me a comment below.

This was a sponsored blog post. As mentioned above, Vanish sent me some products for me to review for my blog. As with everything I write on the blog, my opinions are my own. You can find out more about stain removal on their website. 

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to read my blog on a regular basis, you can follow me on Twittervisit my website or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to get my posts sent to you by email.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Encouraging the Bookworm Bug - joining the library.

Something I've been meaning to do for ages is to join the library with the little one.

I grew up with such a passion for books. I collected Enid Blyton books and at one point had hundreds of them. Scrumptious, Tally Ho and lashings and lashings of Ginger Beer indeed. Holidays abroad you'd find me sat underneath a towel reading away, hiding from the sun. And on the run up to the holiday I'd get a trip to the bookshops to buy some books which my parents would then hide so I didn't sneak and read them early! I even had books for Easter instead of chocolate Easter Eggs. Such a little bookworm!

See, such a little geek! Thats me, many years ago.
Although I accept that she might not want to be as geeky as me when she's older, I've always been keen for Anya to be surrounded by books too. For her first birthday we bought her a bookcase for her bedroom, which has continued to be so useful for her as she gets older and manages to reach the higher shelves too. (I wrote a post about it which you can read here.) I also want to make sure that despite the fact she's already a whizz on the iPad, that she likes the feel of real books and enjoys turning the pages. It's not all about the swipe and the home button. 

The continuously growing book collection

She also loves reading on the iPad.

I confess, normally by Saturday morning I'm a little bit worn out. I work three days in the office and then I'm 'off' two days at home. Which if you're a mum yourself you'll know that it's not really a case of being 'off' at all. There's no Grazia Magazine or feet up on the sofa moments. Cups of tea quite often get made and then forgotten. It's more accurate to say it's my other 'day job' but with much less of a commute and a few more giggles and cuddles thrown in! So after three days at work and two days 'on' as a stay at home Mum, by Saturday I'm ready to spend time with my other half and the little one together. Or for him to spend time with her so I can sneak a whole 20 minutes to myself to have a long shower and get dressed in peace! Such treats. Easily pleased these days!

Last week though, I was determined to give the library a try, so we were out of the house at 9.45! ON A SATURDAY. 

We were going to register at the library and I'd been told that they also had story time sessions at 10.30 so I was keen to give that a go too. There are so many activities during the week that we miss out on because I'm at work Monday to Wednesday so I wanted to see what it was like. Armed with passports, house bills and her little red book we set off - let the admin battles and form-filling commence!

Although I've lived in Maidenhead for nearly two years, I'd never actually been into the library - how naughty of me! But these days I read everything on the Kindle app so I haven't really had much call for it. I was relieved to find that its a modern building and is easy to get into with a pushchair - always a positive.

I sat down with a lovely librarian ready to sign up and we went through my details. She was really friendly and polite: 
"I'm ever so sorry, but I do need to ask you your date of birth". Aw, asking politely is the nicest way around that one for sure. 
I was also pleased to find I'd bought the right I.D. Phew. (Didn't need the passports or red book, better to be safe than sorry when it comes to admin though!)  

But then she did throw me a little when we were doing the little one's details. She asked for Anya's date of birth first and then said: 
'and Anya is A....' 
To which I hastily replied "A GIRL!" and wondered how much more obvious I had to make it (she was wearing pink, had her hair in a pony tail... )
But the Lady replied, 
'No, I meant how do you spell it : A... N...."
(Sometimes I feel like my life is actually secretly being filmed like a 'Miranda' Sitcom. This would have been a definite 'look to camera' moment!)

Hopefully wearing enough pink to be a girl. 

So trying not to chuckle we carried on. I then spotted my friend walking in with her little one and shouted out across the library to her. Then immediately remembered it's meant to be a quiet place! Whoops! A bit out of touch with this library thing!

The sign-up process took less than ten minutes so we headed over to the kids section which looks really welcoming and is well looked after. There's a big wooden train for the kids to sit in which a bit of star attraction - they were forming an orderly queue at one point. And then at 10.30 the story telling began.

Check out the funky library cards!

It was just like real life Jackanory (showing my age here... should probably say 'CBeebies Bedtime Story'). The storytellers were excellent - you could tell they would be equally at home on a real stage with a grown up audience and they really bought the books to life for the children. Considering the ages of the kids ranged from 14 months to 5 years old, that's a pretty impressive feat. 

A mixed audience, but everyone was engaged.

They were both very passionate and when they started to sing they even got their little audience up on their feet and jumping around. (Best Jumps Ever! Until you've seen first hand you won't know what I'm on about, but just trust me on this one - it will make you smile!) (Or, in my case, make me smile, and then as I shot a sideways glance to my friend I could see that she was starting to giggle too!) There's something about giggling in places where you're meant to be quiet. (I used to get the giggles during prayers at Brownies. Naughty me!) Glad to see this still happens now that I'm a grown-up too.

Because the Stories and Songs session is run by the RBWM (for those not local to Maidenhead thats the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead), there's no admission charge for it. Considering that most organised activities with children cost £5 for 45 minutes, I thought this was great way to while away time on a Saturday morning, especially when its cold and wet outside. It's something I plan to do regularly. It was a hit with the little one too. She could have spent hours in there I think!

Choosing books is serious business

Even book for older kids are interesting
Apparently this was the chosen one? Not what I was expecting!

If you'd like to go along to a Story & Song session at the library, here are the details:

The session runs once a month in Maidenhead and are set for the following dates:
1st March, 29th March. You can find out more here
To join the librray you need proof of residence (household bill etc)

What about you? Does your library have a local session or do you have any tips for things to do at the weekend? Or would you like to confess to giggling when you shouldn't...?! You're welcome to leave me a comment.

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to read my blog on a regular basis, you can follow me on Twittervisit my website or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to get my posts sent to you by email.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Papercup Kitchen launch event

One of the things I’ve come to really like about living in Maidenhead is that its relatively small…. And that once you get to know a few people, you start to find that you actually know a lot more.

Dropping off the little one at nursery I’ve recently bumped into Jo Randell who has taken the plunge and set up her own business, Perfect Friday Wine. Through her Facebook page I got to hear about a launch event at Norden Farm on the 30th January for a company called The Papercup Kitchen, set up by Nelmarie Rennison.

Sign at the door- Yep, this is my kind of event!

I have to admit I was a little bit unsure about what to expect for the evening. I knew there would be wine and cake, so there were two very positive things straight away, (I’m easily bought!) but I also knew that there would be some other local businesses. Its always good to meet new people in Maidenhead and get ideas for the blog so I was keen to drop by. I went along with a friend of mine who has also recently set up her own business as a virtual personal assistant - Millie, from Miracle Millie. (If you ever need anyone to wave a magic wand and sort out your admin/ travel/ event organisation or just to help get your diary organised, she’s the lady to call)

We got there a little bit too early and opted to have a quick drink before we went into the event and started to meet people. It’s a funny thing networking- we all know we need to do it, and we all enjoy talking to people, but sometimes those first few moments can be a real challenge!

But we needn’t have worried. We were welcomed in with a glass of bubbles and then signed up for a wine tasting session with Jo from Perfect Friday Wine. Jo sources wine from UK and French suppliers and only sells wines that she would actually drink herself so it was great to hear her knowledge first hand (and try the wines!)

Wine tasting with Jo.

Jo Randell from Perfect Friday Wines

Walking round the room it was a real eye opener to see how many other small businesses and ‘mumpreneurs’ there are locally. Quite a few had similar stories- it seems that having children can be the driving force for change and many of us get inspired to follow our passions and turn them into a business. Having a little one myself, and trying to balance being a mum, a blogger, a photographer, oh and a Marketing Manager, I know how hard that can be! I have enormous respect for these ladies that have managed to juggle their work and home life and create a business.

Just a small selection of some of the companies that were there.

Lovely designed cards by Kate Kingham (

And I couldn't resist these great cards from Sally's handmade cards and gifts

Nelmarie herself was in popular demand all night, as were her cakes (!) which were a bit of a show stopper in the middle of the room. With over 8,000 followers on Facebook, Nel has already created a bit of stir over the last few years with her range of homemade cakes and wedding cakes, but the evening was her first official ‘launch event’. Plus she was also keen to give people the chance to network at an evening event as opposed to during the day when we have our little ones in tow.

Nelmarie from The Papercup Kitchen.
Gorgeous mini cupcakes. 
The carrot cake was very popular!
And pink shoes! This is my kinda lady!

A really enjoyable evening- great to meet some other Maidenhead mums and creative people and to see the hard work and passion they put into their businesses. Top marks to Nel for not only baking great cakes, but for having the drive to organise the whole event. I hope she had a well deserved rest and large glass of vino at the end of the night! You can see more of Nelmarie's lovely cake creations on Facebook and on her website

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to read my blog on a regular basis, you can follow me on Twittervisit my website or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to get my posts sent to you by email.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Lessons in being a grown up: Oven Cleaning - is it worth it?

This is how I generally feel about housework....
Every now and then something happens that makes you question whether you’re actually a grown up or not. For me, this question is usually prompted by housework, or when I have to spend money on things I consider to be incredibly boring: curtains, sensible knitwear, replacement garage doors. Yawn.

Over Christmas I spotted a post in the Maidenhead Gossip Girls group on Facebook (which, by the way, is life changing in itself – you’ll wonder how you ever got anything done in Maidenhead before you were a member). For those not in the loop, this group is a forum where other mums and ladies  (who live locally) share ideas and recommendations for local businesses and various other things. Need to find someone to fix your fence/ sort you some contact lenses or design you an engagement ring…. ? Ping, you’ll have suggestions flying back in minutes. (Click here to join the group!) A warning though- its highly addictive! 

Anyway, whilst having my daily mooch in the group I saw a post for oven cleaning from F T Fosters in Binfield and a promise of a discount if you mentioned the Maidenhead Gossip Girls group. Normally this sort of thing would be buried in the ‘things I’ll do when I’m a proper mum and grown up file’, but seeing as I spent Christmas Eve trying to cook burgers from the hallway with my eyes streaming as it was too smoky to get any closer to our grill, I thought that perhaps I should at least enquire. I should also add I’ve only lived in the house for year, but we’ve realized that the previous owners didn’t really like cleaning… anything…. And that includes the oven, so it had a fair old build up of grease, it’s not just that I burn things all the time when I cook. (Honest!)

So I sent off a description of my oven and within 24 hours I had a response- they’d be happy to help and it would be £45 for the double oven. Hmmm. This was now definitely pushing the boundary into a ‘boring/ grown up thing to pay for’. So I didn’t reply and pondered on whether the return on investment in terms of joy and satisfaction would be worth £45. My thought process was along the lines of

I just don’t think I’m the type of girl that would spend £45 on a clean oven. That’s a pair of shoes.’


‘I know I’m a mum, but I used to go clubbing and dance all night. Is this the level of my life has been reduced to? Clean Oven joy?! I can't put that on Facebook- people will take the mick!’

Plus, I have to admit there was also the guilt that if I just got motivated and put in a few hours myself with a bit of elbow grease and some heavy duty Mr Muscle Oven cleaning thingies, (technical term) then surely that would be the same thing.

So when Aimee rang me to see if I’d received their email I was caught on the hop a bit and I did blurt out that I just didn’t know if I wanted to spend that much money on a clean oven. But she was very friendly and we got chatting and we agreed that they would come and clean the oven at a discounted rate for me in return for me sharing my experiences with other mums in Maidenhead on my blog.

So here’s what happened next…

I booked for them to come over on a Thursday when I’m at home with the little one - which raised my first question- what about the chemicals and the smell? My experience with the shop bought ones (or being more honest, when my mum used the shop bought ones) is that they really catch your throat and I didn’t want the little one around if that was the case. She assured me that it would be fine, it would take a few hours and that I could leave her husband to it and nip out if I wanted. Perfect.

On the day Frank arrived nice and punctual at 9.45 with his blue van, slightly reminiscent of the A-team. I’d rescued the chargrilled grill pan which I’d stashed in the garage after the smokin’ Christmas Eve event (ever the domestic goddess!) and had put it back in the oven ready to be cleaned. He explained that he would set the van up and then he would remove anything that could be removed from the oven (including the doors!) and they would be dipped in the baths in the van.  He’d then use a combination of cleaning products, elbow grease and razor blades to clean the inside of the ovens. Flippin Eck. Razor Blades?! I was intrigued as to how that would work! Again, he assured me their stuff was non-caustic which was good to hear first hand.

Here’s how it looked when Frank arrived:

Not so bad on the outside....
But both ovens were pretty grimy on the inside

He gave the oven a check over and noted anything that was damaged or missing on a form for me, but that was all he needed from me so I left him to it. (As much as I could – both myself and the little one were fascinated with his box of cleaning stuff and van full of tricks!). Even the postman came and stuck his head round the door and asked for Frank’s details as he wanted to get his own oven cleaned!

Van full of tricks

He put stuff down to stop the floor getting muddy. Nice touch.

Kitchen take over... But he let me nip in whenever I needed tea/ biscuits!

Someone was just as curious as me!
Frank's bag of tricks. Its Magic.

Postman asking for Frank's details!

So for the next 4 and a bit hours Frank grafted away. There was a great moment when he went out to the van and clouds of steam billowed out of the van- I had to take a photo to send to my other half. This was proper geeky/ hi-tech cleaning - science stuff. MAN STUFF! (Bet Frank eats Yorkies)

I also started to feel a bit embarrassed that it was taking so long and that this reflected badly on me for having the worst oven in Maidenhead, but Frank assured me that he’d seen much worse. (Frank- even if this isn’t true, thanks for saying it).

So, the moment of truth, what did it look like after?


It wasn’t just a clean oven, it was a ‘fully-restored-to-showroom-finish’ oven! I had no idea that our oven was actually matt grey on the inside- I’d only ever really seen it as being black and grimy. I’m not overhyping it for the purpose of the blogpost. It really was amazing. And I was amazed that I was actually chuffed to bits about it. Turns out its actually a pretty satisfying thing to get done.

And then like a true saddo/ maddo I proceeded to share this joy with anyone that came to my house that day and that week – ‘LOOKATMYOVENITSACTUALLYGREY!’  I HAD NO IDEA!

Shiny on the outside....

Flippin eck! Lovely shade of sparkly grey!
Absolutely spotless and sparkling. Terrified to cook in it now!
So I guess the moral of this story is that actually, what FTP are able to do is not just oven cleaning. Its more like oven restoring. If they’d asked me if I’d like a brand new oven for £45, I’d have jumped at the chance, even though I probably wouldn’t have really believed that it was possible. Its definitely worth the investment, especially if you’re moving to a new house and inheriting someone else’s oven- you’ll feel like you had a fresh start.

Notes on this post- As mentioned, I had the oven cleaned for a discounted rate, but I'm always honest about the things I try out for the blog. It was genuinely a great thing to have done and I wouldn't hesitate to pay the full price if I ever need it again in the future. If you want to find out more you can visit their website

If you've enjoyed reading this post and want to stay updated you can follow me on Twittervisit my website or you can use the boxes on the right hand side (on desktop) or at the bottom of the screen (mobile) to get my posts sent to you by email.