Spamalot! – Top spam from my blog

Spam

It’s been a little while since I logged into my WordPress dashboard – holidays, family, work have all got in the way of writing random posts for this blog. One of the first things I always do is check the spam folder, just incase someone nice has written a genuine comment on one of my blog posts (I know, stranger things have happened!).

Today I was overwhelmed with the tremendous response my blog has had from all sorts of random people around the world who were motivated to leave me a lovely comment. I received some lovely comments about weight loss, search engine optimisation and other random comments that have nothing at all to do with the post they were submitted against. Here are a few of my faves from today’s haul of Spamalot!

Spam
Sorry my blog ate your comment
Spam
How do you get stuckness?
Spam
Yes, dieting is a nasty word in the world of… dieting
Spam
Some great points about blogging in my post about shiny nails
Spam
Weight loss is so confusing that I had to write a ranty post about yarn bombing.
Spam
It appears that Easter Egg hunts are much more popular than even I thought. Stay up this great work!
Spam
Ooff!
Spam
The experts need to know about my carrier bag obsession!

Thankfully WordPress has a handy feature called Akismet that keeps comments in a queue rather than auto publishing them, so I can stop this nonsense from appearing on my blog. There’s plenty more Spam waiting in my dashboard for the next edition of Spamalot!

 

Image: freezelight on Flikr

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What is your hidden vegetable masterpiece?

The Art of Hiding Vegetables

I was chuckling to myself today as I blended up some celery to hide in the chilli I was making, that hiding vegetables is a becoming an art form. It’s the most cunning way to get fussy eaters to get their 5-a-day without the tantrums. Parents up and down the country are chopping, slicing, dicing and blending to disguise healthy ingredients in children’s dinners. The hidden vegetable secret is shared in whispers at the school gate lest the kids cotton on.

I’m sure the Earth Mother fraternity will have something to say about this. It is perhaps not ethical to trick your children into eating things that they don’t know about, or want to eat? Is it an infringement on their human rights to tell then that a bit of swede is a carrot, just to get them to eat it? Perhaps so, but for me, and lots of others, hiding healthy stuff in our kids’ dinners is a way to ensure that your child is eating well, and lets you feel like you are being a good parent.

I have overstepped the mark a few times when the offending vegetable ingredient wasn’t chopped small enough to disappear from sight, or had a distinctive taste that I couldn’t mask with the sauce. Fennel, for instance is not going to be able to don any sort of disguise and get away with it. Over the years my son has finely honed his radar for things he doesn’t like, and can now identify a hidden mushroom from the other side of the kitchen, no matter how small it is.

Aubergine or Eggplant?
Aubergine… mysterious Mediterranean ingredient to some… alien eggplant to others.

Yet, I can still get away with hiding vegetables so long as I act smart and know my limitations. Onions, celery, anything that can pass for carrot, cauliflower, courgette and so on are all staples in my book. Chopped to oblivion in the food processor I challenge anyone to pick them out of a shepherd’s pie.

My finest moment in the Hidden Veg Oscars was when I added Aubergine to a lasagne.  Despite its distinctive dark colour it got with the joke and snuck into the shadows of the lasagne, never to be found by the hungry children. I could barely contain my glee, sitting eating my veg-packed layered baked dish with the rest of the family, knowing what only I knew… ha ha ha.

So, what is your finest moment in vegetable hide and seek? Broccoli anyone?

Yarn Bombing – am I missing something?

Wool for yarn bombing

Yarn bombing – I just don’t get it.

I like a bit of crochet or knitting as much as the next person (maybe more than the average person), and I’ve been known to knock up some pretty nifty creations with a bit of wool – but to me Yarn Bombing is bringing the craft into disrepute.

Who wants to see trees, benches and bridges covered in knitted stockings? It’s unnatural and spoils the beauty all around us. If trees were meant to wear leg warmers then people would have been doing it for generations. If benches were meant to come wrapped in wool then they’d also come with blankets and cushions. Granted, some colourful rib might brighten up a drab corner for a day or so, but as soon as it rains (and rain it surely will) we’re left with soggy knitting draped randomly here and there. Not nice.

Yarn bombed tree
A tree wearing leg warmers (Image: Wirral Globe)

Once Yarn Bombing has been imposed who will be brave enough to remove it without being branded a killjoy? There’s no way I’m going near it without several layers of Marigolds on. Just imagine the creepy crawlies and germs that move in to the woollen haven. Yuk!

Our local celebrity the Beeman of Beeston was Yarn Bombed recently – and does he look happy about it? No he does not.

the beeman
The Beeman “Get these bloody things off me!”

The only Yarn Bombing I’ve ever appreciated was a tree in the grounds of Nottingham Trent University which was adorned with tiny woollen decorations hanging from the branches. Yes, I can appreciate the artistry of that, and it looked amazing. But like many art installations it was intended as a temporary spectacle and was removed after a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately most Yarn Bombing consists of a garish patchwork covering which gives the impression that all knitters and hookers (people who crochet – OK?) lack taste and sensitivity. I like my trees to look like trees, not like extras from ‘Fame’.

So, Yarn Bombers – what do you have to say for yourselves? Perhaps there is some great crafty secret that no-one has told me about yet, which makes Yarn Boming a good thing? If so, just get in touch and let me into the secret. Until then, please cease and desist. Instead why not gift your wooly creations to a living, breathing person? Or even your dog. Actually, on second thoughts please don’t be so cruel to your dog.

Do you have a carrier bag grading system?

Carrier bags

Do you have a carrier bag grading system? I realised that I do when I narrowly stopped my husband from putting muddy boots in my Cath Kidston carrier bag! Horror!

He didn’t quite get what the issue was, but for me that bag is way too good to be used to transport muddy footwear. Never mind the fact that it came with my prized possession (Big dotty Kidston bag), it’s nice and large and substantial. Perfect for re-use.

At the other end of the spectrum are the flimsy bags that you get from supermarkets, which are frankly pretty rubbish at carrying anything of substance, and are not fancy enough to re-use in public. If they manage to escape the carrier bag recycling, then their only purpose is as waste bin liners.

So, this got me thinking – does everyone have a carrier bag grading system either real, or in their minds?

Granted, we have a fairly small collection now given the big re-usable bags that we use when we remember, but the carrier bags still seem to multiply when you’re not looking.

Here’s my starter for ten with examples:

  1. Keep for best (eg Kath Kidston) – Not too shabby and could be taken out to lunch.
  2. OK to be seen in public (eg M&S, Next) – These are OK to be re-used or given to the kids to transport items but you wouldn’t be upset if you never saw them again.
  3. Practical but boring (eg Sports Direct, BHS) – Perfect for storing muddy boots or frankly anything else. Substantial and practical. They won’t disintegrate but you wouldn’t take them anywhere in public.
  4. Fit for the bin (Supermarket bags) – Flimsy irrelevances who generally have holes in them before they have even done their job the first time. Fit for bin liners or carrier bag recycling.
  5. Impossible – any paper bag, or plastic ones where the handles face the wrong way (eg Boots!)

Am I strange to have a carrier bag grading system?!

Bags - they are rubbish
These bags – they are rubbish

Working Parents Unite!

I remember when I first went back to work after having a baby. Most of my colleagues were unmarried, child-free and unable to relate to the difficulties of working parents trying to juggle work with children. “The times they are a changing”, I think as I saw this wonderful poster at a large London agency yesterday.

Parents forum poster
Parents unite to support each other

It’s great that an employer recognises that there are particular challenges to balancing family and work, which can be solved with the right level of support and understanding. At the same time acknowledging that parents are valued employees who haven’t suddenly gone to seed, just because they arrive at work with yoghurt smeared across their shoulder.

Snot and Weetabix

It seems like a long time ago for us now, but I remember those trying years like they were yesterday! Trying to function in meetings on little sleep, the coughs and colds and sudden temperatures that necessitate a day off at short notice, trying to keep your work clothes free of snot and Weetabix every morning, and the urgent phone calls from nursery or school because little one has bumped their head. Not forgetting the need to leave on the dot to get home before chucking out time, and arriving at nursery to find that your little darling has a bump note, not eaten at all or has bitten 5 children during the course of the day (true story!).

Bad makeup
Not a good idea to put your makeup on whilst half asleep

At work there were raised eyebrows because of repeated days off ill or to look after a sick child, lack of understanding about arrival and departure time, and social invitations dried up because they assumed you had no life outside of Pampers-land.

Work life balance

Not all employers are the same, and I was lucky enough to have a more understanding employer and boss when number 2 child arrived. For my part I always tried to give my team the understanding and flexibility they needed to care for family (whether children or older relatives) and accommodate part-time working or job-shares as well as supporting people through those blips that happen as part of our lives. I believe that with the right support employees will repay that understanding many times over. And importantly, dads are parents too – not just mums.

I like to hope that employers and colleagues are more aware of the challenges of balancing professional and home life now, which is why I was so chuffed to see this Parents Forum poster yesterday. Power to the parents!