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30th Jun 2009

Mud and Stuff...

Jane: There’s something incredibly glamorous about face packs. I can hardly believe I’ve just written that sentence (apologies to women everywhere) but it’s true: in glossy magazines, you’ll always find a gorgeous gal with a gloopy green mud face pack and cucumber slices over her eyes, looking trendy but tranquil, really chilling out. I remember as a teenager thinking that this (the mud pack) was the height of sophistication, so I wasn’t surprised when the girls started badgering me to try some out some for themselves. 

Boots failed on the trendy face pack front so I went to Superdrug, where they have loads in little sachets with pictures of funky Honolulu-inspired girls with exotic flowers over their eyes. I bought a handful of them: peaches, lime, lemon, raspberry, blue ice, smoothies – apart from the mud, it sounded better than lunch. 

The girls got to work, squeezing out the sachets and applying the coloured gloop to their faces. 

Immediately things started to go wrong. The stuff was too itchy, they couldn’t move their faces, they wanted to scratch, it was in their hair, their skin had gone all tight. 

They lay down for the picture in a row the garden. Not a good idea (‘Mum, there’s an insect on my legs, get it off…’, ‘This grass is too itchy’ etc). I applied the cucumber, petals and flowers over their eyes, hoping to soothe them, but they started writhing around as if in enormous pain. Pollen was in their eyes, they wanted to see, it’s too itchy, it’s horrible…  

So they got up, removed the eye whatnots, and went in to play Sims3 with their face packs still on. We forgot about them until about an hour later, when Edie came in with her face so stiff it resembled dried plaster of paris. It took ten minutes in the shower to get it all off.

So, did they like their face packs, I asked? No, they were horrible, they replied in unison (for the reasons outlined above). But afterwards, kissing them goodnight in bed, I said how wonderful their skin smelled, all fruity and clean, and they agreed. The glamour, you see, somehow lives on. 

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22nd Jun 2009

Whiffy Books

Jane: We’ve been buying a lot of old books recently, attracted by their funky covers and wacky titles, and by offbeat editions of old classics (new ones can look very dull by comparison). The books are beautiful but sometimes smell a bit musty and I was worried it would put the children off reading them. So I did a bit of research into de-pongifying them and found that bicarbonate of soda does the trick. 

It’s easy-peasy. All you need an airtight container large enough for your book to have at least five centimetres space all around it, a raised tray (or see below) and some bicarb. Liberally sprinkle the bicarb into the bottom of the container (I used one of my plastic cake boxes) to a depth of one centimetre. Then you need a cooling rack or something raised and perforated to place the book on, so it doesn’t touch the bicarb and air can circulate around. Don’t buy something special – I used cookie cutters, and they worked fine.

Rest the book on the rack or cutters, close the lid tightly, making sure it is airtight, and leave. The bicarb will absorb most of the nasty smells within a few days, but particularly pongy books might need longer. (You can reuse the bicarb – just put another stinky book in the box.)

Funny though – when I handed the children the cleaned-up books and explained what I’d done, they said, ‘But mum, we really liked that musty old smell…’

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12th Jun 2009

A Stone's Throw Away

Tamsin: We have been devouring large quantities of deliciously sweet cherries this week, which has meant we've been displaying some very bad table manners as well. We discovered this 'bad-mannered' after-dinner pursuit several years ago while picnicking beside a bubbling stream in

Dartmoor. This is not a game to bring out when you have guests, as it does have its disgusting side – spitting.

 The aim is to see who can spit the cherry stone the furthest. (I should also mention that we have been eating our meals outside over the last few days!) I perfected a technique this week which meant my stone shot past my son's for the first time since the game was invented – a small victory but one which I relish since he has grown so much taller than me.

The technique? I am going to guard it as a well-kept secret so I can savour the glory of my win for a little while longer yet...

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4th Jun 2009

Clouds and Contraband

Tamsin: Once a year I take my family on a so-called ‘walking holiday’. We usually go somewhere mountainous, staying in a remote house and with suitcases packed with waterproof gaiters. I love this one week in the year when it is just us, walking, talking and connecting again. My son now enjoys the adventure while my daughter has a healthy ‘well if I have to’ attitude to the whole expedition, just as I did when I was her age and my parents dragged me up mountainsides wearing the most awful unfashionable outfits. It is such a wonderful feeling to stand on top of a mountain, exhausted and exhilarated from the climb – surveying all that you can see. Sometimes the view looked like this ...

...when we were very pleased that we had a compass to help with the navigation down. Sometimes the view looked like this ...

...at which point we could shelter behind the cairn and savour our sandwiches with the satisfied feeling of knowing that the slog was behind us. 

Evenings were spent in front of an open fire, drying off bog-sodden boots, playing games or flopping exhausted in front of a DVD. I was delighted to find in the games drawer of the house one game I had not seen for years – Contraband. I remember spending hours with my sisters sitting cross-legged on the floor, hoping to get the crown jewels and smuggle them through under the diplomatic bag. The main aim is to blag honestly so as to not arouse the suspicions of the customs officer.

Maturity did not seem to add to my skill at the game and all I managed to do on this holiday was giggle every time it was my go to smuggle something through. I was doomed to lose, especially as each time I tried to declare ‘nylon’ stockings, Joe shouted out ‘silk’, which was what was written down in the instructions.  I held my ground as my card clearly stated the artificial kind of stockings. After some investigation we realised that there were two packs of cards, obviously from different eras - we wondered when the change had been made? When did nylons overtake silk?

Oh, and we even spotted the very rare Irish spotted slug.

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