Little Sparkles

I sometimes imagine my Little Sparkles weeks as a title from Friends. This week would be ‘The one with the bugs, bumps and ballet.’ We seem to have fitted a lot into this week, it started with Little Man being poorly with the bug which swept his school, my fall from which I am still hurting, last minute weekend ballet rehearsals and the exam on Wednesday and finishing on Thursday with a wonderful classical music concert for the children. This has definitely been a Mummy week and I appreciate how lucky I am to have such an understanding employer who has allowed me to swap hours to accommodate my needs this week.



Today when they got home from school, Little Miss and Little Man discovered a postcard from Tommy our elf. They were so excited and I loved hearing Little Man asking Little Miss to read it to him and her reading it beautifully aloud. It was a warm, fuzzy moment and I was so pleased I had made the effort to send the postcard.


I love the Blackpool Strictly episode so thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night’s television, the extra dancers and pizazz just make it even more sparkly and fun. My favourites are still in the competition and the programme is my tv highlight each week. Apart from Strictly I haven’t watched much tv this week, in the evenings I’ve been getting organised for Christmas, writing lists, gaining inspiration form the Internet and planning.


On Thursday afternoon, I accompanied Little Man’s class to a classical music concert. It was a delightful experience to introduce children to classical music. Little Miss also went with her class, we waved across the hall! I really like being a Mum helper on these type of trips, it’s why I work part time so I can volunteer some time to help on events such as this. It was a lovely community event with all the schools from our town and surrounding villages attending and some senior members of the community helping too. The children all brought their teddies and got to ‘dance’ with them during the concert, they also got to conduct and jump up and down in certain pieces of music too. I was so impressed by all the children they were really well behaved and all very actively participating in the concert. The orchestra were so friendly and welcoming, for some songs they came among the audience and all were dressed casually to be more approachable. It was such a pleasure to attend and enjoy the beautiful music played at this concert and to see the children’s discovery of classical music, a real musical treat for us all.


I love homemade soup and chunky granary bread, its my ultimate comfort food. Sometimes I will follow a recipe at other times it’s whatever vegetables I have at home chucked into a pot. This week I have made a few soups all of which have been delicious.

In a tenuous link, I have also made progress on my Christmas planning. Living in a small town with lots of independent shops, I have always tried to support my local commerce by shopping locally and I picked up a few things this week. I have also challenged myself not to simply shop locally but to try and buy goods made in the UK. This week I’ve chosen some Caroline Gardner Christmas cards and discovered Poppy Trewenny and their hand stitched goods made in Cornwall. Unfortunately despite my best intentions, there will be plastic imports from China among my shopping as Star Wars figures feature heavily on Christmas lists.


Little Miss wore her hair so beautifully and looked so neat and tidy for her ballet exam on Wednesday, I was so proud of my little dancer.   It was such an organised event and there were hairdressers on hand to put the girls’ hair into buns. I was so relieved, my hair is short so I have no experience in styling. I spent the morning at the base helping Little Miss to get dressed and then I waited whilst she did the exam. It was such a lovely morning, catching up with Mums, encouraging the dancers, congratulating them on their return and just being among the excitement.

I have worn bandages on my right hand this week. My running injury is still pretty ugly and I returned to the hospital today to have it checked and redressed. It is healing but part of the wound is still open. My hand is badly bruised with an odd mix of yellow and green bruising. I need to return again on Wednesday for another check. I am so grateful for our cottage hospital. There was a big campaign to save it a few years ago and I’m so pleased it was successful, it really is so important to our town.


Next week is the first without Mr S who starts his new contract on Monday. It will be tough without my support team but we’ll make new routines and work together as Team Sparkles, wish me luck x


Night Running


This week, I am feeling fragile and that my confidence has been shattered. I am that person always in control, in my element in a crisis, cool, calm, collected. I am the friend who never gets dangerously drunk so I can make sure everyone else stays safe. I am the strong one that no one thinks needs looking after, reliable, dependable until now… On Monday night I did my normal night run, I needed it after a weekend of sickness in our household and a busy work day whizzing around my head, I needed that freedom to run, to run fast and free. Corny as it seems, running is my time, my therapy. I was quickly in the zone and loving every step and then I fell. I have no idea how, but it was a heavy fall on a dark pavement and after the initial shock of the fall I quickly realised I was hurt and bleeding quite a lot. I weighed up my options and realised the simplest was to walk home, by the time I got there, limping and in tears with blood everywhere I was a bit of a wreck. I had two badly scraped knees which were already swelling and tender to touch, my left palm was missing a lot of skin and I had deep cuts on my right hand which were bleeding heavily. I was also pretty nauseous and light headed with shock, I cleaned myself up as best as I could and then quite numb in pain and shock just sat down unable really to think or move. After a difficult night’s sleep when I woke a couple of times in pain, mostly with my knees and right hand I realised that I needed to go to our local cottage hospital for my hand which was still bleeding and heavily swollen. It was glued and stitched back together and is now padded and bandaged whilst it heals. Although the physical injuries have been cleaned and protected until they are healed, I’m not sure that I’m healed, I am so shaken and numb by the fall. This is worrying me as this is not me, I get my knocks, shake myself down and just got on with life, no drama, feeling sorry for myself, but since the fall I have been cautious and hesitant, I’m quieter and feel withdrawn. I have been running for 8 years now and have had 3 falls, a twisted ankle, cut knee and now this, all have taken place on a dark night run, our roads are lit intermittently and the surfaces aren’t always as smooth as they could be.   As important as my running is to me I can’t help but come to the conclusion that it’s time to stop running in the dark and only do daylight runs in winter. It is a difficult decision, my runs will be fewer and less thinking time but I need to look after myself so I can look after my family. Sadly our gym closed in July so I can’t swap for gym sessions on the treadmill, perhaps it’s time to eat healthily in the winter, do a DVD and step up my walking ready for a Spring full of running challenges.

Little Sparkles

There are certain weeks when life just carries on regardless of all the chaos that surronds it, this week has been a week like that. The shock of the Paris terror attacks is still raw and real, whilst in our little household we are preparing for a change in our family life for a few months which will see Mr S working away during the week until Spring. This week has been organising the finer details, itineraries, hotels and travel as well as trying to plan the time to fit in all the family fun and traditions in the run up to Christmas. It’s going to be a challenging few months but hopefully the financial benefits and long term aim of more time together in the Summer will keep us all going, Mr S has promised us the best summer ever and it’s a promise we intend to keep.


Antoine Leiris’ wife was killed in the Paris attacks, this is his incredible response.


Words cannot describe the beauty, dignity and love in this Facebook post, it is the most moving prose I have read in a long time.


Some excellent listens this week, I’ve been at home a lot waiting in for people to call so have managed to catch up on lots of Podcasts. I’ve been enjoying the Woman’s Hour series on appearance, thought provoking and entertaining and loved this week’s Desert Island Discs with Nicola Sturgeon, undoubtedly my woman of the year. It’s rare to find a contemporary political role model so witty, interesting and lively. I liked her music choices too, lots of shared tunes there!

On a slightly different note, I was so impressed with the versions of La Marseillaise I have heard this week. Firstly sung in defiance as Parisiens left the Stade de France after the attacks, not scared silence but strong, proud and bold. Then La Marseillaise was sung at Wembley at the England vs France match to show unity and respect, two very powerful versions of the song.


On Saturday we’ve got into the habit of watching a film after Strictly. I really enjoyed our choice this week with the Steve Jobs film. I know it’s been criticised by his family, yet it it showed a genius and flawed character who was incredibly innovative and creative.

I also watched part of Little Miss’ ballet class but Little Man was not behaving well and sadly I needed to leave before his behaviour affected the students’ concentration. Little Miss and her peers have been working so hard for their ballet exam next week and what I saw was polished and well danced. Personally I’m terrified by the pressure of having her hair neat and tidy in a bun for the exam, I may need to call in a few favours!



Last Friday night, I started to make a list of Christmas things to do and make and we began the list on a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon with button decorations. They were fun to make and a good distraction to the weather. I prefer the tress they were simple and the children could choose the button sizes, Santa was more challenging.



After the wet weather of the past few weeks, the cold has suddenly arrived, so we’ve all been wrapped up in woolly jumpers, thick scarves and bobble hats. I do like a bobble hat and how it can cover a bad hair day, of which I have many!

A Sunday Lunch to Nourish the Body and Soul.

11a7ca6397ee22e83f1963a4e053799bNormally I wouldn’t write up a day out as simple as a morning at soft play and a lunch out but today seems different. In a weekend full of sadness and reflection the simple pleasures have seemed more important and the cosy warmth of a family day out has helped to smoothe some of the hurt and despair I’ve been feeling. Soft play was as good as it could be, its never going to be my favourite activity, a warehouse full of running, hot and sweaty children in a stuffy room but today we went to a different venue, family run and very well organised and planned, which proved to be a much better environment than the very large play area in the town next to us. We chose a soft play a little drive away so we could stop off on the way home for a Sunday lunch in a country pub, far preferable to a pizza in the fast food restaurant at the nearest soft play warehouse.

We were lucky enough to come across an absolute gem of a pub and arriving at 12 on the dot we managed to bag the last table, we didn’t know of its reputation but following our experience it is fully deserved. The country pub was a picture perfect pub, thatched roof, low ceilings, wooden beams on the walls and such a cosiness and welcome as you walked in, you could feel your worries dissipate as you entered. Even better than the environment was the food, we had a Sunday Roast, a nut roast for me but it was stunning, accompanied by homemade Yorkies, crispy roasties and an amazing side plate of vegetables, yellow roasted beetroot (sublime) swede mash, yellow and orange honey roasted carrots, red cabbage and a variety of sprouting broccoli. It was an amazing meal to feed and nourish our bodies and souls and we relaxed into happy chat and just the pure pleasure of being our little family of four. The children were so well behaved and mature, they are growing up into such special little people and make such treats a real delight. The warm atmosphere and feelings seemed to be shared by all in the pub as there was such a relaxed and peaceful ambiance. Today’s lunch was a great family time but also seemed to reflect a certain Britishness and culture, traditions we should nurture and value and always be thankful for.

Paris, Je t’aime

Today has been a day of great sadness and reflection trying to make sense of the tragic events in Paris last night. News was breaking as I went to bed and I listened to the radio until the early hours of the morning, scarcely believing what I was hearing as the evil acts unfolded, I lay in bed feeling a sense of disbelief and anger, strong, pit of my stomach anger. I love Paris and France, I am a French graduate and spent a very happy year working in France in my early twenties. In this year many of my weekends were spent in Paris, travelling through by train and then staying in the cheapest hotel me and my friends could find so we could enjoy the delights of Paris, I have so many happy memories of nights dancing, drinking and having sparkling fun. Such delights and simple pleasures which were attacked last night and in which many innocent people lost their lives on a Friday night out with friends.  It is so sad that the wonderful relaxed evenings spent in bars, philosophising over meals or watching a football match or rock concert could be so cruelly interrupted. These activities are French life and culture at its best, passionate, vibrant and respectful. I particularly liked the cartoon by a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist not asking people to pray for Paris and treat it as a victim but to celebrate French life and values, liberte, egalite and fraternite. For the second time this year my heart has been broken at the events in France but France is strong, fair and determined, such strength and values will always defeat extremism and hatred.

Paris, je t’aime. La France reste forte.

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Little Sparkles

This has been an odd week in the Sparkles family as new opportunities have arisen and we have been carefully thinking about the direction our lives will lead in the coming year. It’s nothing untoward and professionally exciting for both of us but there are the practicalities of family life and our thoughts if we’re ready for the challenges. Fortunately both projects would dove tail each other so there would be someone able to fully focus on our home life, this is essential and non-negotiable. Our family are our lives and I would not be willing to compromise our family life for our professional life, even for financial reward. Everything is also confidential so it’s difficult to bounce ideas off friends and colleagues. Both professionally and socially, I seem to be keeping a lot of secrets and confidences at the moment and I’ve become quite quiet in conversations making sure I don’t say something revealing. It’s not been a very exciting week as I still don’t seem myself, the migraine has worn off but I’m really tired and don’t have my zest for life. This morning, I settled down to watch the Drew Barrymore film ‘Wild’ but was so exhausted I couldn’t focus on it and ended going back to bed at 10.30am, this really isn’t me, I buzz around like a little bee, ticking off my lists. Hopefully all my energy and verve will return next week.



I read the poem Flanders Field by John Mcrae with one of my classes this week. I find this a very powerful poem and the imagery reminds us all to uphold the value for a fair and just world.   As part of the lesson we made 32 poppies for the 32 names on the remembrance board in our school chapel. Whilst we are a special needs school now, our school building is a former boy’s boarding school and their chapel is a beautiful building. We wrote a name on each poppy and I then decorated the board ready for our remembrance assembly, it was simple but very effective and emotional to remember those fallen 32 former pupils.


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On Saturday night, Mr S started to watch the Sky Premiere American Sniper, based on a true story. It was a little violent and loud for me bit I did a quick internet search to discover the story and if it was worth watching to the end (I’m awful for wanting to know what happens.) The ending was unbelievable and I did watch it, an incredible story.


I have very little in this category, no new music on my itunes account, a few Podcasts and no outstanding radio programmes. I listened to the children riding their bikes through puddles and down hills at the country park on Sunday and their laughter filled the air. I suppose most of my listening has been listening to plans and ideas and doing lots of thinking and reflecting.


The photo from the website BBC but ours looked pretty similar and tasted wonderful
The photo from the website BBC but ours looked pretty similar and tasted wonderful

It was a really miserable Saturday morning so Little Miss and I participated in some cooking. We made a delicious Cheese and Potato pie, a Paul Hollywood recipe and a Rachel Allen recipe for Upside Down pudding. The pie was melt in your mouth perfection, although calorific. However for the taste and a luxury it was well worth the making and as I had done an hour’s early morning run I didn’t feel guilty enjoying it. The pudding was disappointing, when I read the recipe I wasn’t sure of it as I usually make it as a light sponge and this was a slightly different mixture which made it more dense. I prefer something lighter so will simply try a different recipe next time. The Rachel Allen recipe was from her book but the Paul Hollywood came from the BBC Good Food website. I’ve been using this a lot recently and find it a great site to browse ideas.



This week I wore my poppy with pride. It’s a small but powerful symbol.

This coming weekend is a quiet one with a few jobs required, I’m not sure what family time is planned but if the weather is as poor as suggested perhaps it’ll be a cinema trip or similar.

The Gruffalo Country Park


It’s been a while since I wrote about a family day out.  The weekly trips have still been happening but with birthdays, half term and awful weather they have been a little more low key than normal. After another week of rubbish weather and not being able to go to the fireworks on Friday because of the stormy conditions we decided that we needed to do something exciting this Sunday. Regardless of the weather, we needed something to refresh, invigorate and energise ourselves. We chose to go to a country park, not our nearest at over 25 miles away but one with some amazing activities to do in the woods. As Little Man has been making brilliant progress riding his bike independently we wanted to be able to take the bikes over and let the little ones ride safely on friendly cycle paths. There was the option today to hire bikes too and we did consider this but felt that we needed to be there to steady Little Man on his starts etc.. However given the success I would love to hire a bike and do a family ride next time. We had several stop offs on our route to have a go on some stunning play equipment all made out of natural resources, its amazing how it just blends in with the environment. After the ride it was time to return the bikes to the car, enjoy a cheeky cup of coffee and walk around. We went to watch the High Ropes section and again are hoping to have a go on our next visit, both children were adamant that they would be able to do the ropes and I definitely fancied a go too. There is also a miniature train so we had a go on this before our picnic lunch and more pottering around the forest. On our walk we found a very important character, the Gruffalo! Now for many years we have played a little game hunting for a Gruffalo on our forest walks, there have been occasional glimpses, little Gruffalo sounds etc.. so I was made up to finally find one. I love the Gruffalo and the park was the perfect setting to find him, I held his hand and gave him a little tickle behind the ears. I’m sure I heard him giggle and the children agreed with me too! Needless to say there were lots of family photos taken with my literary hero. It was such a good day, the weather was typically autumnal with only a few brief showers but we were appropriately dressed and able to do all we wanted to.  We returned home, happy, muddy and all refreshed after a day outside exploring and playing, a lovely family day.

Little Sparkles

This has been a week of extremes, the first three days were manically busy with Mr S’ birthday preparations and celebrations, then two days back at work including a day of formal assessments, theory and practical for our behaviour support programme and then two days of utter exhaustion and a severe migraine which given the preceding days was not surprising. I have suffered migraine all my life and take daily medication but I knew my lifestyle was catching up with me over the weekend, I often think migraine is my safety valve against a nervous breakdown, it forces me to stop, lie in a darkened room with no distraction and rest. This evening I’m finally feeling myself again.  I always resolve not to let myself get into such a state but it always happens, I just can’t slow down.


On Monday evening, I did make a start on The Girl on the Train but with my migraine I haven’t managed to read past the first chapter, I’m hoping to read some more tonight. I do have an inkling of the story as I did listen to some of it when it was serialised on the Book at Bedtime on Radio 4. Fortunately this hasn’t spoilt it but made me more interested in finding the whole story and how it all intertwines together.

I have also read an inordinate amount of correspondence from the children’s school, they have just started with Parent Mail an app that enables them to send messages to you. I think there’s been lots of experimenting and playing with the new toy this week!


On Friday night, we had a little firework fiesta to start Mr S birthday celebrations. It was fun and so mild to be outside. I do get a little anxious with fireworks in the garden but all went smoothly. Tomorrow night we’re off to the local army garrison to see their fireworks, this is more relaxing for me and I love oohing and arghing.


This week I also discovered and watched the beach huts on our sea front change colour in the dark. I was running along the seafront, sadly off road runs are out in these winter evenings and noticed that the huts were illuminated with changing colours. This made my run and splits more entertaining guessing which colour they would be when I ran pass them. The beach huts are new this season and this was one of the first times I had been out in the dark past them.


As part of the birthday celebrations, I researched the songs which featured in Mr S life, mainly number 1s at significant birthdays. I discovered that the song which was number 1 when we married was Daniel Benningfields ‘Never Gonna Leave Your Side’ so I‘ve listened to this one this week and think it’s a nicely appropriate song.


As hostess for the weekend, I made a lot of tea, meals and beds with a smile and gentle temperament. I definitely earnt many bonus points this week, now I have to think what to exchange them for!


For the past couple of days I have struggled to get through the day with my migraine and nausea and not been the fun, bubbly Mum I try to be. So this afternoon when I was feeling a bit brighter I made this snack for the children when they came home from school. It was a wicked afternoon, heavy rain and wind so I hope the fruit faces made everyone smile a little.


I wore some high heels on Saturday night to the restaurant which is so unusual for me, I prefer strappy sandals or sparkly flats on nights outs. You can dance, walk and drive in those shoes and I find high heels are only suitable for meals out. I did like wearing them and the extra height they gave me, I’m quite small so a few extra inches is always nice.

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I have also been wearing some brighter lipsticks, my favourite is my latest Benefit colour but there was a Clinique cherry red lipstick free with a magazine so I had a go with this too and found it quite flattering.  I’m normally a very natural girl with make up but as I’m getting older colour is complementing my skin tone more than I expected.

Happy Birthday Mr S

This weekend we have celebrated a big birthday for Mr S with his family.  As you can see from my mind map (my preferred way of planning, I like to doodle and colour!)  it’s been a busy but brilliant weekend.  I’ll let the mind map do the explanations of our celebrations as I am too exhausted to detail all we have done.  I hope I’ve helped to make it a very special weekend for my very special husband and for those who joined us too.