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Thomas Kitchen Carving Challenge: Tomato Ladybirds with a Cucumber Rose

After a few attempts, this blog post is my entry for the Tesco Blogger Fruit and Vegetable Carving Challenge to win £150 meal voucher from Red Letter Days.   This week is the first time I have tried vegetable carving, so I’ve found it difficult, challenging and fun at the same time.  It’s easy to see why carved fruit and vegetables are so popular in Thailand.  The kids eyes popped open when it was ready to eat and sat on the table with dinner.

The kids gave me some inspiration to make it and the suggestion for marzipan when white icing didn’t work was genius.  I decided on Tomato Ladybirds and a Cucumber Rose.

Tomato l

I’ve already written a post about the vegetable carving that showed just how difficult I had found it.   Tesco sent me a set of Thomas knives to carry out the task with, and my first attempts failed miserably.  With a plan, and deciding to still have a last try, I decided to take it from a different angle and create decoratively carved food that my kids would enjoy picking off a plate.

I needed Philadelphia Cheese, Tomatoes, a Cucumber, some White Marzipan, Fruit Flakes, Chocolate Sprinkle Drops, Lettuce and a Carrot.  It took 6 bamboo skewers in all, with three for the tomatoes and one to make my cucumber rose with a carrot topped centre.

The marzipan sticks to the dried tomatoes very easily, so was perfect for the spots and base for the eyes.  I could have also used it for the top of the antennae, but I had fruit flakes so used them to have something different.

So, here goes.  My finished attempts and the photographs of how it turned out.

My cucumber rose in a container of lettuce for the decorative setting.

Tomato Ladybird Cucumber and Carrot Rose

My ladybirds on a bed of lettuce with carrot and cucumber decorations.

Tomato Ladybird 4

Tomato Ladybird 5

Tomato Ladybird 7

If you would like to find out more about the Thomas Kitchen Knives and win a set for yourself, head on over to the Giveaway post to enter.

If you shop at Tesco, you’ve probably noticed that they are running a sticker promotion between 3rd March – 1st June 2014 where you can save up to 70% on exclusive kitchenware products at Tesco. For every £20 you spend online OR in-store you can collect a sticker, once you’ve collected five stickers you can use these to save up to 70% off professional kitchenware items of your own.  

Stickers can be collected from 3rd March 2014 – 25th May 2014 and must be redeemed by 1st June 2014.  

I’ve already got enough stickers to get the chopping boards and the roasting tin, so I am a happy bunny right now.


Posted on 16 Comments

National Adoption Week 2013

This week is national adoption week.

It’s no secret that we adopted 3 boys a decade ago.  Looking back on the long and invasive process that often made me feel like I was an errant schoolgirl giving evidence of playground tomfoolery, we nearly fell at the first hurdle.  My husband found the intrusion very difficult and repeatedly having to go over and over and over previous deaths in the family and how that made him feel seemed more appropriate to a crime interrogation than finding out if we were possibly going to be good parents.

Birth parents don’t have to undergo such intrusive techniques or trickery to try to catch you out in case you are lying and I know there are good reasons for trying to spot the chink in the armour of every prospective adopter, but it doesn’t make the process any easier to go through.  I found IVF much more simple and with less stress and worry than the adoption assessments.

I became obsessed with whether our house was clean enough for social worker visits, and whether I had just the right amount of biscuits to not be classed as a potential over feeder.  I cleaned the spare rooms before every visit, just in case it would be the week they would ask us without warning to have a look at the rooms that children would live in.  The medicals the financial assessments, the family skeletons discussed – nothing was left unvisited.  I felt under scrutiny in all parts of my life.

Family was visited, friends were visited, and each time I worried they might recite some long forgotten incident from my youth that might have me seen as unacceptable to adopt.  Long phone calls afterwards asking what they said, how it was said, and how did the social worker take it ensued, and I am sure I must have driven my references absolutely mad with my questions.

By the time we reach adoption, most of us have finished with the long rounds of treatments and invasive technology to try to have our own birth children.  There are those who adopt to add to their birth families, but for the most part, the majority of adopters and potential adopters I’ve known have been people who couldn’t have children naturally.

I’ve been told I am lucky to have adopted, yet those same people don’t understand that adopting children is only the first real rung on a possibly very difficult to climb ladder.  The children might be still with birth parents, languishing in children’s homes, with foster parents, or they might have already been to one set of parents and rejected there too.  There are few babies up for adoption that haven’t suffered trauma, alcohol or drugs while they were in the womb, or with the after effects living with birth parents and it’s only right that we should have some preparation of what life might be like.

For some adopters, receiving their child or children might go smoothly at first, and it might stay like that for ever.  For the majority, there will be a lifelong commitment to children who will need help to understand their past and their new future. There are so many considerations that birth children wouldn’t face, but the support is very lacking for parents that take children who struggle.

Imagine the older children in foster care, or children’s home waiting for a forever family that might never happen.  What does that say about us as a nation that so few of us actually take the plunge and bring a child into our families and homes?

For many, adoption is by no means easy.  There are so many considerations to take into account.  For us, we’ve recently been exposed to some birth family through the wonders of Facebook.  We’ve met lots of siblings, for whom the process has been positive, yet it could have gone so differently.

My children, a teen and two rapidly approaching the teenage years have lots of questions, worries and stressors.

I don’t love them any less.

My boys are growing tall, their blonde hair floats in the wind with their blue and grey eyes.  They look like my husband so nobody ever guesses they are adopted, yet they have no problem telling people about all their brothers and sisters.  I’m ok with that, but other adoptive parents have to think about how they are going to cope with it as their children grow.

Our assessment seemed to be just like the pregnancy of a woman.  One bad experience of labour doesn’t put women off getting pregnant again and again and again.  In the same way, I’d do the same thing again, no matter how difficult it can be with one of my boys diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome who is unpredictable and often aggressive for no reason.

I’d do it all again if I was in the same situation and the world needs more families who are willing to change their lives and make a very real difference to a child in waiting, waiting for that forever family they can call their own.


Posted on 30 Comments

A Trip Down Memory Lane. It’s Messy.

My boys are fine for pictures of the early days of their adoption going online.  I don’t mind as they are completely unrecognisable now and they love to look through some of them.  I will always regret not having a decent camera when they were little and always being so busy that I rarely found time to take any pictures.

The kids arrived and we just got on with it.  They were foster children as a last minute favour placement while we looked for our own family children and we thought they would be moving on.  They settled in really quickly and just took over.   When social services and the courts decided they were to go up for adoption, it just didn’t seem right to ask them to move on.

It took the dog a while to adjust and I love the picture of her sizing up the noisy thing in front of her.  They used to cuddle up with the little one fast asleep in her stomach and I so wish I had managed to get some pictures of that.

Kids 1

There’s not much difference here is there?  How much effort does it take to use the spare room for a cat before the kids arrived, and then sleep anywhere you drop once the kids arrive.

Kids 2

Those were the days that the animals were young, fit and healthy.


And the last time that mum was a fit healthy gym bunny with plenty time on her hands that evaporated with the arrival of the boys.  I have no photos of me at the moment and I hate meeting people who knew me a few years ago.  I look nothing like this now, but you won’t see a pic of me online 🙂


The early days when we had a party with sweet treats, before the days we knew they were laden with bad stuff that send you bananas.  Yes, I know that colour is well out of date, those walls are almost white now and the wrecked table and chairs saw the skip long ago.

Kids Chocolate

What that sugar rush led to.

Kids Mess


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Adoption Week Part 1. Not the Step Forward I’d Imagined

It has been adoption week this week, and as someone with three adopted children, I thought I should add my tuppenyworth to the discussion and share some of my “ranty wisdom”.  I will also do a jollier post later this week about more of the positives.

I felt like taking my remote control and throwing it at the TV when I began to see some of the coverage that adoption was getting this week.  The Cameron man on the telly moaning on about the process just got my back up, but that’s not unusual for me.

And to top it off, my hackles rose when I watched the segment about the woman complaining about the process and how long it takes to be assessed here, but who had plenty of dosh and managed to find the readies to go abroad and adopt the youngster she wanted.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would have gone abroad if I hadn’t managed to find my forever children in the UK, but come on, complaining about the system you have to follow to get those children is just plain wrong if you don’t even adopt from here.

Let me tell you about how the adoption process was before they made it that little bit tougher.  We went overnight from no children to 3 children who were not fully socialised.  Foetal alcohol babies are hard work, I can tell ya.  Imagine your trouble with a crying baby with colic who doesn’t sleep, and multiply that by a factor of 1000 x 1000 with knobs on and that could be the potential.

All those wannabe mums out there think that a little bit of love is going to make it all right – well it doesn’t.  Those cute little bundles may very well end up as aggressive, troubled tots who don’t get the help they need to survive.  Lots of families disrupt, even now when they can’t cope with the changes that children with high needs means.

Make no mistake, if you have a diagnosis of Autism, or an “acceptable” condition, the world will sympathise and help you with your children.  If your children have a diagnosis of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome or your child is Drug affected, you are going to hit your head up against a brick wall to get help.  And if you do say what the diagnosis is, people will think you are a raving alcoholic and start crossing the street and avoiding your kids party invites.

The bottom line is that most of the young children in care nowadays are disabled, alcohol or drug related births.  There are some who are orphans or young mums not wanting the responsibility, but they are certainly not the norm, and potential parents HAVE to get it through their heads that love is NOT enough to bring up drug and alcohol affected children.

I HATED the adoption process.  With an enormous passion.  I thought it was too long and I thought it was ridiculously monotonous and repetitive, but the authorities HAVE to try to suss out as many of the nutters who try to adopt for other reasons as they can.  If they handed over kids to a ring of child abusers, we would all be up in arms that the process wasn’t comprehensive enough.

Lets get down to the nitty gritty.  Adoptions take so long because there is NOT ENOUGH MONEY in the pot to get the work done that needs to be done to keep everyone safe.   Social workers have too many groups to assess, and to be frank, lots of approved adoptive parents sit waiting for the phone to ring rather than being pro-active and finding their future kids across the country.  There are also some fabulous homes not being used because there are not enough staff to get the meetings set up, organised, pulled together and finalised.

I do think the inflated considerations about race and ethnic backgrounds are pretty crap to be honest.  Lets just chuck kids into uncontrolled and often violent childrens homes eg just because they might be black and christian and a council only has white protestant adoptive parents on their books.

If I get the religions wrong, I apologise – as being a non-believer I just don’t care what religion anyone else is as long as they don’t try to sell me their faith.  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t happily support a child who needed to learn more about their own faith and culture.

I’d like to see the kids put into homes that will stick with them through thick and thin, support their race and ethnic backgrounds, and to hell with the rules of what colour skin, race or nationality we should be before we can help a child escape from institutionalisation, temporary parents and abusive homes.

After care is rubbish.  Yes, there are “supposed rights” but considering post adoptive care says there is no money in the pot to provide anything, then it really is an empty promise unless it is desperate in my experience.

I am afraid that the negativity far outweighed the positivity that it should have showed, and would put people off finding out more, or moving forward with a process that needs to be shored up.

Right down to basics, adoption is about being parents.   In the same way that parents take on responsibility for children and have to fight for their needs, there is nothing different.    There is no special treatment in being an adopter once you are there so think about it long and hard, and treasure the preparation process because it is there for a reason.

If Mr Cameron wants to make the system work, stop complaining and support the Councils who are mostly doing their best with the means they have at their disposal (money, people and imposed rules) and ringfence pots of money for adoption and disability.

Yes, there are problems and yes, there are always nasty people who don’t do their jobs right, or get in the way of things happening, but they are in the minority.

I saw those segments, and rather than feel good about what was being said, I was conscious that if I were a new potential adopter, that it would massively put me off if I thought that the system was as difficult to breach as it sounded.

Mr Cameron needs to put his money where his mouth is to find alternative methods of moving adopters through the system and helping approve positive matches for families with support to help families cope with the potential problems they will face.

I’ve said my piece and now I will settle back and sort out my three adopted boys photos for christmas cards.   The whole process was worth every rotten moment it took to get through.


Posted on 8 Comments

Guest Post – Adoption & Drug Users

Firstly, thank you very much to Scottish Mum for letting me guest post on her blog.

I wanted to write something relevant to her readers and I wasn’t sure which route to go down. However, I was listening to a debate on a radio show the other day about adoption and the lengthy process it has become and how this in itself is causing more potential trauma to children in care and I thought this seemed a good topic.

According the BAAF statistics, from April 2010 to March 2011, there were 3660 children under the age of 1 in care. Yet, only 60 babies under 1 were adopted in the same period. The average age of a child at adoption is 3 years and 10 months. To me, this seems rather old to have such a massive change of circumstance. They will have started at nursery and be not far off starting school by that age. If children were placed earlier in their lives, surely there would be less risk of them being scarred mentally by the whole process.


Whilst the adoption process is long for prospective adoptive parents, it needs to be, to ensure that the right number of checks have been carried out, and steps taken to prepare those wanting to adopt. However, the court process to get a child into an adoptive family is what seems to hold the process up. The reason for this is that the court puts the mothers needs above that of the baby. Whilst this is reasonable (they might be able to look after their children once they have dealt with issues), what kind of impact is it having on the child? What, I thought, about the babies born to drug users who are unable to look after their baby? Well, it appears that the interest of the mother comes first in these cases too. The courts will keep the baby with the mother (or in foster care) whilst the mother sees if she can ‘get clean’.

Now I may be cynical but, having worked with drug users (and previously covered the topic on my blog here), I have never once met someone addicted to drugs who didn’t put the next hit before everything else in their lives (however much they insist otherwise). So should the interests of these babies not be taken into account? They have potentially already had a rough start in life, like many babies born to drug users, they might have already had to withdraw from the drugs passed to them in the womb by their mother. How many times does a baby or toddler need to be taken into care whilst the mother ‘gets clean’ and is then returned to the mother only to be taken back into care when she falls foul to addiction again?

Research by Drugscope back in 2003 suggested that there were between 250,000 and 350,000 children born to drug misusing parents. With the numbers of drug users rising year on year, the number of children affected is increasing. The only way to stop this, is to offer effective, realistic treatment to the parents.

Whilst I appreciate that there are drug users out there who desperately want to stop taking drugs and will do anything in their means to make sure this happens, they really are the minority. Unless the mother moves away from her current situation, contacts and friends, she will find it all too easy to slip back into the old habits. It is possible to beat addiction and fight for your children, as the article here shows. 

I am absolutely not advocating snatching babies from drug users as soon as they are born, but maybe the balance needs to sway towards what is best for the baby. The first three years of their lives are so valuable in how they are shaped as individuals and how they judge the world in the future.



Written By
@helpfulmum from You”re Not From Round Here





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Bloggers Adoption Group on Brit Mums



Brit Mums have had a facelift.  Formerly known as British Mummy Bloggers, they have updated and extended the facilities they have on the get together site for those of us who live and breathe in the blogosphere.

I have set up a new group on Brit Mums for bloggers who have an interest in adoption, or would like to support those who are affected by the issues surrounding adoption.

There must be quite a few of us Adoptive mums (or dads) (or grown ups with their own children). Even those of you who have questions you always wanted to ask, or just if you want to give an adopter some support on the parenting front.  Everyone is welcome.

I suppose with 3 children, I am in the almost veteran category of adoptive parents, and it can be hard to talk about our issues among non adoptive parents.

Perhaps there isn’t a need for a group for us, but if there is a mum / or dad / or child out there who wants to talk about adoption in any form, I will be around, and hopefully there will be others who feel confident enough to put their hand up and join us for the occasional chat when they need it (or even when they don’t).

Anything adoption and blogging related is welcome.  At the moment, I am billy no mates in the new group, and I’d love a few of you to pop over and join me in saying hello, and perhaps opening up the area of parenthood that is often silent in the blogging world.

Join me by clicking on Brit Mums HERE.