The World According to Izzie

Mum of twin daughters - nothing else scares me

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Visit to a Food Bank

I'm shocked that so many people require the services of a food bank in 2015, so when I was invited to complete the Food Bank Hamper Challenge by Think Money I was only too happy to accept. I've previously donated food via trolleys in supermarkets, but with £30 to spend, my challenge was to make the money go as far as possible.

To achieve this I decided to be a disloyal shopper and snap up lots of special offers - I went to Morrisons, Poundland and Tesco. But before doing so, I checked the shopping list for my local food bank in Worcester.
They also have a list of items required urgently, more on that later.

I shopped for foods from the list that were both nutritious and filling, but also added a couple of treats. This is what I was able to purchase with just over £10:

 Shopping list
 8 x Two-finger KitKat
 Large tin of Heinz Beans and Sausage
 Daucy Baby Carrots
 80 Typhoo Tea Bags
 400g Custard Creams
 Large bag of Pasta
 Napolina Pasta Sauce
 John West Tuna
 Princes Peach Slices
 Long-life Orange Juice
 UHT Semi-Skimmed Milk
 600g Weetabix Minis

And my entire £31.53 haul looked like this:


Essentially made up from all of the above shopping list - only with three of everything.

After phoning to check opening times, Food Bank Manager, Grahame offered a guided tour and I popped over with daughter, Olivia to deliver the food. We were given a warm welcome and learnt about services offered locally. In addition to supplying food parcels, the food bank also gives access to vital further support and can supply baby clothes. There are plans to expand the number of services on offer, just as soon as new premises can be found.

Volunteer, Laura with Manager, Grahame

Part of the Trussell Trust, Worcester Food Bank opened in 2012. Since opening, they've fed more than 12,000 people (one third are children), and given out over 100 tonnes of food. The school holidays have seen an increased demand for food parcels as children who would normally receive a free school meal are at home.

Worcester Food Bank's 'Needed Urgently' list for this month includes:
Tins of fruit, sponge pudding (tinned), 500g packs of rice, curry sauces, UHT fruit juice, shower gel, shaving gel, deoderant, toilet rolls, pet food and strong plastic bags.

How it works
Food is donated by the public and sorted by the food bank's amazing group of volunteers. Front line care professionals such as doctors and social workers identify people in crisis and issue a food bank voucher. In exchange for this, clients receive three days of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food.

Food parcels awaiting collection
I plan to continue supporting my local food bank. My thanks to Grahame for the guided tour and valuable insight into the incredible work that goes on behind the scenes and a special mention for all the volunteers who make a difference. Thanks also to Think Money for setting the challenge.
 
Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton


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Friday, 21 August 2015

You Don't Know If You Don't Try

Featured on the blog today is a guest post from daughter, Olivia. She starts her  third and final year at university in September, where she's studying English Literature and Creative Writing. Here, Olivia reflects on the opportunities she's had to explore the world of media and how much she's enjoyed the experience. 

Throughout life I have considered myself to be a very lucky person.

I was fifteen and sat in a maths class, but unable to think about numbers or solve problems. I kept watching the clock. In exactly fifteen minutes I would be in a small office having an interview with a woman I had never met, talking about myself and why she should hire me for a two week placement at a media company.

I was terrified.

But there was another feeling, like the feeling you get waiting in line for a theme park ride. That feeling was excitement.

If I am truly excited about something it doesn't matter how scared I feel, or how worried I am that I will fail. Hope for something great will always outweigh feelings of fear or doubt.

After a firm handshake I left the small office with my placement confirmed. Those two weeks were to be one of the best and happiest experiences of my school years. 

Now that I am at university, opportunities are thrown at me from all directions. You could almost drown in them. I always feel guilty for letting something pass me by. And the age-old question, 'What if?' pops into my head on a regular basis.

But the truth is, I like to trust my instinct. If I'm not excited by an opportunity, no matter how amazing it is, no matter how many doors it could open - I won't take it on.

Last winter, while sat tearing my hair out over an essay I received an email. My university were looking for writers to report on a local book festival. Intrigued, I looked at the online program for the two-day event. I could not believe my eyes: one of my favourite children's authors would be there. I instantly replied to the email and filled it with lots of exclamation marks and capital letters to show just how excited I was.

A week later I had a lovely conversation with the author over the phone.

On a cloudy Sunday morning, me and my fellow journalists bundled out of a taxi after a ninety minute journey and walked around the festival site. Today I would finally get to meet the author in person. At the book signing I felt a little out of place as everyone else was either a child or parent. I kept looking at my watch as I had to write a 300 word report by 4pm. It was now after 3pm. But this was something I had to do. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find the author every bit as lovely as I'd hoped she would be, and she later sent me an email wishing me luck for the future. I hope that one day my books will be displayed on the same shelf as hers.

This summer I applied for an internship at a top publishing house in London. Although my latest venture wasn't successful, I feel optimistic for the future and plan to apply again next year.

Excitement is the secret ingredient to achieving the impossible. Who knows where life will take you?


Copyright©2015 Izzie and Olivia Anderton

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Monday, 17 August 2015

The Week That Was...

Social gatherings are like buses in the Anderton house. There are none for ages and then several turn up at once. Last week there were so many invitations that I had to admit defeat and decline a couple. The thought of partying every night fills me with dread and as I get older, I need a night off in-between to recover.

On Monday... I helped my dad with some gardening. Now I'm pretty rubbish at this, but I looked at the state of his lawn and borders and realised he needed all the help he could get. The realisation that a parent isn't coping as well as you'd thought is a sad one. We talked of putting his house on the market and moving to somewhere more manageable. I can't tell you how horrible it was to have this conversation.

Monday was also the Writing Group Summer Social, along with bottomless jugs of Pimms, lots of wine and scrummy cheese and nibbles. I was tired. We sat outside. I'd begged Mr A to collect me at 10pm, so that I could be in my PJs and reading a book by 10:30pm. And for once I managed to sleep quite well. This is what usually happens most nights: The Trouble With Sleep.

There was an invitation to a friend's house on Wednesday. As she lives just up the road there was a whoop of joy as neither of us had to drive. I have experienced some of the worst hangovers ever at her house. Her husband is a generous host who cannot bear to see a millimetre of empty space in a wine glass before refilling it. I vowed to stick to two glasses. And failed miserably. Four bottles of wine between the three of us, (Mr A was drinking beer) meant I was feeling delicate for most of Thursday. This led to the realisation that I need to come up with a new strategy next time around. Mr A suggested I drive as I won't down a single glass of anything containing alcohol when I take the car.

I took several pictures during the evening, but this was the only one in focus...

View from a friend's garden
Daughter, Olivia phoned early on Thursday morning and announced that she would be coming home next week. Despite feeling under the weather hungover I felt very happy indeed and may have danced around the kitchen. She soon picked up that I was feeling below par and said, wasn't she supposed to be the one drinking? Ever been told off by your daughter? I felt well and truly chastised. Apparently she was up at 5am and had been to the beach, this made me snort with laughter as it wasn't so very long ago she was doing stuff like this...  Mum, You Know You Love Me...

I may have spent much of the day reading blogs and trying to find a few new ones to add to my reading list. This was my favourite discovery last week from Kate, over at Yes, She Writes. Anyone who's a book lover will identify with her brilliant post about the problem with books.

 
On Friday, I hopped off into town to buy food for a post I'm working on about food banks. As I'd been given some money to buy stuff, I was determined to make this stretch this as far as possible and went to several stores to buy as many special offers as I could. It was raining heavily for most of the day and I reached that point where I couldn't have been any more soaked than I already was. I returned looking rather bedraggled and realised that wearing Converse that morning wasn't one of my better decisions. On Friday night I consumed no alcohol whatsoever.

I'd agreed to attend a Golden Wedding Anniversary party with my father at the weekend. Sadly, my stepmum died four years ago from 'the big C,' but we still keep in touch with her lovely family who live just outside Bath. Their welcome was very warm indeed and I don't think I've ever had quite so many social hugs and kisses in one weekend. I wish we saw a lot more of them. For the record no alcohol was consumed.

On Sunday, after lengthy goodbyes and one heck of a delicious breakfast, we drove home again. The cat had missed me, I'm not so sure about my husband. I have a feeling he may have relished the peace and quiet.

Linking up with My Week over at Mummy Barrow.


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton




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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Ice Cream Nostalgia


Back in the 1970s, ice cream was a rare treat reserved for sunny days and trips to the beach. As we didn't have a freezer until the late 1970s, the jingly tune of the ice cream van led to frantic attempts to persuade my mum that I'd been good, followed by locating her purse and leaving the house before the van drove away. And this is how my lifelong love of ice cream began...

Funny Face 
One of the first ice creams I can remember eating... a face-shaped ice cream with chocolate drops for eyes and mouth. I seem to remember the chocolate being rather delicious and the ice cream, scrummy . Sadly, these were replaced in the 1980s by Funny Feet. Having never tried one of these, I can't comment. Sadly, a thorough search of the internet has yielded no images for the awesome Funny Face ice cream. :o(

Feast

On holiday in Wales in the early 1980s, I spied an advert for Wall's Feast. Comprising a biscuity-flecked, chocolate coating with chocolate ice cream and a solid chocolate core, this became a firm favourite for years. They lasted for ages if you scoffed the outer chocolate and ice cream before nibbling away at the chocolate. I still buy these from time to time if I'm feeling nostalgic.






Strawberry Mivvi
A vanilla ice cream centre with a strawberry-ice layer. These were refreshing and I remember eating a lot of them during the heatwave of 1976. The local ice cream van must have done a roaring trade that year and I seem to remember lots of places selling out altogether! These were also available in pineapple and raspberry varieties. I haven't seen Mivvis in the shops for ages, but similar products are available and I still love them on a hot day.



Screwball

Raspberry ripple ice cream in a plastic cone with a ball of incredibly hard bubble gum at the bottom. These came with a small plastic spoon hidden under a cardboard lid. To be honest, I was never a fan of raspberry ripple ice cream, but when my father decided that I wasn't allowed these as they contained gum, that made them all the more irresistible. By the age of ten I was allowed to walk up to the paper shop all by myself, and on a warm day when I had pocket money burning a hole in the pocket of my jeans, this is what I would buy. I'd saunter slowly all the way home, devouring the ice cream before chewing the gum and blowing bubbles just as far as the litter bin ten doors away from our house. To this day, I've never shared this information with my father.   

Cornetto
If you were around in the eighties, chances are you'll remember the Cornetto advert. All together now...

'Just one Cornetto, give it to me, delicious ice cream, of Italy, vanilla and choco dream, give me a Cornetto, from Wall's ice cream.'

Smooth ice cream topped with nuts and chocolate pieces in a crispy wafer cone with a chocolate tip. They were also available in Mint and Strawberry varieties, but the Classic Cornetto was always my favourite.

Mr Whippy

I wasn't supposed to have the neon-coloured sauce drizzled generously over the peaks of mouth-watering swirls of ice cream but I'd always say, 'Yes please,' when asked and occasionally I got away with it as my parents didn't manage to say, 'No,' in time. Being allowed a Flake was an added bonus and something that didn't happen very often. Had to be devoured in a hurry as it melted rather quickly and dripped all over your hands.





Naturally, my tastes have changed since childhood and for me, the best flavour of all-time has to be Pimms and strawberry. I'm currently working on perfecting a recipe, but attempts keep being thwarted by my husband, who secretly scoffs ice cream long after I've gone to bed and then hides the evidence in the recycling bin - despite numerous requests to keep the tubs. Ever wonder if you're having a conversation with yourself because no one else is listening? I digress.

What was your favourite ice cream as a child?

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 10 August 2015

Things I want the cat to know...

In honour of International Cat Day on Saturday I have written this post and dedicated it to the family pet...

She's our third baby, currently the only child at home and there are times when I'd rather talk to the cat, than my husband. But after sharing our home for fourteen years - there are a few things I wish she could grasp. All of the following would make my life so much simpler...

1. Not every tin of food in the house actually contains tuna... so quit miaowing and wrapping yourself around my legs when I open a can of something. Beans, sweetcorn and spaghetti hoops aren't anything a cat needs to eat. For the record, tuna is served once a week - usually on a Monday.


2. When I ask if you want to come in - I am not being mean. Often I'm heading off for the entire day and only trying to be thoughtful. I don't appreciate being told off and glared at when I do eventually arrive home again.



3. Your sisters are away at university and when you see them on Skype, they are not actually at home. So please stop wandering all over the house looking for them and miaowing pitifully. Yes, I know you love them.

4. Worming tablets, flea drops and trips to the vet will not kill you. We do these things simply because you are loved, and we want for you to lead a long and happy life. They are not dished out as punishment.

5. You are the third baby we never had and for that reason, I can never dish out too many kisses, tummy rubs and hugs. I'm sorry if it all gets a bit much sometimes. You are one of few things in life that I never grow tired of. So humour me... I'm the one who feeds you.


6. When you fling your collection of pink bells under the sofa and can't extract them again with your paws... I am not always going to drop whatever I'm doing and find them. No amount of sulking will change this - even though you're almost too cute to resist. You could always try Daddy as you seem to have him completely wrapped around your tiny paws.

Kitty sulking

7. Not every seat in the house belongs to you. And if I want to sit on the sofa, you will be extracted and placed on my lap. It's my sofa too, that's how it is.

8. Whenever you see birds on the TV, there's no point in stalking them - even though we find this completely hilarious. 

9. Dipping your paws in the water bowl and wandering all over the house and furniture leaving paw prints is not one of your finer points. Why do you always do this just after I've cleaned?

10. For the record, you do look adorable in a tiara... I know you don't always agree.

No, I will not wear a tiara
11. You are not a sheepdog, so stop trying to round up members of the family and insisting they all watch TV at the same time. I know you like to see us together and that's sweet, but not always practical.

12. I love to dance and sometimes, dancing with you is the best thing ever - especially after a couple of glasses of wine. Obviously, I need to apologise for this, that does not mean I'm going to stop though.

13. Like Pavlov's dog and his bell, you've learnt to associate the smell of baked potatoes with delicious servings of tuna in your bowl. We don't always have tuna with baked potatoes and sometimes we like to mix things up and have chilli, salad, beans, or cheese, instead. Stop pestering me every time you pick up the scent of potato with your cute pink nose and stop sitting on top of my laptop!

And finally, here's something I'd like to know about the cat...

As she has more followers on Twitter than me... is this what she does all day when I'm not home I wonder? Check out Kitty's Twitter account here: @catostropic

Is there anything you'd like your own pets to know?

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton




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Thursday, 6 August 2015

How to love your own company

Right now, I'm home alone and distracted with writing my blog. As my husband runs his own business, invariably this involves long hours (including weekends) and as my daughters have left home, getting used to an empty house has taken some time to fathom. While spending time with friends and family is a wonderful thing, there are times when secretly, I crave to be alone. As a writer, I'm no stranger to solitude. For me, this is a chance for joy and self-discovery.

Here are my suggestions for making the most of your own company.

Go to the cinema
It may have taken a while to get around to trying this, but I was so happy when I did. Subtract the discussions over what film you're going to watch and which variety of popcorn you plan to munch on, and despite the shocked looks from fellow cinema-goers, it has its merits. I sniffled quite happily through The Fault In Our Stars and felt no embarrassment on leaving the cinema as it was unlikely I'd see any of the audience again. A lovely way to spend a rainy afternoon.


Go a little crazy
As a mum it's easy to lose sense of your own preferences as you sacrifice so much of your time (and sanity) for loved ones. From watching hilarious cat videos on YouTube, to digging out ancient CDs and singing at the top of your voice, or trying on clothes you haven't worn in ages - the options for being creative are limited only by imagination. And for the record, knowing that there's no one around to judge you is really rather liberating. 

Dine alone
Having been guilty of feeling pity for anyone I'd spied dining on their own, this one was a real eye-opener for me. I'd maybe recommend starting out with lunch and taking a magazine to read and when you're feeling braver... people watch, take your time and order whatever you want from the menu. As someone who's blessed with a very sweet tooth, lunch is sometimes cheesecake or a piece of pie! As my husband isn't a huge fan of Italian food, when he's not home, that's exactly where I go for dinner. What's not to love?!

Set targets
When you work from home it can be easy to keep going as the hours and minutes disappear all too quickly. But I've learnt that I work best when I set targets along with time restrictions. I also write a daily 'To do list' and factor in time off for good behaviour. It's easy to think that you have all the time in the world to finish a project when you're working from home and alone, but without focus, entire days can vanish along with any chance of enjoying some downtime.

Time in the great outdoors
Any chance to go outside and I'll take it. And whatever the weather, this is something I do every single day. At this time of year I love to take my coffee (or lunch) out into the garden in the hope that the sun will shine for at least a few minutes. If it's raining I might walk into town and go to the library, or browse in a couple of local shops. If I've more time to spare, I'll walk for several hours in the forest. I always come home again feeling refreshed.


Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton










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Monday, 3 August 2015

Suitcase Secrets

Summer has to be my favourite season of the year. I dream of lazy days filled with sunshine, exploring the great British countryside and venturing further afield for holidays abroad. Does anything beat the simple pleasure of time at the beach I wonder? And isn't everything just so much lovelier when the sun's out? With the summer holidays well and truly upon us, I thought I'd share some of my holiday favourites and tips...


My next holiday is... currently being planned. We're thinking Mexico for two weeks of sightseeing, sun and cocktails.

The passport stamp I love most is... the Seychelles. It's where I married my husband back in 1992.

I'd always go back to... Boston and Cape Cod. I don't think I'd ever run out of things to see and do.

My favourite holiday memory is... a fabulous day in Boston. We walked the Freedom Trail, ate dinner at the Solas Irish Pub and watched the sunset from the Skywalk Observatory.

After checking in at the airport you'll find me... nursing a large cup of coffee, devouring a piece of cake and starting to unwind.

I never step on a plane without... Coconut Lip Butter from The Body Shop, Verbena Cooling Hand Cream Gel from L'Occitane and a bottle of water.

In my suitcase, you'll find... Birkenstocks, Boden bikinis and maxi dresses from Fat Face and White Company.

My dream trip would be... to Italy. I'd love to explore Rome and Sorrento.

My top packing tip is... Roll, don't fold your clothes - they arrive a lot less crumpled that way.
 
I never go on holiday without... sunglasses, my iPod and a pile of books.

My recommended holiday read for this year is... Us by David Nicholls - hilarious, filled with one-liners and perfect for anyone who's been in a relationship for a while. You can read my review here if you wish.
 
If you're reading this post and want to join in... then feel free to borrow the idea for your own blog. Don't forget to send me the link as I'd love to read your post. And whatever you're up to this summer, I hope that you have a fabulous time x

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton


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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Keep Calm and Hold on to Your Seat

Mr A and myself bumped into a friend in the pub earlier this week. He has twin daughters of his own and we were eager for news of how they were getting on. 'Oh, they're seventeen now, and learning to drive,' he said. Having experienced this with our own daughters, we exchanged sympathetic looks and he asked for tips on how to get through survive.

To be fair I probably wasn't the best instructor for my daughters, I'm a nervous passenger even with an experienced driver and this made driving practice rather challenging. That didn't stop me from giving it my best shot though - I even blogged about it earlier this year; you can read this here if you wish. I guess it's just one of those things you endure as a parent in the knowledge that your offspring will eventually get better and master another of life's valuable skills.

Our friend revealed that his wife had no intention of taking the girls out driving and that the responsibility was entirely his.

'Well I did most of it,' said Mr A, helpfully.

'No you bloody well didn't,' I added. 'I was the one who endured the endless practice on school runs, ballet lessons, rowing and Japanese classes and you just did some polishing at the end when my nerves were worn to a frazzle.' Realising I was miffed, Mr A and our friend exchanged knowing glances.

The trouble is that I'd rather drive than be driven and that means I'm not a great passenger. This has only gotten worse since a car accident last year. I can't help it and try to keep my thoughts to myself, but sometimes I fail. Admitting to this was my first mistake... our friend turned to Mr A and said, 'Does Izz do that thing where she's always commenting on your driving?'

'She does.' I could tell he was going to add so much more, but remembered that I was stood there and stopped just in time.

'Hannah does this all the time and I have this great trick.' Whenever we go out in the car I guess how many times she'll comment on my driving. So if we're going on a reasonably long journey, I'll go for say, a fifteen, and if we're just popping into town, maybe I'll just go for a five.' He then counts up from one, each time an observation is made. After a couple of pints, Mr A thought that this was hilarious and vowed to do the same.

The two of them went on to compile a list of comments they get to hear from their wives during a typical car journey...

'Ooh, I'd have gone then.'

'Don't forget to indicate.'

'Go faster or slow down.'

'Braaaaaake.'

'Have you seen that cyclist, speed camera, pedestrian? '

'Don't get so close.'

'Stay away from that car... they're driving erratically.'

This list is by no means exhaustive.

'Haha, so very funny,' I said. 'Maybe Hannah and I would feel safer if we simply drove ourselves in future.' I may have been plotting my revenge the entire way home. 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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