I have had a bit of a buying bonanza in recent weeks and days. I am going to show you some of my treasures later in this post but first a little rant.

I sent an application off to volunteer in my local charity shop in early Summer. I got a telephone call from the headquarters saying the local shop would phone me to invite me in for an informal chat. Nothing happened but I did not chase it up due to being involved with the school holidays so unable to volunteer anyway.

Once the children went back in early September, I contacted the Headquarters by email. I got no response. However, one day on shopping my the shop concerned, I gave my name so I could hold a piece of furniture for later collection. At this point, the manager said was I the person who had volunteered. Yes, says I and there appeared a glimmer of light in my long quest to get involved in any form of volunteering. He asked what days I could do and we agreed on Friday mornings and he gave me a date about 3 weeks later to come in and start.

So last Friday on the appointed day, I turned up as arranged. I did make it through to the backroom this time but only to be told that yes Friday mornings were OK and I could start on 11th November. That would be about 5 months after my original application which I see as fairly ridiculous.

All the manager said apart from that was that I would be on 3 months trial and would have to be prepared to do anything. I am fine with both those things but I do wish they would train people to encourage volunteers. After all, each volunteer comes with social and economic value.

Right, back to my finds and rant over for now.

I do love my coffee and this coffee canister is just huge. I left the tea and sugar ones behind and felt so guilty about splitting them up. I may go back and get them later this week. £2.50 which I thought was a bit overpriced but I like the look of it. I knew Him Indoors would disagree as he bangs on about things being airtight and all that sort of nonsense. He likes his wooden canister so we are currently at war.

I got this because it is how my boys are at their best (and rarely!) and I like the sentiment. “Life is not about the big catch, it is how you live the moments in between”

There was a sort of matching one with a Great Dane on which I toyed with the idea of buying for Him Indoors. I will probably end up with it if it is there this week.

There was loads of office furniture in there and I liked the desk and bookshelves. I put a hold on the desk and Him Indoors collected it this week bemoaning the fact that nobody would help him from the shop due to “health and safety”.

Oh, and here is the chest of drawers mentioned in a previous post.

Then there is my wonderful 50 pences find. Can you see what it is yet? You probably all know but it was new to me.

We can ignore it no longer. The man in the fully red suit will be here soon and our bells will be jingling. Kate over on the Kate Takes 5 blog asks us to list our Top Ten Christmas Toys of all time. What would you choose? What do you remember most from your childhood? Or what was a hit with your own children?

1. Dolls’ House – My very favourite toy was my doll’s house made by a joiner friend of my Dad’s. It was perfect with a red brick roof, shutters on the windows in blue, all carpeted and wall-papered. Perfect. I loved it so very much. Then one day it got wrecked in a house move but Dad lovingly restored it. The worst moment was when the joiner friend of my Dad’s got himself a younger woman and had 2 children with her. “You won’t mind if we let his children have it now you are older” said my Mum. Well, off it went but I minded then and I still do sob!

2. Dolls – I used to get at least one doll every year. I preferred Sindy to her more glamorous counterpart Barbie. Sindy was wholesome (like me!) and Barbie looked like a tart (not like me!). I used to love all the different outfits and went wild when they introduced those dolls where you could make their hair longer by yanking at it. I remember my Dad spending one whole Christmas Day trying to get a doll that did tumbles to work for me. He succeeded and it says a lot about the man how he was determined to make it right for me. My very best dolls were two that came with a riding stable and horses. Like my own little girl now, I had a huge thing about horses and always said I would own one. This dream did not come true or not yet anyway. My Auntie once got me a doll where you pulled a string and it said about 5 phrases. Recently, it came to my mind when I was criticising Him Indoors for his limited conversation skills. I know that is very cruel but it amused me.

3. My Golliwog – Yes, I know this can be controversial but I loved mine very much and he was on my pillow every night for a lot of years. Enough said.

4. Fuzzy Felt – Occasionally, I see Fuzzy Felt sets in charity shops and I am transported back to my childhood sitting making colourful and creative pictures. When I think of these times, I realise how very like me my daughter is with her love of things arts and crafts.

5. Plasticine – Does this still exist? You could make anything with it and I used to like making snails and cakes. Creative play at its best.

Overall, I remember always having the biggest pile of presents at Christmas and I got to open them first as we did it in age order and I was the baby of the family. I was a bit spoilt I suppose being the youngest, the only girl and adopted. However, I don’t remember many of the gifts and the doll’s house stands out above them all as made with time, effort and love.

Also, some of these cherished pressies seem incredibly girly for someone who regularly purports not to be. There is probably something to learn from that.

Now, get thee across to the Kate Takes 5 blog and indulge in other Christmas memories.

Photobucket“/>

Joining in with one of my favourite blog hops where we celebrate our reasons for cheerfulness every week to keep ourselves in that sensible frame of mind that despite the challenges, we are in fact blessed. If you want to find out more, do check out http://mdplife.blogspot.com

1. I have butterflies in my tummy already and am totally excited that I have heard today of the date of my 25th anniversary college reunion. Yes, of course that means that I started uni at the age of 5 lol. It happens next September so I am wondering what size I will be then but know that it will be a whole lot smaller than I am now. It will be so lovely to visit THE most beautiful building in the world and to hook up with old friends and acquaintances. It will be very Porterhouse Blue and I cannot wait.

2. I am happy to report that both my boys got good reports from school at recent Parents’ Evenings. They were both acknowledged for their wonderful vocabulary and levels of general knowledge. So surrounding them with books and babbling on about all manner of things to them seems to work. I am also delighted that my older son who is very bright but really struggles with handwriting is to be given a statement of special educational needs which I hope will protect him as he moves up to secondary school next year.

3. I am happy to have a new pet, a cream labrador bitch who is just lovely and very easy to have around.

4. I am glad that my Dad is going on holiday tomorrow after missing out twice over the Summer.

5. I am pleased to see how my children are popular and how party invitations keep flying through the door for them.

6. I am over the moon that I have picked up some great bargains recently and will be reporting back on #MagpieMonday on my little treasures.

7. I feel grateful that I am managing to stick to my healthy eating regime and hope to have an important milestone to report as part of #mumentum on Monday.

8. I am loving getting to know new #groovingmums and am delighted to be trying out a whole new blog hop on writing that should help me and others move forward on that front. Check out women’s inspirational stories here http://kateonthinice.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/you-really-can-rediscover-the-woman-you-know-you-really-are/ and get involved with writing here http://kateonthinice.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/are-you-a-would-be-writer-join-wordsmith-wednesday-blog-hop/

9. In the last week, I was mentioned more than once in blog posts on the Prompt on Best Blogs. I have two blogging awards that have hurtled my way and I have been tagged in interesting memes. Great to have blogger friends, ain’t it?

10. The wonderful Caroline over at http://cazandbelleblogspot.com gave birth to a lovely baby boy this week. How wonderful for a woman who has had to handle so much. I don’t know Caroline but her story moves me. Also, a very good friend Kat is due to give birth to her new baby anytime soon.

Hey, what’s not to be cheerful about?

This comes highly recommended abd I am linking up with the Recipe Shed where you can find more delightful recipes including rice.

Stage 1: the smooth Balti tomato sauce

2tbsp butter, or ghee
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2tsp freshly grated ginger
2tsp Fairtrade organic curry powder
125g chopped tomatoes

Add the butter (or ghee for a richer balti) to a heavy bottomed pan and heat to sizzling hot. Add then stir fry the onion and garlic until translucent which will take about 4 – 5 minutes.

Add the fresh ginger and stir once. Add Fairtrade curry powder, turning for about half a minute, making sure it does not stick to the pan. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Blitz the sauce either with a hand held blender or take out and pulse in a Magimix until smooth. Return to the pan and keep on a very low heat with the lid on.

Stage 2: the Balti stir fry

3tbsp sunflower oil
500g chicken breast, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into small pieces
1 – 2 green chillis, deseeded, halved and thinly sliced
150g onions, chopped finely
200g button mushrooms, chopped in half
½tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika
¼tsp fenugreek powder
1tsp Fairtrade organic turmeric
¼tsp Fairtrade organic cinnamon powder
¼tsp Fairtrade cardamom powder
2tbsp chopped tomatoes
1tsp Steenbergs Fairtrade garam masala
100ml water
Handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 100C. Add half of the sunflower oil to a wok and heat until smoking hot. Stir fry the chicken cubes in batches until sealed. Put the cooked chicken pieces into the warmed oven. When complete, clean the wok. While frying the chicken, measure out and mix the ground spices together.

Add the remainder of the sunflower oil to the wok and heat until hot and smoking. Add the red and green peppers, green chilli and button mushrooms and stir fry for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure it does not burn and is fried well. Tip in the mixed spices and stir through twice, then add the smooth Balti tomato sauce and mix in, plus the tablespoons of chopped tomatoes. Heat until simmering, then add the water and reheat to a simmer, mixing all together. Cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken pieces and mix together. Add the garam masala. Cook for a further 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before the end add the chopped fresh coriander and stir through.

Serve hot with Fairtrade rice, dhal and naan.

Are you a would-be writer? There are lots of us out there and a fair few of us are bloggers I imagine.

I write mainly on my blog and I want that to change. Are you like me happily blogging away whilst not really pursuing those other writing ambitions? Would you like to join a group of like-minded people wanting to commit time and effort to their creative writing?

I have set up this blog hop as I know if I involve others I will actually feel accountable and do some writing on a regular basis.

Here is how it works and be warned, it really is incredibly simple.

You write something either on your blog and send me the link or write a word document and submit it to me via email to mums-the-word@live.com.

Next Wednesday and every Wednesday thereafter, I will post submissions and that wonderful world out there can read our efforts and leave supportive comments and constructive criticism. Who knows? Your efforts might reach the eye of people who can help you on that journey to making all your writing dreams come true.

I am not going to set any harsh guidelines about how many words you should write or on what topic. You decide.

However, past experience on blogging and writing suggests that prompts are useful to some of us so here are some prompts but only use them if you wish to do so. All creative writing efforts are welcome.

Here are the prompts for those who would like to use them.

1. Write about a revelation.

2. Write about losing something

I know this blog hop will encourage me to get on with writing. I hope it does the same for you too.

When talking about this blog hop on Twitter and other social networks please use the hashtag #wordsmithwednesday

Ready, steady … write!