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.

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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!

Britmums ask us about pleasure this week and as part of that we are to highlight the 5 blogs we love and why we like them so much. I have so many blogs that I read and enjoy that it is so difficult to narrow it down So here are 5 blogs that do different things for me and thereby bring me a pleasure of sorts. I have avoided mentioning those who have mentioned me as it would be too obvious and I will cover them in a feature I am planning for later this year. I have also not gone on about the wonderful women who do the world-famous blog hops as largely I have covered them in another post.

1. The blog that made me learn most is here http://cazandbelle.blogspot.com/

Caz is an Angel Mummy to Annabelle. To my shame, I had not really called mums who lose a baby mothers before. I am not proud to say that by the way but I am pleased that through Caz’s blog I woke up to the reality that if you have carried a child you are a mother. Caz is am amazing lady sharing her feelings so openly whilst fundraising for SANDS too. Caz’s blog is not always an easy read but it is an essential one in my view to understand the impact of babyloss. Caz last posted 8 days ago and I hope her next post will be sharing very wonderful news indeed. Please pay her blog and visit and offer your support for this inspirational woman.

2. Here is a recent find http://dichotomyof.wordpress.com/

If you want to know what I think is good writing, head over to this blog right now. I wish I could write as well as Laura does. I just write words but she paints pictures and has the most poetic way of expressing things. I like her also for her apparent healthy attitude towards authority (as I am a rebel, I will leave you to decide what I would see as a healthy attitude lol). Her blog also has wonderful recipes and anecdotes on family life. She is someone I would like to converse with into the early hours of the morning.

3. A blog I love to read but also a blogger I like to communicate with http://theramblingpages.blogspot.com

If you like my blog, I think you will like this one. It is this Mum would say all over her blog a work in progress but then aren’t we all works in progress as women and as blogs? I like the honesty of emotion and struggles in this blog, the questioning and the discovering. Here is a Mum coming to terms with the reality of children that society chooses to define as “special needs”. I could come up with other reasons but one of the main ones is that I would love to meet this woman and make her a friend.

4. http://mrsshortiesmind.wordpress.com is my fourth choice.

I wanted to choose a blog that talks honesty about post-natal depression. I had several to choose from but I have chosen this one as through it you are likely to find out more a very fabulous organisation that is actually trying to ensure that mums who are struggling do get support and understanding and that any stigma surrounding the issue disappears. When I think of the impact on post-natal depression on the woman herself (I was there too!) and the children of that woman, her partner, wider family, friends and colleagues, something must be done. Kate over on http://mrsshortiesmind.wordpress.com/ is trying to do something positive and I salute her for that.

5. It Could Be You! What I mean is that if I look at the other Britmums blog prompt this week about how I would spend a whole day to myself, the likelihood is I would be investigating new blogs for part of that day. That is the real pleasure about blog reading, there is always a new delight to be discovered. To do it for me, you are likely to be quirky or funny, challenging or questioning, funny or heartfelt, honest and true. I look forward to finding you.