20 things about me

If you follow me on Instagram then you may well have read this already…and if you don’t then you really should – you can find me here.

Anyway, lots of people are joining in with these posts about 20 things and I thought it might be nice to share my 20 facts over here on the blog too, and I’ve added in a bit more detail here too. So here goes…

1. I’m actually called Sarah-Jane although no one calls me that (apart from my mum if I’m in trouble).
2. I was named after Dr Who’s assistant, Sarah-Jane Smith. My mum was actually so convinced I was going to be a boy that they hadn’t thought of any girl’s names. I was going to be Luke Matthew but then I turned out to be a girl and my dad was a big Dr Who fan so Sarah-Jane it was.
3. I was born and brought up in Blackpool – it wasn’t as exciting as you might think. I didn’t even go to the Pleasure Beach until I was about 14!
4. I danced in summer shows at in the famous Blackpool Tower ballroom for two summers when I was a teenager. The backstage is tiny and I don’t know how they fit everyone in when Strictly goes there.
5. I was head girl at secondary school. I had to apply for it like a job and be interviewed by the head teacher.

Me in my school uniform and gown as head girl
6. I’ve worn glasses since I was 7 – without them I can’t see much past the end of my nose! At first I only needed them for watching TV and reading the blackboard at school but my eye sight got steadily worse until I was in my twenties.
7. I worked in France for most of the first half of my twenties. I mostly worked on campsites but also worked in a ski resort and spent one winter working in an industrial laundry!
8. I moved to Scotland for work when I was 25 and ended up staying there for 14 years. I originally moved to work for the company I’d been working for in France. When I left there I worked for HBoS for a few years and then I decided to train to be a teacher.
9. I’m scared of birds (but only if they fly at me). And balloons (but only when someone, usually one of my kids, grabs them).
10. I’m allergic to pretty much anything with hair, fur or feathers. I also had really bad hayfever until the last couple of years. I hardly had any symptoms when I was pregnant and it hasn’t come back as bad as it was before.
11. I passed my driving test first time when I was 17 but didn’t get my own car until I was 25. I used to drive my mum’s car, and then drove vans and company cars when I was working abroad. I’m old enough that I didn’t have to take the theory test.
12. My first car was a J reg Vauxhall Nova that I bought for £150 – it had four different keys (one for each door, one for the boot and one for the ignition!) It got stolen on the first New Year I lived in Scotland. I didn’t notice for two days and the police found it written off in a field.
13. I’ve got a brother who is exactly two years older than me – our birthdays are the next day to each other. We should have been about three weeks apart but he was early and I was late. When we were little he used to open his presents on my birthday because he couldn’t understand how he was older if my birthday was before his!

Me and my brother
14. I’m a French and Spanish teacher. I didn’t do my teacher training until I was 31 and I only learnt Spanish myself after I had qualified as a French teacher.
15. I haven’t worked as a teacher for 21 months now. If we hadn’t have moved I probably would have gone back after a year of maternity leave but we came to England instead. I’m hoping to go back to work soon but just waiting for the right job.
16. I can play the ukulele (badly). Here’s a very silly video I filmed years ago… (and how young did I look before I had kids??)

17. I didn’t meet my husband until I was 32 and had resigned myself to the single life. We met at a comedy gig in London when I was living in Scotland and he was living in Manchester. We got to know each other online after we met for the first time (including three weeks while I was only holiday in America). We met up again a couple of months later, did the long distance thing for another six months then Barry got a job in Edinburgh and moved to Scotland to live with me.
18. I was friends with Benedict Cumberbatch at university but I haven’t seen him for about 16 years. I did have a dream the other day that he came to a university reunion though!
19. I have given blood 15 times and my blood group is O+.
20. I’ve been in 10 pantomimes and 10 musicals – I love performing and can’t wait until I have enough time to get back on stage again. The first one was Alice in Wonderland when I was four and the most recent was Aida in 2014.

So there you have 20 things about me – did any of them surprise you? If you feel like writing 20 things about you then do join in and let me know so I can have a read.

Remembering Childhood // This glorious life

It’s that time of week when another blogger is going to be sharing their childhood memories. This week’s Remembering Childhood comes from Madeline from This glorious life.

Which decade were you born in?

I was born in the 80s.

What is your earliest memory? How old were you?

I remember being pushed down the stairs by my friend one day, we must’ve been about 3 or 4 years old.  I was fine by the way!

This glorious life

What was your favourite toy at 5 years old? At 10?

I can’t really remember, but I think I was around 5 when I had a pound puppy toy that I really loved.  By the time I was 10 I was a big fan of Sylvanian families.

Read more

Cloth nappies // How to choose the right cloth nappies?

So you’ve decided you want to give them a try but how do you choose the right cloth nappies? This is by far the hardest part. There is so much choice out there that it really is difficult to know where to start! There are a few different options when it comes to cloth nappies; firstly, two part or all-in-one.

Two part nappy

Choosing the right cloth nappy - two part nappy

A two part nappy has the absorbent inner nappy separate from a waterproof outer wrap. The absorbent nappy can either be shaped (more like a disposable) or you can use terry squares (like my mum used on me!) or pre-folds (which fold into a pad which then sits inside the wrap). Read more

Cloth nappies // Why choose cloth nappies?

We’ve been using cloth nappies full time since Toby was seven weeks old. He wore them until potty training at three and a bit. With Gabe we started with cloth nappies at three days old and we’re still going strong 20 months later. But why choose cloth nappies? Starting out can be a bit of a minefield though so I thought I’d share a bit about our experience.

Cloth nappies on washing line - why choose cloth nappies

There are loads of reasons to choose cloth nappies over disposables.

Saving money

There were two main reasons we chose cloth; firstly the cost. Estimates can vary but if your baby wears nappies until they are two and a half years old (and Toby did another whole year after that!) they will probably use between five and six thousand nappies! Read more

Living Arrows 17/52 (2017)

After last Monday’s visit to the Gruffalo trail at Grizedale forest the rest of the week was back to normal with nursery for the boys and time to catch up on some housework for me.

On Friday we went to our local forest playgroup for the first time. Toby really enjoyed learning all about bees and doing some bee related crafts. And Gabe enjoyed most of the session in the carrier on my back, which saved me spending the whole time chasing him around! We’ll definitely be back again soon.

The weekend saw a trip to the park, pizza for tea (we even went out for it!), and a visit to soft play as one of Toby’s reward chart treats. Toby and Barry also planted some seeds and put them out on our balcony, hopefully they’ll grow and we’ll have some lovely flowers soon.

I took this week’s Living Arrows photos out in the garden yesterday afternoon while the seed planting was going on…

Toby in the garden with the sun in his hair
Toby has been a little superstar lately (most of the time at least). Read more

Top 10 Movie Musicals

*This is a collaborative post

If you’re a regular reader you may have heard me mention that I have been in quite a lot of musicals in my time. I started dance classes when I was four and have pretty much been appearing on stage ever since. I have always loved watching movie musicals too – there’s something about a musical that just makes you feel so happy.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite movie musicals with you – most of these I first saw at home, and a lot of them when I was young back in the days when we had TVs half the size they are now.  I’d love to see them on the big screen at the cinema though, or maybe even better, in the comfort of my own home on a 4K TV from Panasonic!

So here’s my list, in no particular order…

(I decided to leave out any animated films, so no Disney here I’m afraid)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Seven brides for seven brothers

I can’t actually remember ever not  having seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! I must have been really young when I first saw it, which is no surprise given it was one of my mum’s favourite films – she saw it something like seven or eight times at the cinema when it came out in 1954! I think we must have had a copy on video that we had recorded off the telly and I remember watching it loads when I was a kid. If you’ve not seen it you really should, it’s got some fabulous dancing and super-catchy tunes.

Grease 2

Slightly controversial here but I think I actually prefer Grease 2 to the original Grease film! It has a few of the same characters, a sort of similar story line, but it is just so cheesy. Plus it has a young Michelle Pfeiffer and the really rather sexy Maxwell Caulfield in it – the film almost ruined his career before it had started but he did go on to appear in Dynasty and its spin off The Colbys.

Maxwell Caulfield and Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2

Sweeney Todd

Johnny Depp singing. Do I need to say anymore? Sweeney Todd is a fabulous Stephen Sondheim musical. I love the lyrics and I’m a big fan of a sung through musical with no dialogue. The film version of Sweeney Todd also stars Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall and is the story of a barber who kills people and has them turned into pies. What’s not to like?

Singin’ the Rain

Singin' in the rain movie poster

Surely there can’t be anyone out there who doesn’t love Singin’ in the Rain? It’s a movie musical classic and has so many fantastic songs and dances. It’s one of my ultimate feel good movies and will always put a smile on my face whenever I watch it. Although I think the iconic title song is brilliant I think my favourite song from this film has to be Moses supposes. Or Good Morning. Or All I do is dream of you. Or Make ’em laugh. Oh, I don’t know, they’re all brilliant, just watch the film already!

A Chorus Line

I knew one of the songs from A Chorus Line long before I ever saw the film. ‘One’ is the last song in the film and I love watching the stage fill with more and more dancers. It’s a very simple film really, with nearly all the action taking place on stage in an empty theatre as dancers auditioning to be in a chorus line (do you see what they did there) tell their stories. The only really well known actor in the film is Michael Douglas (although he doesn’t sing or dance) and I’ve just found out in researching for this post that it was directed by Richard Attenborough!

Hairspray

Hairspray is another fabulous feel good film. I’ve never seen the original film with Ricki Lake playing Tracey Turnblad but the 2007 musical version with John Travolta and Zac Efron is brilliant. The songs are so catchy and it has a great message too. And I defy you to listen to You can’t stop the beat and not want to dance!

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins is another of those classics that I can’t remember not having seen. I must have watched it when I was very little and I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen it since. I was listening to an interview with Dick Van Dyke a while ago and he was explaining why his cockney accent was so awful – apparently the studio would only hire a vocal coach to work with him for one day, and the vocal coach was Irish!

Sweet Charity

I love the choreography of Bob Fosse and I was tempted to pick Chicago as one of my top movie musicals. But the film of Chicago doesn’t actually feature Fosse’s choreography and although I do like the film I much prefer the stage show. And so I picked Sweet Charity. I’ve actually been in this musical myself too. It’s not a very well known musical really but features the iconic song Big Spender. I think if I had to pick my favourite scene though it would be the dance sequence ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ – it’s just so weird and completely irrelevant to the plot!

Moulin Rouge!

I remember being so exited when I heard about Moulin Rouge – a new movie musical that wasn’t based on a stage show,  written and directed by Baz Luhrman, and starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. It promised great things and as far as I’m concerned it delivered. I love the way pop songs are woven into the story and Ewan McGregor singing Come What May is just adorable.

Evita

This is another musical, like A Chorus Line, that I saw in the theatre and didn’t really enjoy but then loved the film. It’s another sung through musical and I think I know every single word – I love putting the soundtrack on in the car and singing along. I remember when the film version of Evita came out and no-one was really sure if Madonna would be able to pull it off. I think she does, and if you don’t then at least you can just enjoy Antonio Banderas instead.

Antonio Banderas in Evita

 

So there you have it – my top ten movie musicals. I know I’ve missed loads of favourites out (The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oliver, Annie, High School Muscial, Little Shop of Horrors, West Side Story, Les Misérables to name a few…) but I would have been here all day if I’d done my top 20!

Have I missed out any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below – maybe you love a movie musical I haven’t even seen yet!

*This post contains affiliate links

A new kitchen diner // Room tour

We moved house back in July last year and we knew that one of the first things we wanted to do was knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room and have a new kitchen diner. Luckily we managed to get the house for under the asking price and so that left us with enough money to get the work done fairly quickly. Most of the work was done in October and November last year but we only got the floor done just before Christmas, and I have only now got round to posting a full room tour!

So, without further ado…

A kitchen diner tour

Our kitchen is at the front of the house which is a bit unusual but our whole house is a bit unusual. It is built on a hill so from the front looks like a tiny bungalow but at the back there are three storeys. You come in the front door on the middle floor – the kitchen and dining room are at the front of the house, the living room at the back and then there are two bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. I’m planning on doing a full house tour soon but for today I’m just here to talk about the kitchen. Read more

Living Arrows 16/52 (2017)

I’m a little late with this post this week – the long weekend has put me all out of sync. Actually though the main reason is that I fell asleep when I was putting Toby to bed last night so I didn’t get round to getting my computer out!

Last week’s sun seems to have mostly disappeared this week and we’ve had a pretty quiet Easter weekend. Last Monday though we met my friend Claire and her twins at a park near Warrington (we do a lot of meeting in Warrington as it’s about half way between our houses). It was very busy with it being the school holidays but we found a quiet spot to have a picnic and the boys all had fun running around.

Gabe showing his independence in the park

Gabe is a funny little character sometimes. Read more

Siblings // Toby and Gabe in April (2017)

I have been a bit lax with my Siblings Project posts this year and in fact haven’t written one since January! This has partly been because I haven’t really managed to take many pictures of Toby and Gabe together, and partly because not much has changed on the the sibling relationship front.

This month’s photos are just a few from my phone over the last couple of months, as that is all I have. There’s a couple of good ones in there anyway…

On the settee in matching leggings

We still have odd moments of affection, and Gabe still clearly adores his big brother and wants to do everything he does, but most of their time is spent bickering and fighting. Whatever one has the other one wants, whether it’s a toy, food, a stick or even a random bit of fluff off the carpet! Gabe’s default mode at the moment just seems to be wailing at everything, especially when he can’t have what he wants, so there is quite a lot of crying in our house on a daily basis. Read more