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Sunday, 3 February 2013

KitKat Chunky Taste Test

There are very few things in life that I feel qualified to openly critique. I am fashion clueless, I love films other people hate, my music taste are too diverse to qualify me as an expert in anything. I think to be a critic, you need to KNOW what you're critiquing. You need to know what else is on the market, in order to draw a fair comparison.
But Nestle have just launched their four new Kit Kat Chunky flavours - and if there's one thing I know, it's chocolate.
I am still mourning the loss of Nestle Secret bars from the 1990s, and since then have been relentlessly seeking a replacement for the chocolate bar shaped hole in my heart. Could one of the new Kit Kat Chunky range be it?!

So, let the taste testing begin.  In the interest of non-gender specific testing, my boyfriend has kindly volunteered to join me in the testing. My hypothesis is that the hazelnut will be the ruling class, mimicking the Kinder Bueno in a balance of chocolate nuttiness. Boyfriend thinks choc-fudge will be the victor. (I am starting to think I have chosen my lab partner incorrectly. Choc-fudge is far too predictable to really be a contender, surely?)

1. Attractive packaging. I like the palm leaves which give an exotic feel.
2. Definite coconutty-whiff on opening the packet. ('Good' according to Lab partner.)
3. Looks just like a KitKat Chunky.
4. Coconut flavour is subtle, but distinct. Good aftertaste. Satisfying. Makes me want another KitKat. (Although to be fair, I usually feel that way after a KitKat.)
5. Calories - 246

Boyfriend: 7/10
Me: 6.5/10

Overall - It's nicer than a Bounty, but I think a dark chocolate covering would have pushed this into the high 8s.

1. Packaging - Boring. In fact what I assume is the pile of fudge, at a distance looks a bit like poo.
2. Very fudgy smell - too sickly!
3. Clearly visible fudge layer, nice contrast with pale wafer.
4. Strong fudge taste, over powers the chocolate
5. Calories - 256

Boyfriend: 6/10
Me: 4/10

Overall - No, no no. Did they learn nothing from the mistakes of a Cadbury Fudge? Bleurgh. A last resort chocolate bar.

1. Packaging - We can find nothing to say about this.
2. Very subtle nut scent - hardly noticeable.
3. Taste - disappointing. (Boyfriend: 'It's like someone's thrown up in that bar.') Too sweet. Totally eclipsed by a Bueno.
4. Calories - 260 (The highest scoring of the new KitKat bunch.)

Boyfriend: 5/10
Me: 5/10

Overall: The Bueno is a KING of chocolate bars. Ferrerro Rocher has set a high standard in hazelnut and chocolate confectionary. You need to have something special if you're going to try and usurp those thrones, and this is a massive disappointment. Shame on you Nestle.

1. Good packaging - stands out, clearly Mint, or Pea flavoured. A savvy shopper would know which.
2. Good peppermint scent.
3. Inside, looks like a KitKat Chunky.
4. Good flavour, but predictable. Not surprising.
5. Calories - 246

Boyfriend: 6.5/10
Me: 6/10

Overall: Yeah it's nice, but it's not really challenging any boundaries is it? Mint Kitkats exist already, so this feels like a bit of a cheat.

So the winner is: COCONUT KITKAT CHUNKY!!! (And it's one of the lowest calorie options - Yippee!)

Congratulations Coconut one, you should be very proud. But I'm afraid Peanut Butter KitKat Chunky is still the KitKat Chunky of choice in this household.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The traditional NY resolutions blogpost

1. Join Slimming World, lose weight. Approx 3 stone. 
2. Exercise. 
3. Get into a routine with the kids of reading and homework. It's shameful how much I have let this slide.
4. Worry less. 
5. Blog, at least once a week. I miss writing. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas morning - in solo style

This is my first Christmas morning without the kids. Either my bodyclock has naturally adjusted over the last seven years or I drank too much last night - because I haven't been able to sleep properly and so I got up at 6am and started the washing up.

Over the last couple of weeks when I've told people I'm not having the boys for Christmas day I get two questions:
1. Is this your first Christmas without them?
2. How are you feeling about that?
(The second question is asked with a sympathetic head tilt or small frown.)

Yes, it is my first Christmas without them. I'm not sure if that is supposed to make it worse or better. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a big fan of the novelty factor, and to be honest, it being the first one actually makes it a bit easier. I've not been sure how I was going to feel or what it was going to be like so I've pretty much sat back and gone with the flow.

Christmas Eve is my favourite night of the year. It feels really magical, watching the kids get so excited, listening to Christmas songs on the radio, all the preparation and anticipation... And yesterday did feel a little odd, not putting the boys to bed and then yelling at them that if Father Christmas won't come if they don't go to sleep.

Instead, we went to the pub, met up with old friends and I got sloshed. Very grown up Christmas.

A few people have said that they would never be able to let their ex have their kids on Christmas. I can understand it, and maybe this makes me a totally crap parent but - I am actually not upset or down about it.

I also don't want to be the kind of single parent who jealously guards Christmas time with the kids. He is their Dad, and he has much right to spend Christmas Day with them as I do.

I've spoken to the boys this morning on the phone, and they're really excited about coming home tomorrow to more presents, and they're excited about Christmas Day with their Dad. Meanwhile I have been thoroughly spoiled by my fabulous boyfriend, and have had a perfectly lazy and relaxed start to the day.

I knew this Christmas was going to be different and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. But so far, it is still just as magical for me. Christmas is about the kids, yes, but it's also about the grown ups. I am embracing my lovely day with my gorgeous partner and entertaining his Mum, something I am really looking forward to. And, as it's ten past twelve, and I don't have to worry about being too responsible, AND the nasty after effects of last nights festivities have totally worn off, I'm going to have a glass of wine.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

12 things... updated

It's been a really really long time since I revisited my 12 things to do in 2012 list, so here's an update:

1. New tattoo - done. Twice in fact! One on my back, and another on the inside of my left wrist. I love them both, they make me feel proud and individual and they are such a public celebration of things so personal to me. I just love them.

2. Go Kayaking - I am actually going to do this at the weekend!! Weather permitting. I have a child free day, and my best friend suggested we give it a go. I'm glad I'm going to be going out with her, as she's done it before which will stop me feeling totally and utterly clueless. I'm excited, and scared in equal measure.

3. Pitch a freelance article - well, hmpf. No, this isn't going anywhere. One of the worst side effects of my depression is Writer's Block, which hits me hard and fast. Add to that my total lack of confidence in ANYTHING I do at the moment, and it's a no go really.

4. Sing on a stage - Still working on that one too. Maybe Rock Choir in September? Surely there must be a way.

5. Find a hobby - I'm no closer to this either really, unless you count eating out or watching a lot of movies on DVD.

6. Visit a country I've never been to before - Yes, another one done! I went to Germany with the kids and one of my friends and her family and it was fabulous. One for another blogpost.

7. Drink more - nooo, although my new tablets mean I can't drink wine so I am drinking a lot of Coke and Appletiser in the evenings. Does that count?

8. Walk from Bishopstoke to Winchester like I used to with Dad - This is so easy to do, WHY haven't I organised it yet? I must.

9.  Read a classic novel - Having softened myself up by watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice  (Colin Firth is luscious) I am about to start the book today. Wish me luck.

10. Lose three stone - HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

11. See a Shakespeare play - No, and again, this can't be that hard! I will organise something. I must.

12. Take the kids to the Isle of Wight - I was talking about this at work today. I am very very determined that we are going to do this. I have no idea when or how to pay for it.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Depression is...

I saw this on Mumsnet today, and it struck a chord with me, so I wanted to share it. According to the poster, it's by Marisse Murphy:

"Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. It scoops out your normal healthy ability to cope with bad days and bad news, and replaces it with an unrecognizable sludge that finds no pleasure, no delight, no point in anything outside of bed. You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge. You have no perspective, no emotional reserves, no faith that it will get better. So you feel guilty and ashamed of your inability to deal with life like a regular human, which exacerbates the depression and the isolation. If you’ve never been depressed, thank your lucky stars and back off the folks who take a pill so they can make eye contact with the grocery store cashier. No one on earth would choose the nightmare of depression over an averagely turbulent normal life.

It’s not an incapacity to cope with day to day living in the modern world. It’s an incapacity to function. At all. If you and your loved ones have been spared, every blessing to you. If depression has taken root in you or your loved ones, every blessing to you, too. No one chooses it. No one deserves it. It runs in families, it ruins families. You cannot imagine what it takes to feign normalcy, to show up to work, to make a dentist appointment, to pay bills, to walk your dog, to return library books on time, to keep enough toilet paper on hand, when you are exerting most of your capacity on trying not to kill yourself. Depression is real. Just because you’ve never had it doesn’t make it imaginary. Compassion is also real. And a depressed person may cling desperately to it until they are out of the woods and they may remember your compassion for the rest of their lives as a force greater than their depression. Have a heart. Judge not lest ye be judged."

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Low Ebb

I do normally try and celebrate all the joys of being a single parent (I know it may not seem like it) but today, well today is low ebb. And quite frankly, I'm not feeling it today.

I have just got back from taking the boys on holiday for five nights to Germany. We stayed on a fantastically family friendly farm, with one of my friends and her partner and children. By the third day, I was reduced to tears by the constant misbehaviour of my eldest son. Later that night, over a glass (or several) of wine, I confessed to my friend that quite frankly, I wanted to hand him over to his father. It killed me to admit it, I don't think I could ACTUALLY go through with it, but I'm exhausted. Bone bloody tired, and he is wearing what little there is left of my fighting spirit away. I cried again, when she said "I get it - we've always thought it was because he was over excited, or tired etc. But this is your life, every day." The fact that finally, someone whose judgement I really trusted, who spoke honestly to me, said to me: "Yes, your life is really fucking hard. It's not normal, or ordinary, and you are not making a fuss. It's hard," just made me break down.

The end of the week improved a small bit, then we're back at home and I have one, maybe two days of respite before his behaviour flares again. Then my youngest, probably feeling attention starved, plays up too. On top of this, today I spent the best part of £100 on shoes for both of them. That means I need to spend £30 less on food for three weeks to cover the extra expense. I'm only spending £50 max at the moment anyway.

Meanwhile, my ex tells me he has booked a holiday. So far he hasn't responded to my question about whether he now has enough annual leave to cover the rest of the school holidays. Did I mention that while we were away, he forgot we'd gone? He didn't know his own children had left the country. Jesus wept.

So today, in a bloody fury, I pummelled my hand into my kitchen cupboard, and broke down in frustrated tears at what feels like an endless bloody battle at the moment. I know that my mental state is not as steady as it was. I know that my depression makes everything seem harder than it actually is. I know that crying about it isn't going to make it any different. I know that my poor little six year old boy is struggling with his emotions, learning to adapt to one parent and testing his boundaries. But what I want to know is: Will it ever get any bloody easier?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Clash of the worlds

Hmm, exactly a month since my last post, where I talked about redressing the balance between work and home. Clearly, I've epically failed at that. I am not surprised.

Today I had a classic case of my worlds clashing together, in a way that when I try to explain to people they don't really understand why it makes me so anxious. Today was a huge event at work, in which I've been a central point in planning, organising and pulling off. I had to be at the office at 8am, and I knew I wouldn't get out of there before 4pm. This is my third event at work in three weeks. Meanwhile I also have to do all the other stuff I usually do, and facilitate a re-brand. Does that sound like a lot? Maybe it doesn't, maybe I'm horribly underachieving but the last six months have been exhausting, terrifying, exciting, challenging and a huge learning curve for me. All in 25 hours a week. And all this culminated in today, this final event of the year.

My Mum agreed to meet me at quarter to eight at mine and take the boys to various people for the day. I left for work at quarter to eight. My Mum is quite famous for not understanding why I get so stressed by my children. Last week, on my birthday, she told me the reason my kids get carried away and are so loud and hyped is because I'm 'harrassed' all the time. I frequently get told that when SHE has them, SHE just TELLS them, and they KNOW.

At half eight, as I ran from a marquee to the main hall, carrying chairs, umbrellas, and with seven people asking me questions, my mobile rang. Mum couldn't remember where she was supposed to be taking eldest, and he'd played her up so she was late and she was really sorry but she'd had to tell eldest off quite badly because he was just a NIGHTMARE.

(I had my phone clenched to my ear by my shoulder as I poured squash for 200 children.)

I asked the question: "Mum, what would you like me to do about this now?"
Her: "Nothing, I'm just telling you."


Later that afternoon when I picked the boys up (the event went really well by the way, I feel vaguely proud) it turns out she'd told everyone; Mums in the playground, my childminder, that my eldest had been a nightmare and that's why she was late.

Thanks Mum. I am now the working mother who is too busy to deal with her children, who are so bad even their own grandmother won't look after them.

What I find hard about being a working Mum is that the good scales are never even. Either it's working at work, or it's working at home. Sometimes it's failing at both. But I never feel like it's both working.