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Alexander Residence: 01/11/11 - 01/12/11

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

30 days later - Nablopomo, the verdict.

Dear Reader

I agreed to nablopomo (a blog post a day in November) on a complete whim.

Here's what I learnt from some of my better posts:
  • Quality Time - It's about writing about your own life, but making it relevant to others.
  • Vintage Fisher Price Camper - I think my photography has improved this month.
  • Little Legacy - I keep thinking I am nearing the end of this project, then new people join me on the journey, cheering me on my voyage through bereavement and offering beautifully written tales of inspiring people.
  • Sponsored posts can be great writing prompts, which stimulate debate, and they don't have to stop you being you.
  • Making people 'feel' can be more about senses than emotions. Psychosomatic nits anyone?
  • I realised I love documenting the 'little bits' of our lives, nablopomo made me put them up when I might not have got round to it normally.  My 5yo daughter was caught singing I wanna be a Billionaire, my son rocked Pyjama chic.  

Here's the good bits:

  • Having to post everyday helped me feel more relaxed about my posts, sometimes not having the time to agonise over them is a good thing.
  • I believe 'just writing' is the best way to get the creative juices going, drive in the dark and see where it takes you.  Much of the time I don't pursue lots of ideas because I'm not posting daily.  I got to try out more ideas.
  • I got more of a feel of what my blog is about, and what kind of posts work for me and my readers, although I think you are a very varied bunch.
  • I reconnected with some good friends I started this blogging journey with.  I also spent more time visiting some blogs I had lost track of and met lots of new ones. 
  • I became much more aware of the kind of content I want to read, I think this will shape the content I produce.  See I'm using the word content?  Perhaps it was timely for me, but I was ready to move out a little bit from the personal, to debate some bigger issues.
  • I received some offers of cash, some lovely review products and other brand related opportunities.  Whether this was coincidence or down to posting more making me more visible I don't know, but it was nice to know my hard work was being rewarded.
  • I fulfilled my dream to say 'Here's one I made earlier' Blue Peter style in this vlog.  A friend lent me Adobe Premier, I loved getting my hands on some decent editing software again.

The bad bits:

  • I didn't have as much time to read other blogs, or reply to comments.  December will therefore be share the comment love month, as well as be a bit more sociable on Twitter month.
  • I think I probably annoyed some of my email subscribers, but saying that some were amazingly supportive.  
  • I may be a little more paranoid than usual about my blogging.
  • Week 4 felt a bit lonely, perhaps everyone felt a bit saturated by my efforts by then.
  • Some posts could have benefited from a bit more time to marinade.  On the flipside I think I might be better now at weeding out seeds of ideas that were never going to bear fruit in the long run.

Overall, I think it's been a positive experience, sometimes you don't see the full benefits of something until you have had time to step back, I think I will definitely spot more as I carry on the blogging journey.

I am also just proud of myself for sticking to my goal.  And I am so very grateful for all the comments and your patience with blog post bombardment and my written experiments.

Thank you


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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

GCSE General Certificate in Small Person Education

Candidates should attempt to answer all questions.

Whilst answering you must be multitasking, e.g. taking a phone call, driving in rush hour.

Answer immediately, in full sentences, without reference materials, in language appropriate to a small person.  Reveal your working where appropriate.

1.  Will Father Christmas die?  If yes, how will I get my presents.  If no, why?
2.  Are aliens real?
3.  Why don't we fall off the world?
4.  Why don't we feel the world turning?
5.  What's out there, outside the world?
6.  How was the world made?
7.  Why has that woman only got one leg?
8.  How do traffic lights work?
9.  What's heaven?
10. Why do farmer's kill sheep?
11. Why do grown ups stay up?
12. Why can't I have some wine?
13. How does the tooth fairy know to come to my house?
14. Why is the sky red sometimes?
15. How far is it to the moon?
16. Why do we celebrate Christmas?
17. What is a church for?
18.  Who's Jesus
19.  What's god?
20.  Mummy what's a can of worms?

Pick a question and give it your best shot, you'll be doing me, and lots of other parents a big favour.


Monday, 28 November 2011

Life's smelling of roses

It was a wet afternoon driving the kids between school and swimming, my daughter suddenly started singing Billionarie by Travie McCoy.  The lyrics sound hilarious in a 5yo's mouth, take it from me.  She said she was learning it at school, I presume in the playground and not in the classroom.  I don't know what she was singing for the first line, but fortunately it sounded nothing like the original:

I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad
buy all of the things I never had
uh, I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

Anyway, the conversation quickly turned to what we would do if we really were billionaires.  I think it's always good to have this conversation, just in case. We have the anti consumerism talk right after this indulgence, of course.

So, after I giving away a huge lump to charity,  I would buy a house in the country, I would have fresh flowers delivered daily.  Roses probably, hopelessly romantic flowers.   I would have Gok Wan organise my capsule wardrobe.  I would have a chef cook us really nutritious family meals, a housekeeper to take control of the chaos, and a personal trainer to motivate me to exercise when it's cold and misty.  

I would write my blog and my children's book and spend quality time with my kids. For me money is about buying me more time, not stuff.  

My daughter said she would buy a train.  I tried to prod her some more, convinced she wasn't really giving it enough thought - she was playing with a toy one in the back of the car at the time - but she was adamant.  It would be life size, it would take her wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted.  See for a 5 yo who has more time to do what she wants, perhaps it is about being in control of your world, going where you want to go, about not being ferried about by your mum on a wet afternoon?

What would you do if you were a billionaire?  Or better still what would you not do any more?

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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Mr G is 3

I love that one day you're a pirate and the next you're a rock star.
I love that you really believe the other pirates may come and steal the treasure you buried in the sandpit.
I love that some days you wake up and believe you are a puppy.
I love that you think you are a knight and I am your horse.
I love your 7am daring sea rescues, saving your sister from the sharks on the stairs.
I love hiding under a blanket with you, from monsters, on a wet weekday afternoon.
I love that if I say 'You're gorgeous' you say 'No Mummy, I G!'
I love that you're spirited, rebellious, determined.
I love that you say bumpits for crumpets.

Happy 3rd Birthday Mr G!

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Saturday, 26 November 2011

To do lists

I write lots of lists, but one of them sent me over the edge last night. Can you guess which one?

I have a house list which goes something like this:
fix washing machine
do washing
tidy up
food shop
repeat lots
Find rattle bought for cousin's new baby and post (bribe 2yo to tell me where he hid it)
Post overdue thank yous for 5yo's birthday presents before they send birthday cards to the 2yo.

2yo's birthday party list
cake making, party bag filling and pirate game inventing etc.

Blogging list
Actually I stuck to this list last night and I didn't get sucked into random acts of internet time wastage.  I found loads of lovely blogs to comment on, in the Britmums nablopomo group.

The school list
Fill cup with sweets for Christmas Fayre
Take in a bottle and put child in own clothes on Friday in aid of Christmas Fayre
Take in soft toys and games for Christmas Fayre
Furnish the tombola for the Christmas Fayre
Make child do colouring competition for the Christmas Fayre
Sell raffle tickets for Christmas Fayre (Dad?)
Perhaps if you could spare an hour or two volunteer to help at Christmas Fayre.
Attend said Christmas Fayre
Enthuse tired and grumpy reception age daughter about reading (top priority)

I can actually cope with a washing machine repair, having to bribe the 2 yo and plan his party, but the list that sent me over the edge yesterday was the school one.  A book bag full of requests.  Much as I love the sense of community the PTA provide, I can't sustain the pace.  Although, after working through the entire pile of requests, I found the paper that said I didn't have to do all of the above.

Christmas list will be following shortly.  I have been a very good girl.

Any tips for a parent new to the joys of school age children?  Any list management tips?

NaBloPoMo 2011

There is a sponsored link within this post.

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Friday, 25 November 2011

Would you have cosmetic surgery?

I've been thinking about my attitude to cosmetic surgery.  If someone asked me if I would consider it, I have always said a categoric no, I'm too squeamish and my feeling has always been that interfering with nature is wrong.  

But since then I've had two c sections and some dental work.  All highly necessary medical procedures with nothing to do with vanity.  But the labours and their resulting emergency c sections made me realise my squeam threshold is higher than I thought.  Then the pain free dental work I had, to fix a tooth that cracked and died, made me realise that modern dentistry is truly amazing.

It was the dentistry that really got me thinking.  A year ago I went to see an orthodontist to see about having invisible braces.  As an 11 year old I made a flippant decision not to have braces which I have regretted at various points in my life.  It's mainly my left incisor that's wonky.  Everyone tells me it's part of my character.  Some days I feel that, others I absolutely hate it.  Especially when it's captured on photos at a bad angle.
The orthodontist's verdict was that I would have to have full on proper braces, for two years.  I'm still debating it, but the cost and the hassle is putting me off.

Back to the dentists.  The dentist warned me he might have to replace my cracked tooth if the crack was extensive.  The irony is, it was the perfectly straight equivalent of my wonky tooth that cracked, my second left incisor, as opposed to second right.  Had it been my wonky tooth that died, would I have told him to just whip it out and stick a straight one in?  Would I have felt I had lost a part of me?  I'm not sure.  In this instance he saved the tooth, but it left me thinking.  I'm sure people in the media glare do this all the time for vanity.

Media representations are half the problem here, we are drowning in airbrushed and cosmetically enhanced versions of beauty.  Growing older makes me wonder - it's 7 years since those wedding pictures were taken - will I be tempted to have procedures for vanity's sake?  Currently the answer is no, but I said no to braces at 11.  How will I feel in another 7 years, 14 years, 21 years?  I hope I will just feel more comfortable in my own skin.

Vanity seems a misleading term though, I know many people who have had cosmetic procedures would argue vanity is the wrong word.  Sometimes fixing something is about more than just your mirror image.  Some people opt to have surgery due to an illness such as breast cancer.  In these circumstances, women who have lost a breast may decide to have a breast enlargement to restore their body to how it once was before contracting the disease. In this sort of situation, cosmetic surgery may be helpful at restoring confidence and normality to their lives.

So that's where my head's at.  Wondering over a wonky tooth.  Where's yours when it comes to cosmetic surgery?  Would you or have you been tempted to fix what nature gave you, or what it takes away?

The Hospital Group asked me where I stood on cosmetic surgery, this is a sponsored post, but the views expressed are entirely my own.

Photo credits - Martin O'Neal

NaBloPoMo 2011

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Zug the Bug Little Legacy 20

The start of this week was plagued by strange vortexes, I think triggered by having a virus, the cold weather and my big black duffel coat coming out of hibernation.  I was continually taken back to the bitterly cold walk to and from the hospital to see my Mum back in January, with my brother and Dad.

Another vortex opened, taking me back to talking on my mobile phone outside the hospice, and watching my breath form clouds of steam.  Somehow when I put on mascara, I am often whisked into another vortex which finds me sitting on a particular bench outside the hospital, probably then I was trying not to smudge it.

I took Mr G to the park, thinking it would do us good to be outside, no matter how cold. We spent a happy ten minutes burying 'treasure' in the sandpit. Then a little girl and her Gran sat down next to us. I'm still not great at these situations, these little reminders of what's missing still catch me off guard. Fortunately Mr G dragged me off to find more treasure.

Later that evening I found a little legacy on my daughter's newly tidied bookshelf.  The perfect antidote to the day's vortexes:

My Mum found it in Oxfam a couple of years ago.  It's been one of my daughter L's favourite books.  Now she's in reception class and learning to read.  Her teacher has asked us to focus on sounding the first letter of each word.  Many days L is just too tired and doesn't want to.  But finding Zug the Bug again enthused her.  This set of books make that fun, each page the first letter of the word changes, zug, bug, lug, slug, mug. 

Loss leaves gaping holes, but then little legacies come and fill them. mum would be a much more patient at teaching L to read and G to find treasure, but she did an amazing job of preparing me to do it. She left little hints and tips absolutely everywhere.  I'm reminded again of the words of Kahlil Gibran:

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

I wish I had paid more attention the very last time mum came to visit, she made a huge fuss out of reading both children stories, I would love to know which books she read them that night.  We kept poking our head upstairs wondering if she had finished, but no. She got cross with me and my husband for rushing through stories without talking about them, as parents sometimes do after a long day.  

Now when I read stories at the end of the day I often feel emotional, a powerful feeling that it's just me, my child and a book at the end of a day filled with distractions.  But it's a magical time and one I cherish.

With both children sleeping soundly that night, I crept upstairs to my desk in the attic.  My subconscious must have been playing games that day because it took me to Why Mummy Why's post in which she explains the joy and pain of a long forgotten book so beautifully and humorously.

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  Feel free to link up a little legacy you've been thinking about this week, or to leave one in the comments.  Here's the code and here's more on Little Legacy


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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Creative Toddler Taming for the Honest Mum

Honest Mum is having a blog carnival to celebrate both her own birthday, and her blog's birthday.  If you haven't met this amazing lady who makes films for a living and who's family run the yummiest Greek restaurant, then head on over to Honest Mum.

Knowing Vicki is a creative sort, with a gorgeous toddler, I wrote A Creative's Guide to Toddler Taming.  I have consolidated my best, most imaginative, tried and tested tantrum taming tips into 8 steps.  And there's not a naughty step in sight.

NaBloPoMo 2011

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Who said romance was dead?

My next Kodak Big App wall art project... 
Forget the kids, who said romance is dead? 
This one's for my husband.

Don't forget the Twitter party Wednesday 23rd Nov 1-2pm, get some great printer Christmas gift ideas and, if you tweet #printerprojects, with a tip, craft, idea or example of a Kodak Big App picture, you’ll be entered to win:
  • a 7.1 Hero All-in-One printer with 4 packs of A4 photo paper and 5 cartridges each of black and colour in
  • 1 x M5370 Digital Camera

Terms and conditions apply, see here for more information. This is a sponsored post in association with Britmums and Kodak.

NaBloPoMo 2011

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Searching for Blue Skies

I've had the feeling for a while now.  Something's wrong.  I'm looking for something and I don't know what.  There's a cog missing. The finely tuned engine that is the Alexander Residence (the real one, not the virtual one) needs a service.

I realised what I am missing is our caravan.  We have been far too busy, new schools, new jobs, we've let Autumn slip by without a weekend away, and half term too.  Much as I love getting away to the seaside in the Summer, I also love escaping up in the colder months, with the heaters on the caravan is so cosy.  There is nothing that beats the sound of rain on the roof when you're snuggled up in bed.

I worked out we have spent the equivalent of 2 out of the last 14 months in our touring caravan.  It has made such a difference to our family life.  It brings us all back together when we are out of synch.  It gives me and Mr A a chance to catch up over a bottle of wine, without the lure of the laptop or television.

It gives us chance to explore the country, see nature from our window and spend time together as a family.

So far Winter has been kind, so I'm wondering if we can squeeze in a weekend away before the madness of December.

What do you do to keep your family in synch?

There is a sponsored link in this post for Caravan Club insurance, a product we currently use.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Iconic pieces of modern art get hat tagged

It's getting chilly, our house is old and draughty, especially for our resident naturists.  I had no idea we had so many naked bodies lounging in the house until Innocent drinks challenged me to play hat tag.

Klimt's kiss gets cosier
Klimt's not so chilly nude
Matisse's Blue Nude is not so blue anymore
Get a hat from an innocent smoothie, take a snap, upload it to Innocent's facebook gallery and 10p gets donated to Age UK. Oh and there are prizes to be won. Plus every vote gets 5p donated to Age UK.

Innocent sent me some hats and a cool box of smoothies, although by the time I picked them up from the post office they weren't so smooth sadly, damn.

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Saturday, 19 November 2011

Box worlds

I've been thinking about boxes again lots this week.

I wrote a guest post about turning boxes into new worlds for Claire at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and everything else.  It's a great way of making new toys for next to nothing and promoting literacy.  They can be robots, or cars...

We made the Dinoland above complete with dinosaur eggs.   My son took it to nursery for Show and Tell. I'm upping the Show and Tell stakes currently because it seems to be the only way to get him to skip into nursery, rather than clinging to my leg or trying to hide up my skirt.  Now nursery are going to make some too.

And B.D. (Before Dinoland)  the box was a robot, before that it had nappies in, and I blogged about how it saved a life for Unicef.

I am writing a story for a Save the Children book of bedtime stories.  It's a project started by Natalyia of Green Kiddie.  Boxes have crept in to that one too.  There's a fab line up of bloggers and their children contributing art and stories, and it will be around to buy for Christmas.  The twitter hashtag is #stcbook.  I hope you will consider buying one or two.

Any great ideas for boxes? Have a lovely weekend.

It's day 19 of Nablopomo, a post a day for November.

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Friday, 18 November 2011

Last chance to enter the Kodak Big App challenge

The Kodak Big App challenge continues, with a chance to win a Kodak printer or camera.  If you haven't got on board yet, here's a run down on how to turn your photographs into art, and maybe even prizes.  And if like me you need to see some before you get inspired, I have collated some great ideas too.

In a nutshell
Take one cool snap, give it the Big app treatment via the free Big App on the Kodak site.  The App will turn it into a PDF dividing the image into as many A4 sheets as you choose.  Print the PDF, then either fix it to the wall directly, or frame your creation. Kodak ink is more affordable than other inks so you can go as big and as colourful as you want. It's also great quality and highly smudge resistant, so perfect for little fingers.

My projects
So far I have used the Big App to remind myself to keep practising the skills I learnt on my photography course, by turning this picture into a collage above my desk.  Here's me looking pleased with it:

I blew up this photo of my daughter shell hunting on the beach in Wales for her bedroom wall.

And I captured my son in the midst of his favourite activity, pirating! A little Jack Sparrow appearing out of the bushes. His collage was bigger than his sisters, she wasn't impressed.  He loved it though.

Then my husband wanted to know where his photo was. So the next one's for him.  And I need to raise the stakes on my daughter's image.  I have some ideas. And I will remember to lose the margins when I print to make this one seamless, and stick it up straight, and perhaps even frame it to give it an even bigger wow factor.

Challenge entries
Still looking for inspiration for your entry? You have until Tuesday 22nd November. Let me share some ideas I really like from the entries so far, it was impossible narrowing it down, but here goes.  

I love Kate of WitWitWoo's Skimming Stones, moments like this encapsulate so much about the parent child bond, about growing up and learning.  They totally deserve to take over a whole wall.

Again, this shot is just pure magic, and it took Rebecca of Here Come the Girls hours of manipulation to achieve (pop over and find out how she did it).  I can imagine it looking absolutely amazing blown up, and Rebecca's talking a whole 24 A4 sheets.  She would easily get this many sheets, and many more, out of £10 Kodak colour cartridge.  Bargain.  You can't beat fairies for capturing small people's hearts and minds.

Mamsaurus is going to put this in her dining room.  For me it is a million times better than any plaster cast or handprint kit of your baby's hands, and so much cheaper to achieve too. Plus the colours are just awesome and it's going to inspire more fabulous art, whilst looking every inch a piece of modern art in itself.

Although I am rubbish at minimalism in my interior design life, I can dream.  I can dream of clean white flowers, blue cloudless skies and a very different, and beautifully relaxing approach from Gadget Mum.  I love the way it changes my perspective, literally and mentally.

So that's what we did with the big app, what would you do?

All the information on the Big App Challenge you need is here.

I'm a Kodak Printer Projects Expert!

This is a sponsored post in association with Britmums and Kodak

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Thursday, 17 November 2011

Dear Diary Little Legacy 19

Wednesday 16th November 2011
I awoke to voices shouting 'Shark'.  I stumbled out of bed and down the landing to find L and G performing daring sea rescues up the stairs, using the sheets that were drying over the banister. We scrambled through the school run, making it by seconds.  I worked at home in the day and after school we picked Daddy and his friend A up from the train station. Kids were very tired but excited to see them.

Wednesday 16th November 1983
Ill again? We went to the Doctors who gave you some medicine.  You and your brother made a library, went to Gran's, made a bookmark, decided to collect stamps and generally didn't stop.

The first entry is mine, the second my mum's.  My mum was a great diarist, I am a lapsed one, although perhaps my blog has filled that space.  When I was 5, the same age as my daughter is now, my mum wrote a diary just for me.  My brother was also exactly the same age as my son is now.

I'm enjoying in dipping in, seeing the world from a 5 year old's perspective, sympathising with the frustrations my mum clearly felt at managing two small children, and relishing as she did, the milestones and the magical stuff children do.  It's comforting to know even though she's not here to ask about those times, that I have a connection to them.

Do you have diaries of people in your family?  Do you keep a diary?

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors.  Feel free to link up a little legacy you've been thinking about this week, or to leave one in the comments.  Here's the code and here's more on Little Legacy

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Life Tarot

Back in September, frustrated with the direction of our mid thirties lives, my friend L suggested we do Life Tarot.  I might have giggled nervously at memories of hideous attempts at ouija boards, and conversing with spirits through packs of cards as teenagers. Fortunately it turns out Life Tarot has actually got nothing to do with tarot cards, instead it's a life coaching technique.

L told me to write a series of goals I wanted to achieve on a set of cards.  I was to turn the first one over and make it my goal.  e agreed to meet in two weeks and review our progress.

Anyway to cut a long story short, it's changed my life.  And L's.

L turned up two weeks later grouchy and demanding coffee, she complained bitterly of feeling tired and said she had no idea how I managed with babies.  It turns out she had turned over the card marked puppy.  Her half German Shepherd, half Eskimo pup was keeping her up half the night, but she was in love.

I proudly produced two memory books from snapfish, one for my son and one for my daughter, full of pictures and stories of their time with my mum before she died.

Satisfied by our snappy achievements we turned over the next cards.  Spookily they were both much longer term goals.  Hers a psychology course, and mine to get published.  We spent a little longer on this goal, over a month we met a couple of times.  In one session we met in the riverside pub in L's village and brainstormed storylines and character ideas for my children's book and debated the ins and outs of doing a Psychology degree and how to fit it into L's life.

L has chosen the Open University and is starting work as I write this, I have a couple of drafts of my children's book and I've had some blog posts and articles published on other sites in that time.  Small but important steps.  I'm taking part in the bloggers' Save the Children fundraising book which will be published in time for Christmas.

I get really excited about turning over the next card.  Although I have to admit I am really struggling with this months, perhaps I should have made it NaBloPoMo? (I'm doing a post a month in November).  Perhaps I will blog about that at the other end of the month.  Currently I am procrastinating badly.

What helps you stick to your guns, and your goals?

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

We love Pyjama days for Children in Need

There's an art to making the most of a charity Pyjama day, in this case a nursery fundraiser for Children in Need, sneaked in a few days before the actual event.  Any opportunity not to dress or undress a two year old must be seized with relish. Purses open, donations a plenty.

Mr G wore his from the night before to the morning after. A full 36 hours without wardrobe related arguments.  Everyone's a winner.  

Are you doing anything for Children in Need? We're going to a teddy bear's picnic party on Friday.  

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Monday, 14 November 2011

Mr Darcy's splash

Our love affair with the National Trust started when we got married at Quarry Bank Mill, a National Trust property in Cheshire.  It's great to share that magic with your children.

We went to Lyme Park at the weekend, another National Trust property south of Manchester.  The magic started within minutes of leaving our car, we stumbled on acorns and mushrooms, and found an old tree stump big enough for the kids to call home.  

There's a Beatrix Potter exhibition on currently, and to celebrate there were lots of Potter themed activities.  Although I'm not a huge fan of reading the stories, I love the illustrations and the characters.  We met Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and her washing in the orangery. We hugged Peter Rabbit and saw Mr McGregor's tools and Squirrel Nutkin's sack of nuts hanging in the tree. 

Jeremy Fisher is now installed in the lake where Mr Darcy takes a dip in the film version of Pride and PrejudiceThe park is a popular film location, recent release The Awakening was also filmed in Lyme Park.

The playground is fantastic. Huge, but very safe wooden rope bridge structures allowed even Mr G to adventure high up. The park is perched on a hillside above a duck pond and surrounded by beautiful hills and trees.

There's a wonderful wildness about the place, it's nestled by the peak district, but balanced with a spectacular country house and hearty, warming National Trust food.

The whole experience was beautifully thought out, right down to the food.  My Dad and Mr A ate gamekeepers stew made with venison. I had garden vegetable soup.  We loved the rabbit shaped cookies and cupcakes topped with chocolate rabbits. 

More info on Lyme Park

I'm approaching the halfway point on NaBloPoMo, a blog post a month in November.

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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Silent Sunday

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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Hair today

After years of asking if I could please, pretty please put a little plait or some pigtails in her hair and being told no, I finally got her permission last week.  I just wanted to indulge my inner hairdresser a little.  Admittedly it may have had something to do with the nits going round her class, she was so horrified by the idea of bugs in her hair she would have agreed to anything I suggested.

I followed behind her as she scooted to school, all the time smiling at these two little plaits.  Then I dropped her off and ran off to invest in an array of hairbands.  Sad I know, but it's a little girl milestone and I am making the most of it.

And nits we've dodged them so far, but it's all new to me, so I did my research.  I developed pyschosymatic nits on the day the letter from school warning it was going round came out.  I had nightmares for two days where I woke up convinced I had insects in my hair.   So here's the top tips I gleaned from the nice lady at Boots the chemist and parents in the playground.

  • You need a Nitty Gritty comb, it's the only one that works and potentially so effective it means you won't need chemicals.  Brush through hair every few days when wet and full of conditioner.
  • A good preventive measure is a spray made with water and tea tree oil, or hairspray 
  • Keep hair tied back
  • Check hair frequently
On another note, I made the silly mistake of not going to my normal hairdresser to save cash this week.  As I paid at reception, for my nice, but safe and boring haircut, a picture of the haircut I had really wanted stared down at me from the wall.  Why do hairdressers insist on having those edgy, cool, creative pictures on their walls when they either don't know how to achieve them or don't dare?  

I've gently suggested to my normal hairdresser I want the haircut of the woman on the wall in her salon before, so we're both prepared for the day when I say 'I want that one'.   In the meantime if you know a hairdresser who's not afraid of edgy coolness in Nottingham, please let me know.

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Friday, 11 November 2011

Time to think outside the box

It's just a box right?  Or is it a robot? Or is it a life?

From time to time we buy Pampers.  I'd clicked it said Unicef on the packaging, that Pampers donated a vaccine for each pack. I hadn't thought much beyond that being nice.  Until I got in a speed boat with Tara Cain of Sticky Fingers blog.

Not a real speedboat of course, a metaphorical speedboat, at the Unicef offices in London.  The gathering of bloggers was divided into two groups and tasked with deciding what equipment and staff would be needed to set up a vaccination station in a remote Indonesian village.  We had to study a hand sketched map and decide where to set up.  I had no idea how complicated it would be, how many conflicting factors we would have to weigh up.

Tara and I decided to be the healthworkers in the speedboat, Mamasaurus was the local doctor and Hot Cross Mum loaded us up with kit.

I learnt simple things like a packet of biscuits can encourage reluctant villagers to come forward, that setting up in the shade by the chief's house builds trust, that a tape measure can help you estimate a child's age, that a bucket makes a handy seat at a good height to vaccinate from.

Unicef start with the hardest to reach people in the world.  I was sitting next to Tara as we were told of long journeys by plane, smaller plane, speedboat and canoe, to reach the world's most remote populations.  Unicef's policy is to seek out the hardest to reach communities first.  As soon as the talk finished I looked at Tara amazed, because Tara went with UNICEF on a journey like this over the summer.

Unicef vaccinate over half the world's children.  They are making a huge difference in the fight to eradicate maternal and newborn tetanus. Pampers funding has enabled UNICEF to help protect 100 million women and their babies in 26 of the world’s poorest countries.  Their work is amazing.  Have you spared a click or two to help yet?

Time to think outside the box. As well as buying Pampers you can:

 Like the Pampers Facebook page –  1 like = 1 vaccine

Personalise your very own Miffy book for your little one –  1 read = 1 vaccine

Download the free Pampers Out and About App and find baby friendly locations
 – 1 download = 1 vaccine

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

My Moral Compass Little Legacy 18

My good friend T advised me recently, when I felt lost, to think of what my mum would have done, to have her as my moral compass.  

UNICEF is a cause that meant a great deal to my mum.  Recently I went to their offices in London to learn more about the campaign to vaccinate against maternal and newborn tetanus. It was an inspiring day, and resonated with me hugely because I heard so much of it with my mum's passion for UNICEF in mind. 

One of the most poignant parts for me was hearing about Cifora Monier, a second generation UNICEF Communication Specialist, who despite being a mother herself, doesn't know how not to spend months at a time helping in some of the world's war and famine torn zones, because that's what her father did. 

I also had a UNICEF legacy passed down, a rather smaller one, but it made a big impression. I want to carry on a little legacy of giving to UNICEF.  Mum did it by buying UNICEF's beautiful cards and gifts, by monthly direct debit and by joining campaigns.  It means a lot to me to also be able to dedicate blog space to UNICEF.  

Hearing the word mum said lots, seeing pictures of mothers and babies, Dad telling me it was important I went. All this has meant I have been into another one of those vortexes where every time I tried to write this post it wouldn't be written.  Until today.

Did you know UNICEF vaccinate half the world's population in some of the world's most remote locations?  That they are on track to eradicate maternal and newborn tetanus?  That alone amazed me.

What's made it possible for UNICEF to reach some of the world's most remote communities? Corporate sponsors. For example, Pampers funding has enabled UNICEF to help protect 100 million women and their babies in 26 of the world’s poorest countries.  But it's more than that, with corporate sponsors UNICEF can afford to spread their message to supporters globally.  

Here are four easy ways you can help me make a difference.  I've thought about my moral compass, what would Mum have done?  I think she would have gone for option 3, she brought us up in cloth nappies, but was a big Miffy fan and she loved reading stories.

·         Make a difference by choosing the specially marked pack of Pampers –  1 pack = 1 vaccine
·         To connect with other mums, simply “like” the Pampers Facebook page –  1 like = 1 vaccine
·         For all the Miffy fans out there, go to the Pampers Village website and personalise your very own Miffy book for your little one –  1 read = 1 vaccine
·         Download the free Pampers Out and About App and find baby friendly locations in your area  – 1 download = 1 vaccine

Thank you.

Little legacy is a remembrance project , a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors. Feel free to link up a little legacy if you've been thinking about something or someone important this week, or leave one in the comments. Here's the code and here's more on Little Legacy

Photo - A woman and her baby in Papua, Western Indonesia. Credit- Josh Estey

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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Turn your photos into art and prizes with the Kodak Big App

I'm very excited to announce Part One of my promised November secrets. I have finally fulfilled my dream of becoming a Blue Peter presenter. Well, as good as. Britmums and Kodak asked me to be a Big App Ambassador. Which means I get to demonstrate printer wall art projects, on screen. Not a scrap of sticky back plastic in sight. But even better news, you get a chance to win great prizes, just for selecting one of your photos.

The Kodak Big App is a rather marvellous and highly addictive free, internet based app.  Kirstie Allsopp was on telly the other night, refering to machine embroidery as the 'crack cocaine of the craft world'.  Well Kirstie, you haven't tested the Big App. Here, have a bit of this, it will blow your mind, you'll never look at your photos the same way again.

I really hope you are going to join me on the challenge.  I may have bags of enthusiasm after my day with the photographer Jon Cruttenden but I reckon you probably have a much better eye, and therefore a much better chance of actually winning.  There are some great prizes, a camera or printer, just for linking up a picture you would give the Kodak Big App treatment to.  Competition entry details here. Check out the Britmums Big App site.

All you need is an image...

I'm a Kodak Printer Projects Expert!

This is a sponsored post in association with Britmums and Kodak.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Quality Time

I have been reflecting on how to achieve quality time with both my children. They are 2 and 5 and not given to respecting each other's space or need for quality one-on-one time. I took my son on a train to a blogging event and it really sank in how magical that time together, away from the normal routine was. He totally relished it, look at these smiles:

I made him this photo collage for his nursery show and tell, his keyworker said he wouldn't stop talking about it. Which made me feel I had hit on something very important. But then my daughter saw it and caught onto the fact that she had been at school and missed out. So over half term, while her brother was at nursery, I took time out to take her on a bus and a train to the local nature reserve.

Except my son saw the pictures we took at the nature reserve and he wants to go on a boat now. And my daughter is still bitter my son got to ride in a taxi on his day out and see London. I've started something big here I can see.

Which reminds me that Tamsin from Looking for Dragons  (a great blog about adventuring with children) told me about a lovely idea for giving individual children quality time.  A couple she knows take it in turns to take  one of their children out somewhere on the date of that child's birthday every month, while the other parent takes the other child on the date of their birthday.  The next month the parent takes the other child.  Great system.

How do you get quality time with all of your children?  Or even just with one child and one parent?  Any tips?

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Why blog mentors matter

Britmums have started a Big Sis bloggers mentoring scheme.  I volunteered to help after I read a newspaper article about how little people want to share their skills in this modern age.  Evidence suggests mentoring is a dying art in our uber competitive, fast moving and high pressure world. Which, having spent many years teaching future generations and mentoring new teachers, I think is very sad. Mentoring made me a better teacher and I think it will make me a better blogger too.

I pointed out I would be happy to be mentored too (I'm a very good student). My blog is after all just a year old itself, there's plenty I don't know.  The skills involved in running a blog are wildly diverse.

For me mentoring is not about sitting on a pedestal and claiming to be an expert, it's about being prepared to share what you do know (in my case writing, making film, parenting is tough), admit what you don't (design and technical stuff) and analyse what you do and why (that needs a whole new post of it's own).  So I'm no expert, but I am very happy to share the knowledge I have amassed in the last year, it's been a steep learning curve.

I think the people I am mentoring will teach me as much about blogging as I will them, not just through the process of looking into how and why someone else blogs, but because there are just months between us and these ladies are seriously going places with their blogs.

Do check them out and add them to your readers if you haven't already:

Kerry at Multiple Mummy
Elizabeth  at Jelly Beans Music
Rebecca at Here Come the Girls

If anyone else want to talk about blogging with me, comment below, email me, tweet me, let's compare notes.  If anyone wants to mentor me, yes please!

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

10 is the magic number

I’ve been tagged by Helloitsgemma to answer 10 questions, as a way of getting to know a bit more about fellow bloggers. The idea is to then tag someone else, preferably someone who is taking part in the NaBloPoMo challenge.
1) Describe yourself in 7 words?
creative, direct, enthusiastic, thinker, impatient, restless, demanding.
2) What keeps you awake at night?
Very little, I have always slept in a crisis and suspect I am vaguely narcoleptic.
3) If you could be anyone for a day, who would you be and why?
The Queen of course.
4) What are you wearing right now!!
Dressing gown and pjs.
5)What scares you?
6)What is the best and worst about blogging?
Best thing is creativity, worst the time hoovered up in tinkering.
7) What was the last website you looked at?
This site about making easy, affordable wall art 
8)If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I did  a personality test, I am an ENTJ meaning I don't have a lot of patience with small children or less experienced people.  Yet I became a teacher and stay at home mum.  I wish I had more patience.
9)Slankets – Yes or No (this divides the blogging world ;-)
No, I'm 34 not 4 or 70 thank you very much.  I do love camping and caravanning though, can see the benefits but much prefer my tartan rug thanks.
10).Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
Gemma is like a penpal, she gives me much needed perspective whenever I lose my way with blogging.   She loves climbing.  She's fab.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

A night with the boys at Rock City

In celebration of Mr A's birthday we went to Rock City last night.  I can't say I lasted that long, I left the boys to it, but I couldn't resist taking some snaps, just because I wanted to have some grungey ones on my blog, and to prove there is life beyond small children.

I learnt there is a Drunk Lock app last night.  It makes you go through a series of tests to prove you are sober enough to social network.  

I think they had a very good night, facebook is very quiet.

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Friday, 4 November 2011

Something for the weekend - Harvey Wallbanger

There's something ceremonious about starting the weekend with a cocktail. Something to signal it's time to switch off.  A kind of slow down ritual.  Although this weekend being Mr A's birthday, we're probably not going to be slowing down much.

Cocktails are often associated with over indulgence, but I reckon the opposite can be true. Taking the time to make and savour a cocktail, rather than swilling down some of hastily poured wine or G and T, can often mean a good night in and a clear head, instead of me falling asleep on the sofa at 9pm and waking at 6am feeling rough.  As a lightweight, I'm a big fan of long drinks.

Plus I found out recently, after attending a Drinkaware blogging event, that my self estimated gin measure is actually a triple.  So I think there is no harm for me in revisiting the spirit measure.

Harvey Wallbanger
2 measures Vodka
0.5 measure Galliano
6 measures juice
Orange slice

Build the drink in a highball glass, starting with ice, then vodka.  Float the Galliano on top, garnish with an orange slice, a cherry and a straw, and serve.

And the story behind it?  Harvey, a Californian surfer had performed badly in a surf contest.  He hit his favourite bar to drown his sorrows.  Deciding his usual Screwdriver wasn't going to hit the mark that day, he spotted the Galliano bottle.  The bartender added a shot as a float.  Harvey had quite a few of these and banged into some walls on the way home. Ouch. Stay safe kids. A measure is 25ml, of which women are recommended 2-3 a day, men 3-4.

Musical Accompaniment.  For me and Mr A, Galliano were a particularly fine acid jazz band of our yoof. Hence we have a bottle knocking round the house. It tastes of vanilla, and the nineteen nineties, and well, just make one and listen to this. This may have to be my start of the weekend track.

Finally a very Happy Birthday Mr A!

What rituals mean it's the weekend for you?

Links within this post are sponsored.

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