Sunday, 30 June 2013

Tearfund: The Choice Teaser 2

Back in May I posted a teaser video for Tearfund's 'The Choice' campaign and invited you to sign up to receive more information.

If you didn't and you're still curious to know more, here is the second teaser, this time giving a bit more information!




Keep your eyes peeled for the third and final clip coming in July along with news of some exciting competitions (can't wait to hear about those!)

If you are interested in knowing more about The Choice: A true story from Cambodia, you can sign up here

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Let's Play: Shaving Foam Dinosaur Land

I have been desperate to do some sensory play with the kids but am still awaiting delivery of my Tuff Spot Tray (fingers crossed it will arrive any day now!) However, I decided to not let lack of a mess container stop me and decided I liked the idea of using shaving foam for a sensory play activity.

I wanted to use some plastic dinosaur toys that Eli has to create a dinosaur land with greenery and volcanoes.  Typically, it didn't turn out at all as I had hoped.  For starters, I could only find one dinosaur out of the ten that we own and it was raining outside so I could only bring a small amount of greenery in as it was all sopping wet.  Once I'd put it all out I thought it looked a bit weak so I squirted some random trails of cream around the table which just made it look worse!!

BUT, the kids didn't mind at all.  I really ought to take the lesson that no matter how much of a perfectionist I am, kids have brilliant imaginations and can work with pretty much anything.

They really enjoyed themselves.  I had created some 'water' out of shaving cream and blue colouring but Meg asked for real water so I put out a tub of that.  Eli created an 'ice rink' for Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka and apart from when he accidentally upturned the water tub onto himself, it really couldn't have been less stressful.


Afterwards I stuck them both in the shower and put the mat outside for the shaving cream to wash away in the rain.  Possibly the easiest clean up I've ever done after messy play!!

What do you think to our rainy day activity?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Book Love: The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

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The Glassblower of Murano by Marnia Fiorato
A captivating story of love and betrayal set in seventeenth-century Venice...


I bought this book on the strength of another book Marina Fiorato had written called The Venetian Contract.  Having loved that book so much I felt sure that this would be along the same lines.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed.

It is another book which has a storyline set in the past and a storyline set in the present (seem to be reading quite a lot of those at the moment!)

In the present, Nora comes to Venice following the failure of her marriage, looking to follow in the footsteps of her Venetian ancestors and enter into the profession of glassblowing.  Despite the fact that women haven't ever been allowed to work as glassblowers on the island of Murano, she is given a chance by a factory owner on the strength of her surname: Manin.  What Nora doesn't realise is that although her ancestor Corradino Manin was a great glassblower, responsible for many of the significant glass artefacts in Venice, there is also a dark secret attached to his past.

We also then follow the story of Corradino Manin set in 1681 and his alleged deceit when he sells the secrets of Venetian glassblowing to the French King Louis XIV.

The problem I had with the book was that the plot was just full of holes.  It wasn't a very believable story in the first place; why would Nora be allowed to work in the Murano factory without even being asked to prove herself simply because she had the surname 'Manin'.  Then there is the love story between Nora and a Venetian policeman, Alessandro.  He turns up, then disappears randomly, and in the meantime Nora somehow falls head over heels in love with him.  Then it transpires that he is living with a female journalist who somehow happens to be the very journalist who turns up to interview Nora after a campaign is started by the factory owner to try and bring business back to the glassworks using Nora's ancestry. This is never explained.  Alessandro mentions meeting the journalist in order to ask her to pull a story but the fact we are told that he has been living with her but that is never addressed is just plain odd.  Why tell us?  Why make it a point of contention between Nora and Alessandro?  I won't even begin to go into the randomness of Nora falling pregnant...

The story of Corradino Manin is quite an interesting one and did appeal to my love of all things historical but that was really just a sideline to the present story, intended to give context to Nora's talent of glassblowing and the reason why some of the existing glassworkers are hostile towards her.

It was just a really piecemeal storyline and, if I'm honest, I wasn't that impressed with the level of writing.  The Venetian Contract was flowing, and beautifully descriptive, and the story was interesting with believable characters.  This really really paled by comparison.  Had this been the first book of Marina Fiorato's that I had picked up, I certainly wouldn't have attempted another one.

Disappointing and not worth reading in my opinion.  And it's not often I say that about books!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Relaxed...#R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

So we are back from our holiday and feeling suitably relaxed and chilled out.  Ready to take on the world again (or something...)

Here are just a few of the things I'm chipper about this week:

Party Time
Although I had to miss BritMums (which I am not not not not not jealous about), we had a really great time celebrating with friends on Saturday night.  We dropped the kids off at their Nana and Grandad's, put our party faces on and had a good old dance.  My Other Half fancies himself a bit of a party animal so he certainly enjoyed himself!

Quality Time
It was so lovely to be able to spend quality time together as a family on holiday, I really don't think it can be beaten.  We flit about so much doing various things that I think we've forgotten to sit back and really watch Meg and Eli.  I learned so much about them in those 12 days we were away (but I'll post about that another time) - especially about Eli, gone is my baby and a real little boy has begun to emerge in his place.


Pitch Perfect
About a month ago I discovered the film 'Pitch Perfect' - I rented it on our movies on demand and then I rented it again to show my Other Half, then I rented it again by myself and then I rented it again to watch with some friends.  It has quickly become an obsession and it is definitely one of those films I can watch over and over again, enjoying it just as much as if it was the first time I've seen it.  The only other film I've ever had that with is Miss Congeniality, which I still love even to this day!!

So I was delighted when my Other Half decided to go out and buy it for me, now I can watch it to my hearts content!  Granted, he was probably only thinking about our Virgin bill but still...I'm excited!!


I know in my last #R2BC post I said I would reveal a big secret but can you believe that I can't tell it yet!  I had hoped that two weeks would be all we needed to get all the details finalised but it hasn't worked out that way.  Sorry to keep you all hanging on!!  Hopefully soon I will be able to tell all.

Hope you have all had great weeks.  I'm linking up with Michelle's #R2BC - head over to her blog to read more of the posts.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Wimbledon and a spot of nostalgia...

Whenever I hear that Wimbledon is about to start I experience a huge pang of nostalgia.  There is one particular summer that always springs to mind when I think about it; the first summer after Meg was born.

It was so incredibly hot and I spent almost every day collapsed on the sofa with the fan blowing cold(ish) air onto us, with Meg alternating between feeding and sleeping.  For whatever reason I decided that this was the year I would watch as many games of Wimbledon as I could and so the TV was constantly on in the background.


Meg was only 1 month old at the time and as a refluxy baby she didn't enjoy being put down to sleep in her Moses Basket so it was really relaxing and nice to just be able to let her sleep on me.

I remember the Federer v Roddick final going on for ages, and trying to explain to my totally uninterested Other Half all the intricacies of the game afterwards (even though I'd slept through the majority of it!)

I can also remember making the decision to start playing tennis again, as I used to be quite good at it, although that has never happened!!


I don't really recall another time when we got to have such a level of peace with quality Mummy and Meg time.  It will always always be one of my most favourite times as a Mummy.




Wot So Funee: Logic

Wot So Funee?

This weekend the kids went up to Liverpool for a sleepover with their Nana and Grandad (which seemed like a doddle after our epic holiday car journey!)

Whilst there Meg asked her Nana why she lived so far away.

Nana replied: "I don't live far away.  We've always been here.  Your Mummy and Daddy moved far away."

Meg's response to this was brilliantly logical and only the kind of thing a child could say in all seriousness: "My Mummy and Daddy don't live far away, they live in my house."

She's not wrong!


Monday, 24 June 2013

A Child's Hide Away and Family Photos

One of the days we were on holiday, the heavens absolutely opened.  There was some serious rain falling from the sky!

Having already braved the outside and done the splashing in muddy puddles thing we were a bit stumped for how to spend our time in the confined space of our gite.

Meg solved the problem for us though by creating a little haven for herself on the window ledge of our bedroom, after all, what child wouldn't love to have their own little cosy space where they could listen to the rain and do some colouring in?





I also managed to take some really cute pictures of the rest of the family which I think turned out quite atmospheric with the only light coming from the window.  I'm not an expert though!!  

We did try and get the kids to pose for us but most of these were taken when they weren't paying attention, which I think is why I like them so much.


What do you think?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

What Not To Do When Travelling with Young Children

Something that might be on a lot of parents minds at the moment is travelling with young children.  We did A LOT of driving for our recent holiday.  The total amount of time we spent in the car with our 4 year old and our 2 year old travelling to and from our holiday gite was 36 hours 

Yep.  

Bonkers, right?  

We thought we were setting off on this journey fairly well prepared.  I had a bag full of colouring books/stickers/magazines/new toys and we had the iPad and a portable DVD player for when things got desperate.  We had snacks, drinks, car seat tables and generally felt good about how things were going to pan out.

Here we are waiting to board the Channel Tunnel on our journey down, before we realised what lay ahead for us.


There are something things you just can't prepare for though, right?

Here are some of the lessons we learned*:

'Are we there yet?' conversations
4 year olds have no concept of time.  If you say 'yes, in 3 hours' that means diddly squat to them and they will probably count to 3 and then get in a huff because you haven't arrived yet.

Neither should you answer with 'No' as my Other Half discovered to his detriment.  This will entice your children to repeatedly ask 'why not' for the next two hours until you are glaring daggers at your husband for being so ridiculous and the tension in the car has risen to boiling point.

Distraction techniques work better than direct answers in this situation: 'Oh look, there's a cow/cloud/red car' etc etc

Back Up Supplies
You will discover that your children have the uncanny knack of throwing their things into the 'place of no return' during the journey.  Even once you've arrived and the car is empty, good luck finding where those four dummies disappeared to.

Have a back up supply.  Trust me, listening to your 2 year old screaming 'I want my dummy' at the top of his voice for a prolonged period of time is enough to give anyone a twitch in their eye.

Don't attempt to unfasten yourself and root around in the back of the car whilst your Other Half is driving either.  Not only is it incredibly dangerous but you will probably receive a poke in the eye from your youngest child for your efforts, not find the dummy in question and bang your elbow on the cool box nestled between your loving offspring.  The plus side is that they will find your squeals of discomfort hilarious and will be distracted from thinking about the lost item for approximately 5 minutes.

Toilet Habits
When you have visited the service station, asked your 4 year old repeatedly if she needs the toilet (to which she has replied 'no')  be prepared for the fact that she will say she needs to go the minute you have pulled off the Autoroute and are cruising down a remote country lane.  

By all means, pull over at the side of the road and allow your Other Half to get out and help her go to the toilet.  Just make sure that he understands that your 4 year old will say she doesn't need any help, but if left to her own devices will just squat down and wee into her pants, shorts and shoes.

Kids Can Hear In Their Sleep
You might think it's safe at 4am in the morning when the kids are certain to be fast asleep to talk about important stuff but trust me, they are either pretending or they have super skills and can hear even in dreamland.  Don't have serious conversations about other people/intimate moments/life changing decisions as your 4 year old will pipe up about them the next day at the most inappropriate moment she can think of.  The owner of the gite probably doesn't want to know what you really think about your boss.

DVD Moments
You might pack a variety of DVD's 'just in case' but chances are 5 hours or so into your journey you will be forced to pull out the portable DVD player.  If you make the mistake of offering up the all time favourite in your first list, be prepared to watch it on repeat for the remainder of the journey.  

It's a sign that you've been in the car for too long when your Other Half quotes the lines of the film word for word and you laugh hysterically at the one liners you've already heard 10 times.  Take a break.

Don't Stop Driving!
Don't assume you can pull over into a layby when it all gets too much and catch 40 winks.  Your 4 year old might snuggle up nicely next to her Daddy and fall fast asleep but your 2 year old is too smart for that.  At random points you will find yourself drifting off and then waking with a start to the heart stopping fear that your toddler has opened the car door, climbed out and disappeared into the night.  In fact, he'll just be in the boot of the car rooting around for food or on the dashboard kissing the windscreen.

The Journey Home
Everyone will be super tired and fed up on the journey home.  After all, there's not much to look forward to at the end of it.  Make suitable plans to keep everyone happy.  Don't expect French shops will be open at 9pm when you've arrived at your Hotel for the night.  They won't be.

Your Other Half will spend an hour trying to track down suitable food for dinner before settling on a microwave meal from a vending machine in the hotel's reception area.  Try not to be offended when your two children intimate that the grey looking slop in front of them is the best meal they've ever had.

Here we are laughing with relief to be on the final stretch of our journey home:


Have you ever made any disastrous mistakes when travelling with kids?  Hopefully if you haven't, sharing these will make sure you don't!!

*Unfortunately all these things did actually happen!


Kiddycharts Blog

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Upcycling Project: Pallet and Wellies

At the moment our garden is a work in progress...if there was any progress actually being made.  Truthfully it's just a jungle of weeds as we haven't had any time to get in and sort it out.  Meg, bless her, asks often whether we can do some planting and digging and I always have to turn her down as it's just too big a project.

When I saw that BritMums were running a 'Kids Grow Wild' challenge, it got me thinking about finding a space on our patio where we could create a 'kids area' for Meg and Eli to plant their own seeds and maybe grow some vegetables rather than waiting for us to finish the actual garden.

I decided that rather than building something from scratch it would be nice to recycle old materials so we procured some pallets that were being chucked from a local plumbing store to use.

I bought some terracotta pots for 79p and using tester paint pots we got the kids to decorate them.


Meg was very keen to get involved so with the fab gardening bag we were sent by BritMums for the challenge we cleared the section of patio we wanted to use.

We were sent some seeds which went into two of the pots that the kids had decorated.  We also bought some flowers from a local garden centre along with a strawberry plant and a tomato plant (fingers crossed we can keep them alive to enjoy the produce!)

Finally, we attached the plant pots to our pallet using some fencing wire.  I had planned to paint the pallet to give it a fresh look but decided in the end that I quite preferred it as it was!

We also decided to upcycle some old wellies we had lying around.  They belonged to Meg and as we had no use for them any more she kindly donated them to be part of our sunflower growing competition.  We each have a welly and our plan is to see whose sunflower grows the tallest.  I'm not sure whether the wellies will be successful forever homes for our sunflowers but I thought it was an interesting and different way to use them and Meg thought it was a brilliant idea!


Here is stage one of our gardening project complete! 

I have two more pallets which I am hoping to utilise to create a corner for Meg and Eli to have as their own and I will share with you when they are finished.

Disclaimer: This post is an entry for the BritMums' #KidsGrowWild Challenge.  We were sent a gardening bag and seeds for the project.

Review: We Love Squirrels SS13 Outfit

When we were offered the chance to review an outfit by Angela from the We Love Squirrels SS13 range, we were very excited!  Meg absolutely loves clothes, especially putting her own outfits together (which is another thing entirely!) so I knew she would be especially pleased when the package arrived for her.

We Love Squirrels is an online children's clothing and baby gifts boutique.  They specialise in British and Scandinavian designers and lots of their items are organic and Fairtrade.

It was recently featured as number 2 in a Guardian article on the top 10 ethical places to buy children's clothes too which is brilliant!

Angela chose a Boys&Girls A Line Dress for Meg and it is simply gorgeous.  It has apricot and cream stripes and is a maxi dress fit made of organic cotton.  Super soft to the touch.  It retails at £22.

It's perfect for summer weather and was one of Meg's favourite dresses to wear whilst we were on holiday.


I loved the style of it, the vest fit at the top which meant there were no straps to constantly fall down (a pet hate of mine) and the flowing loose fit at the bottom meant that Meg could still run around and get into mischief with ease.  Unfortunately she isn't the kind of girl who will sit nicely and not roll around on the floor creating havoc so it's nice to have a dress that can accommodate that!

It has also washed really well, keeping it's shape and soft texture which I liked.  The thing about kids clothing (well, my kids anyway!) is that they only get one wear out of an item before it needs to be washed so their clothes do take a fair beating.  It has been washed three times since we were sent it and is still perfect.


I think the price is quite reasonable considering the wear Meg will get out of it.  The style means that we will be able to team it with leggings when it starts to get a bit short which is great.  

It's even better value if you take advantage of the 50% sale on at the moment and snap it up for £11!  
The same dress in Jade is also in the sale which I am definitely planning to buy for Meg.

Their website is really easy and simple to use and they feature a constantly growing collection of clothing ranges.

Overall, I was really impressed with the quality and fit of this dress and I would certainly recommend We Love Squirrels.  You can find Angela on Twitter @welovesquirrels

Disclaimer: We were sent a dress from the SS13 range for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Book Love: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

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Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Three Secrets.  Two Women.  One Grail


I don't often find a book that I don't enjoy reading but I was hesitant when I started this a week before my holiday.  Firstly, the size of it and secondly, the front cover made it look like it was going to be a really complex read.  Before I even tell you the plot, I will reveal that I finished reading it in 4 days.  That's how hooked I got!!

The story starts with Dr Alice Tanner discovering two skeletons hidden in a cave whilst helping out on an archaeological dig in the South of France.  In the cave she is overawed with a sense of unease, which she can't quite put her finger on.  Her discovery kickstarts a series of events which result in a hidden secret being revealed.

We follow Alice's story told in the present time and another story, which took place 800 years before, that of Alais.  Alais' story takes place during the beginning of the civil war, at a time when Northern France invaded the region of Languedoc, hellbent on removing all 'heretics'.  Alais is entrusted with the protection of a book, and although she doesn't understand the true secret the book contains, she knows she must protect it at all costs.

In the present day story, Alice mostly bumbles along from one thing to the next without ever really seeming to get a hang of what is going on.   I did feel that the modern story was the weakest element of the book and it does take some rather far fetched leaps, for example, Alice randomly bumps into a man she met once during her university days whilst wandering around Chartres, who she then falls madly in love with despite only meeting once.  I accepted these occurrences on the strength of Alais' story but I do think it could have been better.  I got the feeling that we were meant to believe that Alice was Alais reborn and so couldn't help her feelings for Will, as he was Guilhem (Alais' husband) reborn and so on and so on.

That said I really like 'mystery of the holy grail' type books and overall this didn't disappoint.  I know this book has taken some flack (a quick scan on Amazon didn't reveal the best reviews) but personally I really enjoyed it.  

I think you have to read beyond the fact that Kate Mosse randomly uses Occitan words (she explains this at the beginning of the book) and that her modern day story requires some forgiveness to the true heart of the story.  For me, that was the story of Alais and Guilhem.  I'm either going soft, or Kate Mosse sold it well but at the very end of the book I was in tears over their 'almost but not quite' love story.

Her descriptions of Carcasonne made me desperate to visit (it's a shame that on our recent holiday we were 4 hours away otherwise I would have been there in a flash) and I really enjoyed the way she described Alais' environment, I could certainly picture myself standing next to her, experiencing the sights and smells of the places she visited.

Some of the story was predictable but I don't think that takes away from the quality of the writing.  I do think she could have expanded further on what exactly the 'grail' was but to be honest, we've all got imaginations and I didn't feel the need to know each and every detail.  I didn't feel any great sense of loss that it remained a mystery even at the end of the book.

I have bought another one of Kate Mosse's books 'Sepulchre' based on my enjoyment of this one and I hope it delivers the same effortless reading as 'Labyrinth' - I devoured each word and couldn't put it down once I'd got into the story.  That, to me, is the sign of a good book!

I hope you're all enjoying a good book at the moment.  I love recommendations so please do leave me a comment letting me know what you're reading and what you'd suggest as a good book!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sweet Chilli Sticky Meatballs {#Hungry2Happy Challenge}

I don't know about other mums, but I often struggle to find dinners which are quick to make but don't just involve shoving something in the oven (don't get me wrong, I make my fair share of those meals too!) - as a working mum sometimes when I get home, I just need a quick dinner to make so I was keen to try out the Richmond Mini Meatballs.

As regular readers will know, I like to try out new ideas and recipes so I was up for the challenge of attempting something different.

Here are my 'Sweet Chilli Sticky Meatballs':

Recipe
6 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp mild chilli powder
1tsp chinese 5 spice
2 cloves garic

The method is as simple as this: 

- Take one eager to please helper (this has the added bonus of being really easy for kids to make so they don't stand behind you whinging about how long it is taking to make the dinner you started 30 seconds ago)


- Mix the ingredients together and add the meatballs.


- Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring regularly.

Done!!

I served the meatballs with mash potato, carrots and peas.  To cook the carrots, I steamed them for 3 minutes, brushed them with oil and some of the sauce from the meatballs and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.


The kids looked at me a bit strangely when I attempted to serve them this dinner (meatballs without spaghetti...has Mummy lost the plot!?!) but they were soon gobbling them up and fighting off their Daddy who kept trying to pinch their remaining meatballs!!



Disclaimer: This post is an entry for BritMums' Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs.  I was provided with a voucher to cover the cost of the mini meatballs.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Holiday Memories: One Big Adventure!

My final guest post is from Claire who blogs at Clarinas Contemplations.  Hers was one of the first blogs I ever read when I first started blogging and I was drawn in by Claire's honest and open writing.  I'm so pleased she has written something for me to share here!

Starlit campfires, travelling the open road, country music, devouring books, visiting historical sites, mosquito bites, UNO, bike rides, white water rafting, Eurocamp and cousins...

Our family holidays were never the "sit on the poolside and soak up the sun" kind of holidays.  We were lucky if we even got one afternoon of that!  But to be honest, I liked it that way.  Holidays were all about adventure and exploration.  Every day, we would visit some new place, explore some new territory, try a new experience.  Every detail was carefully planned; where we would stay each night, how long each journey would take, what sights we would stop and see on the way.  It was all part of the adventure.


My Dad is, and always has been, the intrepid explorer, and he taught us kids young to appreciate travelling.  Our very small years were spent exploring our own continent - France, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland.  I remember vividly my Dad's bedtime stories while my cousins and I listened from beneath the duvets, the day a butterfly landed on my multicoloured t-shirt, the playroom in our Swiss chalet, the coaxing that had to be done to encourage us to record everything in our diaries (I still have all my holiday diaries - they do make for some quite amusing reading!), skipping competitions and early morning exercise with my Dad and Uncle in the lounge with 5 squealing little girls!  I remember the day, in Switzerland, we ate so many apricots we paid for it afterwards, the "law" that adults were not allowed to pick up children in that country, or we would be arrested (how did we fall for that one?!), the day I got locked in the holiday home and left behind while everyone went on their merry way, thinking I was in the "other" car!

At the age of 8, I left the European borders for the first time and began a love affair that, I have no doubt, will last my whole life long.  We set for America.  I cannot describe the sheer excitement that besets a little girl when she finds out she is going to Disneyworld... I loved everything about that trip - the campervan that led us on the open road for nearly 3 weeks, the cactus', the cowboy ghost towns, Sea World, the Navajo Indians, the Grand Canyon, on-flight entertainment, giant sized McDonalds.  Everything was wonderful...everything was new...everything was big.


Over the next few years, we returned to the USA, ticking off more and more states each time.  Always on the road; always moving from place to place.  There is something so very freeing about that kind of holiday.  I got to appreciate the beautiful city of Boston, went to my first baseball match in Portland, followed the Oregon trail, walked slave plantations in the deep south, drove through the Rockies, rafted the white waters of the Colorado river, buggy-rode through Amish Lancaster County and went to a Rodeo in Jackson Hole.  Each trip holding its own precious memories.


For now, the cycle is repeating itself.  With our little girls, we have returned to European borders as we will paddle the fjords of Norway this summer, and gaze over Northern Irish beaches.  I can't wait.

And maybe one day, I'll be able to take them to "the land of the free, and the home of the brave."