Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ode to Superglue

Superglue, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways
I hate thee with the pieces and fragments and bits
Of broken ornaments, the piece that never fits
From the ends of my fingers and ideal repair
I hate thee so much I have to swear
A smashed souvenir, of sun and candle-light.
I hate thee freely, I can't make this look Right;
I hate thee purely, my repairs earn no praise.
I hate that you are impossible to use
On household items, and on my childhood toys.
I hate that my fingerprints I seem to lose
When I open the tube, --- I hate thee with the breath,
Fumes making tears, all my life! --- and, because I can't choose,
I shall but hate thee again tomorrow.

Apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Nails: Bell Air Flow, Shade 702, with added superglue

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Hello Kitty and Friends - The Friendship Club - Review

One of the items in my BritmumsLive goodie bag was a very special book.  Hello Kitty & Friends, The Friendship Club.  The Friendship Club is the first in a series of 6 books, about everyone's favourite Sanrio Kitty and her friends and their adventures.

I settled down to read it with Squeaky.  OK, I didn't have a choice, she spotted it in my bag as soon as I got home & demanded we start reading straight away.  Hello Kitty is just one of those characters that somehow speaks to the psyche of small girls, and demands their attention.

In The Friendship Club, Hello Kitty and her twin sister Mimmy are starting their new school, with all the worries that go along with it, making new friends and finding their own identities in the school.  It's not without its difficulties, as in everyday life, but there's a great message about how to be a good friend, and what friendship is about.  Squeaky will be starting the nursery class in school in September, so this is well timed for her, and she loved the story.  Even I was quite engrossed towards the end, and I must confess to reading a chapter ahead to find out what was going to happen next!

The book is split into 6 chapters, between 10 to 20 pages each.  This makes each chapter about the right length for a bedtime story for a younger child, or for an independent reader to manage before getting tired & losing concentration.  The independent readers shouldn't struggle too much with the words, as the book is written simply to match with the target age group (5+, according to the back cover).  It's filled with black & white pictures, to maintain interest, and after the story finishes, there's a collection of activity suggestions to tie in with the book, and a teaser for the second book in the series - The School Trip.  There's even a competition in the back of the book, where the first 1000 readers to enter the secret code on the Harper Collins website can win a special prize.

Hello Kitty & Friends - The Friendship Club is released on 4 July 2013, published by Harper Collins.  It is available from Amazon and other retailers, with an RRP of £4.99.

Disclosure: I received this book free of charge in my BritmumsLive goodie bag. I was not obliged to review it, but by doing do, I have the opportunity to enter a competition.  I have not been told what to write and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for your convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will not receive payment for their use.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Fireworks & BritmumsLive

It's taken me almost a week to write my BritmumsLive post, I never know where to start with these things, you know?  Well, anyway, I was there!  Honest, I was.  I was the one who was bordering on jet-lagged, thanks to only having got back from my holiday the day before.

I didn't really know what to expect. I went to Cybher last year, and I've been to a Blog Camp, but the atmosphere at both of these were quite different, and knowing BritmumsLive was a longer event, I thought it would probably be a bit different.  I remember meeting Jennifer Howze at Blog Camp last year, before the first BritmumsLive, and how excited she was about it, especially when she said there would be yoga!  There wasn't any yoga this year, or if there was, it was before I arrived midway through Friday's schedule.

I'm not going to give you a summary of the sessions, there are people who are far smarter than I to do that, if you weren't there, or like me found it hard to choose between two or three running at the same time.  Instead, I'll share some of my thoughts and things I learned.

  • Bloggers are wonderful people.  Yes, we are.  All of us.  Even those who are glamorous & gorgeous & who you wouldn't ever dare strike up a conversation with in the street for fear of not even registering on their radar.  And bloggers give great hugs.  I've been really missing getting randomly hugged by people this last week.  Give me more hugs, now!
  • Bloggers are silly.  Even though we're all (allegedly) responsible adults, given a green screen, a photo booth, a giant penguin, or a magic wand & big white owl, we will happily make fools of ourselves in public.  In fact, we will queue up for the opportunity to do so.
  • Margaritas are the business.  This is not news in any way, but needs to be said.
  • Our stories, our blogs, our opinions all have value.  There are times when I wonder why I'm doing this (often while browsing my stats!), but we are all doing this for a reason, and creating our own little mark on the world.
  • Hoisin Duck does not belong on pizza.
  • Be bold!  Don't be afraid to try new experiences - whether they are bizarre sounding cold cucumber soup at breakfast time, an unidentified box of lunch, an a-line skirt & skinny belt, or dancing in front of a green screen.  Life is short & precious, grab it with both hands.

With this last point in mind, I headed off to the local sports centre this morning, for a very early morning Zumba class.  I've got a GP Referral to the gym at the moment, thanks to being very slightly crazy in a good way.  I'm choosing what to go to each week simply by when I don't need to be Squeaky-wrangling.  So Zumba it was, my first ever time, and as I tweeted this morning I was bricking it.  I am NOT fit, by any stretch of the imagination.

I walked into the dance studio, everyone else had at least a vague idea of what they were doing, and I was *this* close to legging it out of the door & over the road for a Maccy D's bacon roll.  And the first song came on.  Katy Perry.  Firework.  I smothered down a sniffle, and thought back.  Grab the opportunities life presents you, because you don't know what's coming next.  Over the next hour I turned a shocking shade of beetroot, and actually really enjoyed myself.  The BritmumsLive, and Kerry, influence helped me stay, helped me overcome my fear, and enabled me to feel a little bit proud of myself.

Thank you to everyone involved. You all help me be a better person, a better mum, a better blogger.  And you're the best!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Learning Welsh

Despite both Daddy & I being from the West Midlands, we live in the South Wales Valleys, and as such we're governed by the sometimes strange rules laid down by the Welsh Assembly Government.  Education is a little bit different in Wales to the rest of the UK, it's an area where the Assembly have devolved powers to make their own rules.  (Oddly, since I started mentally writing this post yesterday, the AM with the portfolio for education has resigned, and been replaced by my local AM, Huw Lewis, so education's been very much in the news here.)  One such rule is the compulsory inclusion of Welsh language in the school curriculum, right from the Foundation Stage.

In fact, BEFORE the Foundation Stage.  Squeaky starts part time at the school nursery in September, but Welsh has been included in the things she's been learning in the preschool class at the day nursery she goes to now, for at least the last year.  Neither Daddy nor I speak Welsh at all.  I can recognise a few written words from signs & that, and answer the phones at work with a chirpy "Bore Da! Good Morning!", or a slightly less chirpy "Prynhawn Da! Good Afternoon!" because I'm less confident of my pronunciation of the latter (and I just had to look up the spelling)  This is making things tricky when we try to support Squeaky's learning.

Not understanding the language ourselves though, does make it a fascinating experience, watching how her brain makes sense of and learns language.  If she hears & understands something properly, she repeats it accurately, and learns the right word.  She can count to 5 in Welsh quite effectively (and 6 in Spanish, thanks to Dora The Explorer!), and has picked up a couple of nursery rhymes.  The fun comes along when she doesn't quite hear something right.  Naturally, I guess, she substitutes in something that she does understand, whether or not it makes sense in the context of the song, with entertaining consequences.

Clap, clap, un, dau, tri,
Clap, clap, un, dau, tri,
Clap, clap, un, dau tri,
Toilet, toilet, toilet.

For the non-Welsh speakers, the above numbers are pronounced "Eeen, Die, Tree", and according to a swift google, the last line should actually be "Troi a throi ei’n dwylo", which a colleague advises me is something to do with turning your hands over & over.  I don't know.  There are people far smarter than me who can help with that one.

Yesterday, she decided to match her Spanish skills in counting to 6, by doing the same in Welsh.  As I said above, she's mastered 1 to 5 quite comfortably, but I really can't help past that, even though my train home from Cardiff Central station always goes from Platform 6.  So she went for it herself

Un  (Eeen)
Dau (Die)
Tri  (Tree)
Pedwar (Pedwaaar)
Pump  (Pimp.  Yes. Really. I know.)

Again, a quick google tells me she was aiming for "Chwech" so Quack isn't really a million miles away, but the substitution was just so cute, and I really couldn't correct her because I wouldn't have been sure of being right.

It's quite natural, I suppose, to substitute something you understand, even if it doesn't make sense. I remember learning Spanish at school, and seeing one of my classmates write "Kettle" for "¿quĂ© tal?", purely as an aid to her memory.  And the number of mis-heard lyrics I could entertain you with, well, that's a whole other post!

It's going to get harder as she gets older, and learns more Welsh at school.  I've thought about taking classes myself, so that I can support her education. It's not like when she's in High School, doing chemistry or something I was hopeless at, she's going to be looking for a lot more support in the early years of primary school, and I don't quite know how to do that when I haven't got those skills myself.  We're fortunate to have Welsh speaking family members living close by though, so I suspect the linguistic talents of aunties & cousins will be being called upon for the complicated bits.

Do you have any experience you can share with me, on education in a second language?  Or your own mishearings?  C'mon, spill!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Sameness & Difference

After a fortnight of soaking up the Spanish sunshine (see, there was a reason for my silence!), I've noticed Squeaky's hit a milestone I'd not really thought that much about before - Questioning Difference.

A couple of (quite loud) examples from the last few days.  "Mummy, that little girl's got a brown face!"  Now, Squeaky's had plenty of contact with people from different ethnic backgrounds, and sees more again on TV.  And the little girl in question was Spanish with beautifully tanned olive-toned skin, so hardly a massive difference, but enough that *this* was the child Squeaky commented on, and enough to lead us into the whole "People are different, they can have different hair colour, eye colour & skin colour, but they're all just as nice" conversation.  She went back to fishing for seashells in the pool with that girl a couple of minutes later, so I'm chalking that up to successful parenting.

Then, the following day.  "Mummy, why's that boy got pictures on him?"  (The boy being a 30-something man with a shaved head & impressive tattoo collection)  Again, she's seen tattoos before, I've got one myself, but she's suddenly noticing things, and I'm finding myself in the middle of difficult conversations I'd rather not have in public.  The tattoo owner took it with good humour, and I think was secretly flattered to have been called a boy.

Same Difference. Not them.

As for me, rather than difference, I've been noticing similarities.  Our hotel seems to be quite popular with Spanish people as well as Brits, which has given me a bit of an insight into how little we actually vary.

  • Old ladies the world over stop dead still in doorways, blocking everyone else's movements. And then give you nasty looks for trying to get by.
  • 9 year old boys, individually, are shits. En-masse, they are truly a thing of nightmares
  • Everyone ignores the sign saying you can't take food out of the restaurant, no matter how many languages it is written in.
  • 3 year olds, given their own way, would all prefer to exist on a diet of chips. tomato sauce & ice-cream.  And know precisely how to time a tantrum for best public embarrassment. 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Macaroni Cheese & Mini Meatballs - Hungry To Happy

Meatballs are great, aren't they? I made home-made Swedish Style meatballs to eat during the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of weeks ago, with a random selection of dips I found in our fridge.  Squeaky even helped to make them, but then refused to eat them, saying she only likes "nice round meatballs, not yucky ones".  Fortunately, Richmond's Mini Meatballs are definitely nice, round meatballs, and not at all yucky, so she was quite content to join Daddy & I eating Macaroni Cheese & Mini Meatballs in the sunshine on Friday.

Daddy's bowl, I couldn't take a photo of Squeaky's fast enough!
Want to join us?  Then here's the recipe.

100g macaroni
50g grated cheese
25g plain flour
25g margarine (or butter)
250 ml semi skimmed milk
Large handful of frozen peas
4-8 Richmond Mini Meatballs per person
Handful of baby plum tomatoes
Seasoning to taste.


Place the mini meatballs in the oven, cook following the directions on the package.

Boil the macaroni in a pan of water until al dente, add the frozen peas during the last minute or so of cooking to cook through.  Remove from the heat, drain & set aside.

Make a cheese sauce by placing the flour, milk & margarine into a saucepan, place on a medium heat & stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil & cook until thick & smooth. Remove from the heat & add grated cheese, stirring all the time.

Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and mix well.

Place macaroni cheese into serving dishes or plates.

Arrange the cooked meatballs on top of the macaroni.

Cut tomatoes in half lengthways & arrange on top of the macaroni.

Cooking time, about 15 minutes.

This is the point where I admit that this is the macaroni cheese recipe I learned in school.  And that there's always the option to skip the hard work & use a packet macaroni cheese mix, though it doesn't actually save any time at all, just a little bit of mixing the sauce.  It's up to you really.

This post is an entry for BritMums’ Hungry to Happy Challenge sponsored by Richmond Mini Meatballs.

Disclosure: I was provided with vouchers to purchase the meatballs used in this recipe free of charge in order to take part in this promotion.  I was not told what to write & all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for convenience, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme & will not receive reward for their use.

Silent Sunday #silentsunday 2/6/13