Saturday, 31 May 2014

Going Old Skool

You may have notice that things have been a bit quiet of late in this here corner of the blogosphere.  Don't panic (or celebrate!), I'm not going to leave you, I've just been lacking in any sort of inspirational motivation, or mojo if you will.

Well, we can't have that, can we?  So, despite having the PC, the Crappy Lappy, the iThing, and my phone all eagerly waiting for me to type out the thoughts that pas through my tiny mind, I've gone Old Skool, and bought myself a notebook.  I secretly have a bit of a fetish for pretty stationery, and have way too many notebooks hanging around waiting to be used, but a new one is what's needed to get my mojo working, and so now, I can scribble my meaningless meanderings, and then type them up for your alleged enjoyment.  Everyone's a winner, or something.

My notebook. Seriously.

It's worked before, so let's hope it will break me out of my rut this time,  Until the point where I can't read my own handwriting, which is a very real possibility.  A former boss of mine once threatened to send me on a handwriting course, but honestly, I can write perfectly nearly when I need to, but the rest of the time my brain is ticking over faster than my pen can keep up, hence my chicken scratch writing style (and also why I'm so much happier behind a keyboard. I can't write at 50+ words a minute, but I sure as anything can type it!)

The other reason for going Old Skool is that I seem to spend a lot of the free time when I *could* blog in places with no signal, where self-important security people don't let me use technology, or just finding that the Android Blogger app hates me with a passion.  Old Skool pen & paper style is rarely banned from public places, and less prone to tech!fail, so in theory I can be a little bit more productive.  We shall see.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Windchime Keys

Squeaky's holiday homework for the Easter break (yes, it's taken me that long to write about this!) was to make a musical instrument.  Now I try very hard not to be a competitive parent, but there was no way I was sending her to school with an empty coke bottle with some dried peas in it.  If we're going to make an instrument, we're really going to make an instrument.  Know what I mean?

All good ideas start off with a google search these days. And after realising that I had neither the skills nor materials to make a real and functioning flute, and there was no way Squeaky would sacrifice enough colouring pencils to approximate a glockenspiel, I came across an idea to make windchimes from old keys.  As luck would have it, we had our windows and doors replaced over the Easter break, so I was the proud owner of a handful of door keys that were no longer in use.

I sent Squeaky & Daddy off to the park in search of suitable sticks, while I hunted through my collection of art & craft stuff for string and acrylic paints.  I also experimented with a handy coathanger just in case the sticks weren't co-operative.

Painting under way
As I only found primary colours, plus white, it turned out to be a great opportunity for Squeaky and I to learn about colour mixing and we managed to make 7 different coloured keys out of the 4 paints we had available.  Very impressive.  (The picture doesn't show the orange very well, you'll have to trust me)

Jingle jingle
 Most of the colours covered the keys in two coats, the yellow needed three as it was a bit more sheer than the others, and we painted the stick in sections to match the keys.  Crafting string to suspend the keys from the stick, and a final piece to suspend the whole chime from, and our homework was complete.  Squeaky took great delight in taking it into school and jingling it at everyone in sight.  It's due home from school soon, and I'll suspend it from the bird table to jingle in the breeze.

Maybe we put in a bit too much effort to our holiday homework, but surely homework is meant to be about learning, and fun.  We learned about colours, picking the right materials, recycling.  What does a child learn from their parent shoving peas into a plastic bottle they grabbed just before walking out of the door?

And yes, there were a lot of empty bottles with peas in.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bunny Loves To Learn - Parragon Book Buddies

After a short break (a dinosaur book that I simply couldn't get Squeaky to be interested in - though her new boyfriend over the road was much more impressed, and a month off), we're back with the Parragon Book Buddies, and our latest new story, Bunny Loves To Learn by Peter Bently.

Squeaky, as a new-ish schooly (the description they use at the nursery/out of school provision we use) really loves this book. The idea of school, learning, and dressing up tick almost all of her boxes.  If there were mermaids or chocolate ice cream, that's probably the only way she'd be any more excited.  It was very well timed as well, as her class in school have been looking at castles, knights, princes and princesses, so she was able to compare a little with the things they had learned at school and how they had dressed up in costumes as well.

I loved the illustrations, they had a huge amount of realistic texture (though it's not a touchy-feely book), and I really liked the use of books and computers within the pictures to share the information the animals were learning, and make their classroom more like the one Squeaky spends her days in.

One question Squeaky had for me, that I simply couldn't answer was "Why is it called Bunny Loves To Learn, when the rabbit is called Buster?".  Do you know, I'd asked myself the same question.  Buster, the bunny of the title, along with his friends Max, Sam and Francine are all small and furry (except for Francine the frog), but there is no mention of their animal status, and they are just referred to throughout the book by their names, not their animals.  So why is the book called Bunny Loves To Learn and not Buster Loves To Learn?

If you can answer that, I'll buy you an ice cream.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the above book free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will not receive reward for their use.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Peace in the city

I have learned something over the last few days.  Edinburgh is busy.  Very very busy.

Four days in a strange city can feel like a very long time.  So I found my own peace in the city.

At peace with those at peace.  A graveyard, especially one where I have no personal connections may seem a strange escape, but where else could you find the same quiet, the same chance to stop, take stock, and reassess your priorities.

And when there's a proper creepy headstone with skulls on it, all the better.

(I have been trying to post this blog post for the last 2 days, but for some reason the blogger android app doesn't like me)

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bank Holiday Monday as a #MorrisonsMum

I'm Cheaper, are you?
Having spent my student years, and a fair few years after graduating living in the wilds of West Yorkshire, I have to admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Morrison's, as much as it's possible to like a supermarket in that way.  They're the reason why I call the reduced cans display "Bent Bargains", the source of all sorts of odd products I can't find anywhere else, and slightly more logical than the average supermarket.  I was quite upset when I moved south and they hadn't yet expanded to the rest of the UK.  However, those days are long gone, I've grown up, and Morrison's are everywhere now.  There's even a rumour they might be planning to build a new store in our town, where the bus station is at present, if and when the roadworks finally finish (I'm taking this with a pinch of salt, mind you, there have been rumours about Markses going in every big bit of vacant land in town for the last ten years and it still hasn't happened) The likelihood of the roadworks finishing this side of the next millennium is pretty slim considering the speed they're working, so I'm not holding my breath.

Well, this isn't meant to be me wittering on about my long-lost youth, or the state of the Merthyr Tydfil road network, this is me talking about Morrison's now.  Morrison's have taken on the country's economic what-have-you, and introduced a huge range of savings across the store.  Not for a day, or a week, but permanent reductions on over 1000 everyday items, as well as some treats, in order to put a bit of cash back into our pockets.  I was given the chance to have a look for myself, and I'm never one to say no to a trip to Morrison's, even if it's a 15 minute drive, past 3 other supermarkets on the way, and through more roadworks than you'd really believe possible.  I'm going to stop talking about roadworks in a minute, honestly.

Scary Knife lady
Armed with a shopping list (quite unusual for me), Squeaky and I hit the aisles in Ebbw Vale, our nearest store, and one I enjoy popping in when I'm passing. I'd been told to look out for the "I'm Cheaper" stickers, and I was expecting to see a few scattered through the store, but they were everywhere.  Fruit & veg, coffee, cereals, bread, freezer section, everywhere.  I managed to resist the siren call of the deli counters, though I'm a bit upset about that, because I missed out on a couple of my favourite things, though I'm not sure I would have had the chance to eat the huge amount of pork pie or blackberry tart along with everything else I bought.

We stocked up the cupboards to siege levels, ready to withstand any invading zombie hordes, took advantage of the 3 for £10 meat offers to get our weekend roast, chicken for a Mexican Saturday lunch, and some mince for a spag bol later in the week, watched a knife demonstration (and came away with a free garnish knife), filled the freezer with the important things in life (or turkey aeroplanes and Arctic Roll to you & me), bought Daddy some razor blades, and even picked up a few treats.  And still came out to just under £70!  This is the point where I would normally have made a mad dash to the wines & spirits section and grabbed some vitally important Pinot Grigio, but I'm meant to be being healthy at the moment, so I resisted.  I don't do a "big shop" all that often, and when I do it tends to be at a discount supermarket, so I was pleasantly surprised how much I was able to get for my money.

Instead of buying enough wine to pickle myself for the rest of the weekend, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the cafe, where Squeaky had what she declared to be the most delicious teacake she has ever tasted (and she's tasted a LOT of teacakes!), and I stuck to coffee.  I've still got some voucher money left over, so I'm going to have a word with our local foodbank and see if they have any special requests for the leftover balance - I think that would be a good thing to do, don't you?
The most delicious teacake ever
Bank Holidays throw my timing out of the window, especially when coupled with a Sunday afternoon birthday party, and Daddy working shifts.  So we had Sunday On A Monday roast dinner.  Would you like to join us?

Try my Perfect Roast Potatoes, and Never Failed Yorkshire Puddings  (Honestly, this is not just an excuse to link to a couple of my old posts, they are the recipes I use every week because they really work, and are far better than any others I've tried)  However, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how to throw a chicken in the oven, and you've already seen my Yorkshire Puds & Roasties, so instead I've decided to share with you the recipe for the Totally Amazebowls Tomato Soup I made as a starter.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the supermarket

Totally Amazebowls Tomato Soup - serves 4. Cost per serving 35p
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 medium sized potatoes (or 1 baking potato, depending on what's to hand)
1 sweet potato
1 onion
3/4 pint of veg stock
2 tablespoons Soured Cream, and a little more to serve.

Peel and dice the potatoes, sweet potato and onion, and place these, along with the stock and tinned tomatoes into a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
Blend with a stick blender, or potato masher if you are more patient than me.
Stir through the sourced cream.
Pour into bowls and add a swirl of soured cream to each bowl to serve.

Totally Amazebowls!
Disclosure: I was provided with £80 of vouchers to carry out a shopping trip in order to write this post. I was not told what to write, and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will not receive reward for their use.