Monday, 30 April 2012

Competition: Win a Pickle Pie 'loves' print

"We would love to design a free print for you," said the lovely ladies from Pickle Pie in an email. 

"Sure," I said. Well, you would, wouldn't you? 

They asked me for a list of my favourite things. That took a few minutes. Well, the list itself hardly took any time, what I dithered about was whether the list would be what should be my favourites - world peace, fluffy bunnies, green vegetables - or what I really like. 

The result is in the top picture and I adore it. It makes me smile each time I look at it. The other photos show some of their other prints.

Furthermore, the Pickle Pie ladies have solved my what to get as a present problems for the foreseeable future. They can do a print for every occasion, and the prices are very reasonable too. 

And if that wasn't enough, they are offering a giveaway prize of a free 'loves' print. To enter have a look at the Pickle Pie site and then let me know BY EMAIL one of the things that Lizzy loves. Send your answer to with PICKLE PIE in the subject line. 

Competition closes on May 14, 2012 and all decisions are mine. The winning print is unframed.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Housework is a feminist issue

Nearly joking

One of today's jobs
A woman's work is never done. Barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink.

Maybe that's a joke, a cliche that's old hat, but not entirely...

Survey after survey show that women do the lion's share of domestic chores regardless of how much paid work they do.

They have precious little time for themselves and constantly report feeling tired. (These surveys are filed under No Shit Sherlock.)

This is 2012 and equal opportunities have been enshrined in law for many years now. We all know the numbers suggest that the glass ceiling is barely cracked, but at least we know what should be happening.

However, it's the not-at-paid-work time I'm interested in.

When I'm not working I want to do stuff with the Boys and the Panther, and my friends and the rest of my family. I have books to read and books to write. Blogging, social media, hills to climb, countries, museums, conversations, recipes, musical theatre, sun salutations.
At the same time, I also want to have clean, flat clothes in my wardrobe, full fat toilet rolls, enough fresh groceries, a taxed and serviced car, a groomed garden and fewer weeds.

I'd like a house that doesn't scream squalor at me and clutter that doesn't threaten to suffocate.

isn't something a bit like that what we all want? Men and woman.

Obviously I am a woman and I'm seeing this from the oestrogen side of the street. But I have known a few men, hell, I've even married a couple.

Panther of News, if you have got this far this isn't simply a nagblog, but I would like to know what you think.

I have observed that in my home and most of the homes I know the woman trends to be responsible for domestic matters. This means that even if she doesn't actually do the work she knows when it should be done and instigated our delegates it. She also thinks about it, factors it into her available time and, often, puts it before things she really wants to do. 

Not the most rigorous piece of research I'll concede. However, it certainly looks like a gender issue to me. So what's going on?

Is it a throwback to prehistoric days when we kept the cave neat while our men were off hunting and gathering?

Is it that a well as producing eggs, our ovaries also reduce our tolerance to mess, dirt and disorder? Therefore we are most likely to give in and get the Hoover out.

Is it the reverse that a penis blinds its owner to dust, smears and empty food cupboards?

More paranoid. Have we managed to be persuaded that our womanly worth is measured in clean windows and home baking thus making us so busy that we have less time for proper a achievements? Keeping the competition down, you see.

I'd love to know the answer and more importantly the solution as I have a world to change and not enough time to do it in. So I'd rather not have to think about how to get nasty marks off the carpet.

Meantime, today - my day off from paid work - will be spent cleaning my squalid house because I can no longer stand it. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

Happy Birthday blog

Five years ago this blog was born. As Joanne Mallon pointed out, that's 103 in blog years.

Obviously 734 posts ago I had no idea it would end up so important to me. 

I was going to write something worthy and reflective about it all but I don't have time and Boy Three is climbing on top of me. So I won't. 

Instead there's an utterly average photo of my family having a picnic lunch and a mildly amusing crocodile.

I did just want to say thanks very much for coming, I'm so glad you do. 

Enjoy, there might be cake - or gin - later. Here's to the next five.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Review: Josef Seibel sandals (sunshine not included)

LATEST UPDATE: The people at Seibel contacted me and offered me a replacement pair. They were apologetic and certain that their shoes shouldn't behave in such a way. After all, they pointed out, if I had bought the shoes I may well have taken them back to the shop. I'm not sure I would because I'm lazy that way. However, I'm delighted to report that I've worn the replacement sandals a couple of times and they have, so far, performed beautifully. And I have got round to painting my nails a coordinating shade of blue. 

UPDATE: I have worn these sandals a few times now and am becoming slightly disappointed. The Velcro on one foot in particular doesn't stay done up very happily and so I spend the whole time refastening this. At best this is annoying and, at worst, dangerous. On a recent trip to the beach I found my foot sliding out of the sandal. They are still very comfy if you don't walk anywhere. If I hadn't been given these to review, I would be returning them to the shop.  

This post could also be titled 'Instagram for lazy cows who can't be bothered to paint their toenails'.

Josef Seibel sandals
 I got these sandals from Josef Seibel to try out and I was delighted when they arrived a couple of weeks ago... because the sun was shining. I imagined shorts, linen trousers and so on. However, the sky has remained resolutely overcast ever since - plus, it's been more than a bit parky. My lovely new sandals have remained thus - nothing other than a stumbling block on the bedroom floor.

But, it's time. I've had them long enough. I need to let you all know what I think. 

So I dashed out from the warm zone - about 2m from the little heater that hides under my desk - to the arctic upstairs and grabbed them and put them on. Oh, but they are so comfy.

Almost comfy enough to forget that it's Baltic here. But not quite. 

But then I realised there was a problem - because I'd been skipping about in boots and thick socks for some time, my tootsies were somewhat neglected. My nails weren't gloss and the heels dry and dull looking. Not pretty. 

What to do? Paint, buff and moisturise? Er, no. Sign up to Instagram and hope the fuzzy effect would make things look Ok. Did I get away with it? 

Josef Seibel sandals
Toe to toe with Boy Two

What I like about the shoes?

Comfy, comfy, comfy. Did I say they were comfy? But also I think they look fine, they have enough heel to reduce flat-shoe waddle and I like the colour. Velcro fastenings mean they'll work at whatever stage of footswell you have.

What I don't like?

Very little. Perhaps they aren't ladylike or elegant, but that's not what they're for. Oh and I'm going to have to attend to my feet before the weather warms up. No rush then. 
It's possible the Velcro could become a bit annoying as, in this house, I sometimes kick through piles of laundry the way lovers do through fallen leaves. This means I could end up being accessoriesed by a dirty sock or two. 


Mr Seibel has come up with another versatile, comfortable sandal that, once summer arrives, I will wear to death.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

What do you do when your hero's a scumbag?

Thought we needed a soothing picture
So a footballer, Ched Evans, was convicted of rape. That means he is a rapist - he did it and the girl he raped is a victim. 

This is how justice works in this country. At this stage there isn't any doubt about it. It has been proven in a court of law. 

Why then yesterday, when the verdict was announced, was Twitter awash with vile comment from Sheffield United and Wales fans? They revealed the name of his victim - when victims of sex crimes are guaranteed anonymity - but more than that, they subjected her to a revolting tide of abuse, like it was her fault; her they were angry with. 

Police are investigating and I hope very much arrests and convictions will follow. 

But I had a look on Twitter today, out of curiosity. There's still a steady stream of messages under the hashtag #justiceforched. What? There is no injustice, he was not the victim. What idiotic call for justice is this?

This rapist was the best hope of his teams' success on the football pitch and thousands of fans are bitterly disappointed about that. They are the ones who must grow up and deal with it - attacking, by whatever means, a woman who has been through the worst ordeal isn't going to help. That would be the action of morons, wouldn't it? 

When I started writing this post I was all set to make a comparison with other heroes who show themselves to be scumbags in one way or another - Dennis Waterman, Mel Gibson, Chris Brown, Tiger Woods et al. But actually that's not what it's about. 

Instead, here's what it's about:

Rape is a horrible crime, rightly, punishable by imprisonment. 

No one was ever asking to be raped - not ever. 

If your hero is a rapist, get him down off his pedestal at once...

Then, direct your anger at him, not his victim. There are no excuses.

Review: Frankie and Benny's AKA the birthday outing

Obviously there should be a series of photos to go with this post showing plates of yummy food and contented diners. But there aren't. 

It's not that there weren't plates of yummy food or contented diners, it's just that we were in Frankie and Benny's on Saturday evening with five 10-year-olds, an over stimulated 12-year-old Aspie and a nearly-three-year-old who had drunk a glass of coke. I had other things to do. 

We were in Frankie and Benny's at Abbotsinch Retail Park Paisley at 6.30pm on a Saturday. And, no, were were in full possession of our faculties. 

It was Boy Two's tenth birthday celebration cinema sleepover and, while I wasn't looking, he had invited four of his chums, instead of the two I had hoped for. No matter, thought I, some won't make it. But they did. 

About the time he was celebrating this cunning move, I was offered a voucher to try out the new menu at Frankie and Benny's. Serendipity, I'd say.

Plan A had been to go to the Frankie and Benny's at Braehead, just downstairs from the Odeon where we had seen The Pirates In An Adventure With Scientists. (Surprisingly good film but not quite good enough to take away taste of £5.25 booking fee.)

However, there was a wrestling event on. Who knew? Apparently quite a lot of people, so many that we had to revert to Plan B. 

Plan B was to go to the next nearest Frankie and Benny's. Clever, I thought. 

And that, dear reader, is why we were in the restaurant in the corner of a car park. A really busy restaurant. I had no idea that so many other people would have a similar plan, but they did. 

But finally we were there at our booked table, given menus as well as colouring books and pencils. I glanced around the packed restaurant and my heart sank. 

With over-stimulated and tired children it's fairly important to get fed swiftly or things start to go horribly wrong. The place was jumping and I didn't see how it could be quick. 

I was wrong. Service was swift and polite and, better still, the food was good. 

Kids' meals were tasty-looking and not on the stingy side as some children's portions can be. The Panther of News had a burger that he proclaimed to be "right good". And I had F&B New York Chicken. Tasty, well garnished with just the right amount of sauce and salad. 

It was so good that even in the midst of the crowd and the tension due to potential uproar, I really enjoyed it. 

What we liked?

Good service. 
Food good enough for grownups.
Happy children.

What we liked less? 

It was busy and noisy.
Some of the mains arrived a few minutes after the rest. 


We will return to Frankie and Benny's but we will never do a birthday sleepover with so many children. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ellen loves...

I got this lovely thing from Pickle Pie Creations today. It's on my desk and makes me smile every time I look at it. 

I'm putting together a blog competition with the ladies from PPC soon, but I couldn't wait to share this. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Family communication breakthrough to rival FaceTime

Rudimentary experiment
How are communications in your house? Here at the Palace of Bundance, things can be a bit patchy. 

However, never fear, I have been working on a cost-effective solution that will revolutionise domestic communications in homes around the world. 

For example, I often experience communication failure in areas of domestic order restoration, footwear storage, homework initiation and bedroom mess management. I'm not alone, however, years of attempts have been made to improve communication in this area. 

In some instances the solution is obvious - headphone attachment syndrome, not-bloody-listening-to-me disorder. Although in this tricky field identification doesn't necessarily effect a solution. Act fast, shout loud and, if you're lucky, you'll nip it in the bud. 

Whatever the cause, observations reveal that children do not generally suffer from a global communication dysfunction. Oh no, the symptoms are selective and infuriating. 

For example, children will generally be able to demonstrate the most efficient communication skills via the medium of FaceTime particularly when sender and recipient are in the same room. This rapid, Apple product enhanced, communication will usually be accompanied by loud cackles, exaggerated facial expressions and, in some cases, farty noises. 

However, in the past few years, I have observed a mode of communication that will knock the socks off any app-based electro giz-ery. 

This method is called CludgEdoor. The phenomena was first observed not long after Boy One began to talk. Whenever an adult - particularly me - went to the lavatory Boy One would have something urgent to communicate. 

The same thing happened with Boy Two and Three. And, occasionally, in regressive mode, the Panther of News. They would stand outside the loo and yell at me. Suddenly communication became urgent and important. Messages had to be passed on. 

Building an extension and adding two more toilets to the house simply reinforced the effectiveness of the communication as the child will roam the building shouting until he happens on the locked door behind which I am. 

Excited by the phenomena, I have conducted rigorous control and double-blind tests. Shutting doors and hiding elsewhere, locking the door but not using the lavvy, and so on... 

Without a doubt the effect is at its most intense during a bowl movement, but works reasonably well at other times. 

But how can this breakthrough work for you? Simply imagine the coast is clear and lock yourself in for a sitdown and watch CludgEdoor take place. Before long someone will be shouting at you. Suppress the urge to bellow "bugger off" and instead say "do your homework" or "empty the dishwasher". They will be so flabbergasted they will do it, or they'll leave you alone - either way is a positive outcome. 

I'm currently working on some groundbreaking experiments of reverse CludgEdoor where I wait until a child (or husband) is ensconced and start shouting at them. 

I strongly predict that CludgEdoor will be making a big splash everywhere soon. 

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 21 April 2012

My wild thing picks his favourite book

There aren't many books I really remember having read to me in childhood - Beatrice Potter, especially the scary one with the squirrel, Anatole the French mouse and the Tiger Who Came To Tea (although I may have imagined that). 

But I still remember the way I felt about Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The way Max's safe bedroom walls melted away to forest and moonlight left me shuddering with fear. Then the boy alone on a boat over the year's oceans chilled me more than the sight of the wild things. 

As a result, I didn't read it to Boy One and Boy Two - I didn't want to terrify them too with yellow eyed horribleness. 

Then someone gave Boy Three a copy. He picked it up the other night and I couldn't lure him away with Poppy Cat, Hairy Maclary or even Tim's fascinating trip to the doctor. 

"I want wild things," he asserted. 

So I read it. "Bye-bye wild things," he sighed wistfully at the end of the book but perked up at the news that Max's supper was there - and still hot. Now he wants the book every night.

The book, apparently, is about conflict and anger - about how small children are buffeted by strong, dark emotions. Funny isn't it? These days I'd like nothing better than sleeping in a forest and I have enjoyed days on a small boat with mostly myself for company. I still don't much like conflict, anger and strong, dark emotions though. 

Boy Three on the other hand - so cheered by Max's steaming supper - much prefers his plateful to be cooled to tepid. My little King of the Wild Things. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Review: Hotter shoes for happy feet

Hotter shoes

Hotter shoes
Once more onto the feet, dear friends...

Allow me to introduce the next generation of the most comfortable and useful shoes I have ever owned. 

It is no secret that I have shortish, squarish feet. They have always been hard to find comfortable shoes for. Smart flat shoes gape at the side, sandals can be a little too revealing and heels are, well, heels and heels have less and less to do with my life these days. 

Put it this way, returning to boots is one of my favourite things about the weather getting colder in the autumn. I like a nice boot, me.

However, this changed last year when I bought a pair of Hotter shoes - the white ones on the step here

Comfy, smart enough and in a colour that goes with everything. And in a wide fitting. (At this point there should be something of a fanfare.)

So when I got offered the chance of reviewing a pair from the Hotter spring range I kind of knew what I'd pick. These are called Lulu and are my new best friends. You'll find them on the Hotter site or shop. Where they also come in other fetching colours... I have my eye on a pair in pale aqua.

This whole shoe business has raised a few questions for me though: 

  • At which point does being comfy matter more than being very stylish?
  • When do your feet stop growing? Mine are a half size bigger than they were a decade ago. 
  • What colour should I paint my toe nails? 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Trench warfare: style statement from an Aspie

Last night, Boy One announced that he would like one of those dressing gown coats. You know? With the tie thing that's like a belt but not quite. 


Eventually it transpired that what he wants is a trench coat - detective style. Like Columbo, or, his hero, Skulduggery Pleasant. 

(Last time I wrote about Columbo, the actor Peter Falk died the day after the post which was somewhat strange.)

"It looks really cool, like a detective. Plus, as well, it would also keep me warm and dry," he explained.

So do I buy my 12-year-old son an trench coat?

Why I should:

  • He's right, it can look cool.
  • He's never shown an interest in what he wears before so the change should be embraced. 
  • Adopting a signature style isn't a bad idea. People with a big enough personality to wear hats, capes and the like without looking foolish are inevitably attractive.
  • It would keep him warm and dry.

Why I shouldn't.

  • He's 12 and very tall and skinny. I fear he might look somewhat daft.
  • Having Asperger's, he doesn't need anything else that might draw the attention of bullies. 
  • A signature look on one so young might be mistaken for fancy dress.

What would you do?

Review: Skylanders Skyros Adventures (Wii)

These little beasties were doing battle on my kitchen table today while my sons explained what was good about Skylanders Skyros Adventures. 

"They come to life." Really?

"They have fantastic powers." Oh yes?

"They fight together to win." Co-operating? Eyebrows raised. 

What is it all about?

If, like me, fantastical creatures fighting for something or other leave you cold - whatever format they are doing it in - then you'll need to know the basics.

These plastic things are no ordinary toys - when you put them on the Portal of Power (really) they come to life (not really but on screen).

Then they engage in battles, quests and so on that, as far as I could see, looked pretty similar to the other battles and quests that appear on the screen when the boys are playing games. 

Having said that, I'm a middle aged woman with no interest in computer games, so I have to take my sons' word for it. 

The game is aimed at kids who are aged from seven to 13. My sons, aged 12 and 10, declared that it was good, but slightly young for them. There is no evidence for this as they have played with it long and hard - both together and separately.

What's good about it? 

Kids of all ages love the characters. Because there are so many characters - and extras - there is a lot to do and will keep them occupied for a long time. 

The toys keep the score and all the other game-play information. This also means that if your children's friends have the game then your child can use his character to play on his friend's Portal of Power. 

The starter pack includes batteries! 

What we liked less?

Kids of all ages love the characters. The toddler was so interested in the whole set-up that it was difficult for the bigger boys to play when he was around. In fact, he took some of the characters hostage and they were later found in the sandpit. 

Is it worth it?

The Skylanders starter kit costs around £40 and extra characters around £8. It's not a cheap game, but it is fairly durable and seems to engage children for quite a while. 

It might be a good idea for a birthday so grannies and aunties looking for inspiration have lots of extras and accessories to choose from. 

For more information, see Skylanders own site.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The names that got away

Birthday Dude.
Ten years ago this week I was getting to know my extraordinarily beautiful second son, Boy Two.

Even though I knew I shouldn't, I sat up through the night, held my warm bundle and watched foxes scurry through the bushes by the hospital car park.

He fitted the name we had finally agreed on. As if he knew.

And in the moonlight the names he might have had - the also-rans - fled and into the shadows just like the foxes.

It set me to thinking about how different things could have been if we'd gone with the second choice of moniker. In this house there would have been Gwyn or Bryn, Rafferty and Seamus.

A close call, I'd say.

Although the bigger Boys wanted their little brother to be Napoleon or Elvis. Either of which would have suited him better than they ought. 

Which were your names that got away?

Monday, 16 April 2012

Questions from an encounter with a pretty boy

Last week two of my oldest friends and I met in a trendy city restaurant for one of our infrequent catch ups.

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Just getting that in before the Panther of News does.

So there we were swapping news and enjoying each others' company - not restless, needy or on the hunt.

But thirsty.

So we ordered a drink from the polite and efficient barman. And discussed the details of the special offer we hoped to use.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm just a pretty face."

"Eh?" We looked at him each of us with incredulity.

"Yes. I was employed for my looks," the admittedly decorative young man puffed out his chest and honoured us with what must have been his most winning smile.

In the silence he did a standing-still swagger, hands on hips, thumbs sign posting his other charms.

"You girls (average age 45) are making this difficult for me," he chastised when we clearly failed to succumb.

We issued bewildered apologies and scurried off to our table that fortunately had suddenly become ready.

Clearly there is much wrong in this little story, but what is worst?

  • The fact a bar would employ someone for their looks.
  • The fact that it is deemed necessary to lay on eye candy for women.
  • That this man would have no sense of shame about his function.
  • That he would be irritated when we proved immune to his flirtation.
  • That we would be apologetic for this.

Friday, 13 April 2012

A momentary panic in the bedroom

Boy three has graduated. At the grand age of almost three he has moved from a cot and sleeping bad into a Big Boy bed under a quilt.

We had been considering it for a while, mostly because he had grown so much. He was starting to look faintly silly in the same way a dainty tea cup does in the hand of a large man.

Then during a trip to Granny's he astounded everyone by getting into an a proper bed at first time of asking and staying there for two nights in a row. So taking hot iron into account, we struck.

Two nights in I went to check on him on my way to bed as usual.

His bed was empty.

I stood frozen as the hairs on the back of my neck pricked up.

But then I heard a snort. And a snuffle. And a snore.

Somewhere Boy Three was sleeping soundly. But where?

It seems he made full use of the padding we put beside the bed in case he fell out, then found it so comfy he carried on snoozing, rolling off and right under the bed.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

How do you spot a terrorist?

All Boy One's own work.
If you ask someone in security at Glasgow Airport they, apparently, would answer - he is 12, has Asperger's and is fixated with cake decorating. 

Really. Yesterday I dropped the big Boys off at the airport so they could fly to spend a few days with their dad in Wales. They are very grown up and travelling on their own. 

Before they packed their lovely new cases and presented them for my inspection. This is necessary since both the hot water bottle incident and the souvenir bullet debacle. I found that all their currently favourite things were present and, I thought, correct. 

Boy One is in the grip of a fascination with all things icing. I've been persuaded to subscribe to My Cake Decorating magazine which comes with lots of exciting things, including a cardboard fold-up cake stand. And so his packing included all the treasures - piping bag, biscuit and sugar craft gun, etc.

We arrived at the airport at the appointed hour only, as usual, to be told to go away for 45 minutes. I suspect the dropping off unaccompanied children rules were drawn up with a view to the profits of the car park company as it's impossible to do so without triggering the been-here-more-than-two-hours penalty.

However, we sought sustenance at the Cafe of the Highway Robber and could hardly hear ourselves play eye spy over his laughter at the fact we'd paid nearly nine quid for three bags of crisps, two juices and a cup of tea. 

Later I handed the Boys over, "no kisses mum", and watched them disappear towards security. Moments later airline staff came to find me to tell me that they'd had to remove the biscuit and sugar craft gun from his luggage "because it posed a risk". 

Of what? To whom?  

Monday, 9 April 2012

To whom it may concern, I'm fed up

I know life ain't fair and you don't get nothing for nothing these days. And that into every life a little rain must fall...

But enough now. I've been very tolerant through the whole of the recession/downturn/economyturnedtoshit stuff. This has been going on for far too long.

There have been excuses and scapegoats - Fred the Shred, Gordon Brown or the Big Boys Who Ran Away. Does it really matter any more? 

They say that if you keep putting the same in, you get the same out. But that's not happening here. We keep putting the same - or more - in and getting less and less out. I'm a freelancer and I've been working much harder this year yet rates have stayed the same or dropped. The Panther of News is continuing his prowl for similar returns despite the industry being Levesoned* at every turn. 

So you'd think things were much of a muchness in the Palace of Bundance, wouldn't you? Not so. Everything costs more, much more in some cases. 

At first I tried my usual philosophy of embracing it and making it positive. Frugal fun? Only now we take sandwiches everywhere, stay in, collect coupons, watch what we spend, holiday in the UK, turn down the heating, put off getting things fixed and generally try to pennypinch a bit more. It's stopped being fun. 

Now apparently our Child Benefit and Disability Living Allowance are under threat... that will make a big fat difference in this house. 

I know in so many ways we don't have anything to whinge about, we are healthy and earning quite a lot more than many others, but what we do earn has stopped stretching from one end to the other. Things have been cashed in to cover a difficult month, only to find there's another difficult month right behind it. 

The Panther and I have decided that staying in and watching telly is the new going out for dinner, Aldi and Lidl are the new Waitrose, and goosebumps are the new toasty warm. 

But, frankly, narky and cross is fast becoming the new patient and understanding. I've been good, I've tightened my belt, made savings and worked hard. Now what... You want more? And for years to come?

Austerity is rubbish - perhaps it's time to try something else. I'm no economic whizz - far from it - but aren't other countries  doing things differently and turning round the juggernaut of fiscal Armageddon faster than we are? 

Of course I don't have the answers, but what I do have is a lack of faith in our current direction. Would someone please help us get back on track before... well, actually, I don't know what before, but I really don't want to spend the whole of my children's childhoods saying "sorry, we can't afford it". 

Yours very cheesed off, 

Ellen, Empress of Bundance. 

*Leveson - to subject something to a random and slightly spiteful attack to which they have no right of reply. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Review: The science of balls under the sofa

Wild Science – Hyperlauncher Rocket Ball Factory

Both Boys One and Two are partial to a little boffinery, unfortunately, so is Boy Three given half a chance.

Thus it was that the science lab was set up in granny's utility room. The boys were using the Hyperlauncher Rocket Ball Factory to explore the properties of bouncy balls on a stick.

The kit has everything young boffins need including safety glasses. It also has there colours of water-based granules, moulds for balls and skewers.

I imagined the kit as about launching rockets - something that would consume space and energy and break things. In fact, it's about making small bouncy balls that fly fairly safely across the room to hide under the sofa. Fortunately they glow in the dark so are easily recovered. 

What we liked. The kit explains everything - including safety issues - very clearly. The boys had no trouble in making the balls. And they worked. There were enough ingredients for several goes.

What we didn't like. Very little, actually. You have to follow the instructions closely to get the balls to work, but that's not a bad thing.

The kit is made by Interplay and suitable for children over the age of eight. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Hunger Games - I'm glad I took the children.

If you'd bumped into me last week on Twitter I was wandering round wondering whether or not to take my older children - aged nearly 10 and 12 to see The Hunger Games. 

On the one hand the film seemed to be a quality movie - and, in my book, there are far too few of these. It discussed lots of important things and Boy One's teachers suggested it was a good idea. 

On the other hand, kids die in it, other people won't take their children and Boy One's teachers suggested it was a good idea. And it took us a long time to get over the Bridge To Terabithia incident...

But then I decided that I'd rather run the risk my children were upset by a well-made movie that I watch too and brought up issues we could discuss properly than that they miss out on something worthwhile. So last night - Orange Wednesday - we set off. 

I'm very glad I took them. The Hunger Games is an intelligent and absorbing film that handles really hard subjects very well. Furthermore, the hero is a woman who sticks to her guns (or rather bow and arrows). 

Yes, kids die, but it is handled very sensitively. Sad but not devastating. 

A full day later and we haven't run out of conversation about the film. 

We've done lots of "what would you do in her/his position?" talks. And some "was she/he right to do x, y and z?" discussions. 

Fairness, sacrifice, fear and image all get raised to be picked over.

The film's view of reality TV might have dislodged some of the scales from my sons' eyes when it comes to X Factor and their ilk. This is a Good thing. 

We loved The Hunger Games and I'd recommend it to anyone who wants an antidote to mindless movies and shallow telly shows. 

The Hunger Games people don't allow their trailer to get embedded but if you want a taste have a look at STV's Trailer Park

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