Sunday, 31 October 2010

In Praise of a Local Asset

One of the best places to visit locally to us is Stockwood Discovery Centre. I tend to go there at least once a month with the children, we love looking at the all carts and carriages, the playground and the tractor and Roman Chariot you can climb on. It's an easy, free half day out with two toddlers in tow. Toddler Boy particularly enjoys pulling the levers and pressing the buttons on the display about (vehicle) brakes, Fifi climbs on the Roman Chariot which was used in the film Ben Hur and pretends to drive about in a Boudicca type manner. Not that she can actually see over the top.

We have enjoyed visiting every single temporary exhibition and over the summer used the gardens to learn about bees. A few weeks ago we raided the park for sweet chestnuts and came back with a hearty, healthy foraged snack. The picture above shows me wearing my lovely Seasalt waterproof mac given to me for just sort of an occasion. You can find a review here.

The thing that strikes me about Stockwood is how unusual it is to find somewhere which is free, fun and caters really well for children and adults alike. My museum is set in a fabulous park, but unless you pay local council tax you must pay for entry. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don't know of anywhere else better than Stockwood, at least locally. It's a real local asset and I know that it is really well used by the local community. I have to say that at the moment I am really worried by all the Government financial shenanigans. I am skeptical about how much they value the concept of free culture and I'm worried about the impact on cuts to Local Government funding and the knock on effect that this will have on places such as Stockwood. I have no idea whether or not the intention is for it to remain free entry for the foreseeable future, but I do hope so.

Do you have any places locally to you that you can recommend for a fab, free day out with the toddlers? If so, please leave a comment!

Verbaudet Childrens Coats

Children's coats are another dilemma. Like hats and gloves, you really don't want your kids to wear the same as everybody else. I'm not being snooty about it, simply, if you buy a coat from one of the high street shops you may as well ask for an argument amongst the children as they muddle them up at Playgroup, friends houses etc. This is why I try quite hard to buy my children inexpensive but unusual coats!

This year we were given the opportunity to choose a couple from Vertbaudet. They are a fab French catalogue and they sell children's clothes and home furnishings. I like them as they provide reasonably priced good quality unusual things.

We were given the Hooded Mid Season Parker (#29.99) for Toddler Boy. This is lovely quality and will easily be warm enough for him through the winter. the only criticism I have of it is the zip which is a bit rough and ready and is too fiddly for toddler boy to undo himself, resulting in him stepping out of the coat. Not ideal.

Fifi was given a flared wool coat in red (in the sale at #27.30) which is so much like my own coat it's shocking! It's like having a little mini me. I love this coat, there are no criticisms of it at all. It looks cute in an old fashioned sense, very age appropriate and stylish (I had one very similar to that when I was her age).

As with all French clothes, there is one thing to bear in mind with Verbaudet, they do come up smaller than usual. I buy them one size bigger, just to be on the safe side. If you remember this, you cant go wrong!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Clarks Shoes Our Experience

Decent children's shoes are not cheap, however its really important to have your children's shoes fitted properly to prevent future problems. I tend to shop for the children's shoes are John Lewis or Clarks shops, this means that they usually get Stat-rite or Clarks shoes. Lucky for me I was sent a £50 voucher to go and get Toddler Boy and Fifi some Clarks shoes in return for an honest blog about the service we got.

Toddler Boy and Fifi have both been asking for boots for a few weeks so I boldly ventured to Clarks in Welwyn Garden City and hoped that they had what they wanted. It was a Saturday so the shop was busy, but we got served as promptly as possible. The service was friendly and we were all put at ease. They had what we wanted and both children left the shop happily and proudly wearing their new boots.

Toddler Boy opted for these he has been wearing them ever since. They seem good quality and have worn very well so far. He even walked across a muddy ploughed field the other day without getting wet feet. The best thing is that he can put them on himself easily. Hurrah!

Fifi opted for the IceLaceGTX Fst in Plum leather. They are brilliant for her as not only are they waterproof as they are made from Gore-Tex leather but they are warm and cosy. She is happy to put them on herself, but obviously needs help to zip them up. She has worn them out and about for a couple of weeks and they still look brand new.

I'm very happy with the service we received and the quality of the boots, the children (who are real fashionistas) like them. Yes, they do cost a bit more than high-street clothes shops but I for one think it's worth it.

More Halloween Cocktails

My last post about Cocktails went down very well looking at my stats. So here are a couple more alcoholic recipes. Enjoy them!

Halloween Punch

1 part Midori

1 ½ parts Skyy Orange Vodka

1 ¼ parts Sweet and Sour Mix

15 squeezed Orange Wedges

Melon balls, red orange slices and kiwi slices to garnish

Pour ingredients in order listed into a pitcher filled with cubed ice. Shake and stir for about 5 seconds. Strain from pitcher into punch bowl. Garnish with melon balls, red oranges and kiwi for a frightfully fabulous Halloween party centrepiece!

Trick or Treat

1 part Passione Nera black sambuca

1 part Midori

To make this devilishly simple ‘shotail’ pour the ingredients carefully into a shot glass to keep the green and black layers separate, and enjoy the cauldron of liquorice and melon flavours!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Autumn When You are Three and a Half

Toddler Boy at London Zoo, Tigger tucked into his coat. A memory I will cherish.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Just Like One of Those Adverts...

Yesterday I sat down at my desk at work and I worked, I mean really worked. I'm currently working through the lists of donors to the museum collections and I'm matching them up with the objects on our database. It's a Sherlock Holmes style task as I work out where Mr Buckets silver pistol is, or where Mrs Simpsons stuffed cat now resides. By lunchtime, my concentration had vanished and I became distracted with conversations about various films. I took the decision to walk into the town and have a look around the shops.

As I stepped outside the museum I felt like one of those women in a Pantene commercial, except my hair is more straw like than glossy. I felt a strange sense of liberation. I wasn't rushing, there was no buggy to push or child to drag. For the first time in a least a year, I was free. Well at least for an hour or so.

I went crazy, I shopped in H & M and Whistles, I made purchases. I had conversations with shop assistants. I felt adult and normal and liberated and myself. Then I returned to work; oh look Mrs Stamp donated a pair of bloomers in 1923. There was a bit of a spring in my typing. I felt as if I could breathe. How lovely it must be to have a nanny.

But no fear, this morning we were woken up before dawn with demands for milk and biscuits and a very determined effort to push me out of my own bed onto the Cold. Hard. Floor. I love my children, but I sometimes wonder if they have actually enriched my life or prematurely shortened it. The picture above sums up life before kids...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Winnie the Pooh Stamps & London Zoo

You can't beat a trip to London Zoo, we try to get there at least once every couple of months. It has everything, gorillas, Nemo (clown) fish and even a fish and chip stand by the lions. The kids love it usually and I love it, as with each building I remember with rose tinted nostalgia the school trips of my youth.

Another thing I enjoyed doing as a youngster was collecting stamps. From a present day context this seems a bit sad, but it was actually a really interesting hobby. I gathered letters and stamps from all over the world and it was a great way to introduce myself to a world of different cultures, currencies and design ethos'. I had a few different stamp albums and soon came to realise what made a good album and what makes a poor one. I shall have to dig them out to show my kids.

So when I was asked if we would like to attend the launch of the new Royal Mail Winnie the Pooh stamps I near enough jumped at the chance. It's something that I would have loved to have gone to as a child. The stamps are lovely, they feature E H Shepards original illustrations and include Pooh, Piglet, Eyore and Christopher Robin. As I sat and listened to a chapter of Winnie the Pooh being read at the event, whilst my children sat, marauded and generally had fun, I thought what a lovely idea this is. After all, with each letter sent Winnie and his friends will go on a whole new adventure. I'm going to talk to my children about this idea, thinking about where the letters might go and what adventures Pooh and his friends will have on their travels is something that will hopefully inspire lots of activities this half term.

You can get hold of the stamps on-line here or at the Post Office.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Role Models for Inspiring Little Girls

One of the problems with children's television is that there are very few good role models for girls. Back in the day, when I was a child I didn't watch much television. I had few role models, Wonder Woman being one (lol) and I played at being nurses and doctors. The usual stuff. However, I have always been into natural history. Since the moment I could toddle about I would go into the garden and hunt for snails, sniff flowers and sometimes pick them. Many happy hours were spent digging holes, trying to make rose water from petals and gathering together ladybirds to try to see how many species lived in our garden.

One summer we went on holiday to Lyme Regis. I have been back there nearly every year of my life hunting for fossils. This activity turned into a major hobby, geology evening classes and trips all over Britain and France to find particular fossils. Aged ten, I had an article published in Fossil Forum magazine on fossil birds. Obviously, all of this ran alongside my interest in archaeology which began when I was seven. However, my interests in palaeontology and archaeology have stood me equally in good stead when competing for jobs at various museums. As a result, I have been lucky enough to work as a curator at the Natural History Museum.

I was in part inspired by one particular woman, a Victorian Fossil Hunter called Mary Anning. I recall thinking how wonderful it would be to live her life, pacing the beaches of what is know called 'The Jurassic Coast' with my dog everyday. Recently there has been a great deal of interest in Mary Anning, Tracey Chevaliers fantastic novel 'Remarkable Creatures' and various children's books including a fab one by the Anholts. If you are looking for a role model to introduce to your little girl, I would suggest that you find out a bit more about this woman. There are many aspects to her life which can provide interesting topics of conversation; poverty, determination, sexism amongst them. Much better than Dora the Explorer!

The BBC has just placed a little slide show about her on their website you can find it here

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Where Did You Get That Dress?

I went to a museum today where they had an exhibition all about health. It included some wobbly mirrors which showed you how you might look, thinner, taller and wider. I looked much better thinner, in fact, I looked a lot like I looked before I had children. There was also an interesting display with some corsets and corset stays. I think I could do with one at the moment.

In 1700 it was perfectly usual for a woman's corset to draw her waist into 23 inches. Women were deformed, must have suffered indigestion and all sorts of horrific pains for their fashion. This week I have been looking at Victorian Dresses, specifically those dating to around 1840- 1880. A period of surprising change in dress design, so much so that it is possible to date a dress to a particular decade. Even then, it must have been a squash and a squeeze for a woman.

I love this period of dresses and would happily wander around wearing replica dresses from this period, the fabric is exquisite, the quality of stitching varies between maker. But you cannot doubt that they would have made an impact. However, there is one tiny flaw, my weight gain. It's not tons but enough for work colleagues to notice ( I fear they may be discussing third pregnancies behind my back). My waist is currently 30 inches, this is four inches bigger than pre-baby but seems a vast amount to me. Standing next to a woman of 100 years ago or more I would seem like a giant. Still, its made me think about getting back onto the straight and narrow diet and exercise wise at least. One thing's for sure you would never have that nagging worry in the past about someone appearing wearing exactly the same dress as you.

There is one other bad thing about dresses of this type with their voluminous skirts and layers of underwear; there would have been ample places under the skirt for children to play and hide. Imagine the joy for a child to hide in a crinoline- their own personal tent with mummy included!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Over-stretching Oneself

This is the story of my life, it comes up every year in my annual appraisal. You see, I have two modes, on and off. I find it hard to sit around which is one of my frustrations with children. The slow pace of life just doesn't suit. However, this week I have totally over done it. I have far too much to do, so much that I have entered student mode of deflection. Even the ironing seems a better prospect than doing the stuff that just has to be done.

Shortly I shall be flattened by an avalanche of historic costume and fossil books reference for the reports I'm trying to write, topped with some child-minding policies. The children will be found, running rampage throughout the house. They will have no clean clothes to wear and will be feasting on Fruit Shoots and Haribo sweets. So why am I writing pointless blog posts such as this?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

This is Just NOT FAIR

Myleene Klass wearing the Isabella Oliver Ruched Tank Dress to the Baby Show Yesterday. Pah!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

My Warm and Cosy Life

So then I woke up in a puddle of warm toddler wee.

The previous day had started badly with a 5 Am wake up, then it was a full day of work which proved a bit draining. I rushed back, helped the husband put the kids to bed, sorted out the dinner, caught up with my emails and went to bed myself. Only then I was woken up at about 2 AM by the cry of 'daddddeeeeeee' repeat times 100.

Unfortunately (luckily) 'daddddeeeeeee' suffers from selective deafness whilst asleep, so 'mummmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' responded. I was cajoled into the toddlers bed where I lay squashed against the bed guard, with a centimetre of throw being prodded every five seconds: 'you all right mama, you alright?' prod, poke. Each time I moved to get myself comfortable, the same scenario occurred.

At, what I imagine was about 4:30 AM I must have passed out due to sheer exhaustion. Then Fifi started her morning cry of 'mummmeee, MILK' repeat 200 times. I lay in Toddler Boys bed until the grim reality sunk in, I was warm and cosy for one reason alone.

Return to beginning, repeat 365 times

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Meeting Vikings at The Scandinavia Show

Myself and the husband love all things Scandinavian, we love Ikea, Copenhagen, Herrings, Pingu, KoziKids waterproofs and err, lots of other things including several Finnish films which I can't remember the name of. The kids child-minder is Danish and she has introduced us to a few Danish customs which we do with the children at appropriate times of the year. I harbour thoughts of moving to deepest darkest Finland, as I think it might suit me very well. I'm keen not to be surrounded by people, happy not to interact with too many others and have a love of the outdoors. Yes, I am a bit of a misery.

With all this in mind, when the opportunity presented itself to visit the Scandinavia show at Olympia, where all things Danish are showcased and there was the opportunity to buy some Danish food, we jumped at the chance. A day out with a Scandinavian theme and all in nearby London. You couldn't really go wrong. Apart from London Underground and its stupidity in closing Olympia Tube station when we wanted to visit. I'm on the phone to Bob Crowe and Boris about that one.

There was one major flaw with the show, it was actually upstairs in Olympia and could only be accessed via a lift. This did present a bit of a crush and an issue getting in. Then they ran out of the most scrumptious foodstuff just when the hubby got there. I could see the disappointment in his face when he couldn't have the Danish smoked salmon. Still, we found the Finnish Church in London stall and they sold reindeer sandwiches which according to him were the best thing ever. They looked nice, but I would have preferred salmon myself!

We saw a range of different companies, for kids we found Raindrops, Nordic Elements and Flexa who sell the most fantastic kids furniture; beds with slides anyone! If you want a modern, adult living room check out BoConcept furniture. I really liked the reindeer hats and booties that Raindrops sell for Toddler Boy and Fifi, and I think I will be asking the hubby for some of this wonderful silver jewellery for Christmas. Did you know you can buy Swedish cider? No, neither did we! Skandium sell the most wonderful Moomin ceramics, perfect for special gifts and if you fancy a Scandinavian Christmas without the expense of a trip to Lapland you could try Christmas From Sweden in London.

Perhaps the funniest thing was seeing the Viking re-enactors who had set up camp in the corner of the room on the carpet. Chatting to them, as you do, they mentioned that they had been asked to do some sword fights, but unfortunately their swords would have hit the ceiling. We all glanced upwards at the ceiling tiles knowingly, it was a surreal moment. I love talking to re-enactors.

All in all, a fun day out, next year some more food and a bigger venue please. We now have a weeks worth of Scandinavian related activities to do and I've got a special offer flight deal to Finland...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Yeo Valley, Yeo Valley... and Ted

When I went to visit Yeo Valley a few weeks ago, I was struck by just how beautiful the place was, how contented the dairy cows looked and was a bit jealous of all those people that live in the countryside. I've been telling people about it ever since and generally people seem surprised that Yeo Valley is actually is a real place and not just the stuff of marketing agency dreams. I've had loads of people mention to me how they would love to have the chance to visit the farm and see a little bit more of it. Well, this Saturday night you can indeed see a bit more of the place, as Yeo Valley will be showing their first ever TV advert during the X Factor and it's one well worth watching.

The advert features a bunch of cool farmers bustin' a specially written tune. I've been lucky enough to have the chance to see the advert and the rap is one of those catchy tunes that will have you singing it whilst in the shower, driving about or making breakfast. It's directed by LA-based superstar, Julien Lutz, who’s shot videos with the likes of R. Kelly, Usher, Kanye West and Nelly Furtado, and it brings a bit of the cool from the West Coast USA to the West Country, UK. It was actually shot on the Blagdon farm and shows off the magnificent countryside wonderfully.

My family enjoyed the fab bit of tractor dancing, we have been trying to re-enact this using Bob the Builder vehicles ever since, and I have been told that during filming even the cows actually lined up along the fence to get a good look. As an added incentive, you get to see Ted, a hand-reared orphan owl who is cared for by one of the conservation team.

It's brilliant when you find out that something like this is actually for real, and it's great to get a behind the scenes look at how these campaigns are designed and considered. I am told that there will also be a 'making of' the advert which will be available shortly to view on the Yeo Valley YouTube site YeoTube, where you will be able to view the advert from Saturday.There are a few videos already on YeoTube and it's well worth a little look and bookmarking it.

I know loads of you watch the X Factor, so if you do see the advert I would love to hear your comments. Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts, Ted is lovely though so I won't be having any criticism of the little fella!

This is not a sponsored post but I am doing a little project with Yeo Valley which is why I got to see the advert before the rest of you!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Of Boys and Girls

As someone who has a sister, there is something alien to me in our household my daughter has a brother and my son has a sister. The dynamics are different. What's more, my son has a best friend who is a girl.

This has lead to all sorts of weird scenarios, for example Fifi insists on trying to learn to wee standing up at the toilet.There is an awful lot of rough and tumble, which I know would not happen in an all female environment, not a bit of girly jostling; full on punch ups. There is also a lot of dressing up, quite often this means that the girls wear the superhero costumes and the boys wear the dresses. We have a brilliantly, vast range of toys which I think enhances the play opportunities for everyone. I have also been complimented several times on Fifi's trousers, they are her brothers hand-me downs. I suppose this is a fashion advantage that you would only get from having a big brother!

However, recently with best friend (girl) turning four we have a new dynamic, you see, she is getting a lot less tolerant of boys. However, Toddler Boy is well trained in the ways of girls and very obedient. Thus, she can manipulate him into role playing where she is the boss and he just sort of, well, has to sit there. Often for a long time. Both myself and best friend (girl)s mum have spoken to Toddler Boy about this, but he is insistent that he must do as he is told. Fifi has begun to turn all of this to her advantage and has started using her girl cunning to manipulate Toddler Boy in similar ways and it is rapidly becoming apparent that she is the boss of the two of them. Albeit several inches smaller. I am really looking forward to the next year to see how their personalities change and how they interact with each other as it's lovely to see all this group dynamics acted out.

I'm currently reading Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. I haven't finished it yet, so I can't comment too much, suffice to say that I think she has something interesting to say about the differences between the sexes. It's a witty book and I have to agree with her theory that gender roles are determined by society rather than genes. It will be interesting to see how the gender dynamics in our house pan out. I would like to think that I do not force stereotypes upon them, however I think perhaps by the very nature of the way that they behave I re-inforce them.

Cookery Book Review; Good Food, Fast Dairy Cookbook

Good Food, Fast is a brilliant cookery book for the likes of me. Lets face it, I do try and cook stuff, but ultimately I can't really find the will power with Fifi hanging off my leg. This cook book promises to provide recipes for 'tasty meals in 30 minute or less' and to be honest I think it delivers really well. I assume that it's a compilation of recipes published previously, I haven't seen many of them before though, in my limited experience.

I liked the idea for Naan Bread Pizzas. We made them as the recipe suggested, although I did drag it out a bit by making Toddler Boy make his own Naan Breads. He is so good at it and they are so easy for toddlers to make I couldn't resist. There is also a great idea for a very quick lasagne which uses stuffed pasta parcels, I thought it a genius recipe. I'm not all that great at making deserts but the individual summer puddings were easy enough to do, I was surprised and it made great use of our foraged blackberries.

My only criticism would be the same one that I level at many of the cookery books which come my way, that is that the style of it and the photography looks old fashioned. I'm not a fan of these retro styled cookery books. However the recipes more than make up for it.

It's an ideal cookery book for us busy mums, most of the recipes are suitable for children, they don't use loads of ingredients and they are quick and simple to prepare. I have used this book for most of the week and we still have loads of recipes to try, tomorrow we are having the Oozy mushroom rolled omelettes.

Apparently lots of people have been having a go at the recipes and putting them up on the Internet. If you want to have a look you can find the images here

You can get hold of a copy here. Dairy diary so a lot of nice publications on their website, with Christmas coming up its worth a look.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Never Sit on a Chair in the Baby Change When it's Raining

It was a really wet, rainy day on Sunday. I don't know what possessed us, but the hubby suggested a trip to Whipsnade Zoo might be fun. We have annual passes but havent been for a while so it seemed like a good idea. The day began quite badly when we realised that we had forgotten the rain-cover for the pushchair, but intrepid as we all are we put on our waterproofs and marched forth. The queue to get in was shorter than usual, we got soaked waiting, but hey, we got soaked for the next hour or so. The Sea lion demonstration in the rain proved amusing, even Dominic the Sea lion looked a bit bedraggled.

I have to admit, we were all really enjoying it. Nothing like a bit of rain to get the blood rushing to your skin and it was one of the warmest trips to Whipsnade we have ever undertaken. Usually it's sub zero on Dunstable Downs. In a fit of enthusiasm I suggested we go on the train. Never one to say no to a challenge, the hubby agreed. So did Toddler Boy, and Fifi just wandered along behind us kicking the puddles.

It was when we heard 'its all my fault, sorrrrrrrrryyyyy' That we knew we were in trouble. What was 'all my fault'? I panicked imagining all sorts of terrible occurrences, most of them having happened to Fifi who puts herself into the line of danger at every possible opportunity. The hubby established that Toddler Boy had in fact wet himself. This is not an unusual occurrence at the moment and seems to be happening with increasing regularity. It does concern me, but that is for another blog post.

Anyway, I marched the little fella off to the toilet and decided upon the baby change as the best place for an outfit change. The floor was sodden with that sort of slushy sightly muddy water you only seem to get at the Zoo when it rains. I determined that the best course of action would be to pop him onto the chair (standing up) whilst I took off his new boots, trousers and pants. That way he wouldn't get wet socks.

I pulled down his pants and out rolled a cannonball of a poo. With a thump. It shocked Toddler Boy almost as much as me, I know this as he managed to step back into it. I went into emergency mum panic station mode, my eyes darting around the room for some loo roll. When I spotted it, I grabbed it and scooped the poo up into it and then into the loo.That's when I realised that I needed baby wipes as the situation was critical. They are always at the bottom of the bag. All this time Toddler Boy was stood on the chair exposing his manhood to the world. Goodness knows what people would have thought had they seen him. Soon enough I set about removing socks, smearing the poo around the chair and trying to project a clam persona, so as not to further upset Toddler Boy.

It took a while to clean up and get dressed again, wrestling the boy so he didn't get wet muddy feet and trying to get him back into his all in one waterproofs. All I can say is that in all of this, I think I cleaned the chair adequately, although now I wonder if I should have used an antibacterial wipe. I don't believe that I can be the first person this has happened to, so heed the warning in the title of this blog post...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review; Three by the Sea by Mini Grey

Three by the Sea is a beautifully illustrated book, about a dog, mouse and cat who live in a beach hut. I absolutely love the seaside and actively seek about seaside/ sea themed books to read to them children. They don't mind either way, but I figure that if I read them something that interests and excites me then I will read it better and we will all enjoy it a lot more.

Without a shadow of doubt this is the most enjoyable kids book I have read in ages, its all about friendship and making concessions to others. The setting is full of imagery and there's an added bit of humour. Mini Grey is an award winning children's author and illustrator and I can see why. The book sparked lots of discussion between me, Fifi and Toddler Boy and I can see it becoming a firm favourite on our bookshelf for a few years to come. It's worth a look at for the wonderful illustration and imagery surrounding the cat with an eye patch. Just wonderful! You can actually read it yourself on the Random House website before you buy!

We were lucky to be given a review copy by Random House who never fail to produce lovely, lively and interesting childrens books. Three by the Sea is available in hardback for around ten pounds and its ISBN is 9780224083621. You can buy a copy here.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Film Night; Love Life by Reinout Oerlemans (Netherlands 2009)

Recently, myself and the husband realised that we simply did nothing for ourselves at all. We hardly ever go out as we don't have a lot of spare cash and we don't want to impose on people to babysit. Things have slipped and each evening merges into chores, a bit of playing around on twitter, television watching and reading books. Every night is the same. I was talking about this to my good friend and she made a brilliant suggestion which is basically to schedule your evenings, put each night aside for a different activity and make sure you do only that and nothing else. Thus we have designated Saturday Nights as movie night. So far, we have watched a few of the more mainstream films which have been on special offer on Amazon, Play or Zavvi. I find the expenditure encourages me to actually stick to the plan, if we rented it wouldn't cost so much so we wouldn't feel quite so obliged.

Anyway last week, we were lucky enough to be given a screener of Reinout Oerlemans Love Life. This is a Dutch film based on a book by Ray Kluun, it was the biggest hit of 2009 in the Netherlands. It stars Carice van Houten as Carmen and Barry Atsma as Stejn. the stunning van Houten is one of Netherlands biggest stars. Its a film full of ups and downs and follows Stejn as he deals with Carmens diagnosis, treatment and ultimate death from breast cancer. It has shocking moments, moments of unabashed humanity and very little of the saccharine treatment you get in the equivalent British and American films. The story is apparently very losely based on the life of the Simon Cowell equivalent of the Netherlands, interesting in itself! I felt shocked, stunned and moved by it.

It's not a film that I would wish to watch again, but it was incredibly memorable and had an essence of humanity which I have not seen in a film in a long time. In summary, in case I've not been clear enough, it's a film about a man who cannot reconcile his desire for sex with his love of his wife and her descent into terrible illness. The film made me think about a whole range of issues, I think this is a good thing. I didn't really feel as if I had an understanding of how the characters got to the places which they were at, how they really became quite so wealthy and why Stejn carried on as he did perhaps even more so, why Carmen let him get away with it.

If you like European movies as I do, and want watch something that will get you thinking (if you can get past the sex scenes) then I think you may well enjoy it. Aside from everything else it's also visually good and has a great soundtrack. Its out in cinemas on December 3rd.

You can watch a snippet here, but before you click make sure the kids are out as the film has been classified 18 on YouTube.


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