Sunday, 31 October 2010
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!
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
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.
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
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
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.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
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.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
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
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
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
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
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.
Friday, 8 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
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.
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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dairydiary
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
Saturday, 2 October 2010
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
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.