Our new home – phase 1


Well, after a hideously long wait (12 weeks from the day our offer was accepted!), we finally got the keys to our new home – our Forever Home – a nice little 3-bedroom semi-detached house in a quiet area just 5 minutes walk from Tadpole’s school (which is a heck of a big difference from the 40 minutes we currently walk every morning, rain or shine!). We can’t move in right away as there’s a fair bit of work we need to do on the place before it’s ready for two small children to safely tear around!

So, before we begin, we thought we’d take some “Before” photos and document the changes we make. We have big plans for this place and it will look completely different when we’re all done. Of course, decor and renovations are fluid, so there will be further changes a few years down the line, but here are the bare bones of our new home, for posterity.

Of course, we started work immediately, since getting the key on Thursday, we’ve changed the locks, had the carpet fitter in to measure up, and Hubby has started painting ceilings and stripping walls, but there’s a lot to be done!

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An hubby takes us on a video tour of our new house before the work begins:

BLOG TOUR: Whiny Whiny Rhino by McBoop


whiny whiny rhinoTitle: Whiny Whiny Rhino
Author: McBoop
ASIN: B00MBZNXJW (Kindle e-book)
Publisher: Blue Blanket Publishing
First Published: 131 July 2014 (Kindle)
No .of pages: 32

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Can Tiny Tiny Rhino have a fun day?
Or will all of his whining get in the way?

If you’ve ever been worried to try something new,
then Whiny Whiny Rhino is the book for you!

From creative team McBoop, comes the story of a whiny rhino with a big head and an even bigger imagination.

Review:

This fun rhyming story with delightful, colourful illustrations, is a joy to read along with small children. They can enjoy the story with all its jungle characters, and also identify with the small rhino who is so wary of new things that he’s missing out on all the fun, while learning that although trying something new can be a scary thing, it can also be exciting.

It’s a lovely book for those kids who just need a little extra confidence, as it can open the door to taking about any fears they have, while seeing that sometimes you just need to take that leap of faith and enjoy the ride.

Making a positive out of a negative


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One of my poor mouldy books – the mould has actually got inside the binding and all the pages – it’s one completely dead book. :(

I suffered something of a personal disaster today.

Anyone who knows me knows I adore books – they are one of my passions and my main source of entertainment; I look after them carefully, and keep only my absolute favourites in my permanent collection (the others get donated to libraries and charities when I am finished with them), jealously guarding the limited space I have for them.

At present, much of our belongings are still in storage, as we continue to wait for a moving date into our new home (it’s frustrating playing the waiting game, but we’ll get there eventually!). Today we received notification that our new sofas will be delivered next week. Their delivery cannot be delayed, so as we had to clear some space in the place we’re storing all our things, we went round there this afternoon to do that.

On moving some of the boxes, we discovered that two boxes of books had got damp on their undersides. So damp that they had rotted through and destroyed the bottom layer of books in each one. This, in itself, would have been bad enough, but one of the books that was irreparably damaged was a beautifully-bound, author-signed, limited edition, worth around £150.

I was absolutely gutted. My initial reaction was that I would rather have lost every other book and kept that one, as it’s one of my personal favourites, and with with added financial value, made its loss rather a blow.

As I sorted through my ruined books, rescuing those I could and making a list of those that could not be saved, I found myself minding less and less. And here’s why:

  1. It could have been much worse – I could have lost ALL my books.
  2. It could have been much, MUCH worse – I could have lost family photographs.
  3. I was planning on whittling down my permanent collection when we moved anyway, this just brought part of the job forward a little.
  4. I would have spent weeks and weeks agonising over which books to remove from my collection and which to keep.
  5. It made me realise exactly which books I loved the most (so I know exactly which ones I desperately want to replace).
  6. None of the books are absolutely irreplaceable.
  7. They are only possessions.

Once I’d realised all of this, I found it didn’t matter even half as much as I’d initially thought, and by the time we got in the car to come home, I was over it.

In the end, I’ve decided that this was actually a positive. Yes, I have lost a pile of books, and those books, if they ended up in the “not keeping” pile, could have been donated elsewhere, but I actually lost precious few that I would have been keeping, and those I did lose are not irreplaceable. I now also know exactly which books are most important to me, and I have proven to myself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that possessions are not everything – there are far more important things in life.

So, overall, I’m actually feeling very positive about it all and not anywhere near as sad as I thought I would be. The damaged books have now been consigned to the recycling bin, and I know exactly which books I will be keeping when we come to re-sort everything, and which ones will be donated to libraries and charities.

Goodbye, dead and mouldy books. I loved you well, but it’s time for you to go.

And that’s how you turn a negative into a positive.

Tadpole’s sponsored read-a-thon


send a cowTadpole is taking part in a sponsored read-a-thon in aid of Sendacow.org.uk. He will be reading throughout the month of October.

I reckon he’ll probably read at a rate of around 2-4 books a week (with each book being of around 12-16 pages), so over the course of the month, we expect he’ll work his way through anything between 8 and 16 books, possibly a few more, which is no small thing for a six year old boy!

If anyone would like to sponsor my lad in his charitable endeavor, please do get in touch by emailing me at

tadpole.readathon@gmail.com

We can easily arrange something via Paypal.*

In the meantime, please enjoy this little video of Tadpole reading a story to me…

*Note, this email address is not attached to a Paypal account – it has been created specifically for this read-a-thon.

BLOG TOUR: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard (aka Diane Haegar)


9780778316350.inddTitle: Madame Picasso
Author: Anne Girard (aka Diane Haegar)
ISBN: 978-0778316350
Publisher: Mira Books
First Published: 26th August 2014 (paperback / audio) / 1st September 2014 (Kindle)

Rating: Like a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heavenLike a Star @ heaven

Synopsis (from Amazon):

The mesmerizing and untold story of Eva Gouel, the unforgettable woman who stole the heart of the greatest artist of our time.

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world. A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can’t help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso’s life.

With sparkling insight and passion, Madame Picasso introduces us to a dazzling heroine, taking us from the salon of Gertrude Stein to the glamorous Moulin Rouge and inside the studio and heart of one of the most enigmatic and iconic artists of the 20th century.

Review:
Girard paints her canvas as bright as any Picasso work of art, infusing the story of Eva Gouel with the sights, sounds and smells of Paris and the scandalous folk involved in the cubist art movement in the early 20th century. It’s a fascinating and touching glimpse of the life of a muse that directly affected one of the greatest and most famous artists of his age; one whose legacy will live on forever, remembered as one of the forefathers of cubism.

Eva’s story is a poignant one which is, ultimately, tinged with sadness, but she lived her life to the full, and inspired many of Picasso’s artworks, and Girard presents her as a very real and very credible source of inspiration; a complicated woman from a traditional background who broke tradition at every turn with her unconventional (for the times) relationship with a man who was a known womaniser. Yet it seems Picasso really did adore her, and it is easy to see why.

Through Girard’s masterful strokes emerges a life less ordinary; the life of the extraordinary; a woman who deserves to be remembered and celebrated every bit as much as her larger-than-life artist lover. Read it, and find yourself plunged headfirst into a swirling palette of vibrant, colourful characters, and passions that burn so bright they cannot possibly last.

Happy birthday, Tadpole!


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I can’t believe my eldest baby is six years old today!

Time has flown, and he has so quickly gone from a chubby little baby, to a willowy, lanky little lad who runs like the wind. These days he looks so grown up, but when he’s sleeping, I still get a tiny glimpse of the baby he once was, with his long lashes brushing down over his downy cheeks.

I’m so proud of my sweet, funny, kind, smart, energetic, beautiful, thoughtful Big Boy!

Happy birthday, my darling Tadpole – I hope all your birthday wishes come true!

A birthday party with a twist


It’s Tadpole’s 6th birthday next week, and we were looking for something a little different for his party. He’s an outdoorsy kind of kid, but with an autumn birthday, you can’t always guarantee the weather. So, what to do? Choose an indoor activity? Or choose something outdoorsy, where it doesn’t matter if you get wet?

Of course, we went for the latter.

One of the local attractions we love visiting is St. Mary’s Lighthouse It sits on a little island which you reach by a causeway that gets covered at high tide, and the rockpools are teeming with sea creatures. When I saw a flyer about parties on our last visit there, I knew I’d found the perfect party for Tadpole and immediately booked the closest date to his birthday that the tides would allow.

The kids all arrived and were taken up to climb the inside of the lighthouse – right to the very top. When they came back down, they all went outside with their guide, Sam, took them rock pooling (along with all the adults!). They caught several star fish, crabs and fish, and were daring enough to hold some of them!

After they’d returned their catches to the rock pools, they all came back inside for sea-themed party food:

  • Sand-wiches (cheese, ham, egg and tuna)
  • Scallops (marshmallows covered with white chocolate)
  • Shark fins (tortilla chips) and drift wood (carrot sticks) with dips
  • Jelly fish (lemon and lime jelly with little fish carved out of melon swimming in it)
  • Fish cakes (cupcakes decorated with fish, complete with little silver bubbles)
  • Sea bubbles (green grapes)
  • Rocky islands (chocolate crispy cakes)
  • Fish and chips (little crackers – salt and vinegar flavoured)
  • Pebbles (actual chocolate sweets shaped like pebbles)

The birthday cake looked like an island (it was a giant chocolate cupcake) and I covered it with chocolate pebbles and seashells to fit the theme.

As they ate, our specially compiled CD with sea-themed tunes played in the background (hell, any excuse to play Rock Lobster by The B52s, and Hoist the Jolly Roger by Adam and the Ants is good enough for me!).

After that, it was time to go home, and we packed the kids off with little goodie bags which had a badge reading “I climbed the Lighthouse on St Mary’s Island”, a novelty pencil sharpener shaped like a fish, and some bubbles, as well as a little bag of sweeties.

Tadpole had a wonderful time, and I think his friends did too (as well as the adults!). He went straight to sleep when he went to bed, completely exhausted from his birthday party activities. I’m willing to bet most of his friends did the same. They’l probably all be having dreams of being under the sea…

Blyth Battery WWII Re-enactment Day


Today was a WWII re-enactment day at one of our local attractions, the Blyth Battery. And for the first time in eleven years, I performed in front of a live audience, singing a couple of wartime songs. I was absolutely terrified, but I enjoyed it, and I was received very well – a great round of applause, and many compliments on my singing, so that certainly bolstered my confidence for next time. And there will be a next time, as Ive been asked to sing at the Battery Xmas Dance.

So, anyway, I sang my heart out – Chattanooga Choo Choo and We’ll Meet Again – and I enjoyed it, even if I did shake like a leaf the whole time and for about an hour afterwards!

My greatest compliment came from Tadpole, who said he though I should do that all the time and that he wished I had done more songs.

I wasn’t the only one dressed up (yes, I was all doled up, 40s style) – Tadpole decided to don his soldier gear and smartly salute every person he saw dressed up in a military uniform. For his efforts, he was gifted an official Airborne badge to have sewn onto his kit – his smile on receiving it from one of the officials almost split his little face in half!

It was interesting checking out the view form the observation point, and having a good look at the room decked out like a 1940s living room. Of course, there was also the battery itself with all its weaponry on display, and also a pyrotechnic display which made some very loud noises and had Tadpole full of the gleefuls again.

All in all, a good day was had – and when I asked Tadpole what his favourite part of the day was, he told me it was watching me perform, so I cannot get higher praise than that!

All the fun of the fair…


Today was a free music festival at the quayside. We got there early, before any of the music started (which is weird, because we arrived half an hour after the advertised start time!), but there was a funfair and craft stalls, so we had a little wander round and had some fun.

Tadpole made a beeline for the carousel – he loves any kind of vehicle, and this time he was delighted to drive Mater round and round, pressing all the buttons that made incredibly loud noises!

Then he spotted the swings and decided, for the first time, that he really wanted to ride them this time. In the past, he’s always been too afraid to go on them, but this time, he was very excited about it, and went straight over. As you can see from this little video, he loved it!

Next, he went and had a look at the fire engine that was parked nearby. he was absolutely beside himself with joy when the firemen let him clamber aboard and try on one of the helmets. Then he got to see all the equipment housed in the side panels, including the pump and the jaws of life – he was very impressed!

It as a shame we missed the music, as we had somewhere to be after lunch, but we had fun at the fair anyway, and little Choochie looked like he wanted to to the rides too – he’s way to small at the moment, but his turn will come!

Remembering…


9-11-Never-ForgetSo, it’s the thirteenth anniversary.

Like most people over the age of around 20 or so, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the moment it all went down. It’s my generation’s JFK, really (I am way too young to know what I was doing when JFK was shot – not even born yet!), and 13 years on, whenever I think about those moments, it still catches in the back of my throat and makes my eyes prick a little. It was terrifying and horrifying and it changed the whole world forever.

It was lunchtime here in the UK, and I was an evening worker, so I was at home. Hubby (who was still only my Boyfriend at the time), was at work, and I was was making use of the time to get caught up on all the stuff I needed to do on the computer, as I knew full well that as soon as he got home, he’d want to use it. In the background, a movie was playing on the television. I have no idea what film it was – I wasn’t paying attention – it was on to keep me company.

At some point, I became aware that the film was no longer on the screen. Perhaps it had finished without me noticing, but it looked like it had been replaced with a disaster movie set in New York.

Then I realised. This was no movie. This was a news bulletin that had broken through the scheduled viewing. This was something that was happening in real life. Right now.

My eyes were glued to the screen as I saw smoke billowing out of one of the World Trade Centre towers. I was still motionless and staring at the screen when the second plane hit. I was still watching when the towers started crumbling and falling.

At some point, I became aware that my face was wet. I’d been crying and hadn’t even noticed. I was so horrified that there was no sound coming from me – I was just silently crying.

Then I desperately tried to call Hubby at work, to see if he knew this was happening. They usually had the radio on at work, so surely he would know.

Of course, he did. Everyone knew. People all over the world were turning on TV sets and radios and logging online, alerted by friends and family that something unprecedented was happening. America was under attack and the Twin Towers had been hit. The Pentagon had been hit. The bloody Pentagon, for crying out loud! The Pentagon had a bloody great hole in its side instead of just the one in the top. Someone had crashed a plane right into it. There was another plane coming down. People were leaping from the Twin Towers, trying to escape the only way they could, even though there was no way they could possibly survive the fall – all sense of rationality erased by the horror surrounding them. Nobody knew exactly what was happening. It was utterly incomprehensible.

It still is.

Thirteen years since the “War on Terror” began – and there’s still no end in sight. We still have suicide bombers from all walks of life, and people being killed left, right, and centre, and countries constantly having “alerts” to imminent threats.

It’s like the towers are still falling.

It seems like they’ll never stop.