Thursday, 30 September 2010

Am I a Twitterholic?

I've been tagged in a meme about Twitter by Him Up North. (He's obviously a faster runner than me.) Kate at The Five Fs Blog started this meme; she loves Twitter and was interested to read about other tweeters' habits.

I don't consider myself addicted to Twitter. OK, there are periods when I check my tweets daily, and refresh them at an alarming rate (API limit anyone?). But there are also times when I lose my Twitter mo-jo as my sister calls it. Life catches up and I am so busy I don't have time to do anything other than chores and work. A little Twitter holiday does me the world of good. But then of course, I tweet for Britain when I'm back! There is nothing worse though than being away somewhere with no Internet connection and really wanting to tweet (Silverstone this year being a prime example).

When did you join Twitter?
May 26, 2009.

Why did you join Twitter?
I'm a fan of Formula 1 and I was subscribed to Brawn GP's e-newsletter. They kept going on about following them on Twitter for news and competitions so I eventually caved in. My sister (@helen_harrison) was already on Twitter so I knew a bit about it from her.

Who is/was your first or oldest follower? Who did you follow first? Tell me all about them.
The person I followed first was Brawn GP, they were really interactive and great tweeters. The account has since changed to Mercedes GP and I unfollowed them when they went all corporate on me. My next few followers were family and friends (see below), David Mitchell, and Jake Humphrey.

My first three followers were my sister, an old friend (@fidge), and a friend from Church who now torments me on Wednesday evenings by making me do ab crunches, star jumps, and squats (@pete_luxford). The first person who followed me who I didn't know was @tomdringer, who I still follow and chat with.

Do you have any celebrities following you, or have you ever had a DM from a celeb?
No super-celebrities, but I am followed by Jonathan Summerton (@jsummerton), who is an American racing car driver (he's raced in A1GP, Formula 3, Formula BMW, and Indy). He's a celeb to me as a motorsport fan! There's also Justin Pollard (@justinpollard), who's a QI elf. I won a copy of his latest book, so we have chatted.

I've not had any celeb DMs (other than from Jonathan and Justin), but I've had @ mentions from Karun Chandhok (F1 driver), Neil Cole (comedian who presents WRC coverage on Dave), Prof Brian Cox (about creationism!), Jessica Michibata (Jenson Button's girlfriend), Katie Fforde (my favourite author), and a RT from Jake Humphrey. And I had a tweet featured on the BBC F1 website. (Well I think that's pretty cool.)

If you could follow anyone not on Twitter – alive, dead, real or fictional – on Twitter, who would it be?
I'd love to follow Jane Austen. And how cool would it be to read a twitter conversation between Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett? Well cool, that's what. In fact that's my novel idea and I hereby patent it. One day I shall write all my novels. I have several running wild in my head.

I'd also like to follow my dad because I don't see him much, we live a long way apart and he's not a fan of the phone. My mum's on Twitter and we chat a lot.

Which came first? Twitter or blog?
Twitter. I started blogging on September 12th 2009. I followed a few blogs and saw people tweeting about theirs and I just decided to give it a go. I see it a bit like a diary really. It's a great way to express myself when 140 characters just won't do.


So that's it. Hope you enjoyed this little insight into my Twitter habit. Am I a twitterholic? You can let me know what you think in the comments.

Apparently I need to tag some people to continue the meme so here goes:

Caron (Caron's Musings), a Lib-Dem activist tweeting about politics, F1, and Strictly Come Dancing!

Deb (Carrots and Kids), because I think she's awesome :)

Jo (Fantails and Fibrolite), my oldest friend, my daughter's godmother, she emigrated to New Zealand and writes the most amazing blog about renovations, living the Good Life, and her travels (check it out!).

Emma (Mummy Musings), another favourite blogger and Twitter friend.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Making science exciting for children

I was really excited on Saturday to see a science demonstration aimed at kids in Blackpool town centre (I am excited by some strange things). This is the sort of event my husband and his parents would usually walk past but I saw it and I wanted to know what was going on!

The young women at the stand were representing the Manchester Science Festival, and they were all fantastic. The first girl immediately had my kids engrossed by "thunder-makers", hollow tubes with a metal string on the end that cause vibrations.

I hear thunder, I hear thunder
My daughter then went off to make her own rocket, which was blasted into the sky by compressed air.

Whoosh!
I really wanted to try balancing a fork on my nose, which I'd seen one of the girls doing earlier, but I think my son got more enjoyment out of it!

So cool!

Not content with these experiments, we moved onto making massive bubbles (which I think I might have hogged a bit), then the part that made me go "Wow" and the kids go "Cool", a sharp stick through a balloon. I'm not a physics person so I was impressed, but hubs was stood there going on about how easy it was... (tut).

My new party trick
We can all now put a stick through a balloon, one day I might show you.

The Manchester Science Festival runs over half-term (October 23 to 31). Check out their website for loads of information and ideas, or follow them on Twitter.

My first meal as a wife!



The topic of this week's Gallery over at Sticky Fingers is Food.








I have so many photos of the children covered in food, helping to make cakes, and growing food in the garden, but when I saw this topic the first photo I thought of was the one I took of my first dinner as a married woman, in my honeymoon hotel at Heathrow airport!

Burger and champagne, yum yum!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Who?

If you've ever visited Blackpool you might recall seeing a small shop called Who. It used to be in the main shopping centre (see image below) but it's now located on Coronation Street opposite the back entrance to Debenhams (near the Winter Gardens). The shop is a sci-fi geek's wildest dream.

Sci-Fi fantasy world ahoy
As the name suggests, the shop sells Doctor Who memorabilia and collectables. When my son knew we were going to Blackpool he immediately asked if he could go (and didn't stop asking until he got there)! There's some cool stuff on show (see image below).

Exterminate small boys
The shop sells collectables from most TV shows and major films, Star Wars has a massive section, so has Star Trek. There's a delightful statue of Seven of Nine, which is worth a sneaky feel ;) My daughter shouted "Mummy" when she saw it and I was very proud until hubs commented "You're right, she really does need her eyes testing". Charming.

Looks just like me
There's every kind of "hero" a small boy could wish to see (and buy related stuff). Ironman is his latest "thing", but he was over the moon to see Batman and Spiderman too.

I crush small boys with my fist
The shop also hosts actors from these shows and movies, who come to do signings and appearances. Hubs was really disappointed that he missed Sophie Aldred by a few weeks (Ace from Doctor Who, his most favourite companion).

Rebel against the system, say "No" to Do Not Touch signs
Next time you're in Blackpool, be sure to check out this shop. Even if you don't like Sci-Fi, they have toys from children's shows like Peppa Pig and In The Night Garden, and collectables from movies such as Harry Potter and Indiana Jones.

Grammar fail

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A postcard from East Kilbride

I had to laugh when the latest email from TripAdvisor landed in my inbox this week. The subject was "Top 10 Up and Coming Places to Visit".

Number 3 on the list was East Kilbride. I laughed. My sister and I became friends with some guys from this Scottish town when we attended an Iona Community Youth Camp. We visited several times and the trips weren't exactly picturesque. Highlights were: the roundabouts, the train station, the bus from Glasgow, and the park where our friend Brian worked.
Happy Days 
(Image from www.yourlocalweb.co.uk; © Gordon McKinlay)

15+ years later and I'm pretty sure some amazing transformation must have taken place. Apparently, the town is host to one of Europe's largest indoor shopping centres, and a 10-year redevelopment plan has been started. Perhaps I should plan another visit. We did have some lovely excursions to St Andrews, Ayr, and Glasgow, so the town would make an excellent Scottish base.

Other towns on the list include Ripon in North Yorkshire (#6), Doncaster (#9), and Lancaster (#7). I'm really pleased that the North is well represented in this list. Having lived for 21 years in Lancashire (with a 3-year spell in Leeds) I know these towns (and more) really well, and think they are definitely worth visiting.

I have always thought that Lancaster was a hidden gem, with its Castle, good shopping centre, Williamson Park, Cathedral and Priory church, and location near Morecambe Bay and the South Lakes. It is on the edge of the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is fantastic to drive through (if you like living on the edge) and has amazing landscapes and countryside views.

Look, all these guys love Lancaster too! 
(Image from www.waymarking.com)

I remember my parents taking me and my sister on many trips to Ripon and the surrounding area, in particular the Cathedral and Fountains Abbey. Lightwater Valley is nearby if you like thrills (we never went there though :().

My typical view of Doncaster is the sign from the A1, I'm usually half-asleep and complaining "are we only here?" Groan. But the town itself isn't too bad. Me and my husband stayed there for a wedding in a 20s style hotel near the racecourse. There's also a castle to explore nearby, something the kids should enjoy.

The full Top Ten is:

1.    Lacock, Wiltshire
2.    Portreath, Cornwall
3.    East Kilbride, Scotland
4.    Tarporley, Cheshire
5.    Colchester, Essex
6.    Ripon, North Yorkshire
7.    Lancaster, Lancashire
8.    Limerick, Ireland
9.    Doncaster, South Yorkshire
10. Dawlish, Devon

Are any of these your favourites? Do you know of another hidden gem in the UK?

Amazing views of Bowland
(Image from www.grough.co.uk)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Cheeeeeese!

Smiles are contagious. You just have to see someone smiling or laughing and before you know it, so are you.

This week's Gallery topic is A Smile.

I just love seeing my kids smile. The obvious reason is, I know they are happy. When they smile, you can see mischief, enjoyment, laughter, fun, it makes my heart swell with love and pride.

I've chosen two photos this week. The first is of my daughter. The photo was taken during our holiday to Florida last year. We were visiting Epcot at Disneyland during the Annual Flower and Garden Festival. The children found the Tinkerbell playground garden, with slides, climbing frames, and lots of fairies hidden about. My little girl loved the garden so much, her face was full of joy, and I snapped this photo as she was about to come down the slide.


My second photo is one I posted earlier this month in my post dedicated to my parents for their Ruby wedding celebration. It is a photo full of cheeky smiles, mischievous monkeys, children told to sit still "for just 1 minute so Nana can get a nice photo"! Can you tell they are all shouting "Cheeeeese!"?


The topic of this week's Gallery was inspired by the Mona Lisa Million Project, an idea that aims to raise money for charity and promote your website at the same time.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Decisions decisions

I've been inspired to write about the School Application Process (which was so stress-inducing it merits title caps) after reading Kate C's blog post.

We lived in London when I had my son. I spent a lot of time looking into local schools and nurseries and the lack of choice scared me (we lived in a very large, badly planned, new estate/area). So when my son was nearly 2 we decided to move "a bit further up the A1" to be slightly closer to family in Lancashire and to hopefully have better choice of schools.

I produced a highly annotated OS map with local towns we were interested in, with all local schools marked on and whether they had good Ofsted reports (seriously, I was a bit nuts, although in my defence, I was very early pregnant!).

We eventually bought a house in the town we now live in. It has three lower schools, all with outstanding Ofsted reports. Perfect. So what was so stress-inducing about applying to one of them?

I soon realized that, among the people I was friends with, one particular school was most popular. It was the only Church school in the town, and as a regular Churchgoer (my children also attend the Sunday School) I particularly wanted my son to get in. The problem was I lived outside its catchment area, and religion was not very high on the school's criteria (sad reflection in my opinion).

But all good stories end happily, and I can say that we did get a place at the school. We were really lucky. The year we applied, the school was oversubscribed by 20 places. Nine children were offered a place at a school more than 10 miles away (fancy sending your 4-year-old on a bus up the A1 on their own?). Several children who applied on religious grounds but lived further away from school didn't get in.

The parish council stepped in and helped the school fund nine extra places for the children, and eventually, most families were happy. Sadly, a similar situation arose this year, and history looks certain to be repeated during this coming application process. I was stopped on my way home today by a family looking at homes to rent; the question they asked me: "is this road in the catchment for St X's?". Oh dear.

I only hope that when I come to apply for school for my daughter next year, having a sibling already at the school AND going to church will help our cause.

It's such a shame that applying to school is such a stressful experience for parents. Not only does it affect them, it rubs off on the kids because they can sense mummy or daddy are worried about something.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Football club - so it begins

When my son brought home from school a leaflet for a lunchtime football club I didn't for 1 minute consider sending him. So many reasons why:

1) I just didn't think he'd want to go. We've been to a Saturday morning club before and he refused to join in.

2) He cries when we have a kick-about outside because nobody let's him have the ball!

3) He would probably forget to go.

For all those reasons and more I didn't fill the form in. So I was surprised on Monday morning to find out my son took himself off to football club on Friday lunchtime! Apparently, "he had a great time". (That explains why he came home covered in grass-stains.)

Embarrassed at being told "if he wants to go you'll have to pay" I took myself off to the school office for the forms. Valuable lesson learnt. If I think he won't like something, he'll love it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Celebration

I've increasingly been noticing The Galley feature on Sticky Fingers blog, and since it looks like fun I am being brave and joining in.

This week the theme is Celebration.


My daughter was born 10 days before Christmas, 2007. What a fabulous present!

Busy bee

This bee looks like it's hanging on for dear life to this giant sunflower!
"All this to myself" -- bee

Trying not to scare the school run

I'm wearing make-up today. This almost never happens. But I'm trying to avoid looking so scary.

I'll explain. I went for a contact lens check yesterday and the optician has banned me from wearing lenses for a few days. So I am left wearing my glasses, which make me look a bit hard-nosed and scary (in my opinion!).

So, my attempts to soften my look are to stick some eyeshadow and mascara on, and a bit of bronzer. The result is much more feminine and actually quite nice if I do say so myself.

I just hope no one gets scared at the difference and think I'm out to impress someone.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Time for a toy clearout

Kids' toys are slowly taking over our house. Our two children have a room each containing various cupboards of toys, books, puzzles, and soft toys; they have three toy cupboards in the living room; and four small cupboards in the dining room. These cupboards are all full.

About three times a year, I have a minor stress-out about the amount of toy junk and decide it's time for a clearout. The timings of these are fairly consistent. In January, with a pile of shiny new presents, it's a great time to get rid of old toys and games. In May, when my son's birthday is just around the corner, there's bound to be something he no longer plays with. And in September, with Christmas and my daughter's birthday approaching, the thought of masses of new toys on top of the old ones is enough to drive panic into any sane parent.

So, the September trigger has happened and I am mid-stress. First things to go are the mass of party bag favourites (cheap whistles, paper jigsaws, etc) and McDonalds toys (useless bits of plastic). Feeling better already. But now what? How do I decide what my 2-year-old daughter no longer wants to play with when she can't tell me herself? Well, there's a pile of baby toys for a start, soft toys with rattles and bells in them, shakers, wooden puzzles she can do with her eyes closed, that annoying globe toy that I can't turn off...

At this point, my daughter starts to play with the pile of discarded toys. Time to distract her with my son's wooden railway set, which she loves!

By now I have a fairly substantial pile of toys, and I've cleared two cupboards. Cool! Time to attack the bookshelves. I hate getting rid of books, but she no longer looks at picture books, preferring to read a story with me. So the soft baby books go in the pile, all the picture books, and some first word and counting books that have been superseded by newer versions.

A lovely pile of toys and books to recycle. The nice toys and books go to a friend with a small baby; the remainder is divided between charity bags and school (it's the Autumn Fayre next week).

Now to tackle the boy's room. He's 5 years old and he plays with everything. Or so he tells me. I try to throw out his old Brum RC car he's never shown an interest in (because it eats batteries so I hid it). He demands new batteries because it's his favourite toy now. Sigh. Same with the Teksta robot dog. He has a massive box of Takealong Thomas trains, track, and accessories that he's losing interest in, but we can't get rid of that because a) it's too nice and b) my daughter likes it. He has several boxes of Playmobil, ditto. So many cars and trucks, but what's the point of throwing one or two out? Action figures, ditto. It's really tricky. I manage to discard some old colouring books but everything else stays. But at least it's tidy and "in the right box". So I'm happy, until January.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Dedicated to my parents

On September 2nd 2010 my parents celebrate 40 years of marriage. Their ruby anniversary.

I remember their 25th vividly because I was 18 years old and therefore old enough legally to enjoy a drink with them at the pub. But 40 years deserves a massive "WOW".

It's not been easy for them, I mean, they had twin girls for a start.


But then, we produced four lovely grandchildren, so that was worth waiting for surely?


So to them I say "cheers" and "congratulations". And "here are some photos of them" ;)

Highlights from my blogroll

I've spent quite some time this evening adding blogs of friends and people I follow on Twitter (the ones I can remember) to my blogroll, syncing them with my Google Reader list, and then reading all the latest posts. I got completely sidetracked by my friend Jo's blog Fantails and Fibrolite, so I thought I would recommend it here to my followers.

If you are interested in renovations, self-sufficiency, or the good life in New Zealand, this blog fits this bill completely. I loved reading about Jo's grapefruit harvest, admiring the snowdrop photo (taken in August!), and learning about her solar panel options (which we are also thinking about).

Other highlights from my list for me include the beautiful photography at Fennel and Fern, a muddy camping trip from Emma and family, Sarah's battles with her cats, and work in progress at Ian's allotment.
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