About Me

My photo

Author.

Interests: parenting, writing, art and design, travel, different cultures.

Likes: reading, cinema, coffee and cake, aerobics, animals, weekends with friends.
Dislikes: discrimination, coin operated trolleys, voice recognition (I'm a Scot...enough said)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

his n hers

I recently noticed two identical cars parked side by side at a local sport centre. Slightly unusual, but not unheard of...then I noticed the number plates. One was MUM, the other DAD. My reaction was amusement, and I wondered if I would like to be a part of a his n hers novelty such as that. I think the number plates themselves are quite sweet, but the cars being the same model and colour made it a bit over the top. I suppose if they have a boy, they could carry on the tradition with a SON plate, but a girl would be more tricky...
I remember once bumping into my husband's friend and his wife, not long after they were married. The couple were both wearing matching beige trousers and red T-shirts. We assumed they were in uniform en-route to work. Imagine our embarrassment when they told us they were not colleagues, but just liked to dress the same. I found it hard to keep a straight face as it seemed very strange to me. In their case, matching clothes did not turn out to be the secret to a happy marriage, they are now divorced.
However, there are couples who have found dressing the same brings them closer together. Nancy and Donald Featherstone have worn matching clothes for 35 years, often incorporating a flamingo pattern!(although, there is a reason for that). I found the article interesting, and clearly they are very happy, but dressing the same as my husband everyday, would definitely not be for me. The article can be found here:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/may/25/husband-and-wife-dressed-same-35-years

I would say the his n hers look is acceptable at Halloween. I think it would be lots of fun to dress up as a famous Hollywood couple, or characters from film and TV. I found a website with lots of great options, although not sure I could convince hubby on some of them...

The smurfs
Andy Pandy and Looby Lou
The link to the site, should you wish to release your inner smurf/smurfette, can be found here:

http://www.allfancydress.com/










I was sure that since onesies are so popular just now, that there would be his n hers options. Indeed there are, plenty of them. However, I also found a site offering a "family pajama planner". After all, why should your pets miss out on the fun?! Yes, not only can you and your partner snuggle up in your matching jammies, your cat or dog can be matchy matchy too. I guess it has to be seen to be believed:


I'll be skipping this option, although if they made them for rabbits, it would make a great family Christmas card photo ;)

The site can be found here:

http://www.pajamagram.com/category/view-all-family-pajamas.aspx




There are always lots of his n hers gift options. A few that I came across would not fill me with horror if I were to receive them. I liked these pillows available from

http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/cushionscovered/product/pillow-talk-pillow-cases


I like the his/hers and bride/groom bath robes you can buy as well. A calendar is another good gift which can use the his n hers theme,  it's split in two so you can write your own appointments and reminders side by side. In my house this would probably be pointless, since I'm always the one to write everything down and do the reminding. I wonder if that's a woman thing?




 
On the flip side, there are also horrendous his n hers gifts available. I found the following on Mashable, I hope if you bought any of these items that you kept the receipt. It's actually hard to choose which one is the worst, but tell me, how would you react if you and your partner received connectable knitted beards?!

http://mashable.com/2013/11/09/his-and-her-gifts-etsy/


What are your thoughts on the his n hers theme? Would you dress the same as your partner? I'm still on the lookout for a Christmas jumper for my husband...maybe, just maybe, I'll buy one too...





Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The "BFG" on bullying.

Have you ever been bullied? Have your children been the victims of bullying? Nov. 18-22 was anti-bullying week, with the theme "The Future is Ours: Safe, fun and connected."I was pleased to read about this initiative, and although the week has now passed, the website contains some useful information:

http://www.antibullyingweek.co.uk/

I myself was bullied at school. Thankfully nothing too terrible, partly due to my mum contacting the school (without my knowledge at the time), before things got out of hand. I was a quiet girl, and tall for my age, which I was very self-conscious about. I'm comfortable with my height now (5'9), but remember at times hating towering over my peers. At first it was pretty harmless, laughable really. I was nicknamed the BFG (big friendly giant), or occasionally referred to as Big Bird from Sesame Street. I grew up watching Sesame Street and The BFG was a favourite book, so I could cope fine with those silly names.
"The Big Friendly Giant"
"Big Bird"










However, as I progressed through school, things got much worse. One girl in particular enjoyed tormenting me to show off to her friends, I answered her back, and from then on things got worse. Every child wants to "fit in" as much as possible, and for children to pick on someone due to being different, can make life very difficult for them. We've all heard of people being racist, sexist, people being bullied for being seen as too fat or too thin...maybe there should be a new term, such as "heightist", for people who seem to have a problem with people being tall, or small.

History seems to be repeating itself...my 8 year old son is exceptionally tall for his age, and I feel his pain. I can see people making judgements about him, wrongly assuming he is older than his age. My son is a young boy, and likes to behave silly at times, as all children do. I hate to see people looking at him so disapprovingly, or thinking there must be something wrong with him. I bought him a winter hat recently, a novelty panda one which he was delighted with. Sadly, he no longer wears it as people were making fun of him. I'm sure if he were the height of an average 8 year old, no one would have said a word about it. I think it has also affected his confidence. My son was always happy to be involved in school concerts, nativities etc, he even went to drama classes which he really enjoyed. I was sad to see the change in him at a recent school event. A. looked miserable, and if he caught me looking at him, would immediately stop singing and mouth the words "stop looking at me!" I was hurt, and worried what had caused such a change in attitude.

I asked A. why he'd behaved that way and he said "I thought you'd laugh at me". I assured him there was no way I would laugh at him, and tried to build up his confidence. A. was to perform the same concert that night, and I told him he shouldn't go if he felt so uneasy. However, that talk we had seemed to make a difference, and he joined in as the happy little boy I know and love later on.

That particular event was one that I was very keen to support. The Royal Rockstars worked with the children at school to prepare for a concert. The older children even helped write a song for the school. The Royal Rockstars teach children moral values through music, and I think it is a great way to get important messages across, one of their songs was anti-bullying, and another taught them that everyone is different, and should be accepted as equals. You can read more about the work The Royal Rockstars do on their website here:

http://www.royalrockstars.co.uk/about-royal-rockstars/

I think there are many people working very hard to stop bullying, a problem which will never have an easy solution. I've recently become aware of Julianne Moore's book "Freckleface Strawberry". The actress has written  a children's book to teach children that it's OK to be different, in this case, to have red hair and freckles. I have freckles also, currently hibernating during the Scottish winter. I was never bullied for having freckles, but I know there are lots of children who hate their freckles and are teased for having them. I've never really understood why people make fun of red hair. I think red hair is lovely, and shouldn't be something to be made to feel ashamed of. I haven't read the book as yet, but I like the sound of it, you may find my review on Goodreads in the near future.


I also like a project that was started by Merilee Allred. The "Awkward Years" project, features a series of photos (including Merilee), showing past and present images, in order to compare awkward photos from youth, with present day. Describing her project, Allred says "I hope that I can touch the lives of youth who are currently getting teased or bullied. Life is so much more than school or looks or popularity contests."(Huffington Post). More information on Allred's brave project can be found here:


Finally, how do you teach your children to deal with bullying? Personally, I have told my children if they are being bullied by name calling, it's best to ignore it and tell a parent or teacher. However, if it becomes violent, I've told them it's OK to hit back. I'm not saying get into a huge fight, but I think it's important for a child to know they have to defend themselves.

 I was very proud of my niece recently, who stepped in at school when her friend was being bullied by older children. I think it was very brave of her, and I'm not sure I could have done that at her age (9). That's an issue I find hard to advise on. On the one hand it's the right thing to do, but then the bullies may turn their attention on the person trying to help. My niece was called names, and hurt by the older kids involved when she intervened. Would you advise your children to step in, or should they always get adult help? I watched an interesting video on whether people should intervene when they witness bullying. "The Bullying Experiment" video which I came across on huffpost.com makes for interesting viewing, and I hope I would have the courage to do something were I to witness such a scene. Watch the clip here and tell me your views:






Monday, 18 November 2013

10 ways family life is like "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!"

I'm very pleased "I'm A Celebrity..." is back on our screens. I've always enjoyed the show, Ant and Dec are wonderful presenters. I've realised, there are quite a few comparisons to be made between jungle life, and everyday family life:

1. Bugs and wild animals are always found in unexpected places











2. You go to sleep every night with the fear of being woken by an unwanted visitor(s)




3. You constantly listen to people complaining of being hungry. Sleep deprivation is a common occurrence.

4. Mealtimes feel like a bushtucker trial, homemade meals sometimes get a similar reaction to the horrors being served on the show.





5. Everyday has it's challenges, which can seem like an endurance test. Can you survive homework times 3 without freaking out?






6. As parents, we are our children's personal jungle diary room. We listen as calmly as we can to the "contestants" complaints, and telling tales on each other.

7. You are woken early every morning by strange and inexplicable noises.

8. Finding school ties in a frenzy before school time is equatable to finding the jungle keys in a bushtucker trial...you could touch anything in the horror of a child's bedroom.

9. Most families have an "Ant and Dec", friends or family who visit to provide help and advice. These people are always pleased to visit, but secretly, we all know they're pleased to escape "the jungle".




10. Like those who've experienced the real "I'm A Celebrity...", you'd describe family life as very rewarding, but also a relief to escape (once in a while).


Any more to add? I'd be pleased to read your thoughts.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The return of the Christmas Detectives


 I wrote this post last year, my little Christmas detectives are sure to start their investigations soon. This year I will really have to be on my guard, they'll no longer be Dr. Watson's, I'm sure they'll be  Sherlocks by now! I'm half expecting my son's homemade lie detector to be involved:






The Christmas Detectives


I am normally a ba humbug type of person in the leadup to Christmas, annoyed by all the Christmas hype which seems to start earlier and earlier every year. This year, however, I have to get into the Christmas mindset now, as I am in a bit of a dilemma...
On the one hand, I am very much pro-Santa, encouraging my children to believe as long as possible (case in point, I was secretly delighted when my son briefly fell out with a friend at school for telling him Santa wasn't real). On the other, every year they get that little bit more suspicious, like little Christmas detectives, and it becomes quite tricky to keep up the pretence. I recently saw a novelty Santa door key for sale in a card shop, a nice idea and I was tempted to buy it... until I realised they would all be trying the key in the door and telling me it didn't fit, so it would be yet more stories to invent. I didn't bother buying it







I learned a few years ago, that I cannot use the same wrapping paper or labels, for Santa presents as I do for mummy and daddy presents, my son picked up on that faux pas straight away. I also disguise my handwriting for the Santa labels. Sounds simple enough, but a few days later when they are asking if a certain toy was from us or Santa, it gets confusing.
The reindeer food we bought from a school Christmas Fayre was always put out happily, no issues there. Last year, however, my son was suspicious about the glitter in the food, he figured out that glitter did not seem normal, or healthy, for animals. I got away with that one by saying they were magic reindeer, so glitter was ok for them to eat. I was also told I should be leaving out 9 carrots, one for each reindeer. I told them the reindeer wouldn't be able to fly if they ate too much, so they better just share one. I will also have to grate some carrot and leave it on the floor and plate- they remarked on Christmas morning last year, how it was amazing the reindeer didn't make any mess when they ate. See what I'm up against?


The dilemma: In October I was lucky enough to re-house two baby rabbits from a local animal park. The kids had been asking for a pet for a while, so I gave in. The cost for the hutch, food, hay, toys, vaccines etc soon all added up. There is also the unexpected expense of having to get them neutered, as my two male rabbits turned out to be one male and one female! I made it clear that they wouldn't be getting much else for Christmas. To my dismay, I was told "that's ok, we'll just ask Santa for the things we want." It seems like nearly every day they are talking about new items for their Santa lists, and I am currently trying to think of the best way to handle this. I don't want disappointed children on Christmas day, so "Santa" better come up with a half decent excuse for his lack of generosity soon.
My ideas so far: the elves are on strike... that wouldn't work, because they'd wonder how all their friends still got toys.
The reindeer are sick, and the medicine is very expensive, so Santa can't make so many toys this year...they'd be upset and possibly start a school fundraiser for poor Rudolph and his friends.

No, I think a letter from Lapland is in order, something referring to the fact Santa knows they have two lovely rabbits and they are very lucky boys and girls. Other children aren't so lucky, so Santa has to make sure that everyone gets a fair share of Christmas presents. I'm sure a slight threat of lumps of coal for Christmas next year if they don't keep looking after their pets wouldn't go astray either.

Wish me luck!




Do you have little Christmas detectives at home?  How do you deal with ever lengthening Santa lists? At what age do you think it's time to  let children realise there's no Santa? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Call for children to help "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy"

"The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy",  is an illustrated, rhyming short story for children aged 6-9 years old. The story tells of Sparkle, the Tooth Fairy, who is sent to find out why children are not taking care of their teeth, and to make changes so that the teeth she collects are healthier, stronger, and sparkly white. Healthy teeth are urgently required to repair Fairy Castle. I'm sure most parents have been asked what the Tooth Fairy does with all the teeth....  



The book aims to be fun and entertaining, whilst at the same time encouraging children to look after their teeth. Sparkle enlists the help of a little girl called Anne, who is delighted to assist with such an important mission. Anne, reveals that she has had four teeth removed, and is eager to help, as she doesn't want other children to suffer as she had. Sparkle and Anne become very good friends as the story continues, teaming up to think of ways to make children eat less sugar, and brush their teeth properly. Children reading the story, will enjoy their magical adventures, learning some tips for better dental care along the way. I also tackle the fact that some children of this age may be doubting the Tooth Fairy's existence, but you'll have to read the story to find out how I approach that issue!




The story ends with Sparkle successfully sending enough healthy teeth to Fairy Land for the castle to be repaired. Sparkle and Anne are sad that their time together has come to an end, but very proud of what they managed to achieve together. The two friends are bound to meet again, as the Fairy King has another mission for Sparkle. The final lines of the book are directed to the reader, a call to help "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy", by making sure they send healthy clean teeth to Fairy Land. Tooth Fairy Tips are included to help children achieve this. There are also some appealing, comical illustrations at the start of the book; Tooth Fairy Essentials, including a fairy currency convertor and earplugs for visiting snoring children.

A little about me...I am a children's author/illustrator with a Degree in English Literature, and an HND in Graphic Design. I am often inspired by children in my family, the character of Anne is based on my niece. I hope this book will contribute to the efforts being made to improve the dental health of young children. I thoroughly enjoy sharing stories with children, and will be presenting educational school workshops based on The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy. I am keen to support local bookshops, and my book is available from Scotia books in Kilsyth (near Glasgow), as well as from Amazon and Waterstones online. Feedback or reviews of my work are always welcome, and I can be contacted by email (carolyn@mandache.com) for further info. on school workshops, or if you are interested in stocking my book.

Finally, my favourite illustration from "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy",  Sparkle cheekily stealing a spoonful of sugar to protect some teeth:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0957698917/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_Q6wEsb0VWT5W5

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Take care!

I write this post fully aware that many of you will think I'm an idiot. However, there are people who may be pleased to read about my latest mishap, as they too could easily have done the same thing.
I enjoyed a rare child-free day's shopping recently. My dad agreed to pick up the 4 kids from school/nursery. I arrived home to find my brood all very happy and eager to show me them playing conkers. Grandpa, most impressively, had taken them all to collect conkers, brought them home and attached strings for them to play the game. I say impressively, as he'd come equipped with his electric drill, making the whole process very easy. Conkers, in case you do not know, are horse-chestnuts. The aim of the game is to break the other player's chestnut/conker by hitting it.




 I loved seeing them all so happy (my dad included), playing a game from my own childhood and getting in touch with nature. My husband was not so impressed when he arrived home from work. Florin grew up in Romania and it was his first experience of seeing the game. "Isn't that dangerous?" he asked in a nervous tone. Coming from the man who often quotes the latest stats like, "more kids fall out of their beds than trees nowadays", I have to say I was surprised by his reaction. Usually he's very keen to get the kids out in the great outdoors. Anyway, there were no injuries and the kids finally agreed to abandon their game and come in for a snack, bringing their four plastic bags worth of chestnuts with them. 
My dad suggested roasting the chestnuts for after dinner. I'd never done that before, and it sounded like a good idea...I had enough to keep us going for a month! I even joked about cutting the food bill. The readers I mentioned who will think I'm an idiot will be rolling their eyes by now, if you've still not spotted a potential problem to my story, good, that makes me feel better :)
So, parents went home, hubby went back out to fix a computer, and I put a generous amount of chestnuts in a roasting tin in the oven. I guesstimated they would take about 20 minutes to cook, enough time to get some homework done. After 20 minutes, they were still rock hard, so I left them a while longer. The homework was soon interrupted by a chestnut (or 2) exploding in the oven. Pretty sure that meant they must be ready, I eagerly took them out the oven. I struggled to peel the skin off a chestnut, and ate some of the crumbly inside. The taste was absolutely disgusting. I tried another bite, and decided I must have picked a bad chestnut. I examined the remaining chestnuts, but they all looked the same, so I tried another one, sure the next one would be fine. Chestnut number two was equally revolting. My niece asked to try one, I warned her they were horrible, but she wanted to try for herself. Lia agreed that they tasted horrible, and I wouldn't let anyone else try them.
I decided I must have overcooked the chestnuts, and something from the shell had made them taste so awful. I Googled  "how to roast chestnuts", and discovered I should have cut a cross in them before putting them in the oven. However, it didn't seem possible to me that this oversight would cause them to taste so terrible. Next I Googled "why do my chestnuts taste horrible", got straight to the point. I read the following article with increasing alarm:

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2003315603_chestnuts21m.html

You see, for those of you who don't know, horse chestnuts (conkers), are poisonous! I tried to stay calm, reassuring myself that I'd only eaten one and a half, surely I wouldn't keel over from that? What a ridiculous way to go! I was more worried about my niece, she'd only eaten a tiny bit, but I couldn't help but panic. The kids picked up on my anxiety, and I told them what I'd read, reassuring them as best as I could that we'd both be fine. Lia quickly became very upset, and complained of feeling sick and stomach ache. I later had stomach ache too, but I'm sure both of our symptoms were psychological. Two of the other kids also started crying, I assumed it was due to being worried about myself and Lia. The real reason, however, was that they'd had so much fun with grandpa, and they didn't want him to be sad about nearly poisoning us! Then my other niece worried me by saying maybe grandpa had taken some home to roast for himself. I decided I'd better phone to make sure. I chose my words carefully, telling him the chestnuts tasted really bad and they weren't the kind for eating. I did not use the word poisonous, I didn't want him feeling guilty for an innocent mistake.
NHS 24 put my mind at ease that Lia and I would live to see another day. The phone operator informed me it would be virtually impossible to be poisoned by chestnuts, as they tasted so bad. I have to agree with that, the taste lasted for ages after one and a half chestnuts, there's no way I could have consumed enough to be fatal.
I went to bed having learned a valuable lesson, and tired out from all the upset and worry my ignorance had caused. I now know it is not only berries and mushrooms you have to be careful about, chestnuts can be evil too!
My mum phoned me the next day, they'd looked up chestnuts on the net, discovered they were poisonous. We had a laugh about it, and how silly we all felt. The exploding poisonous chestnuts were an incentive to make me scrub out my oven the next day, a task I hate. The next time I saw my dad he apologised for his suggestion to roast conkers and handed me a present. Wrapped delicately in pink tissue paper...chestnuts from Tesco, the real deal, complete with cooking instructions :)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Yeti...goodie or baddie?

I was interested to read this week about the scientist who claims to have proof that the yeti is real and living in the Himalayas. The article, which includes a brief history of sightings, evidence etc. can be found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/10384000/Yeti-lives-Abominable-Snowman-is-part-polar-bear-and-still-roams-the-Himalayas.html

I, like many others who commented on this article, am skeptical about this claim, until more concrete evidence can be provided. However, I do find it an exciting prospect that a mythical creature could actually be proven to be real. After all, maybe Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster), will be next!

Yeti's are known by many other names, including Almas (Mongolia), Batutut (Vietnam), Bigfoot (North America), Yowie (Australia), Fear liath (scotland), and Sasquatch is also a popular title for the creature which may or may not exist. Clearly, since so many places have their own names for the beast, it's fame is far spread. I discovered these alternative names in another Telegraph article found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/8818386/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-Yeti.html

Of course the list would not be complete without the much used "abominable snowman" title. I'm reminded of the banished monster in Monsters inc:

"Abominable! Can you believe that? Do I look abominable to you? Why can't they call me the Adorable Snowman or...or the Agreeable Snowman, for crying out loud? I'm a nice guy."
—The Yeti describing himself to Sulley and Mike
 

The idea of a friendly abominable snowman appeals to me. Perhaps because I write children's books and like my stories to have a twist. I decided to try and imagine the yeti, based on the recent evidence that it could be a cross between a polar bear and a brown bear. Realistically, I'm sure the creature would be fierce and frightening, but my imagination took me on a different path...


A Yeti children's book is definitely a possibility for my future writing. Please share your thoughts on my sketch, and watch this space!

In the meantime, there are other author's who have beaten me to it and have written for children about yeti's. I have not as yet read any of these, please feel free to add your reviews if you have read any of them:

                                              
 This book by Charlotte Gullain sounds like lots of fun, and I love the title! The illustrations look great, and I'm curious to learn what George discovers on his mission to prove that the yeti exists.
Greg Long and Chris Edmunson wrote "Yeti, Turn Out the Light!", and the illustrations by Wednesday Kirwan look fantastic for bringing the story to life.  I discovered this book on boingboing.net where it is decribed as"a delightful bedtime tale of shadows, monsters, and magic sure to please all children, and the adults that cuddle them."
 "The Awkward Yeti" by Nick Seluk, sounds like a good book for younger children. According to goodreads.com, it is "a unique children's picture book that introduces the concept of personality differences in a subtle, simple and silly way for very young readers."
"The Abominables" by award winning author Eva Ibbotson sounds like a fun book for older children. Aimed at ages 8-11, the story tells of a family of yetis seeking a safe haven. The Scholastic website has the following review:
“The joyful absurdity of the notion, combined with Ibbotson’s wit… should make this a classic.” Daily Mail





I'm sure there are many more yeti based stories, please feel free to add any.

I'll end my blog on the mysterious yeti, with a blast from the past. How many of you remember the TV series "Big Foot and the Hendersons?" I have fond memories of the friendly yeti who joins the Henderson family, and will try to get a copy of it on DVD for my kids to enjoy. I found a clip from the film which was released as "Harry and the Hendersons" in 1987. Does it bring back memories?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBFSCbptrJk

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Glasgow rocks!

My blog this week centres around my home city of Glasgow. I've decided to name it "Glasgow rocks!" as it's a (pure dead) brilliant city, and also because I watched my first live basketball game this week. The game,  Surrey United vs. Glasgow Rocks, was an attempt to bring a little more excitement to my social life. My husband and I took our 8 year old son, who's very self-conscious of his height. Basketball seemed a good way to shed some positive light on being tall. We all enjoyed the game, as well as the Rockettes cheerleaders, featuring dramatic flames in the background. The game was held at the new Emirates Arena, and I was impressed by the building, especially when lit up as we left.

Emirates Arena
I'm sure many parents, particularly the ones outnumbered by their brood, have fallen into the trap of enjoying cinema nights out. Nothing wrong with the cinema...in fact after a long week running around after kids and/or work, it's often all we can summon up the energy to do. However, I realised this was becoming the norm for hubby and I, and it started bugging me. I've decided we need to break the habit, make the most of our few and far between nights/days out, and be a bit more imaginative in how we spend our child-free time.



I have discovered an excellent way to find inspiration for nights out with a difference, it's called Groupon. The site (and similar ones), have become essential in my life. I enjoyed the comedian Tom Stade's comedy sketch recently, describing his addiction to Groupon...I too am an addict. Groupon suggests events and places I often didn't even know existed, and the discounts available make going out so much more affordable.

There's a very classy restaurant/bar/nightclub in Glasgow called Arta. I discovered they have started a 1920's Great Gatsby style themed night called Bang Bang, and so we ventured along for our cinema alternative. Singers performed modern music in a 1920's style, as well as some genuine music from the 20's. Nibbles of popcorn and chocolate adorned the tables, and we were welcomed with a champagne cocktail. Husband wasn't too keen, but I enjoyed the evening. My only regret was that I hadn't dressed the part, as many had, in Charleston type fringed dresses and feathered headbands...next time.


Another day out with a difference is held at Saint Judes, a bar in Glasgow offering afternoon tea with a twist. The sandwiches and cakes arrive as expected, but the teapot is actually filled with a cocktail which the server mixes for you at your table. I love the novelty of it, and have booked a few times. Next time I'm taking my friend, leaving hubby to babysit. I'm also going to the Girls Day Out at the SECC, obviously not with husband :) Looking forward to the fashion shows, goody bags, offers and discounts, and a cheeky wee glass of wine while the kids are at school.

Our family days out have also become more adventurous since Groupon etc. entered our lives.  We've enjoyed days out at Kelburn castle with it's distinctive graffiti project. Not actually in Glasgow, around an hour's drive, but well worth it. Kids loved it, and often ask to go back, would highly recommend it. Link with more info. about Kelburn can be found here:

http://www.kelburnestate.com/about/graffiti

I am also curious to try the various Baby Loves Disco events in Glasgow. Described as "a daytime dance party for parents with babies, toddlers and children up to 7 years", it sounds worth a try! I'm sure many parents fondly remember their nightclubbing days, and mourn their loss, but the thought of coming home at 3am, only to be rudely awoken around 6 is to much to bear. Maybe this is an alternative. I've missed the Pirates and Princesses one, but I may well be found at Boogie Halloween; Cosmopolitan in hand watching my 4 year old very competently perform Gangham Style. The Baby Loves Disco events take place around the UK, not just Glasgow. More info. can be found here:

http://www.babylovesdisco.co.uk/about/

Winter in Glasgow is pretty bleak, we have wind and rain/snow practically on a daily basis. There are, however, plenty options to keep us Glaswegians entertained. We have Xscape, an indoor ski centre with real snow, as well as restaurants, bars, bowling, cinema, and many other options. Xscape is a great place to wander around and meet up with friends. The Glasgow Christmas markets are also pretty good, admittedly not as picturesque as Edinburgh, but improving every year. I also hope to visit the Jack Vettriano exhibition at Kelvingrove art gallery. I know there has been much controversy over the Scottish artist, but I like his work very much.

How do you spend your free time in your city? Has your social life changed dramatically since having children? I'd be interested to read your tips and ideas on family days out, or date nights that are alternatives to cinema.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Getting the balance right.

I blogged recently over my worries for children using the internet. I would like you to watch the following clip, about a couple who built an in-house nightclub for their teens, to see what your INITIAL reaction is.

http://moms.popsugar.com/Parents-Build-Nightclub-Home-31804539?utm_source=com_digest&utm_campaign=com_digest_v5&utm_medium=email&utm_content=article_3

My honest opinion on first reading the title, was "what a great idea! If I had the money I'd do that too!"

Then I took a step back...I'm amazed to find that I am already so worried about the teen years of my kids, that this would strike me as a good option. My children are still a long way from night clubbing, but it's something that has crossed my mind more than once. I used to think I would only have to worry about my boys getting into fights, drinking too much, "male" type behaviour. Now I'm raising my nieces too, there'll be all sorts of different worries about them. 

I'm basically turning into my mum. I can remember only to well, my mum pacing the floor, or anxious phone calls if I was late home from a night out. Like all young people I thought she was paranoid, what was she so worried about? Now it seems I am struck with the same fears, long before I even have to face them.

I have found letting my children have some freedom and independence very difficult. The media doesn't help, we're bombarded with horror stories and left desperate to wrap our kids in cotton wool, to protect them from the evil in the world. Sadly, that's not possible, and I know I can't account for every eventuality. I'll have to let them face the big bad world one day.

I read about a stranger danger experiment recently. An alarming number of the young participants were charmed by the fake stranger, and agreed to leave with him. I have since explained to my kids how important it is never to talk to strangers, no matter how appealing their story may be. The link can be found here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2410930/Chilling-experiment-shows-children-happy-walk-stranger-park--took-just-90-seconds-persuade-them.html

Articles such as that are indeed useful, we need to ensure the message has gotten through to our children. However, in my case, they increase my anxiety and fears. I now feel I want to invest in some kind of tracking device, which even as I type this, sounds wrong. My children are starting to ask for some freedom, and if I had some way to pinpoint exactly where they were, I would have more peace of mind. I know there are very discrete devices available, such as watches, belt clips etc. I definitely will be looking into the options. One site I like is TrackYour. The link can be found here:

http://www.trackyour.co.uk/index.php/about/about-us/
There are other things that scare me about the teen years, and it's not only me who's thinking so far ahead. My husband and I are dreading the prospect of 4 teenage drivers at home. Hubby, an IT, gadget man has already suggested developing some kind of in-car recording device. We can sit at home and watch every red light jumped, speed limit broken, hand brake turn taken, and have appropriate lecture/punishment ready for their return. 

I'm half joking about the car thing, but it is hard to get the right balance. How can we protect our children without overstepping the line, making them feel we don't trust them? I can remember from my own teenage years a very embarrassing incident due to my parents wanting to keep me safe. I had a Saturday job in a shoe shop in Debenhams. During my lunch hour, I liked to take the escalators and look at all the latest fashions. There I was, in my own little world, enjoying my well earned break. The only thing spoiling my free time, was that persistent security alarm...why was no one turning it off? Slowly, it dawned on me, the horrible screeching noise was coming from me...or rather the personal alarm I had completely forgotten was hanging around my now scarlet neck. 

I really should stop worrying so much. I have a long time to go before the teenage years. When that time comes, I will simply guide them as best as I can, without trying to control their every move.  I'll have plenty of other dramas to face before then I'm sure, my youngest will start school next year and I know I'll find that tough.

What are your thoughts? Do you worry excessively about your children as teens, even when that stage of their life is a long way off? Any ideas on getting the balance right between keeping kids safe and giving them independence? I'd love to read your views.




Monday, 16 September 2013

Modern technology...a blessing or a curse?

What are your thoughts on children blogging? I have very mixed feelings about it. My son, who's 8, has asked on occasion to start one, so far we haven't given in. I can see the benefits in that it encourages children to write, learn better vocabulary, learn more IT skills. However, as a parent who already struggles to wean the kids off TV and computers, I am reluctant to add yet more computer time to the ways they spend their free time. Following our holiday this year, I gave the kids a folder/book each, printed off some holiday photos, gave them stickers etc. and enjoyed watching them make their own holiday scrapbooks. I feel at such a young age, this is a better way for them to write about things they like, and use their creativity. I've been reading a lot on the subject of children blogging, and technology in general. Should blogging be something you're considering allowing your child to do, this article provides some benefits, as well as tips on how to keep your child safe online whilst blogging:

http://weblogs.about.com/od/startingablog/i/KidsBlogging.htm

I may well let my children blog once they are older, as there are undoubtedly success stories.  I'm sure many of these kids will be at an advantage when the job hunting stage comes, due to what they have learned through blogging. The London School of Economics estimated in 2010 that 11% of European children who used the internet, wrote a blog. That figure will certainly be higher now. I was surprised by those figures, I thought it was very rare for young children to be interested in blogging, but clearly I was wrong. The Telegraph had an interesting article with information on some blogs by children, including "Jake's Bones", a blog by an 11 year old who hunts for bones with his dad. Jake researches his findings, and then blogs about them. Clearly there are children with interests which merit encouraging a blog, they don't just simply want to write about their favourite TV programs, music etc. The article can be found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/9929832/Meet-the-children-blogging-about-their-world.html

Blogging, therefore, if supervised, does seem like a sensible thing to allow children to do, once they reach the age deemed appropriate by their parents. However, like many parents, I am delighted by what my children can learn from the internet, but also terrified of it. The news is full of cyber-bullying, with children tragically taking their own lives. Thankfully, I'm not at the iphone stage yet, otherwise I think I would constantly be snooping on my kids to make sure they were not victims of such a serious problem. An article I found very interesting was on the Empowering Parents site. The article explains the reasons why cyber-bullying can be so much more serious than traditional bullying. You can read advice on how to spot the signs of a child being bullied online, as well as how to handle the situation. The link can be found here:

http://www.empoweringparents.com/blog/technology-and-kids/cyberbullying-what-all-parents-should-know/#

I am definitely a parent who sees pros and cons to modern technology. Apart from the online safety issues, I do not like the way it is affecting families in a negative way. Parents are too often distracted by mobiles, or i-pads, and children are missing out on valuable family time as a result. Worryingly, according to a Telegraph article, schools in the UK will soon be issuing an advice leaflet to parents explaining how important their role is in helping children develop speaking and listening skills. The reason this is thought to be necessary, is that parents are "prioritising mobile phones and television over traditional family conversations". I find it very sad that technology is deemed to have had such an adverse effect on young children's development. The link can be found here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10307853/Parents-told-turn-off-phones-and-talk-to-your-children.html

I wonder how many have the same conflicting views on the benefits of modern technology? Would you allow your child to blog, and if so, at what age? Does cyber-bullying worry you, and how do you keep track of your child's online activities? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, I'll leave you with an article about a family who decided to revert back to a 1986 lifestyle. The McMillans have banned modern technology for one year, in an attempt to bring their family closer together. I admire their dedication, they even have eighties haircuts to make their experience seem accurate! The McMillans have taken things to the extreme by cutting out modern technology entirely, but I do think they have the right idea. There has to be the right balance, between technology, and making sure you have enough quality family time...minus the ringtones.

http://www.today.com/moms/parenting-its-1986-couple-bans-modern-tech-inspire-kids-8C11111429

Friday, 6 September 2013

Autumn's on it's way...the plight of the umbrella.

I suppose it's somewhat unusual that Carolyn's guest post today is by an umbrella. I thought that since autumn is definitely on it's way, it would be the perfect opportunity to make people aware of the plight of my kind...
I haven't had too bad a summer this year. I'm a Scottish umbrella, so I rarely get a day off. The warm weather this year has provided me with a welcome break from my usually hectic work schedule.
Scotland is such a beautiful country, but certainly not an ideal location for myself, and my fellow "brollies" . FYI, we do not like being referred to as "brollies". Show some respect and use our real name.
Challenging is how I would describe my umbrella life. Forced to work in very difficult conditions, it is hard to keep a positive outlook. A Scottish umbrella will age years before her time. The males, commonly referred to as golf umbrellas, have it easier. Built much sturdier and bigger, they can face the elements without too much damage. The female umbrellas are often faced with the indignity of being blown inside out, our spokes in full view, for the whole world to see. Our human owners, instead of acknowledging our embarrassment and discomfort, tend to launch into a tirade of  abusive language. I wish to inform you, gale force winds are not an easy battle to win, your anger should be directed at the wind, not your loyal umbrella who is only trying to shelter you. 
I know there is a new trend for see through umbrellas, it's disgusting to be quite honest. Put in human terms, the see-through is a hussy!



Every umbrella dreams of a beautiful happy relationship with their owner...think "Singin' in the Rain", but sadly, most of us are finally abandoned in a state of disrepair, unwanted and unloved. The lucky ones last a year maybe, some...just a few days. I have witnessed some of my colleagues being verbally and even physically attacked before being thrust into the bin.
Of course, there is always hope for umbrellas. My favourite film (aside from Singin' in the Rain), is a short Pixar film called the blue umbrella. Two umbrellas find love one blustery night, I was lucky enough to be with my owner at the cinema when it was shown before Monsters University. Really, it would have been better the other way around, a short Monsters film and a full length umbrella one, but I suppose not many would agree with me on that one.



I hope I have opened your eyes to the mistreatment of umbrellas. I'll leave you with one thought...if it's windy, be kind. Use your hood!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Don't make me unleash the pop-ups...

I have a confession to make...I am an Indie author. I hope you are still reading, and have not immediately decided to Google someone better known, an author who has a reputation for writing good books, a name you can trust. I'm asking you to give Indie authors a chance, hear their stories, make up your own minds on the merit of their work.

In today's blog, I'm telling my story, my experiences of writing. I decided to write children's stories, as I suspected I had the skills...a degree in English Lit., Graphic Design qualification, and a love of drawing. I also have four children at home to provide inspiration, an insight into what children like, and honest feedback from my target audience.

I found the stories quite easy to write once I had my initial ideas, and discovered I had a talent for writing in rhyme, which I enjoy doing. The illustrations were more time consuming, I invested in a Galaxy Note tablet and find the pen very effective for creating computerized images that still look very much hand drawn.

I was very pleased with the results of my work, and like every budding author, suffered the delusions I would see them in print in the very near future. I soon discovered this would be very hard to accomplish. I've written before about poetry being a very unpopular writing technique in the world of publishing. I found this to be true even more so within children's publishing. My list of contactable publishers grew smaller and smaller, as I realised it would be a waste of time and money to send my work to publishers who clearly stated they did not accept poetry. I read that many publishers will not accept unsolicited work, and an agent would be required to act on my behalf. I struggled to find agents who would consider poetry of any kind, my chances were very slim. However, it was a case of "you'll never know unless you try", so I posted out thoughtfully composed covering letters along with my stories. I waited patiently on replies, excited whenever I saw post through the frosted glass...

Sadly, my hopes and dreams of my work soon being in print were deflated time after time, like the yellow balloon behind the door which I had envisioned as a generous publishing contract.

I have to say I really think that publishers are missing a lot of potential best sellers by not accepting rhyme or poetry. Have they never heard of The Gruffalo, or any other of Julia Donaldson's wonderful rhyming tales?  How about The Cat in the Hat, or many other stories by Dr. Seuss? I could be wrong, but I believe these books sold quite well didn't they? I'm pretty sure they would not have been adapted into films if they were not much loved stories.













I decided, reluctantly it must be said, to go the Indie route. I consoled myself by thinking "Indie author" actually sounds quite cool. My first book, Andrew's Fairy Tale was eventually available as an ebook on Amazon. I say eventually, because the formatting process to make the story look good on different tablets, phones etc, was painful. Anyone considering publishing this way...be warned! However, in the end, the book was available for sale on Amazon. I found that very exciting...my enthusiasm didn't last. I waited patiently for the sales, become addicted to checking KDP Select, which allows you to track each and every sale. I was getting nowhere. My book was, and remains, a tiny grain of sand within an enormous beach of competing books. I am not a celebrity, do not have hundreds of reviews, and am basically invisible to an Amazon customer. There is also the problem of authors offering FREE downloads. Everyone loves a bargain, myself included. I can perfectly understand why people choose the free options, and so I thought I would give it a try...give my book a kick start. The free downloads worked quite well, my sales rank went up, and although I didn't make any money, I was delighted that people were now actually reading my story. I also received two 5 star reviews, and was confident my selling opportunities would have improved when the promotion ended. Unfortunately not, there were a few sales, but nothing like what I had hoped for.

I focused on writing my second story, The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy and made it available for print through Createspace. I feel my book has a lot of potential, it is a very imaginative story, and also encourages kids to look after their teeth. I sent copies of the book to agents and publishers, and played the waiting game again. I was very excited to receive a letter from Austin Macauley saying my book had been passed on to senior editors. I had usually just received a blunt rejection letter. A few weeks later I received a publication contract. I'm sure you can imagine my delight, my dream of my work being recognised as worthy of being published was coming true! However, upon reading more carefully, I became much less enthused. Austin Macauley wanted a substantial amount of money from myself, to help cover costs, since they were taking a chance on an unknown author. I researched the company, and it seems they are a vanity publisher, which is essentially the same as self-publishing. Maybe there are success stories with this company and other authors, but it was not a risk I was willing to take.

I refuse to give up, and still hope to make a success of my writing. Createspace is a good option for self-publishers, but as an author from the UK, the shipping costs are too high for me. I want to take my books to local bookshops, present school workshops etc, and so am planning on printing the books at a local printer myself.

 My journey so far on the route to becoming an established author has definitely had its problems. One area which I am pleased with, however, is my new-found understanding of social media. I enjoy writing my blog, and have built up followers on both Google Plus and Twitter. Considering I was like Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance not so long ago (his character was asked "Do you tweet?" to which he replied "I'll tweet, I'll make any noise you want!"), I have definitely made progress. 

I hope you've enjoyed my blog, and would now consider supporting Indie authors. Genuine reviews are a great way of doing this,  call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe in paying for them. I don't make any money from my blog....please don't make me unleash the pop-ups!


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Children's Books.

I've not blogged about writing, or books, for quite a while, and as a children's author I guess I should! The 9th of August was World Book Lovers Day, so for today's blog, I'm writing about books I have enjoyed reading with my children, and some I remember from my own childhood.

 One book which will always be very special to me is "There's a House Inside My Mummy" by Giles Andreae. I often read this to my 3 year old during my pregnancy with his little brother. The book is so sweet, and a delight to share with young children. Written in rhyme, the style in which I myself write, the story never tires, and I would thoroughly recommend it, especially to any parents-to-be struggling to answer awkward questions about growing baby bumps. Interesting fact, Giles Andreae is also the creator of the Purple Ronnie greetings card that have brightened many a special occasion.

My children and I have very much enjoyed the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child, and The Large Family series by Jill Murphy. The fact that these books have been adapted for children's TV probably added to the appeal for my children, but the books are very enjoyable even without seeing the TV versions. My favourite Charlie and Lola story is "But I Am an Alligator!" My boys both went through a similar phase to Lola, where all they wanted to wear was a crocodile costume. I could often be seen hand in hand with a large reptile in Tesco. I have noticed my boys use the word "actually" quite often, I think that's Lola's influence!


 I grew up reading Jill Murphy's wonderful Worst Witch stories, which I will introduce to my children soon. The Large Family books are equally appealing, and her delightful illustrations definitely add to the enjoyment of the stories. My favourite Large Family book is "Five Minutes Peace", where poor mummy elephant is endlessly interrupted by her young children. What parent cannot relate to that?

I recently watched a film version of The Borrowers, which instantly took me back to my childhood. I was very pleased to dig out my Borrowers omnibus by Mary Norton, that's another one to add to my bedtime reading list for the kids. I know they will enjoy the stories of the tiny little people who are so inventive. In fact it has become a joke in our house if something goes missing, that "the borrowers must have taken it". Thinking about it, I was really quite a bookworm as a child. I can remember so many wonderful stories to inspire the imagination...the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, Matilda and the BFG by Roald Dahl, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, The Water Babies, The Box of Delights. My list could go on and on...

My own children, share my love of books, my youngest at 4 cannot read by himself of course, however, the older ones are very reluctant to read independently. My son loves being read to, and when pushed, is a very capable reader. Last year his teacher asked if he read much at home, as he had such a good vocabulary. Obviously, even being read to is still very valuable, I just hope he will soon become more willing to get lost in a book, and take enjoyment from reading, rather than seeing it as a chore. I wonder if most children nowadays regard reading this way? I hope there are still children who can resist the video games, TV etc in favour of picking up a book, but sadly, maybe there are just too many technological options which are more appealing.

Bedtime in our house involves stories, without fail. I have four kids at home, so I always hope they choose stories I like. The youngest sometimes asks for the same story night after night for weeks on end! Peppa Pig is indeed very loveable, but there's only so many times I can take reading about her trip to the dentist. Thankfully, he's quite happy for a different story every night at the moment. The older ones enjoy Horrid Henry books, which I agree are very funny. I was concerned that "Horrid Henry's Guide to Perfect Parents" would give them ideas, but so far there's been no problems. Enid Blyton's Amelia Jane books about the naughty doll have been popular, the illustrations have been modernised, but the books have really passed the test of time, being first published in 1939. We've read and enjoyed the Spy Dogs books by Andrew Cope, and my favourites of recent have been Mr. Stink and Billionaire Boy by David Walliams. Walliams had me trying to decide if I was reading for the kids, or myself!

Lastly, I'll add my own stories. Admittedly, my kids may be slightly biased, but they all enjoy "Andrew's Fairy Tale" and "The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy". The stories were inspired by them, and I was very touched when after hearing "Andrew's Fairy Tale" for the first time, my son had a tear in his eye when the boy fairy in the story had to go home. They like the illustrations and the rhymes. I'm being pestered to write a story about the other two and have a few ideas in mind. Watch this space!













Please feel free to add any books that really made an impression on you during childhood, or any of your favourites to share with children.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Do clothes have a "wear by" date?

I heard a discussion on an American radio station this summer regarding age appropriate fashion for women. I was interested in this, as a thirty-something year old who sometimes struggles with her wardrobe choices. I found an article online based on a similar survey, possibly the same one. The link can be found here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2355711/Women-stop-wearing-clothes-stomach-age-34-according-survey-women.html

The crop tops were abandoned a while ago, and I admit my hem lines have come down, the necklines have gone up. However, I still consider myself to be a young woman, and so surely I should have a modern, young approach to fashion? Having heard on the radio, however, that short skirts should be ditched at 35, bikinis at 40, and long hair at 42, I began to wonder if my theory was right...
I Googled "How to dress in your 30's", some suggestions were OK, but others had me wondering if I'd typed a 5 instead of a 3. I'm not saying every day should be stilettos and short skirts; as a mum to young children I'm much more likely to be found in my jeans, top, flats uniform. However, I don't like the idea that I am fast approaching the age (according to the survey), where wearing these would be considered too young for me. I was reassured that I don't necessarily have to switch to granny shops in the near future by another online article. "The rules for looking 'appropriate' are not what they used to be", is something I'd agree with. I believe that if you feel confident and the clothes look good on you, you should not feel obliged to donate them to charity when you reach a certain age. This more open-minded article can be found here:

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/fashion-articles/how-to-dress-your-age-0513

I've decided not to be guided too much by "wear by" dates, and in fact, as a kind of rebellion to what I'd heard on the radio, bought myself a new bikini...not itsy bitsy, not teeny weeny, but a bikini nonetheless. I'm hoping to get a few more years out of it before I hang it up for good.

I will continue to follow fashion, some I will invest in, others I will graciously leave to younger women. The recent fashion of Minnie Mouse ears as worn by Cara Delevingne featured in Grazia magazine, was quite something! If only I'd known, I could have bought some at Disneyland and been the coolest mum at school...or maybe not.



Wednesday, 31 July 2013

My unusual Big Day-a photo blog

As promised, I am now posting some photos from my wedding in Romania. I've gone into a lot more detail in my post "Tying the knot", so please read it if these photos interest you. A quick summary...I'm a Scot, married to a Romanian. I was lucky enough to share two wonderful wedding days with my husband (one in Scotland where we live, and one in Iasi, my husband's home town). I
loved being accepted into another culture and will always have happy memories of the experience...

This first picture was taken at my mother-in-law's house. The veil is being attached by my Godmother (equivalent of maid of honour), as is tradition. My Godmother and mother-in-law (not pictured) were singing Romanian songs, and look closely...you'll see my Godfather playing the accordion in the background.
This next photo shows me ready to leave the house to go to the Orthodox Church for the Romanian blessing. I had no idea what to expect, I think the nerves show! My sister looks equally uneasy...not surprising as she was temporarily left in charge of the beautiful (but enormous) wedding candles.
The Orthodox blessing. Incense, a singing priest, crowns...all very strange to me. My husband translated as much as he could for me, my Romanian has since improved, but was very basic at the time. The ceremony was a memorable, and (once the nerves settled) enjoyable experience.





The novelty of two cultures coming together for a wedding also appealed to the priest. This photo was taken at his request, and is one of my favourites. My dad (right) and his friend are the two Scots pictured.










Following on from the Church, we made our way by foot to a photography studio. The men wearing kilts must have felt as though they'd visited from Mars rather than Scotland. They received numerous  puzzled, curious looks walking around Iasi on a warm summer's day. The photos were much more posed and formal than they tend to be in the UK, but we were still pleased with the results.
The next photo shows the "dancing chicken being delivered to our table. The reception lasted until 6am, with numerous courses being served throughout the night. The "dancing chickens" were set alight and served to dramatic music. I was amazed, think my face says it all...
I was very surprised to learn of the tradition of kidnapping the bride at midnight. Some of our friends took me to a popular terrace bar, where we had fun trying to work out what our guests (especially the Scots) would be thinking. By coincidence, there was another kidnapped bride, and to add to the occasion, we temporarily swapped places. I had a new groom, and Florin, a new bride (pictured here).


Florin had to pay a ransom for my safe return. The terms agreed on were a bottle of whisky, and to drink champagne from my shoe. This photo shows Florin just about to start his delicious drink.
One final picture, a group photo showing two families from entirely different cultures coming together to support our marriage.  A very special day...


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Not ANOTHER Royal baby blog!

Ok, I admit it...I am yet another person referring to the birth of the most famous child on the planet. I am delighted the lovely Kate and William have welcomed a baby son into the world, and wish them all health and happiness. Today, I found my own personal highlight of all the media coverage surrounding this event...the fantastic Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy sending their congratulations to the couple. I hope the Royals have the chance to watch it, and save it for junior to watch as he grows up. The clip can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc_sKAX5wXg

That's it, I'm not going to talk about the Royals any more, there's plenty of other people doing that! The remainder of my blog relates to interesting things I have read in recent weeks concerning pregnancy and babies. I guess it's not surprising there was so much content about such topics when there was such hype about Kate and THE baby.

Firstly, I read a blog post entitled "I want a third child, except, I really don't" via ModernMom.com. Perhaps, like me, you or your partner has become quite broody watching the blooming Kate. In my case it would be utter madness to consider adding to my brood (I have four at home-my two sons and two nieces), and I found this blog particularly useful in "kicking some sense" back into me. Risa Green's post is very entertaining, I hope you enjoy it. Link here:

http://www.modernmom.com/blogs/risa-green/i-want-a-third-child-except-i-really-don-t

The next blog I found that interested me was entitled "Royal baby fever: 8 baby customs and rituals from around the world". I am very interested in different cultures, and found the information fascinating. I was shocked to learn that babies in Sweden are left to take naps outside in freezing temperatures to improve their overall health. Maybe there is something to that theory, but I think I would be reluctant to try it. There has been much speculation over what the Royal baby shall be named, I am quite sure the name will be revealed very soon. In China, however, babies are named at one month old at a Red Egg and Ginger Party. Unsurprisingly, guests each receive a red egg for good luck. The post makes for excellent reading, and can be found here:

http://www.cheapflights.com/news/royal-baby-fever-8-baby-customs-and-rituals-from-around-the-world/

The last article I want to mention was a feature in Grazia magazine concerning Pregorexia. I confess I had never heard of it before, but found the feature concerning and very sad. Defined as "a dangerous obsession with staying slim in pregnancy", a University College has discovered that an alarming one in 14 UK women has an eating disorder in early pregnancy. Everyone worries about their changing body shape during pregnancy, I'm sure most suffer some moments of feeling like a beached whale. Women who suffer from Pregorexia, diet and exercise to the point where they may be putting their unborn baby at risk. The media, as is so often the case, should take responsibility for some of these cases. Celebrities are photographed constantly throughout their pregnancies, with either admiring comments (if the bump is small), or insulting comments (if the bump is big). Surely during pregnancy, a woman should be left alone, and her weight gain not made a topic of public discussion. Similarly, celebs who lose their baby weight quickly after birth are praised and photographed looking like their pre-pregnancy selves. Women often feel under pressure to lose weight quickly due to these images, when they should be focusing on enjoying their newborn babies. More information and advice about Pregorexia can be found here:

http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/987779/pregorexia-eating-disorders-and-pregnancy

I'd be very pleased to read your comments on any of the above. Has Risa Green cured your broodiness? What was your favourite baby custom? Do you think the media is to blame for Pregorexia?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Tying the knot

I recently watched in astonishment the clip featuring a Chinese bride-to-be interviewing local people following an earthquake in China. The reporter was filmed in her wedding dress, complete with veil. Clearly the woman should be admired for her dedication to her work, and it certainly made interesting viewing, but I still find it very sad. After all, your wedding day should be one of the happiest days of your life, a day when all that matters is you, your spouse to be, your friends and family. The one day when it is perfectly acceptable to be oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the world.The link of the bride reporter can be found here:
http://on.aol.com/video/dedicated-reporter-covers-china-quake-in-her-wedding-dress-517752339
I recently celebrated my 12th wedding anniversary, and have been reliving memories of my own special day. In fact, I was lucky enough to have two wedding days (to the same man). The reason being, that we had our first wedding in Scotland where we live, and the second in Romania where my husband is from. I am so glad that we decided to have the two events. We both shared traditions from each other's cultures, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. The Scottish wedding involved kilts, a ceilidh, speeches, a wonderful day, but nothing you would find out of the ordinary.
The Romanian blessing, and wedding traditions, however, seemed very strange to a Scottish girl....
Firstly, I was amazed at the size of the elaborate candles that had to be carried by the Godparents (equivalent of best man and bridesmaid). The wedding party made their way to the church in a chain of taxis, all with their alarms going off, and afore-mentioned candles sticking out the windows as they were too big to fit in the cars. You can probably tell, it is impossible not to notice a wedding party en-route in Romania.
I was understandably nervous about what exactly would happen at the church. My husband had given nothing away, so I had no idea what to expect. The Orthodox priest seemed to speak for hours (I was later informed that it did not only seem like hours, it actually was hours). The priest conducted a lot of the service in song, with an excellent singing voice. I wonder if that's a requirement to join the priesthood in Romania? We had to wear silver crowns while the priest swung around incense. I did not convert to Orthodox, but I found it an interesting experience.
Following the church, we made our way by foot to the reception restaurant. Florin did not wear a kilt this time around (understandably), but my dad and some of his friends had. I will never forget the looks on people's faces as they saw men in kilts in Iasi, Romania. You would think they had just visited from Mars, rather than Scotland. I was told a local news reporter even made an appearance at the reception, but have no confirmation of that.
The reception lasted until 6 in the morning, we were kept going by industrial strength coffee. The meal was spread out over the entire night, around 7 courses, including...the dancing chickens! This consisted of roast chickens being set alight with flames, and the waiters bringing them out to music. Like I said, strange, but very entertaining. The food was  very good.
Around midnight came another surprise...I was kidnapped! Some of our friends stole me from the wedding, and took me to a popular terrace bar. Florin had to negotiate for my release. By strange coincidence, there was another kidnapped bride in the same terrace. It was decided we would make this tradition unique, by switching places. I didn't think I would be getting in to wife swapping so soon into my marriage! I was escorted to the other wedding, where my new "groom" was highly surprised to find he had a Scottish wife. I danced with my temporary husband before saying goodbye and returning to Florin. The ransom? Drink champagne from my shoe...mmmmm, tasty.
The guests danced traditional Romanian dances, and taught the Scottish guests who all enjoyed joining in. I liked the Romanian traditional music, although at times it sounded like it was stuck on fast forward. The Scottish guests returned the favour by playing some Scottish music and teaching our dances. It was really enjoyable to watch people share cultures like that.
The wedding came to an end, with everyone exhausted, but having had a good time. There was one last surprise for me. I was called to sit on a chair in the middle of the room. My veil was removed, and replaced by a red headscarf. The symbolism was not lost on me...I was now a wife, someone to look after her man. I admit I was not very happy about that tradition, but tried not to take it too seriously. My sister was chosen as the next prospective bride, and the veil put on her. I suppose that's the Romanian version of throwing the bouquet.
So that's a summary of my somewhat unusual wedding day. How about you? I'd love to hear interesting stories about your big day.

P.S. Still on holiday, photos from the Romanian wedding coming soon...

P.P.S Photos now added! See "My unusual Big Day...a photo blog".