Saturday, April 28, 2012

Listography gets 'cultured'

*This post was scheduled to go live on Sat morning but Blogger deemed in unnecessary...sorry Actually Mummy!*

At this moment I'm probably preening myself for today's upcoming nuptials involving the very talented and lovely @stephmackrill and the rather nutty but equally lovely @eurovinesmatt (who I should add holds a special place in my heart for generally being lovely when I badly needed somebody to be lovely.)

And so I have handed over this weeks Listography to Actually Mummy - that loquatious school girl who knows a thing or two about stuff and...other stuff.

If you would like to join in then pop across to see what she's Listographing about.

I should warn you though - if you thought the mugs one was odd then be prepared!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An idiots guide to gardening - Lesson 1

In last weeks post I explained that the Kate Takes 5 crew were taking on a new challenge courtesy of Chris at Thinly Spread.

Well we have been given our instructions and followed them as closely as possible.

Week 1 has been all about planting Nasturcians, Tumbling Tomatoes and Sunflowers.

We bought all the gear as instructed and it was such a pleasure to walk into the garden centre with my little list and sound like I knew what I was doing. In the past I've panic bought or grabbed something that looks good on the packet only to realise that I either need a greenhouse or be able to magically fast forward the seasons.

The kids and I settled into a spot at the bottom of the garden to step through our instructions, and everything was going swimmingly until we realised that the were in fact no seeds in the tumbling tomatoes packet....Chris denies any foul play but I suspect she was trying to hamper our brilliance.

Anyway, the situation was rectified by a quick purchase of some of the same variety on an emergency run back to the garden centre.

I was surprised at how easy it was for the children to get involved and how even the demon three year old instantly settled down - a look of pure concentration on his face that is rarely seen away from a Nintendo DS.
And now...
After a delightful hour in the sunshine here is our work. 

(Chris if you're thinking they look a bit dry don't worry - that was pre-watering!)

Now if they would just grow I think we might be hooked.

I'm linking this post up to the 'Come sow with me' meme which is being run to support @ONECampaign 'LetsThrive' campaign. It so easy to help - for more read this.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Listography - Top 5 wishes for my child

You know the Sleeping Beauty story where all the Fairy Godmothers bestow gifts to the baby Aurora for her future? Well I was thinking what if (and this is a big what if) my daughter had had five Fairy Godmother wishes when she was born, and what if (I know, I know) I had got a say in them...What would I wish for her to be bestowed with?

So that's this week's Listography challenge - Top 5 wishes for my child. (I'm choosing my daughter for this one  - the boys will just have to get by on their charm and good looks. One of them could be in trouble).

1. Rhythm
Sadly my own family was not graced with great rhythm. A bit like Steve Martin in that 80's film 'The Jerk' who shouts 'Look Ma, I got rhythm!' when his foot starts tapping along in time to some music, it is indeed a cause of great celebration if we don't look like a tree having some sort of seizure when we take to the dance floor. The only solution I've found is to drink vast quantities of alcohol and bounce on the spot instead. In latter years this plan has been foiled by small amounts of escaping wee.  I wish for more that this for my only daughter.

2. Good taste in men
Please let her realise early that the cool ones are rarely the best ones, you can't fix the broken ones, and an A+ in DIY will become more of a turn-on than you would ever believe when you move in together.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A weekend in Wales with Stena Line

Last weekend we were lucky enough to pack the car up and set sail courtesy of Stena Line for a weekend in Wales.

Our last trip to Wales was a bit of a wash out to say the least, so we were hoping to exorcise some demons and find the true beauty of Wales nestled in the foothills of Snowdonia.

We set off early on Friday morning with enough bags and baggages to survive a three week stint in the wild as opposed to two nights in Wales, with every 'just in case' option shoved into the extensive car boot.

Dublin port was quiet and surprisingly so were the kids. We cruised onto our Stena Line Ferry within about 20 minutes of our arrival - no long queues, no lost passports, no stress.

We were lucky enough to have Stena Plus passes which allowed us entry into the VIP lounge - complete with  complementary drinks, snacks, pastries and papers. The kids *may* have eaten their own body weight in chocolate croissants for breakfast.

If you're looking for something more substantial to set you up for the day then you can order (at a cost) from an exclusive menu. Naturally we were and we did. When I stuck this photo up on Instagram and Twitter (free WiFi!) it got a barrage of likes, drools and comments. Nice work Stena.

The journey from Dublin to Holyhead takes between two and three hours depending on your choice of ferry and with their cinema club, amusement area and toddlers play area it was easy to keep all three kids entertained for the duration:

The journey back on Sunday afternoon was a busier one and being one of the last cars on we were lucky to get a seat together, even in Stena plus - only doing so because a lovely Irish girl gave up her table for us.  Again there were snacks and drinks on offer on a 'help yourself' basis but we ended up purchasing lunch for all of us as there was nothing really suitable for the kids (apart from lots and lots of lovely cakes!). It was a credit to the waiter managing the lounge that he managed to take orders and serve everyone in there - which he did with supreme efficiency and always a smile on his face.

The only slight fault I could put to Stena is the filling to capacity of the VIP lounge on their busy routes - which  sort of defeats the idea of the VIP idea.

I would highly recommend Stena Line to families looking for a stress-free holiday. The joy of being able to bring what you like away with you (a lot), and have your own transport on either side of your trip is worth anything in my book.

Stena Line travel a number of routes from Ireland to Britain and also have hotel package deals that you can book with them. In my next post I'll be showing you where we stayed and what we got up to in Wales so stay tuned...

And watch out for pirates!

Disclosure: Stena Line provided this trip free of charge to me and my family, however all words and views are strictly my own.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A new challenge

My Dad was an amazing gardener. He grew so many varieties of so many fruits and vegetables it was hard to keep track.

Mealtimes would include baby new potatoes that had been dug up an hour before and purple sprouting broccoli. We would steal peas straight from the pod and gorge on strawberries and raspberries whilst wandering the garden. Apple pies, jams, jellies and gooseberry and rhubarb fools would be made from the fruits that made it into the kitchen.

And of course we took all of it for granted.

If my poor Dad actually tried to talk to us about what he was planning or planting we would roll our eyes and make our excuses.

But then when I finally developed an interest in it all it was too late. All that knowledge had passed away with him.

So Chris is giving me my second chance.

If you'd like to join us and (hopefully) learn some greenfinger-ness along the way then we'd love to have you. We can share our successes and disasters and hopefully have something to show for it at the end.

I'm rather excited!

(Update: For Week 1 instructions pop over to this post on Thinly Spread)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things that piss me off no. 374 - Insalubrious crap being purported as healthy.

There's a lot of behind the scenes talk at the moment about the banning of advertising of 'unhealthy' foods during children's TV programming. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland recently announced that they intend to put a ban on the advertising of foods high in fats, sugar and salt during these specific times, but since then the message has somehow got lost in cheese. (I know, I know - what is it with the Irish and cheese?).

Jim Cogan Image BAI
Jim Cogan Image for Irish Farmers Journal
Anyhow, the point of the ban in advertising - which is in line with what is already in place in the UK - is to help stop pester power. So the kids don't see the Coco Pops advert and so they don't want the Coco Pops and so they don't pester Mum to buy the Coco Pops. (But they do because according to BAI most children actually watch TV between 6pm - 9pm, plus they don't just watch Irish terrestrial channels. So RTE starts losing it's advertising budget when Kellogg's dump them and becomes even crappier than it is now. It's a lose\ lose situation).

To be honest I agree that pester power is a pain in the arse. With 3 kids hanging off a shopping trolley shouting for Super Noodles the chances are you're gonna chuck in the Barbecue Beef and run for the tills - but at least you know you are buying them crap.

My big gripe is not the advertising of the rubbish that you know is rubbish, it's when you're stood for 10 minutes in the yogurt aisle trying to work out what actually IS the rubbish. Is it better to buy the one with 'sugar' as the first ingredient or the one that doesn't list sugar at all but has dextrose, fructose, glucose and lactose lined up like unknown cousins at a wedding.

Choosing healthy food for our kids is hard enough without needing a degree in food science to make sense of some of the labeling, and without products like Nutella being advertised as 'a low GI' food 'containing wholesome milk and hazelnuts'. Pah!

Seemingly everything these days is 'natural', 'wholesome'. 'low in fat' or 'a good source of fibre' despite being packed with trans-fats, salt, fake sugar or any other nasty you care to mention.

What Mums need is not a ban on advertising to our kids but a tightening of laws on false advertising and a clear system for the labeling of products that we can all make sense of.

Until that happens the multinationals will always be 10 steps ahead of us and us Mums will be spending longer and longer in the supermarket aisles trying to figure out what 'High Fructose Corn Syrup', 'Kosher Gelatin' and 'Tricalium Phosphate' actually mean.  


Monday, April 9, 2012

Listography - Top 5 Albums by Male Solo Artist. MTV Stylie.

Oops. Seems like I was having a little too much fun and missed Listography.

I was actually having so much fun my kids nearly didn't get their Easter Eggs yesterday. It seems I hid them when in a drunken haze of 'mummy autopilot' but then couldn't remember where I had actually put them. Big Fail.

Anyway you'll be pleased to hear that I spent most of the day in bed listening to all the fun going on downstairs and praying to the ivory God of bathrooms.

Aaaanyway. On to Listography. I realise that this sounds a bit like a MTV Awards nomination but here we go - my Top 5 Albums by a Male Solo Artist (in no particular order)

1. Jeff Buckley - Grace.
A classic and brilliant album. I should take a moment to thank a guy called Rob that I used to work with for introducing me to it. And apologise to him for then 'acquiring' his copy, never to be seem by him again. Hope he got himself a new one.

Jeff Buckley Grace

2. David Bowie - Hunky Dory.
With thanks to my siblings for passing on their good taste.

David Bowie Hunky Dory

3. Bob Marley - Catch a Fire.
I couldn't really have a list without him. So hard to choose just one but I'll settle on this very happily.
Bob Marley Catch A Fire

4. Tom Waits - Closing Time.
Again it was a lovely boy who gets the thanks for bring the great Tom Waits into my life. My first year of university and we skirted around each other for a whole year having deep and meaningfulls and sharing music crushes. The boy moved on but Tom stuck around.

Tom Waits Closing Time

And now - shock, horror - it's time to break my own Listography rules and put a joint entry in here.

5. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks \ Neil Young - Harvest.
Too tough to call.
Van Morrison Astral WeeksNeil Young Harvest

If you want to join in and share your own list then just write your post on your own blog and then come back here to link up and have a nosey around some other peoples record collections. Sound like a good waste of time to me.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to organise a successful Easter Egg Hunt

Easter Egg Hunts - easy right? Hide the eggs, let the kids loose....what could possibly go wrong?

Well having learned from experience I'm here to tell you the ugly truth that Easter Eggs Hunts can go bad - so here's some thoughts on what to do and what not to do when trying to organise a successful Easter Egg Hunt.

Stock Image

The Theme:

First off choose a theme. Fancy dress, Clues, Photos, Arrows - decide on how you want your egg hunt to be run.
I like the simple 'Word' themed hunts that feature a single word on a piece of card that leads you to the next clue \ egg - like 'Trampoline' or 'Daffodils' (cue army of kids trampling through the daffodils..)

The Location:

House, Garden, Public Park, Stately Home...the possibilities are endless, as is the potential for extreme chaos.

Set Some Rules:

It may sound boring but you'll be glad in the end trust me. Rules can include - older children having to hop, 4 eggs per person limit, or no cheating. (There will always be cheating).

Have Fun:

Remember it's supposed to be a bit of fun, so don't take it too seriously if little Johnny takes a bite out of every egg before the hunt has even started.

And here's some do's and don'ts to remember too.

- Buy more eggs than you think you'll need.

- Think about the ages of the children involved. If the ages vary consider having it in stages so that the youngest get to go first. Otherwise you will have a couple of 12 year olds with overflowing baskets and twenty toddlers in tears.

- Watch out for the sugar rush.

- Buy cheap crap from Lidls. They may be 50p for 300 eggs but they taste like bad cooking chocolate and you know you'll end up eating twice as many as the kids anyway.

- Dress up as the Easter Bunny when every child in town is in the vicinity. It could get ugly.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ageism, Size-ism and Name Calling

give peas a chance

7 year old: 'Who's the biggest person in the world?'

5 year old: 'Mummy'

7 year old: 'She's not the biggest person in the world, she's the oldest'

5 year old: 'Oh yeah she's the oldest.' Pause. 'And her head definitely isn't the biggest.'

7 year old: 'Her head's tiny'

5 year old: 'Tiny. Like a pea. Pea-head'

[They dissolve into a fit of giggles] 'Mummy is a pea-head! Mummy is a pea-head!'

7 year old: 'But she's definitely the oldest isn't she?'

5 year old 'Yeah'

7 year old 'Yeah'

3 year old 'Yeah. Pea-head'.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Tomorrow morning at 7.30am my 'baby' will be admitted to hospital for an operation.

It's a standard operation. A very common operation. But it's still an operation and the thought of it scares me silly.

Due to his speech issues and subsequent diagnoses of 'glue ear' he will be getting grommets fitted.

I know in the grand scheme of things this is a 'nothing' procedure.


He'll be knocked out and then taken away from me, whilst I am left to bite my nails and fear the worst.

I'm not looking forward to it, though hopefully I'll be back soon to report on why I had nothing to be worried about after all.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Listography - April Goals

As today is the first day of a new month I thought this Listography would be a good time to set myself some short term goals.

It is also the day my unsporty older sister ran a half-marathon. The momentousness of this news will only mean something to you if you know my sister. I still can't quite believe it. And no - it's not an April Fools.

So my first April Goal is:

1. Run 10k.
I'm currently struggling at about 5k. I've managed to hit 8 once but there's nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to get you focused.

2. Balance.
Get my work\ life, blog\life, kids\me kids\house balance right. At the moment I just can't seem to hit the happy step. When I'm online I've got the guilts and stress about all the 'real world' stuff I should be doing and when I'm not online I've got the guilts and stress about the online things I should be doing. And it doesn't even end there. When I'm doing boring household stuff I've got the guilts and stress of unentertained kids and when I'm entertaining kids I've got the 'what about me?' syndrome.

I'm hoping hours of no. 1 will help me work this one out.

3. Food.
Once again I'm going to vow to get the kids to start eating the same things as us instead of short changing them for the easy option.

4. Do something that scares me.
 Mammasaurus this is not necessarily related to you!

5. Grow some green fingers.
Christine Mosler this most definitely does relate to you!

I could keep going but the '5' rule must stand. I know you lot are SO good at keeping to the rules...

So if you'd like to turn your life around with a public proclamation of your 5 Goals for April then write your post on your own blog, come back here to link up, and don't forget to visit some others on the list.

Go for it!
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