7up (1) aero (1) agrarian outrage (1) amy chua (1) Artemis Fowl (2) Asterix (1) Astrid Lindgren (1) astroturf boots (1) bakugan cards (1) batwing top (1) bikini wax (2) birthday party (4) biscuity (1) books (3) bronze (1) camping (2) car (1) childrens books (1) chocolate (2) Christmas (1) Cork (1) crafty (1) cringe (5) crisps (1) daft (1) David Roberts (1) disbelief (1) dog (1) doll (1) doorbell (1) Dublin (1) ebay (1) Emil (1) Eoin Colfor (1) family life (5) ferry (1) first communion (2) food flasks (1) football (1) Four Tales (1) funny (1) garland fluffing (1) Gertie (1) git (1) glamour (1) glass (1) goldeneye (1) goose pimples (1) Goscinny and Sempe (1) gossip (1) graphic novel (1) heels (1) His Dark Materials (1) HMV (1) hockey (1) holiday (2) homework vouchers (1) hotel (1) humor (2) humour (4) husband (2) iphone (1) Irish authors (1) Ivor the engine (1) journey (1) Kenneth Grahame (1) Laksa soup (1) Lego (3) Little Golden Books (1) map (1) Mary Muphy (1) massage (1) me (2) meatballs (1) medal (1) Mole (1) moron (1) mother (2) movies for kids (1) Mrs Beazley (1) Muckross Park (1) Mum (2) mummy blog (1) music lessons (1) mutha (1) My name is Luka (1) Nicholas (1) nightlife (1) nintendo ds (1) Noodles (1) nursing home (2) online shopping (1) parenting (4) parking (1) Parrot Park (1) penance (1) Philip Pullman (1) pizza (1) pool (1) pores (1) postman (2) rain (3) rainbows (1) Ratty (1) recorder (1) Robert Ingpen (1) rock and roll (1) rugger hugger (1) salespeople (1) San Diego (1) school (2) Scooby Doo (1) scoop (1) Secondary School (1) self-conscious (1) shampoo (1) Skulduggery Pleasant (1) Smile (1) Smyths (1) Snapp and Snurr (1) Snipp (1) snob (1) soft play area (1) southside (1) space hopper (1) speech therapy (1) speedos (1) spiderman (1) Spongebob (1) sports (1) sports day (2) surf (1) Suzanne Vega (1) swimming (2) swimming lessons (3) tent (1) The Legend of Spud Murphy (1) The London Eye Mystery (1) The Wind in the Willows (1) The Wire (2) thong (1) tiger mother (1) tired (1) Toad (1) toes (1) togs (1) toilet (1) tracksuit (1) travel (1) Under the Hawthorn Tree (1) upper arms (1) walking (1) wave (1) Wicklow (1) wind (1) Wrath of the Titans (1) young adult fiction (1)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas magic

It started with the pompoms. Even with all the shopping and planning that goes into Christmas, I’m a sucker for “creating Christmas magic”. I blame those blogs that make everything;  house, kids, bookshelves and decorations look so darn pretty and cool. So, when I spotted this little tutorial on pom-pom garlands, I thought wow, something I could actually pull off. I remembered making pompoms in school, with rings of cardboard cut from a cereal box and, unlike any of my other knitting or sewing projects, they turned out quite nice.

So, on the first of December I told the kids that yes, they were allowed discuss what they were putting in their Santa letters, that Christmas was no longer a forbidden topic of conversation and headed to a wool shop to get the makings of a pom pom garland.
I don’t know, maybe I should have driven, because when I got to the shop I was tired and irritable. When the shop assistant noticed my bike helmet, she moved from her current customer, to whom she was droning on about the gloomy weather to me, and segued straight into rain, cycling in it and taking your life into your hands, all the while knitting, I wanted to scream.

Anyway, I made it home alive, and we started raveling wool.  My plan was to produce plump, roundy, fluffy snowdrops and ended up with a smaller, stringy variety, but that was OK, they bore the stamp of homemade, which was the look I was going for anyway. I dug out my Tesco gold chains and draped them along the picture rails, dotting the display with pompoms. It didn't look remotely like the tutorial, but do they ever? They looked fine and it was time to put the kettle on.

Then my husband came in, had a look and said, “You didn’t use sellotape did you? Cos that’ll take the paint off.”

So down they came, (as you can imagine, there was a “magical” atmosphere in the sitting room, what a lovely memory for the children!)to be re-hung with masking tape, where they stayed for a day before coming unstuck and dropping to the floor, snowdrop by snowdrop, chain by chain.

 Anyway, trying again, at bedtime I told the kids there was a magical treat in store. I had purchased a CD of Dylan Thomas reading his poem A Child's Christmas in Wales.
Turning off the bedside lights, I told them to snuggle down and listen and stuck the CD into the player. It was immediately obvious that Dylan Thomas’ voice was not what they are used to and a nervous little boy said “Is this a ghost story?”
I lay beside him and promised that I would turn it off if the feeling of terror didn't go away, and he began, I think, to enjoy it. The response from his brothers was mixed;
“I liked that, it was really Christmassy.”
 “Is it over? My leg is sore.”

(For the record, I LOVED it and would highly recommend it to anyone. It was really beautiful, just maybe better for the over tens.)

Turning off the Christmas lights on their window sill, I let them go to sleep. I had offered to leave these lights on and turn them off later, (creating Christmas magic!)  but was told gently that it would probably be safer not to. The lights might over heat, they said, all nodding sensibly in their pyjamas, or keep us awake. So I said goodnight to my three little wise men, and their not quite so wise baby brother, and went downstairs. Having them safe in their beds was magic enough.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Book Guide

Best books for best friends: Bossypants which is, as you would expect, funny and well written. And has a great bit about a shared suit that alone is worth the price of the book.

Starter for Ten; I saw the movie of this, which was fine, but didn’t prepare for the brilliance of the book. Particularly funny if you have ever had bad skin.

A Humble Companion. I love everything Laurie Graham ever wrote, and this is no different.  Well researched, brilliant writing, not a sentence wasted, just great.

 Get Her Off The Pitch. I have read this twice and intend to do so again over the Christmas holidays. It’s about the authors experiences as a sports reporter. I like reading about sport anyway, but this is something special.

Best Books for someone who likes lovely books with even lovelier covers:

The Diary of a Provincial Lady. This was first published in a magazine called The Lady. (Which, as it happens, Lady Edith visits on her trips to London. I don’t need to explain who she is, do I? Downton!)  It is a classic.

Cranford. This has been on my wish list since my friend showed me her collection of Clothbound Classics. There were times when I ooohed and aahhed over my pals clothes or shoes, but now it’s their books that make me envious. The Little Women one is gorgeous too.

French Kids Eat Everything. This has a pink gingham cover, which is why I picked up the hardcover edition in the bookshop. It’s about an American mother learning to feed her kids the French way. Not a subject for everyone, but I found it interesting. And very pretty.

Best book for new baby:

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet. This is a beauty. So nice that I persuaded my sainted husband to measure the pages, cut three sheets of mdf, paste the whole alphabet to them and nail them to my kid’s bedroom wall.

Best Books for little boys and girls (age’s three to seven): Fortunately. I would be AMAZED if any child walked away without hearing the end of this one.

Children of the Northlights. Every time I show this to a friend, they go out a buy it.

Best book for slightly older girl: (eight to twelve): From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler.

Or boy: Cosmic. This is silver, which might not seem important, but is. Good book too.

Best book for teenage girl: I Capture the Castle. This has the best first line ever and is, overall, fantastic.

As I have never been nor do not yet own a teenage boy, I simply cannot guess a title for one. Anyone got any suggestions?

Best book for husbands. I’ve gone for two pretty different ones here, but both have been popular on the bedside table on the far side of my bed.  My Booky Wook 2 and A Tale of Two Cities.

And books I want: The Art of Fielding, Where'd you go to Bernadette and NW.

According to Amazon, we have eight days left to order for Christmas, although probably make that five if you’re ordering from Ireland. Happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Choosing a Secondary School or.. Where are the crisps?

The phrase school tour has a whole new meaning for me now. It no longer involves buses or pocket money or treaty lunches, now it means simply, touring a school.

Yes, it is that time; I have to choose a secondary school for my eldest son. Anyone who knows my husband or I will be aware that decision making is not our strong point. So, for the past year I have been asking anyone who will listen for information about the second level schools within driving distance of our home. And agonising of course. As it happens, agonising is probably our great strength.

I could have just looked around me, and observed the pretty normal looking teenagers walking and cycling home from the schools in our vicinity. I could have watched them pick up their younger brothers from my children’s schools and checked the league tables in the newspaper to see all the exam results. But somehow, instead I found myself lapping up and memorising every scary sound bite about our local senior schools that I could lay my hands on.

I learnt that some schools only “take the cream, the very bright boys”, some “only kids who have been expelled from other schools”, some have pupils “known by the Gardai” and some produce “really cool people, in bands”. Why is that scary? Oh come on, don’t be silly, unless its U2, how on earth are they going to pay a mortgage?

Eventually I learnt that it might be wise, instead of gossiping over coffee and grasping at any nonsense I overheard in the school yard, it would probably be a good idea to look at the schools for myself. So, mortgage repayments of 2030 on my mind, I booked a tour of each the schools under consideration.  Hopefully, my husband and I could be sensible adults and make a decision based on what we saw.

We saw science labs, “Note the light reflecting off the countertops” said the teacher guiding us, French classrooms, where my husband, unlike me, who looked blankly around, took in the square footage, the air vents and probably, the longitude and latitude. “Good natural light,” he muttered. We saw music rooms “a centre for excellence” said the Head of First Year, woodwork rooms, “a centre for excellence” said the same guy, and toilets “a centre for excellence?” we said quietly.

We heard about buddy systems, home school liaison officers, anti- bullying procedures and breakfasts served at school (my son LOVED that. “I’d really get toast?” he said with joy in his voice. The boy who turns down toast most mornings at home.)

We listened to the no-bullshit Principal “I don’t talk rubbish” he said, and his opposite number; “Under this roof, as we speak, each and every child is learning, being enriched, absorbing knowledge like a sponge.” I raised my eyes to heaven and immediately panicked that he had seen.

Each tour ended at the gym hall, where there was a chance to chat to other parents and, more importantly, get crisps for my weary toddler and bored younger boys. To be honest as I had all my (restless, noisy) children with me on three out of the four tours, “Where are the crisps?” was the question at the forefront of my mind for most of the time.

We got all the prospectuses, the application forms and the school rules. On close inspection, apart from font and layout, they were all very similar.

And after a brief kerfuffle about whether we should put “video games” under the “Interests” section, we filled in the form of the school of our choice. It’s in a drawer now, waiting for a Christmas card stamp, or a change of heart.