Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review: Creaturepedia

Our home is packed to the rafters with books. In fact when we moved house it was mostly to house all the books. The boys are also big fans of books and so we were delighted when we received a copy of Creaturepedia to review for Mumsnet. 

Creaturepedia front cover

It's a beautiful book for a start. I know you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but seriously this is such a good looking one you'd be hard pushed not to be tempted to flick through the pages at first sight. Look at the contents page. It is so lovely and descriptive for children who aren't reading yet (Baby Boy) and those who are learning (Big Boy).

illustrated contents page


The page marker is a bright colour so you don't lose your page easily and it's a large hardback book so it's pretty sturdy - an essential in our house as books get a lot of use and can come acropper if Baby Boy is being too enthusiastic. Talking of which, he's a big fan of animals, particularly cats and dogs, so the family animals section was of great interest to him.

family animals page with cat and dog illustration

I like the layout of the pages with great illustrations and large type for young readers. The sections have inventive names like 'The pretty-in-pinks' which appeals to my inner eighties kid.

Pretty-in-pinks page with pig illustration

Then there are double page spreads like these beauties which show some lovely images and tell the story of where animals originate from in picture form.

illustrated map of voyaging animals

Peacock and toucans - the show off birds

Creaturepedia is an inventive and beautifully illustrated reference book that appealed to my boys as they love animals, picture books and learning new things. It would make a really fab present for someone - although I'd be far too tempted to keep it :)

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Creaturepedia in order to write an honest review.  

Monday, 29 June 2015

"Are we nearly there yet ?" repeat to fade....

Someone hit my car (with me and Baby Boy in it) on Friday. As a result we missed a great friend's wedding at the weekend and I still feel terrible about it. Then I realised that I had been given the gift of an extra day with my boys. It was an unscheduled Sunday at home that started with waffles for breakfast and hanging out together with no plans. I'm not used to days that like so it was a real bonus.

It turned out to be great practice for being on holiday. Years ago I wasn't able to relax at all, then I met Hubbie. Before we met I'd have a long list of expectations from my holiday and would feel like a failure if I hadn't done all of them by the end. It meant I'd stick to the itinerary regardless and not be spontaneous at all. As a result I'd have tonnes of photos, but I wouldn't necessarily have had a great time. It was when we were in Rome and I was feeling guilty about wanting to have a lie in that he said, "Rome will still be there tomorrow. Relax. That's what a holiday is for." This was before we had kids - of course. In the days when it's about taking it easy, wandering round the souks in Marrakesh and buying ethnic tat, riding the Gondolas at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas as a birthday treat and drinking martinis at lunchtime because we could. Now the thought of being able to go out for dinner in the evening on holiday is like a distant dream that I aspire to when the kids leave home. Being on holiday with kids is at worse an endurance exercise, at best a chance to see how many activities you can fit in to wear them out enough to get some quiet time in the evening to sit outside and have a drink in peace or watch a movie that isn't animated.

As we prefer to take our holidays in the UK we also have a fair bit of driving to contend with. I always plan ahead with snacks and drinks, movies and plenty of things to do with stops on the way to make sure we don't have any panic about needing to go to the toilet. It's our first break with Baby Boy too so this year I've called in reinforcements to assist with this aspect of the journey. We have a bigger car than usual to keep the boys apart so they don't try to thump each other when they get bored - good luck with that. Sun shades for when it's too bright outside the window, a seat back mirror that plays nursery tunes - including a night mode - for Baby Boy and a seat back organiser for Big Boy that he can keep his games and toys in so he doesn't lose them in the car. I've also got them both a 'snack pod' that has a no spill compartment for snacks and a cup holder. With the no spill cups that I've got for them both I hope this means we won't have too much back seat drama.


Of course there are no guarantees that the boys won't get bored, fight, spill stuff or generally create havoc, but with all these helpers I'm hoping to stave off at least some of the risks. Wish me luck.

What do you find helps keep your kids busy on holiday ?

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Munchkin sent us some of their fab travel helpers to make the car journey easier.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Brit mums live 2015 - in photos

So much happened at Britmums Live last weekend that it would take me weeks to process it all so I've put together some of my favourite memories to tide us over until I get to finding actual words. Suffice it to say I had a wonderful weekend talking to grown ups and drank every cup of tea I was given - neither of which never happens when I'm home. I was caffeinated to the max and I met and chatted to so many lovely blogger friends - some for the first time in real life. 

So in no particular order here's what happened:

As you already know my dream destination is Hawaii so in preparation I had my photo taken with a boogie board and lai - dream it to become it right ? 

Me holding a boogie board and wearing a lai - Hawaiian style

After the craziness of the ice breaker where I was wrapped in toilet paper in a world record attempt to wrap the most mummies (as mummies - get it ?) we found out we had done it and here I am with the certificate to prove it: 

Holding the official Guinness World Records certificate


On Saturday morning we talked pants with Carol Smilie - her new venture is Diary Doll pants for women and girls - a fantastic idea that isn't being talked about in mainstream media because it's about icky stuff that's about women things and periods. How ridiculous ! 

Carol Smilie and her talking pants session

So in the afternoon I decided to take some time out to do some knitting. All accompanied by these lovely singers. I have learned to knit cable - I am beyond proud of that - thanks to the lovely Helen from Coats and the ladies from Lady Sew and Sew.


me knitting vintage dressed singing group


The lovely Pippa from Story of Mum led my favourite session 'Embrace Happy' where we made gratitude hearts. I loved this activity and it was so nice to think about the things that make me happy and to give thanks for the people who I am grateful for.

craft heart made by me

That's all for now, but I'm still working on my cable knit cowl so I'll let you know when it's finished :)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Boys, your Daddy really is the best

Baby boy and Daddy watching the washing machine
Watching the washing machine
When we go to the card shops you know those cards that say 'Dad you're the best' or, 'My Daddy is awesome.' Well, they have never been my style and I don't really feel the sentiment in them for myself. I do, however, think you have every reason to give them to your Daddy and here's why:

Daddy is kind, caring and always puts us first - he wants you to be happy. 

Chocolate and cake make him happy beyond belief. Cake made of chocolate is... well, awesome ! 

Spending time with you boys is Daddy's idea of a great time. 

Baby boy, Daddy and Big boy holding hands at the Transport Museum
The London Transport Museum is our happy place 

I know how much he wishes he could be there for school assembly every week. So you cannot imagine how he felt last Friday when he saw Big Boy receive a silver star for helping a friend. I know that he was the proudest parent in the room. 

People think I'm the strong one, but I'm not. Daddy is the foundation of our family and he makes us all strong and keeps us safe.

Daddy is the silliest, funniest and cleverest man I know.

Daddy making a silly face while drinking through a straw
Daddy is a very serious man

He makes up songs to amuse you - he's been doing this since before Big Boy was born.

Peppa Pig is his favourite TV show.

There are so many reasons why Daddy is the best, but I can give you my number one reason. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have you two.


Happy Father's Day 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Guess where I was today ?

I was wrapped up in toilet paper for a world record attempt - I can now say with not a little pride that I am in the Guinness Book Of World Records for two different records. This one was for the most 'mummies' wrapped in toilet paper in 3 minutes. See what they did there ? Mummies and Mummies ? Very clever. Which is more than I can say for how I looked !

A mummified Mummy (yes it is me in there)
My personal highlight was actually meeting and being photographed with the Twirlywoos. If you don't have pre-school age children this will mean nothing to you. The names Great Big Hoo, Toodloo, Chickedy and Chick are like family members in our houses so my boys will b e delighted that I not only met them, but got my photo taken with them too. If you do, I bet you're jealous right now aren't you ?

I am far too excited about this

Lastly the fabulous camaraderie and catching up of the drinks reception in the early evening sun. I never manage to get any photos of this bit. but loads of others do. I did have my badge though so I waved it in front of anyone I'd not met before.

Ok the jig is up - I'm at Britmums Live 2015


Tuesday, 16 June 2015

White is the new black - apparently

So Rachel Dolezal doesn't understand the question, "Are you African American ?" Maybe it's the very fact that someone had to ask her that is baffling. I mean most of us who have darker pigmentation have no choice but to be 'outed' as of an ethnic origin other than white. It's not like I have what Americans call 'plausible deniability' on my side when it comes to ethnicity. It is pretty obvious (visually at least) that I am not white so the only reason someone would ask would be to clarify my exact ethnicity, not to check whether I am white or not.

In case you missed this furore Rachel is an American academic whose ethnicity has become an issue since her parents have publicly announced that she is not a black woman as she has supposedly been claiming to be for many years. In case you wonder why this matters, it may well not. Except that as a civil rights activist she has referred to her own experiences of being treated unfairly because of her race.


Cultural appropriation is nothing new. Ali G was hilarious precisely for saying, "is it cuz I is black ?" when it was obvious he was anything but. I went to school with a lot of Asian lads who wanted to be black and their faux Jamaican accents were a bit sad, but hardly harmful. Equally I have never understood why people spend so much effort and money on fake tanning to look darker when they have a natural skin colour that means they don't get harassed or hassled for something they can do nothing about. 

You see saying you 'feel black' is not enough. It's not all the cliches like enjoying R 'n' B or jerk chicken or even having an embarrassing turn of phrase that sounds a bit black. Is it possible for someone who has been born white to have any concept of how it feels to actually be of another ethnicity ? I have no choice. My skin is this colour and my ethnicity is what it is. I don't get to choose to be white. Mia Farrow suggested it might be possible to be 'transracial' and to be born one ethnicity while identifying with another. I've written before about how I wished and aspired to be blonde and blue eyed when I was a child. It was not an aspiration that could be fulfilled realistically as I have always been and always will be brown skinned so even with bleached hair and contact lenses I'm not able to pass myself off as a white woman. 

I have no concept of living a life in which my skin colour is not an issue. I cannot experience any mistreatment by others without wondering if it is due to my ethnicity. Like the man who wound down his car window to spit in my face while I was having a driving lesson. The restaurant in Little Italy that turned us away during our honeymoon when there were more than enough seats inside. Being stopped every time I fly anywhere and having my bags searched. It may well be an over-reaction and it may have nothing to do with my skin colour, but I never know for sure. 

What I do know is that my parents have been treated with racism - of the old fashioned open and hostile variety - for many years. My father worked in an office with a woman who would hold her nose and make childish remarks about how the smell of curry was really strong when he was nearby. My mum was overlooked for promotion repeatedly at work in favour of younger white colleagues who she would then have to support to deliver the job they were not qualified to do. My sister lived in a town where people would shout racist taunts at her in the street for no reason other than they could.

So, while you may well identify with black people it doesn't mean you can pass yourself off as black. Rachel cannot claim to have an authentic experience of what it is to be black in America. She will never know what it is like to commit the crime 'guilty of being black.' It is terribly flattering that you want to be black Rachel. It's ever so good of you to try so hard to identify with a group that has suffered so much. It is also, however, deeply crass to pretend to be something you never will be. To be photographed with a black man and say that he is your father. To claim to have been a victim of racism. To deny your own privilege and wear blackness like clothing.  

It's not flattering Rachel. It's shameful, inauthentic, offensive. 

I'll let Maya Angelou - who knew plenty about the reality of being a black woman and civil rights activist - have the last word.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Miffy is 60 !!


I am a big fan of birthdays. Any excuse to celebrate and you will see me bring out a cake, candles and balloons. So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that it's the big birthday of one of my favourite characters from childhood. Yes, Miffy is 60 this year and I'm absolutely delighted to have been chosen to be a Miffy Mum in honour of this special birthday year.



I've loved Miffy since I was an actual child and have Miffy books, soft toys, t-shirts, fridge magnets and even pin badges. One year - when I was old enough to know better - my lovely friends bought me a sweatshirt with Miffy on as a birthday present - I knew my Miffy obsession had gone public !


A few years ago there was an exhibition at Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood where they had original artwork by Dick Bruna and lots of vintage memorabilia of Miffy. I went with Hubbie and it was just wonderful. The simplicity of this little rabbit and her friends has appealed to so many children over the generations and I'm so happy that I can share the stories with my children now. 


We will be celebrating throughout the year and we have been sent some pretty bunting and I've even got my special rabbit ears which I'll make sure I'm wearing to celebrate the big day itself. Even more exciting there is a special Miffy Movie coming out which we're lucky enough to be seeing next week - I will tell you all about it after the event of course. 

Do you have any childhood memories of Miffy the rabbit ?