Not box(ing) clever

I’ve been slightly frustrated by a couple of presents my girls received for their birthdays. Don’t get me wrong, the gifts were well received and made the girls happy, but from the perspective of a parent, I am a bit perplexed.

The gifts in question are the Melissa and Doug stamp sets.  On the surface, these look quite sweet and have some nice stamps in them with fairly easy to grip handles for children to work with.  The stamps are nice and bright and the stamp pads seem to last for a while. Each box is beautifully painted, made of strong wood and well set up for the stamps inside. All good then.

My gripe is simple.  Why on earth do Melissa and Doug spend so much time and effort (and no doubt cost) on a wooden box for all the parts to fit into and then put a piece of plastic over it which has to be ripped off and thrown away.  The box is utterly useless then as if you want to keep the stamps in the box, you have to have it standing on a shelf somewhere to ensure everything doesn’t fall out!

MelissaAndDoug

So Melissa and Doug, here’s a suggestion, make:

(a) a lid for the box with a little catch so children can keep all theirs stamps safely together or,
(b) a disposable box and reduce the price of the sets?

Moan over.

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Oh no they didn’t….

oh yes they did.  Love panto that is.  Sorry pantomime.  I keep being corrected by my 3 year old on that.

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Yesterday a group of us mums (and a dad) from school headed off to see Aladdin in Woking.  It featured Justin Fletcher again this year and I have to say it was very good. The songs kept on coming, the kids danced in front of their seats and there was plenty of cheering and boo’ing.  All in all, a great time was had by the children (and even the teen sang a few songs).

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I’m so glad we went this year as, to be quite honest with you, after last year’s panto at the theatre (also featuring Justin) I never wanted to go to one again and had tried – and failed – to avoid it this year.  Last year was Cinderella and to be quite frank, I think the cast were trying to hard to be ‘act-tors’ if you know what I mean.  Hell, this is panto. It’s supposed to be fun not serious!

Highlights this year were Justin being the wrong side of the curtain when a scene was taking place which made everyone laugh so much and stopped the two cast members on stage being able to say their lines properly as they were also laughing too much; and the day 12 of the Christmas song with the genie having brought 12 gallons of water which meant super-soaker water pistols were fired into the audience.  Much fun.

If you have a chance, get along and see it. It’s a far better panto this year…honest.

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It’s a wrap

Yesterday, while hubby entertained N (S was at school still), I snuck (that is a real word surely?) off to the bedroom and wrapped up the stocking presents for the girls.  This was the last bit of wrapping I had to do. Yay me for being so organised.

ChristmaspresentsLast week I wrapped up the main presents as the girls were both at school and it seemed like an ideal time to do it. Unfortunately my research got in the way a bit (you did know I’m doing my PhD right?) and instead of beginning wrapping about 9.30am, I started at 2pm leaving me an hour to do it all.  Nuts huh?  I wrapped like a demon and had it all done with 5 minutes to spare.  Hubby had to keep out of the dining room while I wrapped his stuff up of course.  He isn’t much use when it comes to wrapping to be fair.  He’s normally reading the paper and by the time I say “put your finger there and hold it” he looks up dreamily and says “Huh? What? Where?” so I often leave him out of it completely and just put something a bit heavier on the package and do it myself.

I’ve got sticky tape down to a fine art and usually have little bits of it cut into correct sizes for middles/ends of packages stuck to the back of my dining chairs (don’t worry, it’s not damaged them yet – unlike the drawing N did with a biro on the seat of one when she was tiny).

Despite being the official ‘present wrapper’ in our house, I’m not great at it.  I am pretty neat with squares or rectangles but other shapes baffle me and can end up looking a bit odd.  Tubes are hard work and so are hairbands (I discovered this year).  I really should keep the 3,000 (or so it seems) Amazon boxes and packs I get during the year and put things into easier shapes to wrap. That would make sense. Or to buy Christmas bags to put stuff in.  Hang on, why didn’t I think of that? I do it for parties all the time instead of birthday paper.  Maybe that will be next year’s trick!

Christmasstocking

The stocking presents have different paper to the rest of the presents of course. Well, Santa isn’t going to have shopped at Sainsburys to get the same paper as I have now is he.  The girls have little individual stockings each with their names on them.  Unlike some parents, they get a few small bits for stockings and the bulk of their presents from us.  Stocking stuff usually consists of hair stuff, chocolate, colouring pens, colouring books, stickers and the like.  Then I ensure that they have the same number of main presents each, of about the same value too.  That way it’s fair to them all – not that they know what we spend.

However, before Christmas there is N’s birthday so a bit more wrapping to do.  I can’t fit her present into a bag unfortunately…

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Bargain Hunter

I’m good me.  I do love a bargain and enjoy my eBay sprees but recently I’ve also been looking on a local sale page on Facebook  It’s a bit nicer to buy and sell on there as you don’t have eBay and PayPal fees to pay but you also do get a lot of messers…you know, those people who say they’ll buy it, take your address, and then never turn up. Oh well.

Sometimes these time-wasters work in my favour. Take today’s case in point.

New Rock Goth Metallic Boots

New Rock Goth Metallic Boots

About a week ago I spotted these boots on the local for sale page.  I leapt in to say that my teen would like them but I was pipped to the post by another buyer.  Damn.  Never mind, I said to the seller on the page that could I be next in line if they don’t go and she said yes.  I suspected they would go so quickly though as they are £225 to buy new and these were a bargain as they’d only been worn about half-a-dozen times.

Yesterday I got a message on Faceache from her.  Yes, the first person who wanted them was a messer. Hooray!  She asked if I wanted them still. Yes!  Today I picked them up for…wait for it….£30!  I know, crazy right?  My teen is over the moon, and some.  I’ve given them a polish and they look amazing. I haven’t mentioned to her yet that they weigh a flippin’ ton and she’ll probably have leg muscles to rival a Russian lady weight lifter by the time she’s worn them a bit but that’s a minor inconvenience right?

Dead Threads Dress

Dead Threads Dress

I also picked up this fab dress.  Don’t I look great in it?  Ok, ok, you’ve got me. It’s not me (although I am very close in looks and size naturally *cough*).  Yep, it’s not a dress on me, it’s just a top (as it was on it’s previous owner).  However, having tried it on, my boobs are just too big for it.  I bet there are men out there scratching their heads saying “How can women’s boobs ever be too big?”   Oh well, either I lose 2 stone to shrink said boobs or the teen has another dress (yes dress for her with her figure), albeit a slightly relaxed fit *cough*.

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20 Geocaching Questions

Washknight came up with the idea of asking various geocaching bloggers a set of 20 questions to see how we all replied.  So, here are my answers:

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GeoBlogger 20 Questions
1. When and how did you first get into geocaching?

–My best friend introduced me to it. She had been caching for some time and was telling my teenage daughter about it. I remember thinking at first “what an odd thing to do for a hobby” but having seen how keen my teen was and how much fun my friend was having doing it, I decided when I upgraded my mobile phone I’d go for a smart one and give it a shot.  That was back in June 2011.

2. Do you remember your first find?

–Yes, it was called Roadside Dash and was very near to where I live.

3. What device(s) do you use for locating caches?

–I use my phone (Samsung Galaxy SIII).

4. Where do you live and what is your local area like for geocaching? (density / quality / setting etc)

–I live in Woking, Surrey.  Caching density is quite good around here with some lovely walks over common ground and quite a few rings in the area.  A good range of cache types too.

5. What has been your most memorable geocache to date, and why?

–Tough question.  Probably JJEF’s Newton’s Pendant over Maidenhead way. Purely for the ingenuity of it at the time but there have been so many great cache containers over the years.

6. List 3 essential things you take on a geocaching adventure excluding GPS, pen and swaps.

–Food, drink, tick-twisters

7. Other than geocaches and their contents, What is the weirdest thing you have discovered whilst out caching?

–Nothing springs to mind.  Our adventures are quite ordinary it seems.

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is I am obsessed by numbers and 10 is I am all about the experience and the quality of each individual cache. Where do you put yourself?

–About a 5. I love collecting numbers but I won’t run out to get a new cache now that I’ve done a couple of FTFs, and I’m filling up my grid slowly but, again, won’t go out especially for a day I don’t have. I do enjoy the variety of cache containers but am slowly disliking rings of 35mm containers more and more.

9. Describe one incident that best demonstrates the level of your geocaching obsession.

–Easy.  I think I came close to being divorced when I did this X Marks the Spot cache.

10. Have you picked up any caching injuries along the way?

–Odd bit of ankle twisting and being caught on brambles or rose bushes but nothing serious.

11. What annoys you most about other geocachers?

–Not much.  Occasionally some seem less than caring when replacing caches.  Nice to see all lids shut where possible.

12. What is the dumbest thing you have done whilst out caching?

–Deleted my geocaching.com App – mid-cache trip and no phone signal. Here you go: Chesham has lots of hills – I was not a happy bunny!

13. What do your non caching family and friends think of your hobby?

–Most are really interested in it and happy to come out and give it a try. In fact, we’ve promised a lot of people a caching trip so really need to get out and take them with us.

14. What is your default excuse you give to muggles who ask what you are up to or if you need help?

–Depends how obvious we are or how quickly they snuck up on us!  Sometimes we’re just honest. Others we pretend we’re looking for something. Often been scrambling up a tree and just said “good morning” to people who have looked at me in a puzzled way as they were walking past.

15. What is your current geocaching goal, if you have one?

–To keep enjoying it and get out a bit more to do it (now involves a drive for caches as completed most of the local area).  Would like, at some point, to complete the 365/6 days of caching challenges.

16. Do you have a nemesis cache that despite multiple attempts you have been unable to find?

–No. I’ve found them all although sometimes on 2nd, 3rd or 4th attempt.

17. What 3 words or phrases best sum up what geocaching means to you.

–Free Family Fun

18. What prompted you to start blogging about geocaching?

–I blog anyway so it seemed a fun thing to add into my blogs. I did originally have a separate geocaching blog but it was a bit sporadic so I put it all into this one blog.

19. Which of your own blog entries are you most proud of.

–I hope to give people a grin with my blog posts but one that got a lot of hits and made a good few people laugh was this Mind if I climb your garden fence? – we got lost!

20. Which other geocaching blogs do you enjoy reading?

–There are a variety that I’ve signed up to but off the top of my head I can’t think of their titles as I get an email when they have written a blog piece (good way to stay in touch when you forget to look at them frequently).


Do join in the fun and answer these questions on your blog then drop in on Washknight’s blog and say hello!

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Christmas is coming

I have been super organised this year. Bar a few little pressies yet to arrive from my favourite shopping venue – Amazon – due to the outlaws not knowing what they wanted for Christmas (what *do* you buy 80+ year olds who have everything?), I’m done. Yes.  Done. In fact, I was done in October *cough*.  I know, what am I like? I have even wrapped said presents and now they are all boxed up on weighing down the top of our wardrobe.

I am quite an organised person anyway.  Usually this is good and means I plan ahead but often it means that I plan so far ahead that I worry myself to death about something that may or may not happen at the end of next year.  You have to take the good with the bad right?  Anyway, I digress.

This year has certainly had its up’s and down’s but on the whole it’s not been the worst we’ve had but a few more pennies would be very welcome in this household.  I did win the Lottery but I’m saving that £25 for a rainy day.  Having been so good and saved/planned ahead, Christmas has been taken care of.  Of course I still need to get those little packets of compressed air and other fresh veg on Christmas Eve (ok, no, I won’t go, I’ll send hubby *cough*) but that’s it.

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We put our tree up on 29th November. I know but I was impatient ok! Also it was the fact that all 3 girls wanted to do it together and that was a weekend before Christmas that they were all around. Yes, I know there are other weekends a bit closer but we normally put it up on/around 1st December anyway so it’s only a bit early.

Our Sky+ box is now fairly crammed with Christmas films for the girls and a few new releases for hubby, teen and I to watch (yes, I am the person who really wants to see Godzilla and the new Transformers movie – who needs kids for those?).  I still plan to have a wander around the shops though but just to enjoy the lights, bustle and festive spirit without the pressure of having to actually shop. I may even head up to London to do that with the girls and see all the light displays there.  A walk from Waterloo across the bridge to Covent Garden would be lovely. Umm…I feel a plan developing.

Nativity plays at the school are beginning along with lots of additional mufti days (what does that stand for?) and Christmas jumper days (I had to buy one especially for S last year for heavens sake – I hope it still fits!).  It’s the countdown to Christmas and I, for one, am very happy it is.

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Daddy has smelly feet

S asked for the Little Live Pets Bird Cage toy as she had some birthday money to spend. I have to confess that I didn’t expect much from it – even for £19.99 – but we have all been very pleasantly surprised.

The bird we received is a very nice looking green and yellow ‘budgie’ style – much better than the weird pink one shown on Amazon‘s page.  In fact, the one that I looked at on Amazon seemed almost ‘inflatable’ looking.  Can you see what I mean?

However, the cage is nice with a little catch for the door, a food bowl, a little ‘stopper’ to prevent the perch swinging around if you’re taking it in the car perhaps, and on top of that, the perch will hold up to two birds. This, naturally, means she wants another one already *sigh*

The bird has an on/off switch (hooray!) and responds to touch by tweeting cheerily or whistling a tune when it’s very happy – London Bridge or Yankie Doodle it seems.  Both girls adore it already and I can see another one of these going onto N’s wish list for Christmas (ok, I confess, I’ve put it there now already).

The best thing about it?  You can record your own things for the bird to say.  Of course we got it to say all sorts of things…

I have to say that this little bird is a super toy for children. It says from ages 5 and upwards but N is only 3 and she works it fine. There are no small parts for younger children to be concerned about so I would say it’s great from age 2 onwards personally. Even the teen thinks it’s great!  We’ve been giving it silly stuff to say all afternoon. I can foresee messages being left for the family via bird now!

It’s always lovely when a toy surprises you for the better.  This little bird cage certainly managed that.

This review was done because we all had so much fun making the bird say whacky things and, well, just because it’s so darned cute!

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Wisley Winter Walk

We’ve been so busy of late we’ve not had the chance to take a stroll around one of our favourite gardens – Wisley.  Last Friday though, N and I went out for a lovely couple of hours just wandering about together.

    

It was absolutely manic in the car park at 9.45am and I wondered why. It turns out there was a craft fair on so we parked up. A rather irritating parking attendant rushed over to the car to tell me to move it over more. I stuck my head out of my window and said that I gladly would once the lady next to me had finished getting her things out of her car and closed her door.  She turned around and smiled at me and thanked me.  Rude man stood there waving his ‘parking’ sign at me.  Well, he’ll just have to wait. Once she shut the door, I moved the car – yep, a whole 12″ over and he was satisfied.  You know when you give someone a day-glo coat and a sign…yes, that!  Anyway, annoyance over, we headed in to the gardens and were one of what seemed like only a dozen people walking around. It was near deserted.

I followed her and, of course, we had to go into the glasshouse. She wanted to know why there weren’t any butterflies still (impatient miss) and when we got out of it, she wanted to know why the ice cream kiosks weren’t open (because it’s freezing).

      

Wisley is a great place at any time of year with the different plants and changing colours.

After our walk around we decided to pop into the craft fair and have a little look see.  Free entry to RHS members (phew) and away we went.  Fabulous saxophonist playing at the entrance which was a delight to hear.  The stands were colourful with lots of different art and crafts.  I have to say in all honesty, it was probably the most expensive craft fair I have ever been to so I’m afraid we didn’t buy anything but we enjoyed the looking.

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Cyclists – Know Your Place!

I’m going to have a rant. I’m just a tad fed up with the local Sunday Surrey cyclists deciding that they are in some major road race and cycling 2 or 3 abreast down roads.  I understand perfectly if the road is clear and you don’t have cars trying to pass, but when you are holding up traffic, you need to move over into single file at the very least.  You wouldn’t walk 3 abreast down a narrow pavement, chatting and expect everyone to get out of your way or just wait behind you. Or would you?

Boris Bike Stunts (http://www.konbini.com/)

I’ve heard the justification of this as “riding side-by-side makes us bigger to see and more like a car, therefore drivers have to overtake us like they would a car”.  Reality check – you are NOT a car. You do not travel at the speed of a car and any car driver following another car doing 20 mph in a 30, 40 or 50 mph road will soon be on their horn and losing their patience.  You are no different! In fact, you are more annoying as you seem to think you have a god-given right to go bloody slow, not bother to pedal and hold up traffic when you know full well cars are behind you.  Heaven forbid if I car driver toots you to try and get you to move over or speed up a bit – you are all V signs and swearing.  Positively charming.  Horse riders move apart and often look for traffic to help us poor car drivers get past.  Cyclists ignore everyone and don’t give two shits a hoot most of the time.  I bet you all complain about horse riders on the quiet.

Do any of you drive a car?  I bet you all do and I bet you don’t happily sit behind a group of cyclists when you want to get to work thinking “ah, bless them riding 3 abreast to stay safe. I’ll just get to work late”.  I bet you’re a right Mr/Mrs Angry when you’re held up!

No-one in their right mind wants to hurt another road user and cyclists are no exception but sometimes you do things that are beyond comprehension and I wonder if you remove your brain cells when you put that Lycra cycling gear on?  For example, when you are a road user, you abide by traffic signals.  Red means stop. It does not mean slow down a bit and then go through the lights when you fancy it.  Pedestrian crossings are for people.  You stop like every other road user and let the pedestrians cross. You do not ride across in front of them or between them and nearly run them over.  You do not pedal on the pavement, press crossing lights, wait for them to change to red and then decide you are a bloody road user.

You need to look behind you before you pull out to go around parked cars, other cyclists and general road hazards.   Do not swerve out into the middle of the road and expect my psychic abilities to kick in to know that you have now decided (with no indication) to turn right/left/stop/become a pedestrian on 2 wheels!

Do not clean your visor/glasses at a major road junction whilst standing chatting to your mate and then, as I’m about to turn left, decide that you are now a road user again and almost crash into the side of my car as you haven’t looked to check what traffic is coming that may have rightly assumed you were stationary because you were!

Some riders – I’m sorry to say – seem to have a death wish. They consider the road is theirs and everyone else needs to bow down to their whims and desires.  They ride around with a GoPro on their helmet but with no lights on their bikes and cunningly disguised in a black outfit at night.  If you want to die, please don’t choose my car as your tool of destruction.

Before you hop onto your helmet box and start shouting at me – I’m a cyclist too.  However, I am also a car driver and a pedestrian. I try to do all with equal care and consideration and just for once, I’d like the cycling clubs around Surrey to do the same.  So, if you’re off for a cycle, be safe, wear something we drivers can see at night, put lights on your bike and decide whether you are a pedestrian or cyclist and behave that way.  I want my children to learn courtesy and safe cycling and I’d like you to be a good example.

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The Pigs have arrived

I ordered N some new Jelly and Bean books which arrived yesterday.  You may recall, we are huge fans of Jelly and Bean in this house  (see here and here) and the books and illustrations are a fabulous way for young children to start their reading journey.

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The new books we have – The Pig Family Blends – help children develop their blending technique.  The books have 8 pages each and concentrate on using words with adjacent consonants where the medial vowel is a ‘short vowel’ ie. a, e, i, o, u.  I remember the pig family coming home with S when she started school.  In fact, all Jelly and Bean books have been definite favourites with both of my girls – and rightly so.

The stories are fun and have elements of repetition so children can learn to recognise words as well as construct them (needed for those ‘red’ words that they learn at school).  The fact that all the books feature characters that children can engage with certainly makes them a worthwhile addition to any home library.

Along with our order came a super extra book – thank you so much Marlene. This one helps children to understand Phonemes and Graphemes and is aimed at Key Stage 1.  Naturally N was straight at it, looking at the picture above each word to help her understand how it is spelled/sounded out and then trying the ones underneath.

I can guarantee that there will be more Jelly and Bean coming to this house as there are a few more sets we need to buy as N works her way through her existing ones.

Don’t to forget to check out the Jelly and Bean website or their Twitter page.

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