Wednesday, 22 August 2012

No matter how much things have changed, how far you've moved on, there's always a strangeness linked to certain dates. It marks the anniversary of a time when I thought I was signing up to one life, only it wasn't to be. And while I am genuinely pretty happy with my life right now, it's still weird to think back to the dreams and expectations that were tied in with that one particular day. And, if I'm honest, it's a little sad.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Allotment ponderings

So, year 1 is almost at a close. It's not been a total disaster but it's definitely been a case of 'laugh or you'll cry'. It's been harder work than I anticipated, not least because it's SO bloody difficult to convince my darling children that we need to go down there, so I'm averaging a half arsed effort around once every 1-2 weeks.

At the moment I have very little growing and a lot of bare, very weedy, areas. Next year I AM going to plant way more than I think I'll need. I'm not going to lose all my plants again. I had such high hopes for things and they've just not worked out at all. I'm going to plant longer rows of things and really cram things in with as little space for weeds to grow inbetween as possible. I want an Edible Garden style wilderness where baby plants are as much a space filler as anything useful. Apparently our allotment usually has an annual produce sale, where you take what you swap what you've grown. I'm not sure it's going to happen this year due to the appalling excuse for a Summer but it'd be a good way to get rid of surplus courgettes and so on in future years. For now I'm frantically preserving and dehydrating any gluts :)

I'm thinking of getting a proper greenhouse at home, after losing 2 of my 3 cucumber plants in all the rain, and all my outdoor tomato plants to blight before we'd even harvested a single tomato. Breaks your heart!

My friend's been given notice on her allotment - she either has to clear it up or get rid. I think she's going to get rid. It was a bit of a kick up the bum though because I really don't want that to happen to me so I WILL find the time to make a bigger success of things next year. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Camp Bestival 2012

I think I am just about recovered enough for a little write up of the weekend's events!

Lower Kids Garden
So, we packed Friend's car up on Wednesday evening, and headed off after breakfast on Thursday morning. We intentionally left 5 hours earlier than last year, when we ended up stuck in queues for absolutely ages and then had the trauma of trolley hire, finding a spare bit of land (on a slope), and setting up camp with empty stomaches because it was getting dark and we were fairly stressed and just wanted it done. This year was an absolute dream in comparrison! We had our own trolley, too, which was a lifesaver. Taking a trolley from home rather than hiring or lugging your stuff to and fro is an absolute must. If anyone is going to get ONE bit of advice from my witterings, this would be it. Leave a child at home if you have to, just get one and cram it into your car!

The flag of Gloucestershire. Who knew?!
Even though it was only around 1pm when we arrived on site it was still getting pretty busy. We had a bit of a walk to our eventual plot, but this had the added bonus of being very close to the festival site. Set up was very relaxed - put tents up, have picnic lunch, get another load, potter about a bit, get final load, have picnic tea and relax with wine. Perfect :)

A view from our tent on the Friday. It didn't get much busier than this but mainly because the big green patches you can see are actually steep slopes! You can just make our our local loos bnehind the gazebo thingy. Near enough to be handy, not so near that we could small them.. and believe me, by Monday they were VERY smelly!

The three day festival included:

My younger daughter seeming to put the big girls under the cruciatus curse in the Bollywood tent
A kids choir session - 'Dancing in September' by Earth, Wind & Fire became the song of the festival for us. Or at least the chorus did, on repeat, for 3 days solid. 
Sending postcards home

Cheesy chips (£3.60)
Matt Horne in the East Lulworth Literary Tent. He said that if he had to put money on it, he'd say there'll be a Gavin & Stacey Christmas special in 2013. HOORAY! We also saw Daniel Roche (Ben from Outnumbered) here but I couldn't actually see him to take a decent photo!
Finger knitting in the knitting tent - £1 for a ball of wool and a teacher! The girls are hooked
Hummingbird Bakery cakes! Mmmmmm
Wagamama Lounge. A HUGE hit, not least because they chose the photo of our lovely girls eating their noodles as the cover photo for the Camp Bestival photo album on their Facebook *proud mummy*
eating a mealworm, if you are Lucy, after Stefan Gates' show. Which was brilliant.
DIY face painting 

The Wall of Death. A bit loud for one of the Fairy Princess Ninja Bunnies Of Death, but other than that she seemed remarkably calm about motorbikes and go carts whizzing around the wall just inches from her face. I wish I could say I was as unphased as the kids were!!
Pimms, and Rolf Harris, and finger knitting in the sunshine. A perfect Sunday afternoon.

An English National Ballet workshop
Kids cupcake decorating
Amazing fireworks on the last night. A lot of people leave on Sunday afternoon/evening which I think is a shame because the Camp Bestival crew clearly put SO much effort into the firework and light projection effort, and after all, you've paid for it! But from the point of view of us having to pack up and leave the site on the Monday, I won't complain :)
 This was our second Camp Bestival and hopefully not our last! Although it will take a while to fully recover from the post-festival exhaustion of this one I think ;)

Credit goes to Madame Guillotine, as without her review of Camp Bestival 2010 we would never have gone!

And finally, here is the official link to the Camp Bestival fireworks.. amazing!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

School's out for Summer!

This year we have a whopping 7 weeks off. And the sun has come out of hiding in time for day one! Brilliant.

Summer plans include:

Camp Bestival
6 days camping at Eweleaze
A book writing workshop for the older small person
A parent and child cooking class with friends
The Olympics! We are going to see one event, a swimming one.
Lunch at Rainforest Cafe with a 20.12% discount (clever)
Hopefully a trip to see Horrible Histories Live
Hopefully cinema outings to see The Lorax and Brave
5 days visiting my parents in Wales

I also want to do some decorating. I'd like the girls to do the library reading challenge and I hope to be able to convince Lucy that it would be fun to work on some of her Brownie badges at home with me, namely Writing and Booklover. We'll see. I am going to be working a bit too, but it's different work so it doesn't feel like I'm not on holiday!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Warner Brothers Studio Tour - The Making Of Harry Potter

Yesterday was seriously one of the best days of my life.

We booked a spot on the Harry Potter studio tour as Lucy's birthday treat back in March. We wanted a specific date and even that far in advance, the earliest tour they had available spaces on was 4.30pm! It was VERY hard to keep it a secret from Lucy, but I knew that if someone had become ill and we'd had to not go (we have a history of this kind of thing), it would have broken her little heart.. as well as mine. Plus, the bonus of keeping the trip secret was that we got to see this face as we pulled into the car park and reality dawned on her!

Worth every penny of the £83 we paid for our family ticket, plus all the pain of trying not to just TELL HER for nearly 4 months :) (incidentally, I actually think £83 for 4 of us was pretty good value for what there was to see).

So, we printed out our tickets at the self service machine, and went inside to queue. We only had to wait for around 15 minutes - the doors to the tour open every 12 minutes. Once inside the tour we were treated to a little speech, some video clips about how the film makers stumbled across the book and fell in love with it (tear to my eye #1), and then we were ushered in to a very comfortable cinema for a short introduction from Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. And then we were off to the Great Hall! I thought Millie's eyes would pop out of her head..

The tour was absolutely amazing. I can't even put into words how fantastic it was to see all those sets, props and costumes right there infront of our very eyes. It was busy, but never too busy - they manage the timed ticket allocations very well. There were SO many things to photograph. I dread to think how many times I appeared in the background of other people's snaps!

One thing that struck me, and it's probably pretty obvious because people always say this, was just how small everything was. There film maker types are very clever. The detail that goes into things is outstanding and so much of it totally passed me by when watching the films. Things like Ron's slightly tatty handknitted blanket..

And even the glaringly obvious things, like the mismatched chairs around the long dining table at The Burrows, which blatantly say "we're poor and nothing coordinates but we're warm and friendly and that's what matters". You take so much for granted when watching the films but the film makers put SO much effort into making it all believable.

There was just so much to see. So many costumes..

And props..

Many, many amazingly detailed sets..

Photo opportunities galore..

Butterbeer on sale (it was vile, I tried so hard to like it, mainly because I'd spent £5.90 on 2 cups full, but it really wasn't very nice. The foam was tasty, like melted marshmallows, but the actual drink was a sort of cream soda flavoured drink, possibly sugar free, or maybe it was just that it clashes horribly with the sickly sweet foam, I'm not sure. And visually it just reminded me of a certain scene in American Pie, which is offputting to say the least. Still, I am glad I tried it!)

Halfway through the tour there's the opportunity for some professional 'green screen' photos which we just had to take advantage of. I don't normally let anyone photograph me but as a massive Harry Potter fan, this was just too good to avoid! First we had a photo of our weird little family in the Ford Anglia (actually just sat on some green benches)

The girls both wanted a broomstick lesson. I really thought Millie would change her mind at the last minute - she's the sort of child that begs to go on a carousel and then cries and has to get off before it even starts moving. But she was SO excited about riding a broomstick and spent the entire time grinning and doing all the little tricks that were asked of her. Of course we had to buy all the photos, but they were a very reasonable £18 for 3, so I didn't begrudge paying that at all.

The best bit of the tour, for me, was the model of Hogwarts. Tears in eyes #2. It was just SO beautiful and detailed and, combined with the music, it was a very moving experience. I'd seen photos before, and I took dozens while we were there, but NOTHING can really prepare you for how wonderful it really is. Even if you don't like Harry Potter (are you actually mad?!), the castle model will blow you away. It goes through a cycle of night and day, changing from it's daytime pink..

to a stunning night time vision, when lots of little lights come on in the windows, and you'd give ANYTHING to be able to transport yourself inside.

Even Lucy said "it's getting to me a little bit!" and we had to have a cuddle halfway round :)  The cashier in the gift shop told us that although it took 40 days for a team of them to put it together, that was just the moving and assembling. If it had been down to 1 person to build and assemble the entire thing, it would have taken 74 YEARS!

The final highlight was the shop. This was one of the things I'd been looking forward to the most. There was just so much stuff and it was all brilliant! Some things were clearly way out of our price range, like the Nimbus 2000 (£199.95) and the Firebolt (£249.95) - they'd sold 4 this week!, and the jewellery and costume replicas. Other things were much more affordable. We came home with a wand for each girl (Millie chose Hermione's, Lucy opted for Luna's, on the understanding that at £25 a pop they WILL be keeping them safely in the boxes when not in use and they WILL look after them!). They also got a sports bag each (Gryffindor for Lucy, Ravenclaw for Millie). I got confused, as is the norm, and ended up not buying a t-shirt, even though I really wanted one. I'll just have to go back one day ;)  I did buy the tour book (£10) and this very funky fridge magnet (£5.95)

Apparently they're going to run the tour for as long as people want to pay to see it, so I think EVERYONE should go along :)  The girls both said it was the best day of their lives, and they were absolutely exhausted by the time we left at 8.30pm!

Best day ever :)

Sunday, 8 July 2012

An almost-birthday

Next week my baby girl turns eight. EIGHT! I remember eight quite well and can't quite believe I'm going to have my own eight year old to take charge of. For every part of me that's aching for her baby and toddler days, though, there's an even bigger part of me that's SO proud of who she's become, and looking forward to many more birthdays to come. She truly is my little sunshine. She's so happy and bright. Her school report last week blew me away. Her weakest subject is PE, which made me laugh - she's so her mother's daughter. I try and tell myself not to have too many expectations for her because I don't want her to feel pressurised and I certainly don't want to end up disappointed if she ends up following a completely different path to the one I'd anticipated for her. However, I can really see her doing well with languages and history and definitely English. If my daughter is a well known author in 30 years time I wouldn't be a bit surprised. But if she chooses not to, that's alright too. Because if she ever lost that sparkle and love of life, that would be the biggest tragedy of all.

Anyway, I digress. Lucy requested a Lalaloopsy cake for her family birthday party, and this is what she got.

Jelly Wiggle Jiggle and Sahara Mirage, picking apples

A triple decker Victoria sponge, sandwiched together with raspberry jam and pink buttercream, and decorated with copious amounts of sugarpaste. And, of course, four little Mini Lalaloopsy dolls bought especially for the occasion, which were removed once the cake was cut, washed (I'd used blobs of buttercream to stick them in place), and played with pretty much all afternoon.

Once the cake was assembled and iced in blue, which was the stressful part, the fun bit began. The beauty of this cake is that you don't have to worry about getting the base icing smooth, you can just cover any dodgy bits with little green hills and trees and sunsets!

Suzette La Sweet and Cherry Pie Crust, picnicking on a cloud     
The birthday girl was very taken with her cake, even though there were so many scones, sandwiches, sausage rolls, cherries and so on that she really didn't have much room to do more than pick at her slice. I'm sure she'll make up for lost time on that front :)

Happy almost birthday to my little Lucy Lou. Don't ever change.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Life seems to be getting on top of me at the moment, but the light at the end of the tunnel is..

*whispers* I think I will be adding 2 chicken friends to the flock this Summer!