Things I Discovered – May: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Welcome back to another edition of Things I Discovered, where I share those gems I’ve stumbled upon in the past month that make life as a parent that little bit more sparkly, fun or simply less hard work.  I’m a whole month overdue with this, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, thanks to the writing work on the World Vision book taking precedence and Easter getting in the way in April (you’d be surprised how much time this monthly feature takes to compile).

Anyway, my dears, what have I got in store for you this month?  Its the usual eclectic mix of downright useful and ‘I never knew that’ things, but with a special focus on money saving ‘savviness’ thanks to The Beezley Buzz’s brilliant Nectar Savvy Blog (see below).  I do also have one ‘luxury’ item, in true Desert Island Discs style…..Barcelona!  But first, I’ll tell you about a wonderful book…..So, here we go:

Book: The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (age 8+)

RooftoppersI think it is a truth universally acknowledged that a brilliant children’s book is also a brilliant adult’s book.  This is one such book. We came across it through Blue Peter who awarded it one of their prestigious Book Awards, as did Waterstones, and my daughter has been talking about buying it for some time.  She bought it this half term and devoured it rather too quickly (for my rainy-half-term-liking!), giggling and smiling broadly throughout.  She couldn’t put it down.  I asked her to write a few sentences about it for this post, but she wasn’t keen, so I decided to pick it up – and I couldn’t put it down.  It’s what I would describe as a deliciously imaginative and quirkily-told story of adversity, love, hope and adventure, with plenty of eccentric characters thrown in.

Set at the turn of last century (I think), the story is about a baby girl who survives a sinking ship by being put in a cello case, and is rescued by an eccentric, loving scholar of a man, Charles Maxim, who hasn’t a clue on the practicalities of bringing up a child, but lavishes her with love and so succeeds as her guardian.  As Sophie grows up she determines to find her mother who everyone tells her is likely drowned but she is sure has survived. And so she embarks on an adventure, over the roof tops of Paris, to find her.  Here’s a flavour, a bit that my daughter particularly liked:

The baby was found wrapped for warmth in the musical score of a Beethoven symphony. It had drifted almost a mile from the ship and was the last to be rescued. The man who lifted it into the rescue boat was a fellow passenger and scholar. It is a scholar’s job to notice things. He noticed that it was a girl, with hair the colour of lightening, and the smile of a shy person.”

Katherine Rundell is clearly a prodigious young thing who was only born in 1987 (yes, quite) is an Oxford Fellow and already has one novel under her belt ‘The Savage Girl’.  So I think we can expect a lot more from her in the future…

Nectar Savvy Blogs

Beesley familyThe consumer rewards company, Nectar, ran a brilliant Savvy Blogs competition over 6 weeks in April & May, and the lovely Beesley family were finalists.  If you know Rebecca, she set up The Beesley Buzz as a way of recording their life as a family doing home schooling. They’ve since moved back to state education, but they are avid bargain hunters and savers which I love!  The great thing about this competition was that it encouraged the whole family to get involved in finding ways of saving money, thereby teaching the kids the value of money.  I wish i’d known about it as i’d have been tempted to rig our family into it.

The Beesley’s Savvy Blog can be found here. Its full of great little tips on everything from meals, cleaning and DIY,  giving to charity, to going out and recycling. You won’t believe how many things they can up cycle or re-use – plastic spades from milk cartons has to take the winning biscuit! Amazing.  You can check out the other blogs here too, and the winning blog (the Beesley’s didn’t win – boo!) The next three tips come from their blog:

Eat: Slicing ‘Julienne’ Vegetables with Vegetable Peeler

'Peeled' courgette fried up with peasNow, if you have fussy children who go green at the mere mention of a greens, this one’s for you.  Or if you want to get the kids to help out with preparing veg in the kitchen but they’re a bit young for wielding sharp knives, you’ll like this.  Hand them a courgette and vegetable peeler and get them to peel the WHOLE thing.  What you get is a lovely pile of wide wafer thin tongues of courgette which you can fry up in a little butter (and garlic if they’re not watching) and add to pasta or to a stir fry.  It’s also incredibly therapeutic, peeling a courgette.  Go on, have a go!  And if you don’t fancy that, or they’re still too obviously courgette like, try grating the courgette and frying it up in butter (and garlic). I’ve been doing that for years and I defy a green-hating child to not eat that!

Fun: Glycerin in washing up liquid for bubbles

I’m sure, like me, you’ve tried to make your own bubble mixture for the kids to blow around the garden, rebelling against paying silly amounts for “what must be just washing up liquid” from the toy shop.  And if, like me, you end up finding it doesn’t work, trying every type of brand of washing up liquid, realising it wasn’t the eco-friendly one that was the problem in the first place, and give up.  You now have multiple types of washing up liquid clogging up your already untidy under-sink cupboard. Sound familiar?

Well, look no further!  Rebecca has finally revealed the secret: glycerin!  You need to get a packet of the stuff from your local pharmacist and add it to your washing up liquid mixture.  Click  here for more details as well as to see photos of her lovely daughter Trinity playing with giant bubbles made by tying string around two straws. Yes, that simple and cheap.

Clean: Limescale busting Lemons and bicarbonate of soda

Also on the same DIY page are videos for how save money and environment for cleaning and fixing the house.  Those of you living in southern England will know the war that goes on between cleaners (that’s me) and limescale that leaves its hard scaly deposit on every wet surface.  You’ve probably also heard somewhere (your granny or mum) about bicarbonate of soda being useful at zapping the stuff.  You try it and find it doesn’t work.  Here’s for another “Aha!” moment.  Grab a used lemon and rub that around the surface, and it works as well as Kilrock or Cillit Bang (or whatever silly name product that also ‘Cills’ aquatic life whilst its at it).

It’s not the neatest or unmessiest of processes, but it does work and it gives another use for old and tired lemons in the kitchen….

Places:  Barcelona

This month was the month I fulfilled a life long ambition to visit Barcelona, that city that so many people rave about.  Not only that, but I went with the OH for 3 whole nights sans enfants!  Incroyable! I have to say, it lived up to expectations, and we had a wonderful weekend of sauntering down wide boulevards and narrow ancient alleyways, sampling tapas and dodging stubborn Catalans who never make way if you happen to bump into them in the street (so un-British its hilarious). Barcelona has everything from beaches to boulevards, clubs and stylish shops, delicious varied food, culture, history and above all stylish architecture.  I hadn’t realised quite what heaven it is to colour freaks like me, or what a Mecca it is for reactionary imaginative architects, it being the capital where Gaudi is celebrated and revered to virtual sainthood.  Gaudi was the most extraordinary, brilliant, creative and most certainly slightly deranged designer of 20th century who was childlike in his lack of inhibitions. Children would love his work…oh, but hang on we didn’t bring them…:-)

Barcelona 4square

If you are lucky enough to visit this city, a big must is going on a cycling tour, where you get a wonderful whizz around Barcelona in 4 hrs with lots of casual and interesting history about key places and have fun dodging un-budging locals and unsuspecting tourists! It was a blast and I felt like i was 21 again.  Fat Tire Tours are who we went with and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else.
I may do a special Things I Discovered in Barcelona, when I find the time, as its worth a whole blog post (if only to tell you that they eat ‘bikinis’ for breakfast….)
So what have you discovered this past month? Remember it doesn’t have to be things or places, it can be inspiration or ideas, revelations about yourself or your loved ones (like Judith from Secrets of the Sandpit who has discovered what a brilliant mathematician her 3yr old boy is!) Come and share your finds here.
Things I Discovered 4

18 thoughts on “Things I Discovered – May: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

    • Thanks so much Rebecca! As you know, i’ve already commented on your site to this post which is fantastic. Loving the look of that Olive oil. I’m not running a linky on this series at the moment, as i don’t have enough up take. Am considering moving it to a quarterly one, to keep it more manageable for me and others. If so, I’ll reinstate the linky. Love your contributions, they’re always really interesting and inspiring!

    • Thank you for your comment Katherine! And its a pleasure to write a review of such a jewel of a book. I’m just about finishing it now and realising it deserved a whole post to do it justice. Sophie’s relationship with her guardian, Charles, and the muddling along upbringing he gives her, paints an ideal that I think most children would cherish (nobody complaining at multiple plate breaking, and grabbing a book to eat off instead – how outrageous!). We look forward to the Wolves and Snow and Russia one! S

  1. Great tips! I wage a constant war on lime scale here in London, so maybe should ditch the Cillit Bang in favour of lemons and bicarbonate! Also great to know about the glycerin for bubble making… So glad you discovered Barcelona – we had a really special time there once. X

  2. Great post as always Siobhan. I will definitely be checking out Rebecca’s Savvy ideas – the spades from milk cartons sound genius! We went to Barcelona for the first three days of our honeymoon but were so unbelievably knackered that we didn’t really appreciate any of it! Would you take the kids next time? x

    • Oh my, going to Barcelona at beginning of honeymoon? No wonder you hardly appreciated it! You need loads of energy and if you spend too much time in bed, you ain’t gonna see a thing….;-) Would i take the kids? Its a hard one as I had thought i’d take my daughter who’s really arty and would love it. But having been, I think i’d wait a wee while till taking her, like when she’s 14, as she’d then be able to keep up the pace (she’ll be outstripping us by then) and could cope with sightseeing. Its not cheap, so you wouldn’t want to take them and find they get bored after a day. If i were you, i’d go by yourselves first (book months in advance to get cheap air fares), and then take the kids when older so you won’t get frustrated if they don’t want to trail round the Sagrada familia. Sx

  3. I love the glycerin tip & the limescale remover tip! My limescale already looks like kaiju monster and needs to be tackled! After this I need to go to the supermarket to buy some lemon and I am ready to clean! So helpful! #pocolo

  4. I’m going to look out for that book – I totally agree about great kids books being a great read for grown-ups too. Me and J often enjoy the Ruby Redfort books together and Daddy and D are reading Narnia stories together. What an amazing mention for us – thank you so much – seeing that others read our posts and got something out of them has made all the many hours that went into those 6 weeks of blogging worthwhile. Your trip to Barcelona sounds amazing – i have never been but always wanted to visit. I’ve been reading the blogposts by My Froley about Barcelona recently and between your notes above and those blogposts, I really really want to visit now!!! thank you again for including us in such an amazing way in your TID round-up. I am definitely going to have to get around to writing up my post this month and link up. xxx

    • Its a pleasure, Rebecca! You deserve it. You should have a lot of people visiting your savvy blog site now. I’m going to add a link to your own blog too so that people can visit you there too. And yes, Barcelona is beautiful. Buy tickets way in advance when its nice and cheap, but be warned, you’ll need plenty of spending money! Sx

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