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+)
I 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
The 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
Now, 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….
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…:-)