Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wrapping paper and crackers

Don't you just love Christmas with children?

Our 3 year old was so excited on Christmas Eve. She had opened the last present in the pocket of her advent calendar and knew tomorrow was Christmas Day. That evening, having checked at least 100 times during the day that Santa would come, but also being quite concerned about a strange man coming into her room - rightly so (we told her Santa was magic and didn't actually come in) - she went to bed having left some Port and a cookie for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph. Daddy was being Santa....guess who had the carrot to chew?

The big day arrived and I heard a little voice at 6.30am saying "Is it Christmas today mummy?" so I went to the girls room and said it was. She looked so crestfallen saying Santa had not come, until I put the light on and she saw the stockings! Little eyes lit up. Brilliant.

We headed downstairs and it took 2 1/2 hours to open the presents as each toy had to be played with for a while before the next was open. That was magical for us as their parents to see the little faces so excited about a new toy or teddy :) Of course 3 year old 'assisted' 1 year old in opening ALL of her presents too! That's what big sisters are for isn't it? So, 4 bin bags of paper/cardboard/plastic and the need for wire cutters 5 times and 1 set of batteries later, everything was opened and being investigated further.

Much playing went on during the day and late afternoon dinner was served. Hubby wanted this Christmas dinner to be a sit down, pull the cracker, wear the hat, then eat together type event. There were two hopes of that (and Bob's dead)!

Dinner was ready, 1 year old was screaming blue murder as once she sees the plates come out of the cupboard she wants to eat now...Now....NOW!!! Sat her and 3 year old in their chairs and brought their dinners in. 3 year old tucks straight in, 1 year old demands her food instantly too. Hubby brings in my dinner then goes to get his own. By the time he sits down (I'd forgotten the peas so he had to go fetch them for us all too), the two children are almost halfway through their meals. We stop for a brief cracker experience that little one isn't entirely sure about and anyway, it's interrupting her dinner, and carry on tucking in. Disorganised but nice regardless :)

Chilling in the evening once the girls were in bed with the lounge full of new toys and a dining room full of older ones (can't say old as it was only 1 year old's birthday a week beforehand so those toys are hardly worn out), we put our feet up and smiled. It's been a fantastic, frantic Christmas Day but we wouldn't swap it for the world.

Hope you had a lovely Christmas too :)

Friday, 23 December 2011

Supermarket shopping with the cleaners

Yes, I did it. I was the one! Our local Sainsburys has opened at 6am this week and at 6.15am on Tuesday, I was in there, armed with a trolley and doing my monthly/Christmas shop. I can hear your brain ticking away thinking what kind of nut goes shopping at 6am (or thereabouts)? Me, the kind of nut who won't queue with 10 other people per till all with laden trolleys. Ah-ha! Not looking at me like I'm crazy now are you ;-)

It was wonderful. My girls normally get me up somewhere from 5am onwards so it wasn't a hardship. Hubby sorted breakfasts whilst I jumped in the car and headed off. The car park was more or less desolate when I arrived - I'm sure I may have even spotted some tumbleweed - and off I went.

It was me, the pickers collecting peoples' orders and the cleaners. Brilliant! By 7am there were a few more of us milling around (I was halfway round at that point) and I did hear one worker in an aisle saying that due to customers taking things off the shelves, the presentation was not looking nice in the aisles. I had to chuckle.

By 7.45am when I was ready to check out, I could hardly push the trolley (no, the pictures is not the actual trolley). The self-scan wasn't working that morning so I had to revert to that old fashioned element of taking the items out of the trolley, putting them onto the conveyor belt and loading the other end. As it was quiet and I had the biggest trolley full in town (!) I had a lady help me unpack whilst I packed up at the other end into 2 - yep, count them - 2 big trolleys. Somehow once in bags I could not fit as much into the one trolley. The nice young man who was serving me was about to move to a different till so he pushed my second trolley to the car before he headed off :) Lovely.

Thankfully I had emptied the boot before I set off as I needed that, the seats and footwells to get everything in. Yep, it really was a *big* shop but not a tin of Quality Street in sight.

Tomorrow I am sending hubby to our local Waitrose to pick up the things I forgot....

Monday, 19 December 2011

School Production Professional - NOT! - video

I am fuming. In fact, I am now more fuming than I was having re-watched some of teens' earlier school production professional DVDs. Why? You may well ask.

This year we purchased the DVD of my 3 year old daughter's school Christmas production for the sum of £20. Now, for this I expected the company that were hired to do the filming to be (a) professional, (b) capable and (c) competent. Unfortunately for us, they company were none of these things! I won't name them *yet* as I'll wait to see what kind of response the school get from them.

The company that film school/charity productions/work are part of a larger organisation who show some seriously big named organisations on their website. I question whether they have also only worked for those clients the once if this arm of their business is anything to go by!

So, along they come. They clearly set up a tripod - actually, may be doubtful they even used one judging by the shaking and juddering in parts of the filming - and stood at the back of the school hall, possibly inside the cloakroom just to make it that little bit worse. The sound was dire at the best of times so I think the cloakroom did come in to play.

They filmed so far away in fact that they got in the rafters of the school hall, thus leaving the little girls on stage looking as far away as when I was at a Bon Jovi concert in the back rows of Wembley Arena. Hang on, no, I've had better views from there and managed better videos! I do not need to see the roof, the backs of the heads of the older girls watching it and the sides of the hall. I want to see the children, you know, those little moving dots on the stage. The ones that are mine and I am paying to see on your DVD.

I am wondering if they hired in a job seeker to do the actual filming. Someone completed a form saying they were available in December for £3 ph and had a mobile phone with video functionality. Yep, I think that's what they did.

The camera operator enjoyed long-shots, zooming in to faces so they went out of focus and a bit of 'Blair Witch' shuddery camera work. Priceless. Actually, no it wasn't, it cost a minimum of £1,300 as in order to get them to do it, they had to sell a minimum of 65 DVDs at £20 each. Owch I hear you say.

Now, the cost of the DVD is another issue. The production ran for around 45 minutes. I doubt for one second the company attended any kind of rehersal to know what was going to happen and work out shots and angles. So, a bloke turns up in a van, unloads a camera and (possibly) tripod, sets up at the back of the hall and presses 'record'. Ummm.....I would have done that for far less money! I can get a set of 50 DVDs for around £20 and burn them happily on my PC. I have a colour printer that probably does a better job at the cover art than their one did and I have lots of plain paper to print on. I suspect they made about £1100 out of this - not bad for about an hours work plus a bit of burning/printing is it.

I have written to the school as I honestly feel they have been taken the mickey out of. If this production company were to shoot any more of the schools plays, I would not buy one. My husband, who works in TV and started life as a cameraman, nearly fell off the sofa when I put the DVD on. 'Nuff said.

I think next time if the school are daft enough to employ these amateurs, I'll be insisting I can stand at the back and record my own version. As you may have gathered, this was not an option open to us this time. Note the 'this time' in that sentence....I'll even burn copies for the other parents!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

It's a mad house out there!

It's all go isn't it. It's this mad time of year when, for some bizarre reason, you go on a mental run-up to Christmas by fitting in an absurd amount of visiting/shopping/baking. Oh yeah, I know, we love it though :)

Ballet finished last weekend with grandma and grandad coming along to watch. I can see why they don't like parents/rellies in any other time. Talk about distracted children waving and shouting "Grandma" or "Daddy look at me". The teacher is a wonderfully patient lady but even she was starting to roll her eyes.

It's my baby girls 1st birthday this weekend so she's not really so much of a baby anymore then is she? We've got some lovely things for her including some new Inch Blue shoes (they were on the Amazon Wish List and they've now been bought by someone - yippee!) and a little Steiff teddy in pyjamas (something nice to keep for years to come I hope).

The 3 year old is baking mad so we've been making cakes almost incessently since her Nursery Christmas party. I'm going to need a serious diet in January to remove excess cake-age spread ;-) I blame CBeebies myself as she's always singing "I can cook" whilst mixing the ingredients. Having said that, she now knows what makes a cake and tells me the things we need for it and in which order. I'm glad she's not moved on to a full roast dinner yet as I'm not sure I could eat more than one of those a week!

I attempted our local shopping centre last week and was pleased I arrived as it opened at 9.30am. On a side note, why does our centre open 'late' compared to everywhere else? Anyway, my pushchair set off the alarms in every shop - 6 times in Debenhams which is our record to date as they have an alarm thing by the lift - and noone took a blind bit of notice. I don't bother to stop if the alarms go off now. I used to hovver by the doors in case anyone wanted to check my receipt, now I just keep on walking. Seems pretty pointless to have these things if you ignore them. Hey, that's the shops problem, not mine - I'm a legitimate shopper!

The tree has been up for a few weeks and we have had to rearrange the lounge to stop littlest from destroying it and all the presents underneath. It's like an obstacle course during the day to reach the curtains or put a drink down somewhere. The tree is barricaded behind a coffee table and an armchair - each item close enough to the next so that she can't crawl between them or cruise around them. Every day at 6am I move the stuff around like a giant slot puzzle then when she's in bed at 5pm, it goes back to a normal looking lounge. I wouldn't have it any other way though.

Today I went to the Post Office to send off a small parcel to my sister. Yes, I can hear you shouting that I must be bonkers to attempt a Post Office at this time of year. It was only out of total necessity that I went, believe me. Said parcel would not fit into the letterbox (no matter which way I tested it out) so I had to go there. I was also a little unsure as to whether my kitchen scales told me the truth when it came to postal weights. Oddly they are perfect with ingredients and yet, on more than one occasion, I've weighed something at home to get an idea of price and once at the Post Office counter, it's far more than I worked it out to be. Honest, I'm not daft. No really. Anyway, I hit the local supermarket just before 9am in order to get into the the Post Office pretty much on the button of 9. I walked in to a queue of around 7 people in front of me, most with bags of brown parcels. Two went very quickly having just required a stamp (yes, they are clearly daft as brushes) but it took me some 30 minutes to get to the counter to post my one little parcel. I was not impressed. Why? Well, they only had one person serving!! Who in hells name decides on the run up to Christmas, with final posting dates upon us, that 1 person would suffice. I counted the people in the queue - 25 including me. Everyone was looking at eachother and the grumbles soon began. It was clear for all to see that this was going to be a long wait. Most annoying of all, the shop counter staff were clearly not Post Office trained as two ladies were chatting away to eachother behind their counter and another gent was off for his tea break. Ridiculous to say the least. I would say the lady behind the counter was a bit miserable due to the volume of people waiting and being on her own but I've seen her lots of times and she have never looked happy, smiled or rarely even said please or thank you, so I know it's her normal demeanour. Next please....

Next week I will attempt Sainsburys. Hubby said he'd come too. I don't know if he thinks it's a fun day out of something but I can assure him it is not. Mind you, we'll probably need two trolleys by the time I have stocked up on beer/wine/toilet rolls/nappies/wipes as they take a whole one all to themselves!

Right, cakes must be cool by now so I'm off to assist in icing them - that's if I'm allowed :)

Friday, 9 December 2011

Happy Feet 2 for PS3 Review

Happy Feet Two is a 3D musical adventure game about dancing penguins. No, I haven't gone mad, you'll need to see the original movie to understand what I am talking about.

This is very much a family adventure where the penguins have to work and dance together to save themselves from extinction.

Players use dance moves to gather penguins with unique abilities that help you advance through the levels. You collect dancing musical notes and there are special areas you also have to dance on to collect bonus notes. To open the end of the level, you need a certain amount of penguins , illustrated by a penguin with a number, so have to collect the right number from your surroundings. Some penguins also need you to be a larger group before they will join you.

In order to collect some followers, you also need to be quite precise in your dance moves as they have a circular 'clock' above their heads which only fills if you dance on the beat. This would make the game a little complicated for younger players.

You can smash your way through ice steps and structures by performing coordinated dance moves and stomps. You can even clap along as you go.

You can choose your levels music and there are lots of tunes to unlock.

My 3 year old had a go at the game and whilst she mostly moved around in circles, she did love the stomping and clapping and had a little group of penguins doing this much to her amusement. However, the controls are too complicated for her. Our 8 year old nephew was brought in to try it and whilst he found the controls fine to use, the game became too repetitive for him to want to do more than a few levels.

The game retails at around £30 for the PS3 version but I am unsure of the rating as looking at stores who are pre-ordering it, it appears to be either a 3+ or 7 depending on the platform, which is really confusing.

Overall, not a game for us due to its repetitive nature even for younger players.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

You baked WHAT?

Today I have been busy baking cakes for my 3 year old's school Christmas party tomorrow afternoon. I volunteered as I do enjoy a bit of baking and the school ask you to make them from scratch to ensure there are no nuts - we are a nut free school. Comments on a postcard please ;-)

Anyway, having made said cakes, I thought I'd be all inventive and rather than just pop some home-made chocolate buttercream icing on top, I'd also cut the tops into little cone shapes and make some butterfly cakes like my mum used to make when I was a child. What a good idea! Now, it has been some significant time since I was a child and watched my mum making cakes but, what the heck, it couldn't be hard could it?

Having cut 4 cakes into said butterfly, I looked at them again. Nope, they did not look like butterflies in the slightest - they looked like surreal vaginas!! I had to get a photo of them. How could I get it so wrong? Fortunately I have more cakes (as you can also see) so the school are now getting simple little fairy cakes with a circle of buttercream icing and some sprinkles on top. I'll eat the other...errrr...anatomy...cakes myself.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas music and opening pockets?

Hooray! It's the 1st December and I'm officially allowed to play my Christmas music CD now. I say 'allowed' as my hubby says it's banned from the house at any other time. I have until 31st December to listen to it. Trust me, I can make him rue the day he said I could only play it for one month as he'll be hearing it an awful lot ;-)

I'm getting excited about Christmas again this year. My 3 year old has had her first present from her advent calendar and I have to keep explaining to her why she can't have all of them. This could be a long month from that point of view. Her calendar is not exactly opening doors, more pulling things from pockets as it's a teddy bear shaped hanging calendar. I do like these but I have to confess my measurements were a little out when buying some things as I was absolutely sure the pockets were bigger. Oh well, she will have some extra bits in her stocking after all.

It's also great that Christmas is coming as said 3 year old has been having some paddys of late. The way to get them under control quickly is the quick response of "Santa is watching and if you don't behave, you won't get any presents" *evil grin* So far it's kind of working. I can't say completely working as there are some paddys that require a bit more effort on my part - even so far as threatening the Easter Bunny won't arrive either!

The Christmas tree will arrive next week. I've bought a new bauble for the girls and I'm wondering what the 11 month old will make of it. Hubby is putting up the normal hook on the ceiling that we will attach the top of the tree too via a piece of string - you can guess why!

It's the 3 year old's first ever Christmas play and we're off to see it at her nursery next week. She's a star. Yes, in every sense of the word :) Of course we have bought the over-priced DVD of the production in order to see her for the last 30 seconds of the play. What else would you expect?

Right, away I go to listen to "Don't stop the cavalry" again....