Rollercoaster Mum: April 2013


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

We love books - a couple of (book) reviews

We really do love books in the Rollercoaster household (even Rollercoaster Dad ) although the grown up members of the household are severely lacking in time to read these days but the girls are fast making up for us. They can both often be found with their little blonde heads stuck in a book. Little Miss Star reads properly long chapter books these days - in fact the problem can be finding age appropriate material that isn't boring or badly written. Some of the girly books series about things like ballet, fairies and small animals are truly awful - they have their place but there's just too many of them. Little Miss Sunshine is only in reception and is storming along on the reading front but at that stage where everything is sounded out but the main thing is she really tries to read her books, even ones which are really too tricky!

I've not really blogged about books and reading before and I really should have as it is something I feel passionate about. I have even added a little widget from Goodreads to the blog (down there on the right) to show what we are all reading or have read recently! As a child I never had my nose out of a book - I think it drove my mum mad. I would go to the library, get out my allotted 4 books (so good you can take out way more these days) and I would have read them all by the end of the day!

I am really pleased that my girls seem to love their books too so I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to review some children's books from an innovative publisher called My Little Big Town. They have a range of children's books ranging from ages 2-12, many of which are aimed at encouraging reluctant readers to read for fun, especially young boys. Now obviously my girls are not particularly reluctant (or boys) but I was intrigued.

For Little Miss Sunshine we picked 'Anisha's Adventures in Bangladesh' by Moinul Islam. This is the first in a series of books about a little girl (she even has her own facebook page) who is given magical necklaces on her birthday for herself and her pony Chloe. These transform them so that they may fly anywhere they want, taking pictures and finding out all about new places. Anisha is from Bangladesh so this is the first book and she explores her own country finding out all sorts of things about where she lives using her magical camera.

It is a picture book but not in the classic 'read in 5 minutes' book - I read it to Little Miss Sunshine over 2 nights. The recommended age is 5+ and she is not quite at the stage where she could read it by herself. I think the age is more to do with understanding the story and the facts in the book. It was certainly a good way to introduce her to a different culture and learn about the world. We are looking forward to the next book which is to be set in London so that should have some familiar places too. This was Little Miss Sunshine's own review of the book: (she wanted to draw the pony but said she couldn't hence the flag!)

Moinul Islam

Little Miss Star picked 'Gorgeous George and the Giant Geriatric Generator' by Stuart Reid. This book is aimed at 9+ and although she is only just 8 she's a pretty good reader but she did struggle with the first couple of chapters but once she got into it she didn't put it down. It sounds complicated but the author quite quickly explains words like 'geriatric' and 'generator' in the book within the context of the story. I thought it had overtones of Roald Dahl books and as she loves these it wasn't a surprise that she liked this book.

It is about a young boy who starts to notice strange things happening in his town and when his much loved Grandad goes missing he sets out to find out what is happening with the new girl (and his only friend) at school - Allison to help. They uncover a dastardly plot by the evil owner of the local power plant and his horrible wife (also George's teacher) to produce cheap power and control the town. It has mystery, adventure and pranks with poo - what more could you want! It is a good book and a very entertaining read. Boys would love it and any girls who've got over those awful ballet books!

This was Little Miss Star's views on the book.

Stuart Reid

Disclaimer: We were sent two books to review but all views and words are my own.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Macro Monday - The Petworth House Edition

It was the National Trust's Free Day Out last weekend and we made the most of it by a visit to historic Petworth House. As well as the house they also have amazing grounds with beautiful flowers so I give you - Macro Monday - the Petworth edition....

Light shining through a Narcissus

Gnarly tree bark

Wood anemone

Snakeshead Fritillary

Magnolia stellata 


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Silent Sunday

A Year in Pictures - Week 17

We've had sunshine - proper, warm, lovely sunshine. The downside of that is time for blogging becomes even harder to find so it's taken a bit of a back seat this week. We headed off to Petworth last Sunday for the National Trust Free Weekend (more of that later in the week) and had a great time Spaniel searching and running around the grounds. I ventured along as a parent helper on eldest's school trip, survived the onslaught of 7 year olds and enjoyed being out on a beautiful day. There have been trips to the park after school and lollies instead of biscuits for snacks. The garden has started to come alive in earnest and life has been warm and good.

Doric Temple, Petworth House
Having fun at Petworth House

Selborne Hanger
Fabulous day and place for a school field trip
Selborne Field Centre
School trip montage - we found slow worms and butterflies, made clay and twig art and enjoyed beautiful scenery and a spot of history
Linking up as always with The Boy and Me - for lots more photo inspiration head on over - just click the badge.

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

Silent Sunday and Macro Monday

Magnolia tree

Love this picture so much I am linking with Macro Monday too!


A Year in Pictures - Week 16

This week we have had school, sunshine (at last), showers and soiree's, along with a smattering of sewing, some hard hail and recognition of respect, most of which have not been captured on camera, so I give you what has....


Linking up as always with the Boy and Me and all those other photo addicts - just click that 365 badge..

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Thursday, 18 April 2013

How to make a wormery - a kids activity for National Gardening Week

National Gardening Week - Home

As promised on my post yesterday for National Gardening Week, I thought you might like to see how we made a wormery. This is not strictly gardening of course but it is about wildlife in the garden and teaching the little'uns about wildlife and the natural world around us. Worms are (after the brilliant bees of course) one of the most important creatures in a garden. They recycle the 'rubbish' like old leaves, enriching and aerating the soil at the same time, so making it a better place to grow things in.

This is a really easy project to do with the kids and it can be done inside if it's a rainy day (apart from actually finding the worms of course!) Unless you're like us and just do it outside in the rain anyway.

1/ Find an old plastic soft drinks bottle and carefully cut the top off:

2/ Find some soil and some sand (we used soil from old pots last year and sand from the sand pit that we gave away last weekend). Layer these alternately in your plastic bottle so you have distinct layers (this helps to see where the worms have been later)

3/ Then go find some worms - in your garden if you have one, or just out in the fields, woods or park (don't start digging up the flowerbeds in the park though!) This is best bit although Little Miss Sunshine wasn't too keen on holding one.

garden worms

4/ Put some leaves and grass on top of the soil in your wormery bottle (this gives the worms something fresh to eat) and add the worms on top.

5/ Finally wrap the bottle in dark coloured cardboard so that the worms are in the dark (as they are usually underground) and cover with clingfilm with a few airholes put in it as this helps to keep the humidity high and to stop the worms escaping (although this is unlikely as they will probably burrow down.)

Leave the wormery for a week, just sprinkle daily with a couple of spoonfuls of water - to keep it damp. Our soil was very wet to start with so this was less important but will be very important if you start with dry soil. After a week, take the cardboard off and admire the tunnels made by the worms. Our big reveal will be at the weekend so you'll have to come back them to see if it worked or not!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

National Gardening Week and my seed buddy

National Gardening Week - Home

National Gardening Week this year is concentrating on gardening for wildlife, something which I believe is very important, especially for our poor bees which are having a hard time of it what with the varroa mite and now neonicotinoid pesticides. Without bees and other pollinating insects, not only will we have no honey but our food security could be under threat - something I wrote about in more detail last year.

With this in mind I am looking at what I might plant in one of our flower beds this year. We had to dig up most of the plants in it as although the bees did love them they were far too big for our little garden and the bed has needed a refresh for a couple of years - I am thinking of some Verbena bonariensis with some lavender maybe (although we've never had much luck with lavender before!) However I am holding off on the seed buying as my latest blogging buddies over at Social Fabric (see the badge in the sidebar on the right) are doing a fun get to know people seed exchange and I have a seed buddy which I am rather excited about. I have been sent their details and what plants/colours they might be interested in. I have been out to buy them some seeds and I will be sending them along with some silly facts about me and hopefully in return I will get a surprise package of seeds

This is what I got my seed buddy - they said they liked the colour blue so I majored in on that with some bee friendly lavender, sweet peas which smell gorgeous and every garden should have and some purple sprouting broccoli as a blueish vegetable! I also put in basil for the windowsill in case they run out of room in the garden, sunflowers as every child should grow a sunflower and some dwarf french beans as they are a great veg crop (and bees like bean flowers!) I hope they like them and I can't wait to see what I will get from them!


Of course it's not all about bees, gardening for wildlife also includes the birds, hedgehogs, ladybirds and all sorts of other insects, including the gardeners friend the worm and on that note I will be posting about how to make a wormery later in the week. Here's my favourite bee photo to finish:

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

National Trust Free Weekend - this weekend!

Last year I wrote about our trip to Uppark House and Gardens on the National Trust free weekend and they're doing it again this weekend - the 20th and 21st April. All you have to do is visit the National Trust website, download the voucher and you can get a free day out for up to 2 adults and 2 kids. They are opening up over 200 of their properties for this and there's bound to be one near you. The website has full details of which properties are included.

For those of you who remember the National Trust as just a bunch of stuffy old houses it really has changed and lots of the properties provide loads of kid friendly activities including trails to follow, activity packs and toy boxes. And of course most of them have lots and lots of lovely outside space for the kids to run around.

We had a blast last year at Uppark, exploring the gardens, rolling down hills, following the garden trail, seeing the biggest dolls house ever and making echoes in the underground tunnels.

National Trust
Admiring the view at Uppark House
Another great place to visit is Winkworth Arboretum which we visited last autumn to admire the fabulous autumn colour but is great in spring for spotting bluebells and magnolias. We had a picnic on a bench with a fabulous view, ran down hills, climbed trees and admired the ducks on the lake from the rather wonderful boathouse.

National Trust
Collecting leaves by the Boathouse at Winkworth Arboretum
A little bit further afield from us we have also visited Avebury Manor. This is a great place for kids - every room has been refurbished in a different era from the house's history (it featured on a BBC programme 'To the Manor Reborn' a couple of years ago.) The best bit is you can play and touch it all - bounce on the beds, cook in the kitchen, play billiards, discover the secret door, do some sewing, have a go on the exercise chair. and admire the fabulous and colourful rooms. The kids loved it and when you've had enough inside there are wonderful gardens and of course the fascinating stone circle.

National Trust
Trying out the exercise chair at Avebury Manor
The girls have loved every National Trust property we have been to and clamoured to go again so this is a great opportunity to try a visit to the National Trust, try somewhere new or revisist a favourite place- and it's FREE! We will definitely be taking advantage of it again - it's just a question of where, which may depend a bit on the good old British weather. We may be hunting out the deer at Petworth Park, trying out the fabulous looking new playground at the Vyne or checking out the daffodils at Hinton Ampner.

This is not a sponsored or paid for post. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Macro Monday

I've had clearer macro's but it was good to get out in the garden at last and see one of these guys.



Sunday, 14 April 2013

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 15

The second week of the Easter holidays and it started with optimism,sunshine and a weekend spent out in the garden (yes, the shiny yellow thing in the sky actually made an appearance.) 

Little Miss Star's belated birthday treat was the main event. We went to see Louis Pearl the Amazing Bubble Man which was excellent and thoroughly recommended if you have kids about 7 - 11. It has been downhill since then despite my attempts to entertain with cookery and gardening and now a week later the rain is falling in buckets. Time to go back to school I think (although I could do without those blasted pack lunches.)

Possibly my favourite picture this week was Little Miss Star helping out in the garden but I used that for The Gallery's theme of Happy, so here's a couple of others.

PS - please ignore badges and things being in funny places on the blog - trying to streamline it a bit but taking time 'cause of them darn rugrats!

The Spring, Havant
The Amazing Bubble Man - pictures a bit blurry as I couldn't use the flash.
kneading bread
Kneading the bread (which was unfortunately disastrous, I blame the out of date yeast!)
As usual I am linking up with the Boy and Me and all the other lovely 365'ers. Do go and visit some more of them - just click the badge

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Gallery - Happy

The sun was out, spring finally on it's way, it's the Easter hols and we got out into the garden at last - enough to make you  H-A-P-P-Y!

kids gardening
Helping Daddy aerate the lawn involved lots of jumping - more reasons to be HAPPY!

Linking up over at the Gallery - click the badge for tons of HAPPY pictures!


Monday, 8 April 2013

Thoughts on Vaccinations and Measles

I am fully expecting to get slated by some for what I am about to write (unusual for me as I rarely write anything controversial) but here goes...

Watching the news yesterday I was horrified, if not surprised, to see the report on 600 cases of measles in a part of Wales and the consequent queues for the measles vaccine. I get so angry that people do not go and have the MMR jab, or other vaccines, when they are scheduled. Why not go - I cannot understand - the whole autism link was discredited years ago now - partially in 2004 and fully in 2010. By not being vaccinated you are not only putting your own children at risk  but also the whole 'herd' immunity. A 2011 journal article has described the vaccine-autism link as 'the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years'. So why oh why are there STILL people who refuse to have it until the frightening reality of the possibility of measles comes and slaps them in the face.

Measles is a horrible and extremely serious disease - a fact which seems to be overlooked by many. My mother had measles when she was a child and the doctors were concerned she would lose her sight and possibly even die. That is the reality of measles - even now in 2013.

I had my own frightening moment when Little Miss Sunshine was just 1. She had been due to get her first MMR but could not be given it because she had a horrid cold. The cold turned into bronchiolitis which she was given penicillin for. A couple of days later she was covered in a serious, itchy rash. In typical fashion it was a bank holiday weekend so we first went to the pharmacist who frightened the hell out of me by saying it could be measles(and it did look very like a measles rash.) I was incredibly worried because she had not had the MMR (not for want of trying). We got to see a doctor the next day and he advised it was probably an allergic reaction to the penicillin which seemingly it was but it still frightened the hell out of me and as soon as she was better she was carted off for that MMR.

Little Miss Sunshine's rash - actually penicillin allergy but was thought it could have been measles
To be honest the autism link was not enough to put me off anyway. I am a great believer in vaccination as it has saved millions of lives the world over with vaccines for diseases such as smallpox and polio. If you can have a vaccine to stop getting a serious disease why wouldn't you? Having been an inveterate traveller to some of the less salubrious parts of the planet BC (before children) I have had many vaccinations and felt much safer because of it and I have never suffered ill effects. The only reason I might have not had a vaccination for something was purely financial.

If you can prevent people from getting a disease that can kill then why not do it. Imagine if you could vaccinate against malaria - how wonderful would that be - and how many lives could be saved in the developing world. We are incredibly lucky that in the UK we have free access to such things and the NHS to fall back on when we do get ill. We should be campaigning for vaccines not avoiding them.

I am adding this post to the Slow Blogging Carnival over at Tots 100 - at least I think I'm going to - I'll have to think about it - slowly!

Tots100 Slow Blogging

Macro Monday

Not my best macro but it's the Easter holidays and it's been busy - these were bubbles from a special magic bubble mix they got for Easter.

rainbow bubbles
Easter bubbles

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Silent Sunday

Greenwich tunnel

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Year in Pictures - Week 14

It's been all about boats this week - from the Cutty Sark on a cheeky weekend away in Greenwich to HMS Victory on a chilly, snowy, (supposedly) spring day out in Portsmouth. Add a smattering of family, a surfeit of chocolate and a spot of hair styling and that was fearsomely frozen (for April - yes April FFS ) Week Fourteen.

Under the Cutty Sark

hair braids
Hair styling 

HMS Victory by Little Miss Star (with her noo camera!)

Which is more scary - the girls or the cannon?!
Linking up with my superiors over at The Boy and Me - go take a peek:

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