Friday, June 01, 2012

Jubilating with the Jubilee

It's a very festive time around Cookham right now. With the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, there's loads going on. We went a couple of weeks ago to the Long Walk to watch the Armed Forces Parade and Muster and Flyover for the anniversary. We were too far away to properly enjoy the parade, but the flyover was really impressive. Here's a little video I took of it:

On Monday, the Cookham High Street will be closed for a street party. It's looking really good with loads of bunting and flags on all the buildings and shops. We certainly plan to head down to enjoy the celebrations. As I was out today, I noticed that the houses on my street are getting into the act too, with several lines of bunting out. 

At first I felt a bit funny about taking part in all the Jubilee celebrations, as I'm not British and it's all about the Union Jack flying right now. But then I thought, well, as a C'lonial (see what I did there?) she's technically my queen too. She's certainly on all the Canadian money and stamps and etc. And although I don't think I'd be very happy if she started sticking her crown into the day-to-day business of Canada, I don't really have a problem with her being a ceremonial figurehead. Plus it gave me an nice excuse to try a new craft project, which was decorating using bleach and my homemade stencil:

So expect the Colonials to be wearing home made shirts, baking cakes (my birthday is the same date but not year as the coronation) and flying a few Commonwealth flags this Jubilee weekend. Enjoy your four day weekend, be you monarchist or republican!

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to be a Polite Pinner - Dos and Don'ts for Pinterest

This post is a bit different to my normal "Life in the UK" type posts. This is a more general one for everyone on the Internet. At least, everyone on Pinterest. 

If you haven't heard of Pinterest, you probably will soon. It's a cool website that works as a way of visually bookmarking websites. I tend to use it for craft projects, things to do with my kids, recipes I might like to try and ideas for furnishing and organising my home. There are some other things I use it for as well, but those are the main ones for me. You can pin whatever you like, but there are some dos and don'ts that if you follow, will make everyone's experience on Pinterest better. 

So let me present to you my list of dos and don'ts.

Don'ts for Pinterest:

1. Don't pin huge long pictures. Or a series of pictures. If there's a strip with 28 photos in a column showing me something, I'm not going to pin it simply on principle. It takes up too much screen space when I'm looking through my pins and I'm bored of it by the third picture. Pin one photo and then let me click through to the rest.

2. Don't pin the first page of a website if you meant to pin a specific post. If someone has a great recipe for kumquat jam, pin the specific post, not the home page! Even if you see the recipe on the home page. Because as time goes by, the kumquat jam will move off of the home page and then I'll have to go scrolling and searching to see where the recipe came from. I might give up before I find it. If I do find it, I'll pin it properly and not repin from you and you won't get that little jolt of happiness that someone thought your pin was cool enough to repin. Because it wasn't; it was a pain in the butt to find that recipe.

3. Don't pin something from Google Images. Click through and pin from the website where the image is. Give people some credit for their work by at least linking to their website. Having said this, don't pin from Tumblr either. I'm willing to be corrected on this, but I've never seen a Tumblr pin that linked to the original source of the image. 

Now I'll stop nagging and give you some dos.

Dos for Pinterest:

1. Do pin the original source. Meaning if someone had a link party and has a link and a picture of the cool monkey mountain mobile you can make with twigs, click through their link and get to the original source. When I want to make my own monkey mountain mobile, I want to see the directions straight away, I don't want to have to wade through someone else raving about the mobile to find the link to how to make it. Nor is it very nice for the original monkey mountain mobile maker to not get the direct traffic. Give credit where credit is due. 

2. Do pin whatever you like. Within reason. Pinterest's own terms of service tell you specifically what's allowed and not allowed, but in general, nothing pornographic and nothing hateful. But if you have a huge collection of seagull websites and links you want us to know about, go for it. 

3. Do describe your pin. This helps people who are searching for certain pins. If you only put "." as your description of that fantastic argyle snood, nobody looking for snoods will find it. You might think the picture speaks for itself and is worth a thousand words, but a quick description will get more repins. 

4. Do try and check the pins you are repinning. Click through and check if it's original source. If it isn't, do a new pin from the source.

5. Do feel free to pin this post and share it with others. Also feel free to add your comments if you think I'm wrong or missed anything. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hear me, see me

This post is about Mitchell. Mitch is nearly two and a half at the moment and he's great fun to be around most of the time. He's very talkative, but one issue we have with him is how difficult it is to understand him sometimes. Of course, most children are somewhat unclear when learning to talk, but I had the feeling this was something a little more than average difficulties, so I took him to the drop-in speech therapy that we have at St. Marks Hospital in Maidenhead. 

(In case you are wondering, the drop-in speech therapy is every Tuesday, 9am-12pm. It is a first-come, first-served basis for being seen. Which means you really have to be there before nine (the doors open at 8:45) to have a chance to see someone. We arrived last week at 8:50 and were the fourth in line. It's a great service for people in our area that's for any child from birth up to the end of reception. I would encourage people to use it if they think their child might benefit from it.)

I had been before in the spring, when I thought he was a bit behind where he should be in word acquisition. They reassured me and he did pick up quite a bit within about 6 weeks. But then at the end of December I decided to take him for the unclear speech. He makes a lot of "g" and "k" noises for the starting consonant sound in words and I just had the feeling this should be seen by someone. So you know what I'm on about, here's a video of him singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 

I wouldn't expect everything to be clear at his age, but I did think he should be clearer. The therapist gave me a name for this kind of speech disorder is called "Backing". She asked if he could make the proper sounds individually rather than in a word. Mitchell can do this, and can also say some words correctly. For example, he'll say "Daddy" but he will then say "Guck" for duck. She said we should just leave it for 6 months until he's three and see how it goes, and if it would correct himself. I wasn't that happy with that answer, but I left. 

Once at home and armed with a name of "backing disorder", I of course became an armchair expert on the topic from what I could find on the internet. And everything I read said that it wasn't a normal part of speech development and it required intervention to correct; it did not correct without speech therapy. 

This of course, left me a little perturbed and wondering what to do. But after a few weeks of thinking about it and really listening to how Mitchell spoke, plus trying the exercises that were suggested by the therapist, I decided to take him back to the drop-in. They did say I was welcome back if I had concerns. When we went this week, they noted it had only been a couple of weeks since I had been been there before with him. I explained that I felt that the advice they had given was things I was mainly already doing and that I'm normally pretty laid-back as a mother but that I really was concerned about this; I didn't feel it was something that could be just left to see if it got better. I also explained that everything I had read said that backing would need intervention to improve. Even if their therapy program would only take children from the age of three, I know there's a 6 month waiting list for that, so I would rather get on the list now than wait 6 months until he's three and then another 6 months for an appointment.

It was a different therapist and she talked with Mitchell, got him to try a few things like making a "t" sound and blowing bubbles. She agreed to put him on a waiting list for a speech therapy play group they do, which will run probably around Easter. She also agreed to set-up a hearing test for him, just to help eliminate the possibility of something like glue ear being a cause of this (I told you I've become an expert). 

So for now, it's a bit of a waiting game again, but at least I feel the wheels are in motion to do something. I'm glad I was a bit of a squeaky wheel and went in again. I certainly won't be afraid to go again if I think things aren't progressing, either in terms of his speech or support for him, but hopefully things will be resolved soon. 

Not the most bubbly or exciting of posts, but that's the news from here for now. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

New "Toy"

This arrived for me today: 

There is slight debate in the household as to whether this is a "toy" in the sense it's just a pleasure item. I have been told it's a hobby. I point out it saves us money; that it's an investment. Time will tell. But in the meantime, isn't it shiny and fabulous??

I don't even know what most of these stitches are for yet, but it looks impressive. I also love how they name sewing machines, in a manner similar to stereo equipment. It's very easy to look clever/geeky/obnoxious by rolling off a sentence like, "I was considering the DC3050, but after talking to several people, they suggested checking out the SMD3000, the 301 and  the 5124 as well." 

It also came with these as a bonus gift: 

That's 50km length of thread you are looking at. I could sew from my house to the 2012 Olympic Stadium with that. I could sew my way to the Olympics! More realistically, I could probably sew several cool things that I've pinned on Pinterest. 

Worryingly, it also came with these as a gift:
This may not look like a problem but it is. Mitchell is currently OBSESSED with cutting. When he saw the pack of scissors, his eyes lit up and he said "My scissors!" He was quickly corrected, but still, we'll have to watch him. Because this is what it normally looks like when he gets scissors:

But worse, it occasionally looks like this: 
Which yes, is about the fifth thing I ever sewed, (sob); a little bag to match a dress I made for Lena. Lena made sure he knew that cutting things rather than approved paper is not acceptable (with lots of tears and screaming at him) but he's only 2, sometimes the seductive power of cutting things gets the better of him. Watch this space for creativity and destruction to come. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Visiting the Neighbourhood Castle

We have been extremely sedentary during the Christmas school break. Partly because I think Lena needed to recharge her batteries with some time off, partly because there was a 5th birthday and a Christmas to organise and partly because I am lazy. So today I decided was the day we would DO SOMETHING. Lena was keen on going swimming, but I'm not so fond of taking the two swimming on my own. I decided to do something fairly spectacular, but cheap. And that was visit Windsor Castle.

As residents of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, we can use our Advantage Cards to visit Windsor Castle for free. We also get a discount at the local pools, car parks and some shops, but I think free entry to the castle is definitely the best thing. If you have to pay, you can get your ticket stamped and come back any time within the next year for free too, but obviously for lots of visitors, that's not really an option. For us however, I think it's pretty cool.

We've been a few times to Windsor Castle, but this was the first visit where both kids were old enough to get something out of it. I'm not even sure Mitchell had been before; certainly not since he was one, a year and a half ago.

First bit they liked was the Jubilee garden, made nearly 10 years ago for Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee.

Mitchell was also fairly excited by the fact that planes looked quite big here:

Windsor is only 8 miles from Heathrow Airport. In fact, planes landing or taking off take a slight detour as to not fly directly overhead of the castle. Queen Elizabeth must know the right people to pull that one off.

Inside, the moat was admired, along with the now-decorative cannons. Then we spent a good 15-20 minutes looking over each notch in the castellated parapet. Because the view changes from each one, don't you know?

Only 20 more to go!!
We then headed inside to see what there was to see. We skilfully, if unintentionally skipped the line to see Queen Mary's Dolls' House. There was a large line-up to see the dolls' house, which I really doubted the kids had patience for. So I said we would come back another time and instead headed directly for the State Rooms, which didn't have a line. We went inside and I went to check our stroller (you can't check jackets, just bulky things like strollers). As I came up the steps, the attendant told me to come back to him after checking the stroller. When we did, he lifted up a couple of ropes and we were in to see the house! The kids liked it, and enjoyed finding all the little different items in each room. However, they wouldn't have enjoyed it more for having waited 20 minutes in line, so I'm quite pleased we managed to avoid that.

Inside the State Rooms, the suits of armour, the tapestries and the big rooms (that would be great for playing tag) were all admired, but it was the Christmas trees that were the big hit. The one hanging from the ceiling was very cool, but the best was the biggest one inside St. George's Hall. In fact, we enjoyed it so much, we went and bought an ornament from the shop that was the same as the ones hanging from the tree. Everyone should have a crown on their Christmas tree!

We finished off our visit with a little fine dining in the Medieval Undercroft. Windsor Castle just started a cafe in October as a trial measure. I think it's likely to become a permanent fixture, so if you go for a visit, you can say as we now can:

I've dined at Windsor Castle!!

Almost a New Year - Time for Resolutions

I explained before why I wasn't updating this blog much. Things just aren't that new and different here to me anymore. So instead, I've decided to try and just do more day to day blogging on this blog, of the regular course of our lives. Many people have commented that they do enjoy my blog and that makes me happy and also motivates me to keep writing, so I will.

So rather than waiting until January 1st, 2011, to put this into practice, I shall start right now. In fact, you probably will have read that post before this one.

P.S. the only real resolution I make is the same every January and that's to be more AWESOME than I was last year. It's tough, but I enjoy the challenge.