Thursday, 26 April 2012

How to host an Olympic Party

Last Sunday was daughter's eagerly awaited 8th Birthday Olympic Party.

Here's how you do it:

Make Olympic Cupcakes and an Olympic Birthday cake:

(make olympic rings from sugarpaste using concentric circle cutters)

Decorate the room with bunting, balloons and streamers:

Hold an Opening Ceremony:
Get Geography teachers to make signs and flags of your chosen participating countries.  Play "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Chariots of Fire" while the children walk around holding the flags and waving to the crowds.

Get an Art teacher to make a fabulous Olympic Torch which birthday girl uses to light the Olympic flame (projected onto the wall from laptop) which burns during the entire games:

Rope in three PE teachers to help with the Games:

Swimming (across gym mats)
Showjumping (over benches and hurdles using hobby horses):

Gymnastics (over benches and with hula hoops)

Long Jump (from a standing start):

Javelin (using foam torpedos):

Ask daughter for menu for Birthday Tea:

Ham and Jam Sandwiches
"not together, and Mum, white bread"
Cocktail Sausages or Sausage Rolls
"but not both"
Hula Hoops
Peppers, Cucumber and Cherry Tomatoes
Strawberries & Mango
"everyone loves mango"
Mini Chocolate Brownies
"they always go down well at parties"

Hold a Closing Ceremony:
Play "Gold" by Spandau Ballet, "The Best" by Tina Turner and "We are the Champions" by Queen
Give every participant a gold medal, a party bag, the balloon from their chair and a cupcake (no having to cut up and wrap the main cake at the last minute)

Clear up and collapse!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

In which I finally embrace Skype

After obtaining a new laptop (2 and half years ago) with a built in webcam, I promised I would learn how to Skype so that I could talk to friends in France and Australia.

After two and half years of procrastinating, hubby finally set it up, but we still hadn't tried it.

Last week I noticed that my dad was on-line so I gave him a buzz.

After the intial hysteria of seeing each other sitting on our sofas playing on our laptops died down (we're easily amused), my dad said that I looked rather fuzzy.

He was as clear as day.

"You must have a better webcam than me" I said

"Or you've not taken the plastic film off yours" said my dad.

I looked closely at my webcam.

Then I pulled off the plastic film.


Friday, 20 April 2012

What do you buy your 8 year old for their birthday?

Up until recently it's been pretty easy to keep daughter happy with a new bike, a tent, a play kitchen or, like last year, a day out at the Chatsworth Horse Show.

Now, however, she's reaching that technological age.

Some of her classmates already have mobile phones, TVs in their bedrooms and other such items that I consider suitable for teenagers, not 8 year olds.

And it didn't start recently either.

Two years ago I dropped Izzy at a classmate's 6th birthday party and asked the birthday girl what she'd got for her birthday.

"An i-pod touch" was her answer.

I was so shocked I replied "I got one of those for my 40th!"

And don't forget the girl down the road who came round to play aged 4 and pulled her Samsung moblie phone out of her pocket!

Now another of Izzy's friends has got an i-pod touch for her birthday and Izzy wants one. It's not necessarily the cost I object to (although £150 for an 8 year old's present does seem a little excessive), it's the item itself. It's a sophisticated piece of gadgetry which I don't want to leave in the hands of an 8 year old. Not only that, if they start to get these things when they are 7 or 8, what do they get when they are teenagers?

I need to leave myself somewhere to go!

It's Izzy's 8th birthday at the end of this month and I'm afraid she is not getting an i-pod touch, an i-pad, a mobile phone, a Blackberry or her own TV.

She really enjoys taking photos with her very cheap camera that someone bought her a couple of years ago. She has looked after it well, but it takes terrible photos, so I'm prepared to buy her a slighty better one. It also encourages her to come out on walks as she likes to photograph things along the way:

So this is what I'm getting my 8 year old: Technological, but, I think, reasonable.

And yes, of course, it's pink!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Where do you get your energy?

Lots of people have asked me where I get my energy from to do all that I do.

Well, let me let you into a little secret - I don't.

During term time I work, eat, sing and sleep. I do eight hours at work, pick daughter up, make the tea, do some housework and then after daughter has gone to bed, I do some school work and I'm in bed by 9.30pm - 10.00pm in order to cope with the next day. At weekends I catch up with housework, help daughter with homework and sometimes have a concert. I find it hard to fit everything in.

By the end of term I could sleep standing up.

In the holidays I try to recuperate.

This Easter I basically slept the holiday away.

I slept 9 - 10 hours per night and fell asleep on the sofa nearly every afternoon.

I even fell asleep on my parents' sofa last Monday!

I think my energy stores were severely depleted and my body was telling me to stop, so I did.

I have failed as a mother to do any of the things I wanted to do with daughter: we haven't been ice skating or to the cinema, we haven't been shopping to buy her summer clothes, not even new summer dresses for school, we haven't been cycling, walking or swimming or even managed to play in the garden thanks to the April showers.

I have failed dismally with the list of things I wanted to get done on the house this holiday. I haven't done any of the gardening, the house is about a quarter spring cleaned, I haven't cleaned the windows (they are still filthy from the work we had done outside last November!) and it was only yesterday that I managed to summon the energy to clean the inside of my car (hubby had cleaned the outside for me while I was asleep on the sofa!).

I did do my "Come Dine with Me" evening; I chose to do mine in the holidays so that I had time to prepare and to enjoy it.

So there you have it, my Easter holiday was spent mostly sleeping and tomorrow I'm back onto the treadmill for another six weeks.

Roll on half term!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Come Dine with Me on Broadway!

Last night I did my night of "Come Dine with Me" with friends.

I had a little wobble last week when I went to the butchers to order the venison only to be told "It's the end of the season, you won't get any till September". I had visions of going to Dunham Massey Park with a shot gun and getting my own. Luckily, Tesco came to the rescue.

I decided on a theme of Broadway since we are all singers (except hubby) and most of us have been in musicals (hubby has been stage manager for a few, though so he knows a few).

I spent a couple of hours on i-tunes on Friday night choosing various songs from shows for a playlist which formed the background music to our meal.

Who knew the musical I liked the most songs from was "The Boyfriend"?

I spent three days preparing food and cooking up a feast then the big night arrived.

On arrival we had Overture and Beginners
Champagne Cocktails (brandy, champagne and a sugar lump infused with Angostura bitters)
Cheese Sables

Act I
Mushroom and Quails' Egg Tartlets with a rocket salad garnish
Accompanied by homemade bread rolls

Act II
Venison in a Port and Blackberry Glaze
Potato and Parsnip Rosti
Asparagus, Sweetheart Cabbage

and for the vegetarian:
Spicy Butternut Squash on a bed of
Puy Lentils with Quinoa

White Chocolate and Berry Cheescakes
with Berry Coulis and Chantilly Cream

Maple and Pecan Shortbread
Viennese Biscuits

All was accompanied by good conversation, plenty of laughs and far too much wine!

Then, the entertainment.................

..................Dance Broadway on the Wii!!

Possibly not the best idea to jump around the lounge to "You Can't Stop the Beat" from Hairspray after five courses, but it was great fun.

After that, the whiteboards came out for the scoring and I got a respectable................


Not bad considering one guest found a hair in her potato rosti.


Saturday, 14 April 2012

RSVP or just damn well R!

Yes, it's my annual rant.

I sent out invitations to daughter's birthday party a week before they broke up for the Easter holiday so that eveyone received them in good time.

We invited 20 children.

The party is next weekend.

I asked for replies by 13 April (yesterday) so that I could get organised.

I gave a mobile number and an e-mail address for replies.

Within three days of the invitations going out the usual six prompt parents had replied.

A week later at total of eight had replied.

On Tuesday, I sent out an e-mail to all the parents of the invited children, attached directions to the party venue and wrote a gentle reminder to let me know if their child can attend (just in case their child still had the invitation secreted about their blazer and hadn't handed it over, it happens)

As of yesterday a total of twelve had replied.

How many picnic boxes and party bags should I make?

The twelve I know about, sixteen just in case or all twenty?

What equipment should we get for the games, how many children, how many teams?

I don't care what the excuses, it's just bad manners not to reply to an invitation.

So to those remaining eight parents I say:

Do you remember how I replied promptly to your child's party invitation? Wasn't it helpful? Why can't you do the same?

If there is genuinely a problem and you can't let me know yet, then let me know that rather than let me think that you are just ignoring the invitation!

When I phone you this week to find out if your child is attending, please don't try using the excuse "we've been away for the Easter holiday"; that's why I sent the invitations out a week before the kids broke up!!

I feel better now.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Start your own Family Tradition

Last year I instigated a new family tradition.

I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I know what I mean.

When I was young we did it every Sunday and I have very fond memories of it.

What is it?

It's Afternoon Tea!

I have memories of sandwiches, jelly and mum's homemade cakes (her butterfly cakes were legendary) whilst watching "The Phoenix and the Carpet" or some other BBC children's drama on Sunday teatime.

So last year I decided I wanted Izzy to have the same memories and every Sunday, well, every Sunday we're all at home, we have Sunday Dinner in the dining room where we talk about our week and then later we have our own Afternoon Tea in the lounge.

We have sandwiches, cheese scones, crumpets or something similar, followed by jelly and homemade cakes or biscuits. All beautifully presented on cake stands and sandwich trays and eaten off vintage pressed glass plates.

Unfortunately the BBC haven't obliged with a Sunday afternoon drama so we've turned to Lovefilm and for our entertainment and whilst eating our tea we have worked our way through "Worzel Gummidge" and "Wind in the Willows" and we are now working our way through the first series of "Merlin".

This week it was Easter Sunday so we had leftover cheese and biscuits from Good Friday, Simnel Muffins, Raspberry Buns and Blackcurrant Jelly:

What are your family traditions?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Ideas above my station?

I thought that I lived in a nice little middle class bit of suburbia. You know, lots of three bed semis and four bed detached with nice gardens. Neighbours who say hello, take your parcels in for you when you're at work, look after your house when you are on holiday, that sort of thing.

Well, today all that was shattered.

I came home from the garden centre (see? how middle class is that?) and saw a TV company trailer and some scaffolding on the green outside my house. The lovely green with the brook running through it where children play and neighbours walk their dogs.

Being the curious type, I walked over the bridge to see what was going on.

They were only filming an episode of "Shameless"!!!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Olympic Party

Update:  I've noticed I've been getting lots of hits for this post.  I assume that people are looking for ideas for holding an Olympic Party so I thought I'd direct people to the post where I describe the party we held.  If you want some ideas click here.

I've been spending a bit of time this Easter getting ready for daughter's 8th, yes, 8th!, birthday party. For a few years she's been mithering for an Olympic party based on the olympic events hubby sets up for her to do in our garden.

We decided that 2012 would be a good year to do it.

I still can't face the idea of marauding children in my newly renovated and decorated house so, having investigated various options, we have a booked a hall next to field where we can hold the games if the weather is fine, but the hall is big enough to have indoor games if the weather's bad.

Hubby is in charge of games.

I'm in charge of decoration and food.

Now, you'd think, in 2012 it would be quite easy to find Olympic themed party stuff, but no. Maybe the olympic rings are copyrighted or something, but the best I can do is a load of Union Jack stuff for team GB. (Thank goodness for the Diamond Jubilee and Party Pieces)

I've ordered Union Jack tablecloths, bunting, napkins, picnic boxes, cups, plates, ice cream tubs, balloons (with helium), streamers, cake cases, flags and a cardboard Union Jack cake stand.

She's having a tower of GB cupcakes like I made for the Royal Wedding last year:

After all that, plus the food and the party bags, it would have been cheaper to take the kids to the Olympics itself!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Saturday Night Adventures in Manchester

Since January I think I have seen more of the members of the Manchester Chorale, than I have of my own family! We've had so many rehearsals and concerts I think I should just move in with the musical director!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we had a concert in deepest Lancashire and one member of the sopranos, a Phd student who lives in City Centre Manchester, asked if I could give her lift as she doesn't drive and there was no way to get there by public transport.

In the spirit of my New Year's Resolution I agreed, but I asked her to catch the tram up to where I live as I don't like driving in the centre of Manchester.

All was agreed.

On the day of the concert I picked her up at 3pm by the tram station and off we went.

We did a great concert with a very appreciative audience, packe up our stuff and headed back to Manchester.

At about 11pm, driving along the M66, I realised that we would only be getting back at about 11.30pm so I asked my passenger if she'd checked the time of the last tram into the city.

She hadn't.

Well, I couldn't drop her at a tram station not knowing if there was a tram to take her back into the city, so I said I would drive her home to Picadilly.

I turned off the motorway onto a road I've never driven before in my life, which luckily took me straight to Picadilly where she very gratefully alighted and went home to her flat.

I then had to figure out how to get home!

Now, I don't like driving in the city at the best of times, but 11.30pm on a Saturday night is not one of them. Taxis are most unforgiving, beeping at me while I'm working out which lane I need to be in, and the added obstacle of avoiding the drunken revellers who walk in front of your car is just not fun.

I eventually managed to find my way to Deansgate and then I was on my way home.

"I bet hubby is worried about me" I thought, "Maybe I should stop and text him, but my phone is in my bag in the boot. I'll go straight home. He'll just have to worry."

I eventually got home, opened the front door

and heard .............................

............... the sound of snoring.

Not worried at all then!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Spring Cupcakes

A while ago our Head of Food Technology asked me if I would do a cupcake decorating demonstration again for our hardworking year 11 Food Tech pupils.

As if I hadn't go enough on my plate (excuse the pun) I agreed to do some Spring/Easter cupcakes with them.

So I spent a Sunday baking cakes for them to decorate, made a few as demonstration cakes, wrote an information sheets for them and hauled my equipment into school.

Here are my cakes:

And after 30mins tuition from me here are theirs:

Not bad, eh?

Monday, 2 April 2012

Sport Relief Bake Sale

In amongst all the hustle and bustle of the term daughter and I decided to take on another challenge!

Having watched the Great Sport Relief Bake Off a while back, daughter announced that she wanted to do a bake sale of her own. I decided to join her and we arranged to make cakes for a sale in her school staff room and mine. We chose little lemon drizzle cakes, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, earl grey cupcakes with earl grey buttercream and chocolate rocky road brownie cakes.

We made our lists:

(note how hers contains more about putting food in her mouth than actually making cakes)

We mixed and baked:

We rolled, cut and glued:

We whisked, melted and decorated:

and voila:

(junior school)

(senior school)

100 cakes for a big bake sale!

(We raised just short of £95 for Sport Relief so I think it was worth the effort)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bridgewater and Blue Peter

Finally made it to the Easter Hols after a truly manic term. So much to catch up on, but hopefully I'll get round to blogging about recent events in the next few days.

Firstly, I'll start with yesterday.

As parent in charge of daughter's cultural education I had booked tickets to take her to the Bridgewater Hall for a concert for the Olympics by the wonderful BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

She didn't want to go.

After a very busy term she just wanted to stay in her room and play with her horses and who can blame her? I felt a bit the same myself.

Anyway, after much pursuasion and bribery (I agreed to buy her some flip flops which she'd been mithering for for ages) she came into Manchester with me.

When we got to the Bridgewater Hall everything changed.

It turned out that the concert was being recorded for Blue Peter and the presenter of the concert was none other than Izzy's favourite CBBC and Blue Peter presenter, Barney Harwood!

She was beside herself with excitement!

The concert was fantastic and just perfect for children; an hour and a quarter with no interval and a great mix of music including Also Sprach Zarathustra (or "2001 A Space Odyssey" as I had to describe it to hubby), Chariots of Fire, various sporting TV themes (Grandstand took me back!) and even Titanium by David Guetta.

After the concert we were waiting by the craft tables when I spotted Barney himself who'd come out to meet the audience. I passed Izzy our programme and said to her:

"There's Barney, go and ask him to sign your programme"

"Can I?" she asked, wide eyed with excitement.

"Course you can"

Barney was really lovely with the children and had a little chat with them before signing autographs. He even wrote "So nice to meet you!" on her programme.

As we left the hall Izzy said to me

"Did I dream that, or did I just meet Barney Harwood?"

A good outcome I think!