You’re Invited to the Action Aid Summer Blog Party

Action Aid’s next blogging event is on 15th August 2012 and you’re invited!

The day will be packed with creative activities for you and your children. Join us and learn about the work we do helping children around the world.

When: Wednesday 15th August 2012

Where: Body and Soul, St Ive’s House, 99 Roseberry Avenue, London, EC1 4RE

Time: 1pm-4pm

What do you mean I have to go upstairs in the swanky attic for the grown up chat and cake? I wanna play in the tent!

Action Aid  do amazing work with children around the world. They are also a lovely charity to work with. When I went to visit them in London earlier this year I felt very at home.  It wasn’t just the tea and cake, or the other lovely bloggers I cemented friendships with over the tea and cake.

It wasn’t just eating cake with celebrities, although comedian Mark Watson is a very funny bloke and spoke brilliantly about working with Action Aid. I am equally looking forward to meeting Jimi Mistry of East is East and Strictly fame and Alex Graham CEO of the production company behind The Voice this time, who will both be talking about visiting Action Aid’s work.

Listening to everyday supporters talk about what Action Aid do, and how involved with the communities they support Action Aid allows them to get, sealed the deal for me.  As did the fab staff who made us feel at home and wanted to find ways to work together. I also haven’t forgotten feeling like as a room full of bloggers we could make a difference.

This time Hello its Gemma and I have been asked to run a charity blogging session. Rather than pretending we have the answers, what we want to run is a big blogger brainstorm. What do you want to gain from working with a charity? What are you interested in finding out more about? What would help you blog about Action Aid? How can we all work together to blog about Action Aid effectively? Don’t worry if you can’t answer all those questions either, that’s fine too, neither can we on our own.

Gemma and me

Plus Action Aid’s very talented Digital Producer Louise will be offering top tips on how to make the most out of blogging and social media.

So do come and join us at the Action Aid Summer Blog Party and find out more/have your say/listen and eat cake/help us find the ways to spread the word. Find out more on Action Aid’s blog and sign up here before all the places go!

Sidekick needed – Lovely Blogger Opportunity

When British Gas emailed, asking me to help bring control and efficiency to the lives of busy British mums, I spluttered tea over the pile of bills, children’s drawings, scraps of paper and curled up post it notes that cover my desk.  They must be mistaken, I thought. But no, they’ve recruited me regardless*, but fortunately they want me to find a sidekick

Yes, I need to find one blogger mum to help me demonstrate online efficiency, and the reward… is an iPad.  

Bloggers spend lots of time managing their blogs online, but how do we fare when it comes to using online technologies to manage our everyday lives? C’mon own up? I occasionally set my phone to remind me to do something, if it’s really important, but behind the scenes at the Alexander Residence, well,  it ain’t so tech savvy. I know we could be saving time and hassle by carrying out more daily tasks online. British Gas have helpfully launched an app to help their customers manage their bills online.

Rather than just picking someone, I thought it would be good to share this opportunity with my readers, and to let an independent adjudicator (a family member, who has no idea who my blog readers are) decide upon one lucky participant. You can nominate yourself or another blogger, but be quick, you have until lunchtime Wednesday 25th July 2012.

I’ll need the successful applicant to experiment with saving time, money and hassle by carrying out easy tasks online over the course of just under a week in early August. You could choose to look at internet shopping, booking appointments and/or social networking, just to give a few examples.

You need to be

• A busy mum, juggling family, home/work life and who is not always able to stay in control of it all
• Comfortable with using the internet but not currently making the most of online tools such as banking, supermarket deliveries and energy management

• Open to taking part in the challenge and making these small but effective changes

You would need to track your journey for five days in diary format and feed back to me on your experience, the difference it made to your life and if you will carry on managing each particular task online.

The chosen participant will be rewarded with an iPad to help them kick‐start their new life online.

To apply or to nominate another blogger please comment on this post, describe the lack of control and efficiency in your household and explain what online tasks you would like to master.  Here, for example is what I thought up if it was me:

My husband works away in the week so I have to do everything at home Monday to Friday, except I hate it, so I don’t.  So we are always running out of things, I always leave it too late to sort things online, I spend ages phaffing on social networks and I never know how much money we’ve got in our account.

I would like to set up our weekly food shop properly online so we don’t run out of food every week.

I’ve still got some bills I need to set up online. And make a spreadsheet to keep track of my monthly spending.

I’d like to have a social media plan so I don’t switch my PC on to work, and get sucked into Twitter, dragged onto facebook and spat out the other side of Instagram an hour later….

You must also be:

  • subscribed to the Alexander Residence by email and
Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

Terms and conditions (boring I know)

  • The closing date is Midday Wednesday 25th July 2012.
  • The applicant must be known to me from within the parent blogging community.
  • The participant will be chosen by an independent adjudicator.
  • The iPad will be supplied by British Gas.
  • The iPad is not transferable and there is no cash alternative.
  • Chosen participant will be notified by email and will need to start work next week.
  • I have tried hard to make this a fair opportunity by sharing it, please respect the decision of the independent adjudicator 🙂
*Disclosure

The contents of my new home

How do you feel about your stuff?  Your possessions? Since I had kids ‘stuff’ has done nothing but haunt me, trip me up, clutter my thinking and slow down my ability to find other things I really need. Surrounded by small people who often don’t see the monetary value in things, I think I’ve lost touch, to some extent, with the value of ‘stuff’.

For the last 5 months I’ve been particularly ambivalent about the contents of my home. When you’re trying to sell your house possessions are incovenient.  You’re constantly tidying them, trying to make them invisible.  Prospective buyers don’t want to see your stuff, they’re too busy thinking about redecorating, ripping out the kitchen and knocking down walls.

The thought of packing all of that stuff of ours into boxes to move also made my head spin. How did we get from our little London flat to a full to bursting house so fast?

I’ve tried to lose stuff at car boots, nearly new sales, charity shops, eBay.  It never makes a dent in the sea of things kids accumulate.  At one point we decided on a different approach, we’d rent out the house, put all our stuff in storage and go and live in the caravan for the Summer. We’d get back to basics and work out what stuff we really needed once we found a new home. I secretly hoped the storage people would lose the key.

And then things changed, well since last week the move is off.  I won’t bore you with the details, please make some exciting ones up (MI5 felt I was better deployed uncovering spies in Nottingham…Robin Hood invited us to join his merry band… we couldn’t bear to move out of Nottingham castle). For the time being we’re staying put.

So now our possessions seem quite different.  They feel like ours again. Stuff that reminds me of who we are, what we’ve done, where we’ve been and what we love. So what if it’s strewn across the floor and in the wrong place, that’s what happens with stuff.  Our house feels different too, instead of feeling embarrassed by its scuffs, crayon marks, battered kitchen doors and worn and squeaky floorboards, I love its imperfections.

I’m seeing the contents of Nottingham with new eyes again too. We’ve been into this fair city more times in the last week than we had in the last month, and there was a buzz I’d forgotten.  We’ve climbed up the highest hill, which is still an ant hill compared to the hills where we were going to move closer to, but at long last I have conceded Nottingham does have hills after all. I’ve realised how many amazing people I’ve met here.

So we’ll stay a while longer, sort out some of the unfinished business around the house, take stock of all our lovely stuff, and no doubt gather some more stuff.

Safer streets, free range kids, #savethearctic

Would you like to make your streets safer, use the car less, make the cars on your street slow down, make your school run less risky, get your kids playing outdoors more or save the planet? I just wanted to flag up three easy to join campaigns, and great competition, for families.

I heard about them when we stumbled upon Cycle Live, a great free event in Nottingham where visitors could learn more about cycling, local cycle routes, campaigns to make streets safer and environmental issues.

Miss L cycle powered the cycle cinema, made a cycling badge and met the Greenpeace polar bear.  Our car had a flat tyre last week, and as a result I ended up cycling lots more, with the kids in the trailer, so I was fired up to leave a post it note on the giant map of Nottingham suggesting some improvements to the local cycle routes.

Greenpeace (you can see L with their Polar bear above) want to #SavetheArtic and declare this threatened area a global sanctuary.The ice at the top of the world is melting, but oil companies and politicans seem to see this as an excuse to plunder its resources further.  Greenpeace want the UN to protect the Artic from oil companies and unsustainable fishing practices. They are going to place the names of the first million people to sign up for their arctic scroll in an indestructible pod and take it to the North Pole. How amazing is that? They will lower the pod through 4km of freexing water and and plant your name on the seabed on the bottom of the ocean, at the top of the world.

To be on the scroll, text ARCTIC and your name to 60002.  Or sign up at Savetheartic.org

Sustrans, the charity who help people make smarter travel choices possible have a Free Range Kids campaign which sounds great, and has a brilliant competition for kids age 7-11 to enter with some awesome prizes.

The campaign calls for measures to be taken to allow kids to play outside and move around their local area more safely, freely and independently. Specifically, we’re asking for the law to be changed to make 20 miles per hour the maximum speed limits in residential areas across the UK and for further investment in walking and cycling routes, particularly to school.

They have some fab worksheets to encourage kids to go free range over the summer holidays ranging from beach activities to mini bug hunts.You can sign the pledge on their website, spread the word locally, and join this great competition with AMAZING prizes.

‘Be a Two-Zero Hero’ invites children between the ages of 7-11 years to design a postcard saying what 20mph speed limits in their local area would mean to them.

After the competition closes on 31 October, Sustrans will be sending copies of the entries to their local MP’s (or AM’s, MLA’s and MSP’s) and the local transport planner to let them know what children in their area think.

As well as having their voices heard, there is the chance to win a short family break from glamping specialists Sawday’s Canopy and Stars, a children’s bike from Islabikes or a BMX stunt display for their school. More information, including entry forms can be found at www.sustrans.org.uk/twozerohero.

I also chatted to Living Streets, the pedestrian charity who with their supporters, work to create safer, attractive and more enjoyable streets. We talked through some of my concerns about our school run route. If you need help campaigning to change something about your streets, they can help you take action. They were also giving out free pedometers to help people keep track of how much walking they do, you can log your miles on their site and calculate what your walking adds up to in ice creams, or mince pies come Christmas!

 

Monthly Memory Book Prompts for 2012

Right, I’ve got Memory book really organised, do you fancy joining me in going back in time a bit and catching some memories for your kids? Miss L is nearly 6 and she is always asking me what I did when I was little.

I’ve loved reading the memories of her childhood that my mum wrote down for me, so I started to make a Memory Book for my own children, capturing my own childhood, and the characters in it. I hope to get some of my relatives involved in guest posting, and taking the memories further back.

I read this Memory Book post about my Granddad, my cousin and our love of gardening at Britmums.

On the penultimate Thursday of the month, starting from June 2012 I will put up a reminder about the month’s Memory Book theme. The last Thursday of the month will be the Memory Book linky. You could post a single photo, write about your memories, interview a relative, get a relative to guest post, write it as a letter to your child, include a bit of a diary entry, write a list, make some bullet points, whatever you like. When we’ve collected a few, if you want to join me, we can self publish them into a Memory Book.

Next Thursday the theme is Holidays.  Which holidays meant the most to you as a child? Was there a disastrous holiday? What funny/special/random moments stick in your mind. Or, if you want to go further back…where did your children’s grandparents holiday when they were little?

Memory Book Themes 2012

Thursday 26th July Holidays

Thursday 30th August Schooldays

Thursday September 27th Siblings/Childhood friends

Thursday October 25th Food

Thursday November 29th Hobbies

Thursday December 27th Christmas Past

Want to see some Memory Book examples or Little Legacy examples?

The Prince and the Pea – Castle Tales 2

Where would your dream place to live be? Sometimes I imagine I live in a castle, and I write about things that happen as if we lived in that castle, and it reads a lot better than me just telling you what happened in our semi in the suburbs, all right, so sometimes I embellish a bit. This post is ‘supported’ by a brand, but is my own creative writing.

The castle doorbell rang.  ‘Ding dong ding dong, ding dong ding dong’ echoed the mock Big Ben chimes through the quiet corridors. The King paused from his work, sighed, and cursed the butler for failing to answer it. He trampled through a sea of discarded toys to the door.

There stood a bedraggled Prince and the Queen, steam escaping in small clouds from her ears.

‘It’s one of THOSE days,’ hissed the Queen through gritted teeth, over the sound of the wailing Prince.

‘There, there dear,’ mumbled the King, looking back longingly down the corridor at his office door.

The Prince threw off his wet waterproof and flung his trainers across the hall.

‘Please?’ said the Queen.

‘Please?’ said the King, but the Prince wasn’t listening.

He snuck past the King and Queen. He ran to the fridge, yanked it open and executed a daring raid on its contents.

‘Enough!’ said the Queen.

‘Enough!’ said the King.

But the Prince wasn’t listening.

He ransacked the paints and squeezed the entire bottle of paint over one piece of paper.

‘Bed!’ said the Queen.

‘Bed!’ said the King.

‘Aghh!’ screamed the Prince, for no-one in the whole Kingdom understood what it was like to be a frustrated 3-year-old artist.

And so the Prince rampaged all the way to bed.  His bath was too cold, the bubbles were too bubbly, his pyjamas were too scratchy, his bear was too smelly, his book was too short, his toothpaste was too minty.

Until he was tucked up in his bed, when suddenly, from out of nowhere, a curious silence descended. The Queen’s shoulders dropped 6 inches, the King’s frown lines melted. It seemed that the one thing that would stop him rampaging was a comfortable mattress.

Relieved, the King settled down to watch Top Gear, the Queen fired up her laptop, all could be heared was the clicking of the keyboard and the ‘dulcet’ tones of Jeremy Clarkson.

Meanwhile the Prince’s sister, a cheeky young Princess, had hatched a plan.  Somewhat dethroned by his birth, and sick of her brother’s rampaging, she was eager to steal back the limelight.  Having poured over her battered book of Fairy Tales, she had decided to plant a pea under his mattress.  If she could just prove he wasn’t really a Prince, then perhaps her parents would disown him.

The evil deed accomplished, she crept out of his room.

The King slept peacefully that night, as did the Queen, and the Princess.  But what about the Prince I hear you cry?  Well he had quite worn himself out by rampaging, plus his mattress was so very comfortable, that he didn’t even notice the pea.

‘Ha!’ said the Princess. ‘You’re not a Prince!  You’re not my real brother! Banish him!’

At which point the well-rested King and Queen’s shoulders raised an inch, their frown lines became slightly more visible, and yet another fine day in the castle commenced.

A story inspired by specialist bed provider Silentnight.

Castle Tales 1