Theatre Review: The Planet and Stuff at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon

I am really excited to be collaborating with my oldest Drama teaching friend, Kerry Bratt who has reviewed Polka Theatre Wimbledon’s latest show.  Bratt-Brereton (Brereton being my maiden name) were a force to be reckoned with, so it is lovely to have Kerry to guest post, please give her a warm welcome!

“Is it going to be boring though mum?” After a morning of Drama and Dance lessons (the kids not the olds) the Bratt-Ward-Sparks clan trotted off down to The Polka Theatre in Wimbledon to experience the delights of climate change.  We have been to The Polka before, both as a family and I as a teacher with large groups of children.  The Polka programme has developed over the years, moving from a repertoire aimed at younger children into the heady heights of pre-teens and dreaded teens. Continue reading

Party – Harry Potter style!

Check out the video above, in which I learnt how to cast a spell like Harry Potter at Britmums Conference back in June, a useful party trick to have up your sleeve for a Harry Potter themed party. There are lots more ideas for a Harry Potter style party in this guest post: Continue reading

McCain’s Summer of Sharing

Party - 374

Party – 374 by Parker Knight, on Flickr

The summer months bring longer days and lighter nights and hopefully, some much-needed sunshine. School’s out and carefree days are just crying out to be filled with summer fun. What better time of year to enjoy getting together with family and friends? Continue reading

Four ways to reward yourself after a hard week

Since I had kids Fridays haven’t really had the same winding down ritualistic appeal. More a case of crashing in a heap on the sofa after a gin and tonic, than going out on the town. I loved the tips in this guest post I think it is really important to mark the end of the week and wind down.

We all deserve a break after working hard all week and there is no shortage of ways to achieve this. Whether you like indulgent baths or a little bit of beautification; planning how to unwind after a difficult week can give you something luxurious to look forward to while you count down the hours to Friday. Continue reading

Winter; it’s not what it used to be when we were kids

Snow drifts!

Snow drifts! by Asten, on Flickr

Today’s guest post by Kat Prescott made me think back to growing up in the 70s and 80s.

Following the coldest Easter ever in the UK you’d think that we were in the middle of a new ice age. Five centimetres of snow might sound a lot but it’s nowhere near as thick as five inches, which is what I seem to remember a proper snowfall being when the BBC weatherman used to be pre-metric!

Although the clichés of ‘it was better/safer/bigger/quieter in the old days’ are a bit tired, it really does seem that winters used to be a lot harder when we were kids.

It is a fact that homes used to be a lot colder in the past and sometimes even going from room to room would mean a mad dash from one warm part of the house to another. Today, we are used to padding around indoors in shorts in mid-December, not something I could have imagined as a kid when planning the quickest route around the house so I could avoid as much of the cold, barren floor as possible!

It’s not just cold floors which I’ve noticed a change in over the years though. As recently as the 1970s (for those of us lucky to remember it) it was relatively rare for a house to have radiators in every room. Nowadays my kids take this luxury for granted and very few people I know appreciate just how lucky they are to be able to heat their entire home with the flick of a switch.

Of course, just because we’re able to heat the whole house so easily doesn’t mean we should. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the environmental benefits of isolating heating in homes so that only the rooms which are in use are kept warm – perhaps we didn’t have it so wrong back in the old days!

Yet, while we previously left rooms cold through necessity or lack of sufficient heating our sacrifices today are for greener motives. Being eco-conscious is certainly a 21st Century phenomenon in my mind but I must admit I don’t miss the coal man and the awful dirt which came with this raw fuel.

In addition to smarter heating, better insulation has helped transform our homes into something far better than we (or I) could have ever imagined. I’ve already stuffed my walls and loft with thick insulation and Everest fitted my double glazing years ago to ensure no heat is able to seep through my windows. Their double glazing units come in every shape and style you could want and in a range of materials that last a lifetime so matching the style of your property is easy – ideal for those of you who, like me, want something that looks good and performs well.

While these may just be a few of the changes I’ve noticed in my home over the years they’re far from the only ones. Offering plenty of benefits, embracing these changes is essential and something I’m certainly proud to have done.

Commissioned Guest Post

How to Keep Control of Your Personal Identity

Featured Guest Post

Identity theft is a growing problem in this digital age; hackers and scammers use an arsenal of weapons to access to your personal information, which they then use to their own seedy end. Let’s take a look at some of their favourites and how you can avoid them: Continue reading

The story behind Christmas traditions

Two of our decorations that remind me of two little people I know.

Yay it’s December! Let the madness commence! I need a bit of a breather already, luckily I was offered the sort of guest post I quite like at this time of year, but don’t seem to find time to write…ready to get festive with me? This post reminds me that Christmas is a lovely mingling of so many traditions. It gives me the inspiration to tidy up and get the decorations out of the loft.

Why are trees, stockings and mistletoe all so closely associated with Christmas?

Christmas is an exciting time packed full of symbols and traditions – a colourful
occasion for the whole family, and there’s a story behind many of our favourite
Christmas traditions – here are a few:

Christmas trees

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a triangular tree with a pile of
presents at its foot taking pride of place in the family living room.

Living rooms would look very bare at Christmas time if the Germans hadn’t
started decorating evergreen trees during 16th century.

Legend has it that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther first started the
tradition of lighting Christmas trees with candles while he was trying to
duplicate the beautiful sight of starlight shining through the branches of a
small fir tree outside his home.

In 1808, a countess became the first person in Denmark to light a Christmas
tree. Just over 57 years later the same lady recounted the story of lighting the
tree to Hans Christian Andersen; a famous children’s author who had written a
story about the fate of a fir tree being used as a Christmas tree (The Fir Tree) in
1844.

Britain was slow to adopt the Christmas tree, although a delighted Queen
Victoria, writing when aged 13, recounts her joy of seeing two Christmas trees
hung with “lights and sugar ornaments” on the Christmas Eve of 1832.

After Victoria married her cousin, Albert, decorating Christmas trees became
a more common tradition in Britain. Albert was of course from Germany; the
home of the Christmas tree.

Mistletoe

Did you know that the early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas
celebrations because of its pagan associations? Instead church figures
suggested holly as a more religious alternative to mistletoe. The church’s
advice was partially followed; holly is a popular Yuletide decoration. But so,
still, is mistletoe.

The Scandinavians associate mistletoe with peace and harmony – making it the
ideal Christmas plant. Kissing under the mistletoe is certainly an expression of
festive goodwill.

It is best though to take care before hanging up mistletoe. An old custom
dictates that mistletoe must not touch the ground from the time it is cut to the
time it is removed at Candlemas (on 2nd February). It is feared that you can kiss
goodbye to your good luck unless you observe this custom!

Christmas stockings

Children love to hang stockings at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve
before waking the following morning to find them filled with toys.

No one seems to quite know how this tradition started but it is such a great
custom that few people seem to mind!

One popular explanation has Saint Nicholas secretly putting gold coins in the
stockings of the three daughters of a man who did not have enough money
to marry them off (the newly-washed stockings were hanging up over the
mantelpiece, being dried). The gesture, the legend states, was Saint Nicholas’s
way of making the proud old man accept his charity and ensure that the
daughters could be married as they wished.

Saint Nicholas’s act of kindness gave him a reputation as a giver of presents
and has resulted in many more acts of generous gift-giving over the years.

Viv Egan writes for Yellow Moon. If you’re stuck for stocking gift ideas then
bear in mind that Yellow Moon has lots of inspiring ideas!

Narrowboat Wife – Guest Posts on Time Management

I’m really thrilled to welcome back Peggy, who blogs at The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife, for a second guest post.  Since we last posted Peggy has set up her own business as a freelance writer, blogger and virtual assistant, working from her boat.  I also got to meet her at Blogcamp UK and she’s ace!  I totally covet her office, look:

I can see this developing in to a slot where lots of you creative types share pictures of your desk and guest post….shout if you fancy posting!  I know lots of my readers love to gain tips on getting more organised and time management, so over to Peggy…

You don’t tell time: time tells you.

– Chumbawumba ‘Timebomb’. 1993

I feel that my biggest challenge as a mumpreneur is time management. However, I recently read ‘Your Best Year Yet!’ By Jinny Ditzler. Jinny points out that “Time is unmanageable. No matter what you do or how well organised you get, the hands of the clock go round and round. What you can do, however, is learn to manage yourself.”

I am really into making lists. I have a notebook with different lists for different parts of my life:

A ‘To Do’ list for each client, a ‘To Do’ list for each blog and a ‘To Do’ list for home stuff, like ‘clean kitchen cupboards’! Then I have a personal ‘To Do’ list for everything else. That one is really random and goes something like: Do tax return, phone dentist, enter poetry competition, get a picture of Angelina Ballerina for my daughter and put more diesel in to the boat engine!

A good way to get a list off to a flying start is to make it something like this;

1) Something quick and easy.

2) Something you’ll enjoy.

3) Something you’ve already done.

4) The thing you’re dreading.

My second tip is to have a routine or a schedule and do the same things at the same times each week. I need to become more aware of things that sap my time and distract me: like social networking or reading random articles on line. Working at home it’s too easy to swap roles and flit from the computer to the dishes to the laundry. So staying focussed is another goal that I’m working on right now!

As I began this article that line from an old Chumbawumba song popped into my head. I asked Google to find out for me where the sample had come from and when Google didn’t know I went on Facebook and asked my music expert friend. He said,

“Doesn’t one of the band say it?”

It started a whole Facebook discussion and there I was sucked into social media again.

How did you land on this blog article? Where will you surf to next? Are you distracted or focussed?

Do you tell time or does time tell you?

About Peggy, by Peggy:

Peggy is a time management expert – just kidding! Peggy is a freelance writer, blogger

and virtual assistant. She’s also a mum of two, a daydreamer and lives on a narrowboat.

She blogs at Peggy Melmouth and The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife