December 10, 2012
Last week saw the release on DVD and Blue-Ray of the latest in the Ice Age movie franchise - Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. We've seen it, and it's one of the best!
This all-new chapter in the beloved ICE AGE franchise reconnects families with herd favourites Manny, Sid, and Diego. Joining familiar friends of the Ice Age world on their latest journey is Sid’s long-lost and side-splittingly funny Granny plus a band of pirates led by the fearsome orangutan Captain Gutt. And no ICE AGE film would be complete without celebrated icon Scrat, whose existence revolves around the elusive acorn. Scrat once again returns with his very own exploits; however this time his pursuits result in world-changing consequences.
Here's the trailer:
November 29, 2012
November 28, 2012
No, this isn't a post about horticulture, or a new selection of sweets for Christmas. It's about rugby and national pride. Yes, rugby and national pride. Not normally subjects which motivate me to write, but there you go.
Let me explain. Firstly, you need to know two facts about me:
1. I live in a very male house. Apart from me and the cat, home is an all male environment. This is, of course, the result of producing two sons - a fact of which I am very proud and extremely happy and am definitely not complaining about (except when they are a bit smelly).
2. I live in a very Irish house. This is, of course, the result of moving here ten years ago, marrying an Irishman and having two children here. I'm very happy living here and the fact that I no longer live in the country of my birth doesn't usually bother me.
Except this year, it did.
2012 has been a (rarely) wonderful year to be English / British. There seemed to be an endless number of parades in London and fantastic fly pasts by The Red Arrows. The Queen's Jubilee event was quite magical (except the bit when it lashed rain for eight hours when all those boats went down the Thames) and then, of course, we moved onto the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics which, by any standards you care to measure such things by, were simply outstanding sporting events. I could go on and mention other momentous English/British events of 2012 such as The Great British Bake Off and Gary Barlow getting an OBE, but I won't. Suffice to say that I proudly displayed my red, white and blue bunting throughout it all, didn't give a hoot what the neighbours thought, and enjoyed being a 'Brit' abroad.
And now, we get to the rugby/national pride part.
You see, my boys recently starting playing rugby (I say 'playing' but what I actually mean is running around a water-logged pitch on a Saturday morning and falling over quite a lot). They've always been very active, sporty kids and have played a lot of football and gaelic football, but their current interest in rugby happens to come at a time when the autumn series of internationals are taking place. We've always watched sport and my husband tries his best to take an impartial stance when it comes to encouraging the boys to support the English team as much as the Irish team - after all, I point out, the boys are half English and half Irish...
Because, of course, the boys consider themselves to be Irish - they were born here and they live here, so that makes them Irish. It makes perfect sense when you are 5 and 7 and the issue of being 'half' something is extraordinarily tricky to grasp at such a tender age. Still, they do enjoy a bit of flag waving in support of 'Mummy's team' when England play.
So, when I was invited recently to see the new Canterbury England team kit for kids, I stalled. Would the boys want to wear it? Would people throw rotten vegetables at them if they wore it 'in public'? Would a rose be an acceptable piece of flora to display in place of a shamrock? In the end, my own national pride won out. Why the heck shouldn't they wear the England kit? Does it really matter when we're sitting in front of the TV anyway?
So, their new rugby tops arrived, my husband was surprisingly rational about it and the boys are looking forward to wearing their red roses this weekend when England play their next international. They'll definitely look the part, even if it means that their father disowns them for 80 minutes.
And just to make sure it is all balanced out, they've asked for the Ireland kit for Christmas, which may cause a problem when England and Ireland meet in the 6 nations next year and country allegiances are challenged once again. Maybe they can swap kits at half time? Maybe me and the cat will retreat to the coffee shop.
As they say .. it's complicated.
If you have any young rugby fans in the house, team kits would make excellent Christmas gifts. For loads of gift ideas for sportswear, including the England - and Ireland - team kits (!) visit www.alexandalexa.com and for the England rugby kit visit www.canterbury.com
November 26, 2012
I haven't posted an 'opinion piece' here on Hot Cross Mum for a while. There are many reasons why, some of which involve being limited to a meagre 24 hours in a day, some of which involve young boys hi-jacking my laptop and some of which involve pursuing my dream of being a proper, grown up historical fiction author, but anyway, I find myself needing to rant about Christmas and I feel that Hot Cross Mum is the best place for me to do this.
Rant about Christmas, I hear you cry! But why? Well, it's because of this - magic - or rather, the lack thereof. Perhaps I'm looking at Christmas through glitter and snowflake tinted glasses, but it all seems to have gone a bit, well, blah. Here's why:
1. It all starts far too early. Whatever about the shops stocking selection boxes in October, actual people have already put up their trees. I don't want to see Christmas trees in November - I want to see them at Christmas. Please!
2. Toy catalogues. I honestly don't remember a time in my childhood when I flicked through a toy catalogue to help me choose what to put on my list to Santa (the artist formerly known as Father Christmas). Put the catalogues down children. Step away from the catalogues.
3. Santa lists. Didn't these used to be sent up the chimney on Christmas eve? Now they're written and posted before the end of November and there is a special post box for them in the local Eurospar. From a practical point of view yes, I get this: we all know what 'Santa' is bringing and can get on with the shopping. But it still makes me want to poke rusty nails in my eyes.
4. Visits to Santa. I heard a conversation in a shop over a week ago where someone was saying they were going to see Santa at 'The North Pole' (somewhere in rural Ireland). They explained to their friend that they felt it was a bit early, but that was the only time they could get a booking, as the other slots were sold out since September. Maybe it's just me, but this feels wrong on so many levels.
5. Chocolate advent calenders. I've ranted about this before and I will rant again. Please bring back lovely, traditional, non choc advent calenders which have a Christmassy picture behind each window and a Christmassy scene on the front. Moshi Monsters and Angry Birds simply have no right to be on an advent Calender. Humph.
Maybe I'm deluding myself, maybe I'm a snotty, grumpy old cow, but Christmas seems to have all gone so hideously commercial. I even found myself staring wistfully at Christmas jumpers yesterday in a desperate attempt to get back to some good old-fashioned festiveness. Ah well, there's always hope I suppose that in a week or so, when I find the Christmas CDs in the attic and start making cinnamon cookies and I pour myself a 'small' glass of port, something may stir within and that old Christmas magic might just find its way down the chimney. Here's hoping ... bah humbug.
October 23, 2012
A Fairytale - featuring coffee.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who worked for a big law firm in the Emerald City (aka Dublin). She loved to dress up in her high heels and swishy dresses, and was fully made up every day (becoming very proficient at applying her make up on the train). She enjoyed her job, the people she worked with and the 'buzz' of office life. There were some heartless business people, some brainless fools and some who were scared of The Boss, but she was happy. Her favourite part of the working day though, was that first cup of freshly brewed coffee from the coffee shop next to the office. Even when the most painfully boring meeting was looming, or when the wicked witch of the office had sent her a nasty email, that cup of coffee made the early mornings and the long commute and all the office nonsense seem worthwhile.
But then, one day, the young girl had some little munchkins, stopped working and found herself trapped at home, staring at a jar of instant coffee, while standing in her kitchen in her pyjamas and ruby slippers. Life seemed pretty grim for a while and she dreamt of those days when a good cup of coffee was just a few steps away ...
So, imagine her excitement when her Fairy Godmother delivered a new Tassimo coffee machine to her home which allowed her to make freshly brewed, Costa Coffee coffee, in her own home! The machine was nice to look at, slotted in perfectly next to the microwave and was so simple to use even her little munchkins could do it. The woman (she had grown up now) was very happy and found herself making delicious coffee-shop quality drinks at the touch of a button.
Sometimes she still misses her adventures in the Emerald City, but most days she sighs contentedly, as she sips her delicious coffee and gazes fondly at the little drawings her munchkins made for her the previous day. 'Ahhh, there's no place like home,' she says, as she kicks her ruby slippers off. 'There's no place like home.'
Full details of the range can be found at the Costa facebook page.
October 16, 2012
Yes, it's that time of year again - no, not Christmas (although you'd be forgiven for getting confused - have you seen the number of selection boxes in the supermarkets?). Halloween is almost upon us, again. The skeletons are already hanging from the doors, the blood-covered hands warn us to 'KEEP OUT' of our neighbours' houses (just in case we were thinking of calling in, un-announced) and fake cobweb trails annoyingly from one end of the house to the other.
But, of course, the main point of Halloween isn't the carving of pumpkins or the bobbing for apples or the opportunity to wear striped black and green tights and sparkly purple eye shadow, the point of Halloween - when you are 5 and 7 anyway - is TRICK OR TREAT- aka SWEETS.
Yes, it makes me anxious. Their teeth will rot, they will never get to sleep after all that sugar, they might choke on a boiled sweet - 'has anyone been given a boiled sweet?' I cry, rummaging through their stash to remove any contraband.
But what also makes me anxious is being seen in the dark - especially after last year when, among a hoarde of kids fleecing the houses on the estate of everything and anything resembling candy, my youngest went missing for a few minutes. Dressed entirely in black and with sweetie frenzy in full swing, he went one way and the rest of the kids went the other. Luckily, he was only 'lost' for a minute and luckily the fact that he had a neon glow stick meant that he was spotted by a neighbour and brought back to the group.
So, when I saw these 'Be Seen At Halloween' reflective stickers from Wilkinson, I thought they were an excellent idea. The stickers are made from hi-vis material, which will reflect beams from car headlights and make the stickers glow. Only £2 for a pack of 4, they are money extremely well spent and as well as being 'cool' (the words of my 7 yr old) they will help to keep your little devils and witches visible to passing motorists.
A no brainer really.
The Halloween range is available in Wilkinsons stores now or online at www.wilkinsonplus.com
September 5, 2012
- That’s too soft, I only like crunchy things
- But that tomato is too bendy
- Well, it’s just that those carrots are touching the peas
- Yukky. That bit of the banana is dirty
- I WANTED CHEESE ON TOAST, NOT CHEESE SANDWICHES
- It’s just that my tummy is SO full but my pudding tummy is still hungry
- But I can’t eat it mummy because THIS IS THE WRONG SPOON
- I’m too tired to eat cucumber
- That’s got peppers in it and they make me cough
- But if I eat all this, then I won’t have room for any telly
August 29, 2012
- Bread - granary, wholegrain, fruit or seed breads, bagels, wraps and pittas instead of sliced white.
- Filling - shredded chicken, turkey, cold meat from last night’s dinner or peanut butter. Fish and eggs are great but should probably be sent with an apology to the teacher.
- Pasta is a great, healthy alternative to a sandwich.
- Fruit – try dried fruits. Dried mango is delicious (although it looks awful). Veg sticks are great too.
- Drink – water with a twist of fresh lemon or orange for a change. Freeze overnight in the bottle so it’s still chilled by lunchtime.
- Keep a tub of freshly sliced fruit in the fridge.
- Pop your own popcorn but don’t add salt.
- Make a batch of soup and serve in a mug.
- Whizz up a smoothie (freeze leftovers in lolly moulds).
This is a sponsored post.
August 22, 2012
August 15, 2012
|Even when you're ready for Big School, teddy still needs a wash!|
August 8, 2012
This is a sponsored post.
Pricing: Scuff resistant black shoes (€14.50), 2 pack stain resistant non-iron grey trousers (€8.50), 2 pack easy-iron short sleeve shirts (€5), blue jumper (€5)
August 1, 2012
|Half boy, half school bag.|
|Back to School essentials* from Tesco. For pricing, see below.|
*glitter not essential, but it is very nice.
Pictured above: Backpack (€10), Crocodile lunchbox with drink bottle (€13.50)
May 1, 2012
|View from the bridge - 'I'm flying Jack', (and all that)|
- The whole layout of the ferries is much more comfortable and stylish than I had expected, or remembered.The seating areas are lounge style, movies play on plasma TVs and there are Curious George playrooms for younger children. It all just felt clean, calm and relaxing.
- There is free Wi-Fi access and of course you can use your phone as much as you want.
- You can take as much luggage as you want in your car, and leave everything - other than essentials - in the car during the crossing. Spare coats, wellies, hats - throw it all in without worrying about the weight.
- To be able to get back into your car and drive off towards your hotel at the other side is infinitely more appealing than baggage carousels, passport control, bus/taxi transfers from the airport, or the prospect of queuing at the car hire desk with tired, fidgety children.
- The crossing from Dublin Port to Holyhead took about 3 and a half hours. Although it seems a long time when compared to a flight, it was all very relaxing and there was plenty to do to keep the kids entertained both out on deck spotting land ahoy and on the ferry itself.
|Driving onto the ferry (the ferry is the BIG boat)|
The added extras
|The private family cabin - swanky|
As guests of Stena Line we were given upgrades to StenaPlus (usually costs €18 per person to upgrade) which gives access to a private lounge, complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers. We were also given use of a private family cabin which comes complete with plasma TV, Playstation, ensuite bathroom with shower, more drinks and snacks and a nifty coffee machine. Although great fun, I'm not sure the additional charge (up to £50) for the private cabin would be worth it for this short crossing, but for a longer one it could be money well spent. We also got to go up to the bridge to meet the Captain, which was a great experience for the boys!
|Plenty of space to run on the decks|
Our hotel, Seoint Manor, in Snowdonia was a Stena Line recommended hotel. It was absolutely lovely. The staff were friendly and helpful, the breakfasts and evening meals were delicious and the accommodation and facilities were ideal. Although we were only there for one and a half days, there is plenty in the area to keep young children entertained. Caernarfon Castle was fantastic and a drive through the stunning Snowdonia National Park has us tempted to go back with our walking gear.
Having flown regularly with the children between Ireland and the UK, I can honestly say that taking the ferry was definitely the most stress-free journey we've had for a long time. I do think the StenaPlus lounge* helped - particularly on the return trip which was quite a rough crossing. The use of a portable DVD player for the kids, the novelty factor of helping themselves to drinks from the fridges and that little bit of extra privacy, definitely took their minds off the old heave ho! *The StenaPlus lounge on the Stena Adventurer was a lot larger than on the Stena Nordica and could, if very busy, take away a little from the 'VIP' factor.
All in all, I was very impressed with Stena Line - in terms of the ferry itself, the staff, the facilities on board and quality of refreshments - there was really nothing to find fault with. If we are planning a holiday to the UK or France in future, we will definitely look at the ferry as a viable travel option. As Dom Joly says in the new Stena Line ad campaign: take a Car-cation. You might be pleasantly surprised!
We travelled out on the Stena Nordica and back on the Stena Adventurer. For a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children under 16), plus our car, our trip would have cost around €300 for economy fare. At the moment, Stena Line have a 'Bring a friend for free' offer - book by 8th May and travel before 30th May. Details about this offer can be found on the website. For more information, visit www.stenaline.ie
Disclaimer: Our return ferry crossing, StenaPlus upgrade and accommodation at the Seoint Manor hotel were provided by Stena Line. All opinions about the trip are my own.
April 23, 2012
Why do you read? Escapism? Entertainment? Education?
April 20, 2012
Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity is organising a 5k family fun event on Sunday 24th June in Battersea Park, London. The RBC Race for the Kids is taking place to raise money for improvements to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Anyone can take part in RBC Race for the Kids, whether they want to run, jog, walk or roller skate! If you would like to register to take part, visit the sign up page. Registration costs £15 for adults and children over 16 yrs, £10 for children aged between 5 and 16 yrs and is free for the under 5s.
It is every parent's worst nightmare to learn that their child needs hospital care. The staff at children's hospitals do an incredible job in caring for their young patients and supporting the parents through very difficult times. All funds raised from this event will be used towards redeveloping vital parts of the hospital so that staff can care for more sick children. The money raised from the RBC Race for the Kids will help provide things like medical equipment, vital research into childhood illnesses, and beds for parents to stay in so they can be close to their children.
If you can't participate in the race yourself, please help to spread the word for this very worthy cause. You can also donate directly to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.
April 15, 2012
‘I’m so cold,’ someone said.
The sound of prayers and sobbing.
It was hard to breathe.
Another voice. ‘A ship.’
She was being lifted then, pulled. Her frozen hands tried to grasp a rope. A ladder? Was she back on Titanic? Was it a dream?
Her body wouldn’t move. She had no idea where she was. Where was Kathleen? Where was everyone?
‘Maggie,’ someone said. ‘Her name is Maggie Murphy. From Ireland. She had this small case with her.’
A bitter taste in her mouth. Hot coffee? Then brandy. Coughing. Spluttering.
She tried to open her eyes, but they were too sore from the salt and the cold.
She tried to speak. ‘I can’t see. Am I blind?’ The words came out as an indecipherable mumble.
‘It’s OK Maggie,’ someone replied. ‘You’re on the Carpathia. It came to rescue us. You’re going to be OK. You’re safe now.’
A blanket was wrapped around her. She let the tears fall.
For the next few days, Maggie barely noticed the sunset or sunrise; barely acknowledged the faint shafts of early morning light which reflected off a piece of metal through the window in front of her, sending light dancing across the deck. She stared dimly ahead, the sun almost irrelevant to her, unable to warm her, unable to illuminate the shadows of thirteen people which clouded her broken heart.
‘Where am I?’ she asked the person lying next to her.
‘The library,’ they replied. ‘There wasn’t room for us all in the cabins and those of us who were last to be rescued were placed in makeshift dorms, like this one.’
‘Which ship are we on?’ she enquired, still confused.
‘The Carpathia. They came to rescue us. Remember?’
It wasn’t until the third day on the Carpathia that she found enough strength to sit on the deck. Still shaking under her blankets, a kind man with blue eyes, who said he was the doctor, told her that she wasn’t cold anymore but the shock of what she had been through had her nerves bouncing around all over the place. She was unable to cry any more tears. All she could feel was fear and a desolate loneliness.
She reflected on the journey she had taken from Ballysheen, almost able to hear the rumble of the carts as they’d set off, before a sort of stillness had fallen over them as the rutted tracks gave way to the softer sandy road at the edge of the village. She remembered how she’d watched the three carts ahead of the one she shared with her aunt and how she had wondered what thoughts were passing through everyone’s minds as they moved slowly through the landscape that had framed all of their lives. She had watched Peggy, in the cart ahead, speaking some words of comfort to Katie who was twisting a sodden handkerchief around and around her fingers. She remembered that they had stopped once for a driver to remove a stone which had become lodged in one of the horse’s hooves. She recalled how she had hoped that if she stared intently enough, listened hard enough and really concentrated on those sights and sounds and smells, she would impress the memories into her brain, ready to recall at will in the years to come, as the vast ocean and the passing of time attempted to erode them. It was these small, intimate details she recalled now as she sat, shaking and alone, although whether in dreams or in waking moments she wasn’t quite sure.
‘We arrive in New York tomorrow evening,’ she heard someone close by say. ‘And not a moment too soon. This ice is wreaking havoc with the minds of the poor unfortunates. They must be terrified it’s going to happen all over again.’
‘Excuse me sir,’ she whispered.
The man heard her and turned. ‘Yes Miss?’
‘What day is it today?’
‘It is Wednesday Miss. April 17th.’
‘Wednesday,’ she repeated. ‘Thank you.’
She closed her eyes then and slept.
The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel is available to download on the Amazon Kindle Store, priced 99p/99c. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download free Kindle reading apps for PC, iPad, iPhone, Android and other devices from the Kindle Store. Read previous extracts: