Friday, 20 December 2013

Hotel Chocolat.... A Review

We have been asked to review a box of chocolates, a box of Hotel Chocolat's Sleekster Classic Christmas Selection chocolates. This has caused great happiness and consternation within the house of the Quirky Kook, to be honest.

TeenTwin2 was happy because she has a "twitter-relationship" with someone who works in one of Hotel Chocolat's chocolate emporiums in somewhere and was on telly once. She tweeted about the programme, he favourited it, she favourited him back, or whatever, and now she can taste some of what he's selling. 


And yes, I am slightly worried about that, but ....

Everybody else was happy there was chocolates and that I wanted them to eat the chocolates. That doesn't happen often, my relationship with chocolate having been frankly soured by years of continual chocolate-based disappointment (The Galaxy Counter was NEVER that small and don't mention Creme Eggs *tuts*).

I don't, if asked, say I eat chocolate, though sometimes I do because I'm a woman and it's the law or hormones or something. But when I do eat chocolate, I am always disappointed. Chocolate, I think sadly, is not what it used to be and then hanker back, nostalgically, to the days when chocolate was chocolate, thick, creamy, rich and an explosion of, well, chocolate. I was probably seven years old. 

But, purely in the course of research and review obviously, I had to eat at least one (or two*) of the Sleekster box collection. And,well, let's just say I was not disappointed. And not only is it thick, rich, creamy and an explosion of chocolate, there's an extra added firework display of flavours...

*pulls up ankle socks and gets skipping rope*

The rest of the family reviewers weren't disappointed either. After the unseemly gorge fest that ensued when I, finally, held out the designed-to-fit-through-a-letter-box-box** I garnered opinion like a proper reviewer...

TeenTwin1 liked them. She was astonished at the existence of chocolate that didn't, well, clag your mouth up. (What? We're from Yorkshire) She was going to have another but restrained herself politely. TeenTwin2 liked them so much, she kept quiet and snuck an extra chocolate instead. *tuts* ...........No-one dare tell TeenTwin1 and now we live in constant fear she may find out.

The Tween liked them too. There was hopping and skipping, smiling and even a little bit of jumping. The next time I want to lure the Tween away from Minecraft, I will be employing a  Hotel Chocolate Cranberry Cup, and that's for sure.

... And now you're wondering what caused the consternation of course? And that'll be because we won't be eating Hotel Chocolat chocolates EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES FOREVER...


* most (because I'm the biggest)

**Ideal as a last minute Christmas present for your favourite blogger #justsaying

Disclosure: We were (very happily) provided with a box of Hotel Chocolat's Sleekster Classic Christmas Selection for review. All opinions, words, photos and chocolate smeared mouths are our own.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Bah Humbug ...

I'm in my annual bah humbug phase of December when Christmas is looming around the corner but the three month run-up has already f.f..festived me right off.

I am DONE with people asking me whether I'm all ready for Christmas. I'm not. I never am and I won't be until about 4am on Christmas Day morning when I've wrapped the last present and danced the dance of the nervous stocking dropper. And not in a good way.

I tell those that ask I'm ready though, even the ones who ask before the end of November when I would much rather heft an axe from my handbag by way of reply. What? Do you expect me to have a Christmas reality meltdown in the middle of the shop, supermarket, bank, park, on the bus and/or at the schoolgate? Really? Of course I lie.

And I hate shops at Christmas, all the shops, and I hate supermarkets. I particularly hate supermarkets. I start hating these, to be fair, around mid-September when the Christmas fare hits the shelves but as the festive season hoves ever nearer, the staff take to wearing santa hats, antlers or artfully arranged bits of tinsel. And they smile! Sometimes some of them even look like they mean it, but as they've been listening to a continuous looped tape of Bing Crosby crooning about a White Christmas for a solid eight hours every day for three months, they're probably just borderline psychotic.

Not as psychotic as some of the customers though. There are places that are safer to be than a supermarket the weekend before Christmas; in a war-zone, on an erupting volcano, in a zeppelin with a slow puncture or on the Titanic for example. And the queues to escape the Titanic were probably shorter than the one to the checkout too.

And I hate Mulled Wine... it's warm wine. WARM. WINE. What the merry fuck is that all about?  And turkeys. They can't give them away for most of the year, but come December they're suddenly the most precious foodstuff in the market, worth their weight in gold and priced accordingly. For that price, I want a turkey that get's itself up at ridiculous o'clock on Christmas morning and flings itself into the oven, perhaps only stopping to peel the potatoes and slice the parsnips on it's way in. But does it? Does it f....

And breathes....

I will be spending the intervening time between now and Christmas looking for my festive spirit. I suspect it may be in a bottle of gin. Or two.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Croods .... A DVD Review

The Croods was a blockbuster hit in the cinemas when it was released in March this year but we, who have to plan taking our family of six to the local flicks based on whether we have a spare limb to sell or not, missed it when it was on the big screen unfortunately.

Fortunately, Mumsnet came to the rescue with an advance copy of the DVD, which is released on Monday December 9, for us to review. And so we've spent a rainy afternoon variously snuggled on the sofa, the floor and against the radiator (as I said there's six of us) enjoying the luxury of a totally new film to watch.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

NRM York, Santa's Steam Adventure .... A Review

I have written, often and with exasperation, about the family adoration of all things steam engine. But this weekend, on yet another trip to the National Rail Museum in York, The Boy's engine related excitement was (very nearly) eclipsed by the news we were also going on the NRM's Santa's Steam Adventure.

Santa? And steam engines? The Boy, whose annual Christmas film of choice is and always has been The Polar Express, was practically beside himself with joy.... but not so beside himself he didn't insist on a visit to the Great Hall and a peek at his favourite steam engines when we arrived. *rolls eyes*

Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Gallery .... November

I'm joining in with The Gallery this week and the prompt is November ...

Shh, don't tell a soul but I love November. I complain about the cold, the rain, the winds and the occasional frosts loudly and often. It wouldn't really do to do otherwise. Yet, secretly, I love the crisp mornings and the sharp bite to the air as we kick our way to school through heaps of gold, russet and red leaves.

But what I love most of all about November is the skies and most particularly, the sunsets. That annoying person stopping dead in the middle of the street, road, path or pavement and aiming a camera up above everyone's heads? That'll be me, that will .... sorry about that*

This is my entry to The Gallery.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

*Not sorry at all.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Ultimate "F" Word

Tomorrow, it's my birthday ...Hurrah

My 49th birthday .... Boo

There is only one way that things can go from here and that's hurtling, at breakneck speed, to the big Five O. And fifty really is the ultimate "F" word.

I did think about writing a list of Fifty Things To Do Before Fifty but frankly I couldn't think of that many, so I've compiled a bucket list with a twist .. ten things I want to do and ten things I'll never do before I'm fifty effing years effing old. 

And I've included ten things I've done already too, just to make me feel that the last five decades haven't been a complete waste of time.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Return of The Prom ...

I thought I'd got through it. Got through it all... the spats, the surprises, the sulks, the spending and the endless shopping. Oh God, the endless shopping ....

Yet I survived it, and with no casualties (unless you count the accidental totalling of a 17 year old boy with a homemade strawberry wine punch. And my purse).

Or at least I THOUGHT I'd survived.

But like the sequel to a horror movie, The Prom is back. And this time, it's serious.

Really it is, because this Prom is the Year 13 Prom.

No, I didn't know there was such a thing either.

The TeenTwins broke the news there was a Year 13 Prom, gently, a while ago. Dropping it softly into a conversation, in passing; a vague threat that might never happen. It's not really a proper Prom, they said. Not like the OTHER Prom, they said. This Prom would be much more relaxed, they said. Informal, they said. They could even wear jeans, they said.

They said it would all be alright. Don't worry about it, they said.

And I believed them.

......Then TeenTwin2 hoved into view with a purposeful look on her face and a sheaf of dress pictures in her hand. Not jeans, dresses.. with sequins.

And every other word they've uttered for the past week has been Prom. Tickets for The Prom, the theme of The Prom, a dress for The Prom, a date for The Prom. The Prom, Prom, Prom ... And the bloody thing isn't even until MAY!

The next six months are just. Going. To. Fly. By.

Silent Sunday ...

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Gallery ... A Younger Me

I'm joining in with The Gallery this week and the prompt is A Younger Me .....

A couple of weeks ago as part of the TeenTwins current tour of universities-to-apply-to, I took them to the student open day at my old college which led, inevitably, to a virulent bout of nostalgia for my own student days 30 years ago and a quick wallow through the photo album.

So for A Younger Me I present, um, me during my own college years, 1983 to 1987

1983                                                                                                                          1987       

I was supposed to be studying English Literature, but I did manage to pick up a few extra life skills..

.. Like you do

(It's all in the wrist action, in case you were wondering.)

AND I even got the degree at the end of it all too...

... which was in English Literature and not for drinking at all.* Hoorah.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

This is my entry for The Gallery, please check out everyone else's Younger Me by clicking the link above

*I would have got a First if it was in drinking *nods*

Friday, 8 November 2013

Listography - My Top 5 Life Lessons

The wonderful Kate Takes 5 has brought back to life Listography which is one of my all-time favourite linkys. Kate's new Listography entry is the top 5 lessons she has learned from life. 
These are mine ....

1. DO IT...

...Whatever it is. If you're too shy or too frightened, get over it and get on with it. Try to enjoy it. If you don't, don't do it again. Never miss an opportunity or an experience that you're afraid to miss because of fear, you will regret it.

Because then you will spend the rest of your life boring people in pubs, parks and on buses with the time you nearly went skydiving/ naked fountain dancing/ got married/ had a baby/ wrote a best-selling novel/ on Strictly Come Dancing/ became prime minister (delete as appropriate). And nobody wants to be that person.

So do it*

*Whilst abiding by all health and safety guidelines, your resident country's current legal requirements and acceptable moral conduct etc ....... (a lot more flexible than you think depending on where you are obvs *looks hard at some countries*)


... And I'm not talking Ribena, which doesn't. It's an old saying I remember my grandma, my mother and her sister deploying at pursed lips moments of resignation about one disgraced family member or another.

I believe (and hope) it to mean: If you make an error, a mistake, a bad judgement in your life, marry a salesmen or embarrass yourself in some other way, people who love you will, eventually, forgive and (almost) forget because they love you.

(Though they will be bringing it up (whatever it was) at every family gathering for the Rest Of Your Life. Obvs.)


... People are all kinds of amazing and do amazing things all the time regardless of stature, status, sense and style. Or age because kids can do pretty amazing things too, sometimes when you least expect it and often when you most need it. A quick tissue-sodden viewing of the Pride of Britain awards will show you that.

When my father-in-law had a heart attack while grouting our family bathroom, it was my then three-year-old son toddling down the stairs to say Grandpa was poorly and his arms all flopping that raised the alarm.

Me? I was stood around wondering what the distant thump had been. *Tuts at self.* Obviously I panicked leapt into life-saving action immediately.

The Boy might not have won any awards but he is mine and his (now recovered and healthy) Grandpa's pride.


In one of the first ever Psychology lectures I attended at college the tutor said one of the main things we had to remember was: "There is no such thing as a normal person."

It was, I'll admit it, a bit of a relief.

People who say they are "normal," usually while sneering that someone else is not, seem quite proud to claim that they're normal. They're not normal though, they're the norm; one of a majority, an average person, a singular part of a faceless mass with no distinguishing features, foibles, traumas or talents united together by the need not to stand out.

And if that's normal, I don't want to be :)


I don't know why it does or how it does. But it just does. Fact.

These are my Top 5 Life Lessons, Read, learn and inwardly digest (particularly the wine) for a happier, if slightly hungover, life.

This is my Listography entry, please check out everyone else's at Kate Takes 5

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Illuminating York ... A Photo Blog (Mostly)

As part of the Illuminating York Festival, the National Rail Museum held an event called Locos in a Different Light. The NRM are also currently hosting The Great Gathering where the six remaining A4 locos in the world have been brought together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of The Mallard's steam record.This is what it looked like

Sir Nigel Gresley, Locos in a Different Light

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York
Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

Locos in a Different Light, York

... and it was the oddest, most impressive disco in the world complete with a playlist of train noises, at volume. There were far too many middle aged men with extendable tripods to be entirely comfortable, though I refrained from hitting anyone with an excitable seven year old *restrained face*

And this is what two seventeen year olds and a twelve year old look like after a couple of hours of cleverly lit up trains....

Locos in a Different Light, York

 ...Just in case you were wondering.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Past, Future. Tense.

The first half term of the TeenTwins' new school year has been all about making decisions about what happens next and for the girls that means university (we hope) so they've been kept busy choosing subjects and courses, writing personal statements and filling in their UCAS forms.

I, meanwhile, have stood on the sidelines simultaneously cheering them on while dreading the day of their departure and offering (mostly ignored) advice from my own experience. It's an awkward position to be in because as a parent you want the best for your child and it's hard to believe that that best is sending them off to what I remember as several years of drinking myself silly interspersed with awful moments of sobering clarity, usually in the midst of an exam.

Nevertheless I did emerge at the end of my frolic through the higher echelons of education with a degree, even if it was in English Literature, and the ability to drink an entire rugby squad under the table; a talent that held me in good stead for my subsequent career in newspapers.

I had, also, some of the best, funnest and funniest times as a student and made some awesome friends .... many who can still be reduced to paroxysms of glee by the mere mention of a Water Buffalo *sighs nostalgically*.....who are still awesome and still friends.

So while I fear the TeenTwins' departure and tear up at the mere mention of UCAS forms (though that's mostly at having to pay a £23 fee per twin), I am excited for them, and envy them too.

As part of the application process they've been visiting universities they're interested in and this week it was student open day at York St John University. My alma mater back in the days when, a scion of Leeds University, it was known as the College of Ripon and York St John and where I started student life an actual, whole 30 years ago.

The TeenTwins, in a blatantly obvious sucking-up move, booked to attend the student open day and graciously allowed me to accompany them on their exploration of my once-upon-a-time world.

And while over the past 30 years, the college has changed, expanded and modernised, it still had enough recognisable parts to give me an instant sense of coming home.

What was entirely unexpected was that TeenTwin1 would feel the same. because she loved it. Really.


Despite my running commentary about what had and hadn't changed over the last three decades, my ooh's, my aah's, my oh's, my no's and my what's, where, why's.

Despite my inconsolability that you can no longer live in a room above the Quad and my frank astonishment that English Literature is no longer taught under the shadow of the Minster in Gray's Court.

Oh, and the excited squealing. Despite all that, she still loved it.

TeenTwin2. Not so, but then her choice of university is based entirely on how fascinating she finds the local accent. If she didn't want to study English Language, I'd be worried ...

But I'm not going to be influencing their choice of universities. No, not me. *shakes head* That decision must be entirely their own *nods*

Though obviously I'd really like it if one of them chose to go to York St John's,

*Crosses fingers*'s YEARS since I've been to an Archies Day in the Student Union.

Mothers are invited? Right?


1987 in the Quad and an interview suit in which to face the big wide world


  Different clothes. Same old...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to Make Pebble Monsters

We're not renowned for our crafting skills at Quirky Kook Towers but in extremis we have been known to do our fair share of slapping on paint and sticking stuff. And a rainy, half term holiday in October is definitely the time to resort to rolling out the messy mat and getting stuck (sometimes literally) in.

pebble monster craft halloween
Mostly because it's Halloween this week (but mainly because our collection of pebbles was becoming mountainous) we've been busy making Pebble Monsters.

Pebble Monsters are, like all my very favourite crafting attempts, very simple and require absolutely no special skills, talent or equipment at all. What you do need are pebbles, obviously, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, PVA glue, a selection of googly eyes and a bottle of wine. 

The bottle of wine is essential

pebble monster craft for halloween First give the pebbles a couple of coats of white acrylic paint to seal the surface, it makes it much easier to apply bright colours later. Then get painting. Build up thin layers of acrylic paint leaving the pebbles to dry between coats.

This is when the bottle of wine comes in extremely useful. Remove the cork, pour a glass and try to drown out the little one's continuously "Are they nearly dry yet?" 

Keep painting layers until a) you're happy with the colour and finish on your pebble and b) Mummy has drunk all the wine.

Apply a thin layer of PVA glue over the surface to seal and add shine. Glue on googly eyes, as many as you see fit and, when dry, paint on a mouth with a thin paintbrush.

And Ta- Dah... Pebble Monsters

pebble monsters halloween craft

*Slips off chair* 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

It's Just A Phase .....

It is a whole ten months until The Tween becomes a Teen but she's already in serious training. Gone is
the little girl who used to babble constantly about her days, ideas, wishes and dreams, and in her place is a glowering individual who treats each, every and any query as an infringement of her basic human rights.

Though I've asked the same question each and every single day since she started in school: "Did you have a good day, honey?" now she merely grunts or, on good days, I get a: "WHY?" 
And a suspicious look.

Not so long ago her favourite colours were purple and pink and her only worry about what she wore was if it was on the right way or not. Now her favourite colour is black and ALL her clothes have to be black too, though she will tolerate the odd skull motif. And, obviously, she wants her bedroom walls painted black. Obviously.

She isn't actually followed around by a storm of rainclouds and the occasional lightning clap, but if she could be, she would. Instead she has resorted to a series of withering, dismissive and hostile looks with which she impales her enemies. Sorry, family.

We, of course, hate her, don't understand her, don't want her to have a life/ fun/ stuff/ hamster/ anything (delete as appropriate). At least she says we do, and don't. And she, of course, hates us, wants another family and is going to run away (well, as soon as she's worked out where to run to).

Do I despair? No, I do not because I've been here before, in stereo, with the TeenTwins and they were, in their individual ways, just as explosive and emotional as The Tween is proving to be. Though TeenTwin2's chosen form of rebellion was developing a passion for Jedward, and that was worrying.

So I miss the little girl that The Tween once was, but I know she's still in there, somewhere. I know that this is a phase, just like all the other phases .. the one where she wouldn't wear knickers, the one where all she would wear were fairy wings, the Thomas the Tank Engine years, the one where she would never eat Macaroni cheese because Daddy called it Worms in Poo Sauce.....though, thinking about it, that's a phase that hasn't passed yet. *Looks pointedly at The Man*

But still this is a phase like all the other phases and it will pass. It looks like anger but it's an assertion, the beginnings of expressing individuality and the first steps towards independence. It's growing and there are pains, and not always for the one growing. All we have to remember to do is to be there to give support if she grows too far, too fast, and not despair. At least not too much.

Oh, and not paint her bedroom walls black. *Tuts at child.*

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A Weekend in Whitby

The Boy's passion for steam engines is only equalled by The Man's. No holiday or day trip away is complete without a steam engine to either ride on, look at or stand on the footplate of. Apparently.....I've stood on far more footplates than I ever imagined (not that I ever did) or intended (I never did) during the past few years, but that's what marriage and motherhood can do to a woman. Nobody warns you about that when you're taking your wedding vows.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

When I Grow Up I Want to be Just Like Daddy ......

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

This is my entry for The Gallery for this week, the theme is One Title: No Words so you haven't seen this, right?
Go check out everyone else's entries over at Sticky Fingers  

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Growing Pains ....

Children change all the time when they're growing. There's, of course, the huge milestones of first tooth, walking, talking and managing the first trip to the supermarket without a tantrum (though I'm still waiting to reach that one myself, never mind the children).

And there's the little changes that occur in the every day that you don't notice in the day to day. Others always do, invariably making the comment: "Oooh, haven't they grown" causing suddenly surprised mothers to look at their children and think: "Bloody hell, when did that happen." And, if you're me, panic a bit that time is slipping by too fast because I can tell you on experience the passage of time between the babe in your arms becoming the Babe slamming the door on the way to the pub is the merest blink of an eye. *Sighs*

But there is one thing that doesn't change apparently and that's a child's complete inability to hide her contempt for posing in front of a camera ... at least not if The Tween is anything to go by.

The Tween, aged six.

The Tween, aged 12.

The Tween definitely suffers from growing pains .... And they're me and my camera. *Hangs head* 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The School Photo ...

It was School Photo day for The Boy this week.

In the morning I checked his face was washed, his uniform clean and ran a brush through his hair even while suspecting when his turn came to pose his hair would be dishevelled, his face and hands grubby and his uniform mysteriously spattered with unidentifiable stains. I am nothing if not optimistic though.

At hometime the same day he came out of school clutching two proofs and, of course, a price list in his, yes, grubby hands. The photos themselves weren't that bad. I suppose....

.... considering the photographer had taken well over 200 pictures of individual children, family groups as well as all the class photos during the same day. *Rolls eyes*

They're not bad photos but they're just not-that-bad photos, they're simple headshots on a plain, white background. And every child's in the school, taking the usual playground hand around as evidence, were much the same. The price list was, of course, as eye-wateringly expensive as normal and had a full menu of options, selection packs and gift items.

I was perusing the pricelist, boggling at who would pay £102 for a not very stunning shot on a large acrylic canvas, when I wondered why I was thinking of making any kind of order at all. It's not as if I'm short of photographs of The Boy. He's been shot more times than JR and I have hundreds if not thousands of photos of him. Like this one .....

The Boy photobombs his big sister's profile picture for Facebook 

...taken two days before the school photo and SO much more The Boy than the one in uniform smiling politely. Trust me. 

So I'm not, after 13 years of buying all the school photos (even in the year of the Badly Photoshopped School Photo 2011), buying The Boy's school photo for this year. Thank you very much.

I'm not. No. Not me. Definitely not...... 

*Buys them anyway just in case the school think I am an uncaring mother* 
*Sighs at self* 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Gallery ... Through The Eyes of My Phone.

I'm joining in with The Gallery this week and Tara's prompt is Through the Eyes of My Phone...

You can guarantee the moment I threaten to take pictures with a "proper" camera all four offspring do their best Usain Bolt impressions. But aim the phone camera at them and they barely bat an eyelid, just as if a photo taken on a phone is less real than one on taken on a "proper" camera. I don't tell them any different obviously, I just make sure I've got a really good camera on my phone.

And I always, always have my phone with me so it's always at hand to grab the shot that would have got away if I'd had to dig out a "real" camera, which inevitably leads to 20 minutes of someone faffing with their hair before you can even focus.
Me: "No,no, no... Do what you did 20 minutes ago..."
Them: "I don't remember what I did. *pout* Does my hair look alright?"

But one of the very best things about the phone camera (apart from it's ability to capture bees) is those photos that turn up on the camera roll when you least expect it, because it's not a camera, it's a phone and the TeenTwins just can't resist taking a selfie on a phone. *Rolls eyes* They don't even faff with their hair first...

So, obviously, I'm going to share them with the world

The TeenTwins, selfie queens extraordinaire.

This is my entry for this week's The Gallery
Check out everyone else's over on Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

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