29 March 2010

Easter decorations

1. Take several twigs from the garden (I cut some from the lilac, eucalyptus tree and winter flowering jasmine).

2. Stick them in a vase with some water (the leaves will eventually unfurl).

3. Add some vintage Easter decorations (these ones were given to me and my brother when we were small), a random selection of chicks (some listing rather badly due to cat-inflicted injuries) and a large Easter rabbit (courtesy of Lidl, 99p).

4. Voila!

28 March 2010

Kite flying at Low Newton

It was surprisingly warm and sunny at Low Newton by the Sea. We dug sandcastles, flew kites, and marvelled at the air-sea rescue helicopter people who waved at us as they flew past.

23 March 2010

Spring is here (part 4)

Which means it's time to plant some seeds. Here we have courgette, tomato, chillis and sugar snap peas, plus an unidentified bulb that I found at the bottom of my gardening box. Egg boxes are definitely the way forward...

21 March 2010

Spring is here (part 3)

One of the best things about a sunny day in March is that it's finally warm enough to go outside and blow some bubbles...

18 March 2010

Today we have mostly been...

...eating licorice.

Well, not all day. I did some work this morning, and me and M went to a ballet lesson this afternoon (not that I was allowed to do ballet with the four-year-olds, you understand - my duties were strictly confined to sitting outside and knitting the interminable pink ballet wrap).

But we did spend a while eating licorice. That's quite unusual, I grant you, but we were sent some cherry licorice to try (see above) by the lovely people at Panda. Not one to pass up such a momentous opportunity, I assembled a rigorous group of testers (two four-year-olds and a two-year-old), a couple of adults to take notes, and we gave it a go.

Each child was issued with one ration of ordinary licorice, and another of the cherry variety. Raisins were on standby for those who found the whole thing a bit much.

After a lot of chomping, it was a pretty unanimous thumbs down for the cherry version (sorry Panda). Everyone liked their ordinary licorice, but only M loved the cherry variety. I blame her Grandpa - he's got a sweet tooth too. As the other half said, it's a brilliant sweet, but only as long as you're not expecting it to taste like licorice.

Tomorrow, we rigorously test fizzy drinks. Just kidding. They all live on local organic free-range stuff farmed by dolphins by moonlight the rest of the time, you know.

13 March 2010


It's never too early to get your small daughter interested in geekery. Here is the drawbot she and Orb made at Maker Faire, part of Newcastle Science Festival. M has now announced plans to build a robot cat...

12 March 2010

Captain Jack addresses the masses

Apparently, the posts from the fruit cage at the allotment are the perfect spot for declaiming to one's fans.

09 March 2010

Arts Corner: March is film month as well

I know, I know…you spend ages not watching any films, and then a whole load of them come along at once. Not content with the delights of February, this month I’ve been to see a couple of grown-up films.

First of all (courtesy of the lovely people at SeeFilmFirst), I love you Phillip Morris. This is the (true) tale of con-man and four-time prison escapee Steven Russell, who fell in love with his cell mate Phillip Morris.

I can’t quite get my head around this film. There’s something not quite right about it, and for once, it’s not Jim Carrey.

I can’t stand him, normally – The Truman Show is about the only film of his that I’ve ever enjoyed. But in this, he’s excellent as the con-man Steven Russell – most of the Carrey-isms are reined in, and towards the end, he puts in a really powerful acting performance. Top marks (although I could have done with a *lot* less of the naked Jim Carrey…).

The film falls down on three counts, I think. First of all, it can’t quite decide if it wants to be a comedy or a drama – there’s moments of both, but it’s all so jumbled up together that there’s a lack of coherence in the general mood and feel of the film.

Second, Ewan McGregor is woefully miscast as Phillip Morris. His accent wobbles all over the place (mostly via Scotland), and he just comes across as far too wet. Yes, Phillip Morris was a nice guy – but Ewan McGregor never fleshes that out at all – his performance is very two-dimensional.

Thirdly, make that pretty much every performance that’s two-dimensional (apart from the aforementioned Mr Carrey). It might be inevitable in a film that focuses so firmly on the two lead characters, but the rest of the cast are never rounded out as characters, and you care even less about them than the leads.

Sad, really. The subject matter’s great (and I suspect the book is fascinating) – but it’s just not been translated well into a film.

In other news, I've also been to see A Single Man (following on from my Colin Firth spree in Nanny McPhee).

All I can say is: Colin Firth. Julianne Moore. 1960s architect-designed houses in Laurel Canyon. What’s not to like?

This film is fab – a beautiful, moody and very sad depiction of the last day of college professor George Falconer – and has a stunning central performance by Mr Firth. Who also wears some rather good shoes, and manages to look effortlessly cool and nerdy at the same time. College prof-style is obviously the way to go (Orb, take note).

If I had any criticism, it's that the soundtrack is a little bit overbearing at times. There's only so much strings/orchestra tugging at the heart strings that a girl can take.

08 March 2010

Spring is here (part 2)

We toddled down to the allotment today for the first time in ages (I suspect it was last October, actually). The ground's still frozen (we managed to chisel some beetroots out, but failed miserably on the leeks). Much fun was had photographing Captain Jack in a variety  of locations, searching for non-existent worms, and generally getting muddy. Roll on Easter, then we can plant our potatoes...

05 March 2010

Spring is here!

It must be-the bulbs are starting to peep through...

01 March 2010

Chinese lantern festival

More lanterns last night, at the Chinese lantern festival at the Oriental Museum in Durham. We hunted for tiny tigers (ingeniously hidden everywhere from the display cabinets to the tops of doorways), coloured in lantern pictures, ate fortune cookies (apparently prosperity is just around the corner - hurrah!) and generally had a fabulous time.

Well done that museum - it's one of my favourite places anyway to go with small children, but this was a brilliant small-scale, low-key event. Other places take note - an event doesn't have to cost a fortune (for the museum to put on, or for families to attend) or be particularly hi-tech to be entertaining!