Week 47 of 2014

Orpheus annual concertMy Dad’s parents moved from South Wales to the Midlands in the 1930s, but my Dad still has cousins living in the Tredegar area, where his parents grew up.  My Dad’s parents lost touch with their families in the 1950s and when my brother got into family history in the late 1980s (he started when he was a teenager), he tracked people down and arranged meetups.  Over the last couple of years my brother and I have been a couple of times to see the relatives; to do a little family history research and visit some of the places associated with our family.  This time though we decided to take our parents along for a visit too.  They don’t drive and Tredegar no longer has a train station, so it seemed easier to take them.

Tredegar catholic churchThe reason for our visit that weekend was so that we could attend the Tredegar Orpheus choir annual concert.  My dad’s cousin is in the choir and has been for many years, but we’d never seen him perform, so we decided to go.  The concert was excellent and of a really high standard, which made it seem a shame that they had to perform in the gym of the local leisure centre – it didn’t really seem fitting.

Apart from catching up with relatives, we visited the local catholic church.  This was where my grandmother was baptised and would have worshipped until well into adulthood.  At my parents’ house there is a framed picture on the wall of the parish priest from her time: Thomas Vernacombe and my grandmother always put his picture in pride of place.  His name was on a list of former priests on the wall.  It’s likely too that my ancestors helped physically build this church, as it was constructed by the parishioners themselves, mostly poor labourers of Irish origin.

pinart at Smiggle shopAside from the weekend trip to Wales it was quite a normal week, but the highlight for H was going to the opening of the Smiggle shop in Birmingham.  It was next to impossible to drag him away from the pinart stars and he wasn’t the only enthralled child as the pinart in particular seemed very popular.  Smiggle are an Australian stationery firm which are opening a lot of shops in the UK.  Their range of products is a breath of fresh air and I found so many lovely stocking fillers.

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Christmas Traditions With Lindt

Goldilocks and the three bears
Who’s Been Sitting In My Chair?

Lindt recently asked us to work on creating (or recreating) Christmas traditions.  This is something that I think every family does as children grow older.  We didn’t have much in the way of Christmas traditions before we had H, but now that he’s part of the family we have come up with all sorts of ideas.

Story Telling

Part of decorating the house for Christmas centres around creating scenes and stories.  This year we have used Lindt’s bears, santas, reindeer and snowman as part of our story telling fun.

lindt reindeers
Will You Pull My Sleigh Tonight?

For instance, Lindt’s chocolate bears have been taking part in an elaborate pantomime tale based on the traditional story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Meanwhile Santa has been joined by his reindeer and they are busy getting the sleigh ready for their annual Christmas journey.

Tracking Santa Across The Sky

Another Christmas tradition in our house is tracking Santa across the skies.  We start off as he visits H’s cousins in Australia and as the evening progresses we see him visit more and more countries.  Every so often we take another look at NORAD and see what Santa is up to.  It’s an excuse for an impromptu geography lesson and it adds to the excitement as Santa gets ever closer.

Christmas Baking

stirring up the Christmas puddingFood is an important part of Christmas too.  It starts ahead of Christmas with stirring up the Christmas puddings and making homemade mincemeat (much nicer than shop bought).  It’s the sort of baking that is fun to do with children and in fact, I’ve made it into a party activity with each ingredient on a separate piece of paper and children getting involved with measuring and mixing.  For us it’s a fun activity to do together and put on a Christmas CD and sing along as we work.

Dressing The Tree

Decorating the Christmas TreeH likes to dress the tree as soon as possible.  We usually insist that doesn’t happen before 1st December, but we might have to cave in a day early this year because of the way the weekends fall.  Not sure H could contain himself till the 6th and it’s too big a job for after school, so we might do 30th November.  This year Lindt have sent us some fabulous chocolatey Christmas decorations to add to the Christmas fun.  We might make it a new tradition to eat one each day after Christmas to spread the fun a little.

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Skylanders Trap Team

Skylanders Trap TeamThis is our third Skylanders game and H has so far worked his way through Skylanders Giants and Skylanders Swap Force. This time the developers keep the Skylanders series fresh by introducing something new to add interest and excitement for Skylanders’ fans. This time it’s all in the name and the key thing is to trap the bad guys. When you defeat an enemy you can claim it as yours if you have the right kind of trap to hold it.  H just couldn’t wait to get his hands on Skylanders Trap Team and he would have played it non stop if he was allowed.

H has been playing the game with just the starter pack, plus his existing Skylanders and the Kaos Trap we got a few weeks ago. Skylanders is backwards compatible, so you can use all the figures you already own. Now H will be wanting some of the other traps and figures because they do add to the fun, but he’s been able to complete the game on the easy setting without any new extras.  That said the traps are pretty reasonably priced and the figures make good stocking fillers.  Now he’s keen to challenge himself further by trying to complete it on the harder setting; upgrading all his characters; and fully exploring all the areas.  I think it will keep him busy for some time to come.  Whenever he gets a new Skylander for his Skylander games he’s always keen to fully upgrade the character for use in all his games.

Trap Team makes a great Christmas present and you can ask family and friends to help out with buying other figures and traps to spread the cost.  The new home base is called the  Skylanders Academy and it will unlock different bits e.g when you finish level 2 you will unlock a new area, Auric’s shop, and that happens on a number of different levels within the game.  There are 18 levels in total.

We reviewed the Wii version of the game because that’s the console we have, but if you are thinking of upgrading to a Wii U soon, then you’ll like the fact that the game includes  a free download for the Wii U version of the game.  This is a really nice touch because sadly less new games are becoming available on the Wii and we are starting to come under pressure from H to think about upgrading.

What did H say about the game?

He especially liked playing 2 ways: playing as both the trapped villain and their Skylander and then switching between them by a simple press of the button.  He says ‘warn your children that they’ll be freaked out when Kaos starts talking to them.’  This is the thing he keeps talking about the most.


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Storage Solutions From The Camouflage Company

hallway storageAs you know we have just had our kitchen refitted.  As part of the work we knocked through to our utility room and removed the wall that we had our coat rack on.  Now the old coat rack was in a bit of a silly place: a long way from the front door, but at least there was space to store coats and the other bits and pieces you need to keep by the door, especially in winter (like hats, gloves, wellies, umbrellas).  Storing coats in a kitchen doesn’t seem to be a good move, so we are looking to move all our outdoor stuff to the hall.

Our hall is a fairly narrow Edwardian style hallway, so space is at a premium and whatever storage solutions we opt for are going to be very much on display whenever anyone comes to our home.  So it’s important to keep things organised in a neat and tidy way, plus make the storage look good.  The Camouflage Company have come to our rescue with their multi-purpose carrier.    It’s just the right size to tuck neatly into an empty corner.  It looks attractive and you can use it to store whatever bits and pieces you want.  It can be a glove bag or a hat bag maybe or maybe a brolly bag.  It’s wipe clean too, so a bit of mud won’t be a problem either.  You don’t just have to stick to the hall either as they’d look good elsewhere in the house or even outside.

Readers of Nine to Three Thirty can enter our giveaway, which has one of these lovely storage bags as its prize.

Entry is via the gleam widget below.

Competition Terms and Conditions

1. No bulk, third-party or automated entries.

2. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older.

3. The winners will be chosen by a random draw.

4. The winner will be notified by email and will have a week to claim their prize. Should they fail to respond within this time, an alternative winner will be selected.

5. Promoter is responsible for fulfilling the prize and full contact details of the winner will be passed onto the promoter.

6. Competition closes on 3 December 2014.
The Camouflage Company Giveaway

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