Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Panda is back! New & improved and perfect for parents.

I am old - I think we have established that - but there must be lots of you out there who can remember Panda Pops and could never choose which of the many flavours to choose at the school disco, chip shop or tuck shop. To be honest my choices were largely influenced by the bright colours which I'm fairly sure did not come from nature!

They stopped making the old Panda Pops years ago I gather but today's more health-aware parents will be delighted to learn that Panda is back with a new range of still, deliciously fruity drinks which the manufacturers assure me are completely free of any "nasties".

The lovely people at Panda sent us some of the new flavours to try, along with a lunchbox to prove it is the perfect size for packed lunches and picnics, and some outdoor toys to help us work up a thirst! They even sent a book of ideas for outdoor activities which the children could not wait to have a go at!

We decided to take our bottles along to the zoo on a particularly hot day- I refrigerated them first although you don't have to, and put them in the lunchbox with a camping ice pack.

After a stressful car journey made worse by roadworks, holiday traffic and a complicated diversion we were all thirsty before we'd even got into the zoo so I shared out the drinks shouting out flavours and handing them out to the first child to shout "me please!"

They were quite excited by the choice -Panda Still Juice drinks come in raspberry and blackcurrant flavours, and Panda Splash, a fruit flavoured water, in both orange & pineapple and blackcurrant flavours. They have no added sugar and only natural colours.  A Panda Squash is also available in two fruity flavours - tropical and summer fruits. 

We had been sent Panda Still Juice in blackcurrant and raspberry flavours, and Panda Splash in orange and pineapple flavour. The sweetest juice was predictably the blackcurrant which tasted like a fairly strong good quality blackcurrant squash.  The raspberry was a more subtle flavour, not as sweet although still sweet enough for my youngest! I really liked the Panda Splash which had a lovely taste, not too overpowering and very refreshing. I don't like flavoured fizzy waters so would definitely pick this one up for myself as well as the children.

Altogether the new Panda range gets the thumbs up from me and my children- one I will definitely consider buying for school trips without risking the wrath of the packed lunch police!

Panda Still Juice and Panda Splash are currently available in Asda, Tesco and Ocado priced at £1.99 for a six bottle multipack. Panda Squash is sold in Tesco, costing 99p for a one litre bottle. DISCLAIMER: I received a fun pack and product samples for the purposes of this honest review.

O is for Ocean- The Alphabet Photography Project

Well. It's actually sea but let's pretend eh? 

Picture taken on the beach next to the Hover Travel hovercraft terminal in Portsmouth where we whiled away some time skimming stones before watching the hovercraft zoom in - I never tire of that!

You can just about see the Isle of Wight on the horizon. Was hoping to take Grumpy on the hovercraft for his birthday next week but as always a family ticket (although good value at £45 for two adults and up to 3 children) obviously does not cover OUR family and buying extra tickets starts to make it a very generous birthday treat so we might have to settle for watching it come in and out when we visit big Bro in the city next week.

Sadly Grumpy's birthday is just too late for us to try out Portsmouth's Park and Sail service which looks like great value at £6 to park all day on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays and includes  a 25 minute boat trip with commentary to the marvellous Gunwharf Quays complex for up to 8 people! Bargain! But the service apparently ends on August 25. *sad face*.

I've been told there are other ferry services in the area including the Gosport ferry service which I gather runs until at least September.

Now where did I put my stripy "nautical" T-shirt.......

This post is linked to the #alphabetphoto project over at PODcast


Fluttering - that first sign it's real. A tiny life not even seen but independently moving and growing, delighting and terrifying.

Drama, pain, relief and wonder at tiny fingers and toes and amazement at such a noise from such a small human.

Demanding, exhausting, exhilarating as 3-6 replaces 0-3. When counting in weeks changes to counting in months changes to counting in years.

18 years.

Standing in front of his new home hundreds of miles away. Proud but fearful. Happy but sad.

Requests for nourishment and entertainment replaced (mainly) by adult chat and laughs and camaraderie. Tolerating loud music which often assaults the ears and inwardly smiling at enthusiastic and confident opinions not yet tempered by longevity.

Looking into his new kitchen and a new future. Which features you on page 309 in the novel of their life. A bit part on the stage, an extra in the sitcom.

teen on 125cc motorbike in B&W
Flashbacks. Of cute dungarees, of baptisms, of terrifying tumbles which turned out to be minor trips, of misspoken words, of impulsive hugs, of stifling laughs as he performs more than pre-school wanted on stage.

Of childhood friendships, of birthday teas, of first days at school, of exam results, of driving tests. Of that first trip alone on his motorbike leaving me with everything crossed, helpless at home.

And now this. A leafy campus first seen in sunshine. Hoping that all the days ahead are sunny for him. It's exactly like it was at the very start, before he was even born. He's independently moving and growing, delighting and terrifying. 

Packing and planning.

All I hear is flapflapflap- the sound of a fledgling flying the nest.

Super Busy Mum

Monday, 18 August 2014

Kitten Madness- introducing kittens to an older cat.

Earlier this year I had three cats. Badger, adopted from a friend of a friend who was emigrating, and Oscar and Tilly rehomed to give relief to their owner who turned out to be allergic to cats but had been terribly stoic for her daughter who loved them - until she left home and couldn't take them with her.

3 cats eating together
Oscar, Tilly & Badge
I have always loved cats and these three mature characters were beautifully calm, always up for a bit of fuss and strolled around in that haughty, slo-mo fashion only older cats can pull off. You could almost hear them:"Oy, peasant. Where's my food?"

But tragically we lost Tilly and Badger within the space of a week to two separate illnesses. I was distraught - children were really upset and poor old Oscar didn't know what to do with himself. He just wandered round looking for his mate and his sister, crying.

I asked advice of the vet - would new cats make Oscar worse or better? We tried a few of her tips but he still seemed wobbly.

Then, fate took charge with a phone call. Another friend had a relative who had taken on kittens but needed them rehomed. Could we help?

We thought carefully for a while - kittens are hard work and we worried they might be too much for Oscar. But the children were very keen and I'm a sucker for a small bundle of purring fluff so last week they moved in.

Jack and Max were soon renamed - our neighbours have children with those names and I didn't want to be bellowing out of the door only for the kids to come running. So Felix and Jasper as they are now known are settling in nicely.
kitten Felix

8 year old cat Badger
Felix is startling like Badger to look at - the children initially wanted to call him Badger Mark 2 - and he's a proper Tom kitten. He's into everything and loves to pounce on anything that moves.

Kitten Jasper
His brother Jasper is bigger but slightly calmer - usually the first one to fall asleep after playtime. They love to curl up together on the windowsill, heads resting together. Awww!

And Oscar? We were careful about introducing him to the kittens. We contained the kittens in one room for a couple of days giving Oscar the run of the rest of the house and access to his food and the cat flap.

After a few days we opened the door to the room the kittens were in when Oscar was scratching to be let into it then when Oscar came in to investigate we stayed close. (Hissing and hackles are to be expected and fine but you don't want the meeting to escalate into a full scale cat fight. You can put kittens into carry basket if you are nervous and let your older cat approach and sniff through the cage door but we found a large room with plenty of places to escape to and an open door worked fine.)

Oscar and Jasper hissed at each other during the first few encounters (Felix hid) and Oscar stalked off but is now tolerating his lively housemates with the occasional hiss but in a bid (we think) to remind us he is top cat he has upped his loving offerings of dead rodents in frequency and size - we have even had a couple of large rats presented to us this week! It might be a coincidence though - the field behind us was recently harvested so I think there's a lot of disturbed furry beasties running about without the cover of wheat to protect them!

We now are at the point where they all three cats can eat in the same room and there's a wary truce with hardly any hissing.

We are having lots of fun watching the kittens playing and not to many scratches so far. The children have been very good at understanding that they have to leave them alone when they are resting - and even better at entertaining them with a variety of toys when the kittens are in a playful mood.

The older children have even been good about helping to sort out the litter tray - I will be very glad when they graduate to the great outdoors for their toileting! Nothing says " Welcome to my Home" like a freshly used litter tray. Thank goodness for air freshener!

They have been here a week now and seem very settled and even DH who was the least keen on the idea seems to have a soft spot for them. I think he especially loves it when he's late for work and they "help" him tie his laces.

A reminder to anyone thinking about getting kittens though - they ARE hard work, they are disruptive and destructive and they do have sharp claws and teeth so if you have very young children or work long hours out of the house I would think twice!

 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg This post is link to #whatsthestory hosted by Charly at PODcast and #magicmoments hosted by Jaime at The Olivers Madhouse.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Coastal Scene. The B&W Photography Project

beached boat at Orford in Suffolk, UK

Taken at Orford in Suffolk just with my trusty iPhone. This slightly wrecked vessel looked brightly shabby chic in colour but almost forlorn in B&W. Wish I'd taken my "proper" camera for more depth - this is a little 2D but never mind.

#silentsunday #mysundayphoto


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The News.

I used to be a journalist and have always taken a keen interest in current affairs and the news generally. Barely a day goes by when I don't check out what's happening around the globe through TV or one app or another, or *gasp* by opening an actual paper newspaper.

But I feel more like an ostrich this week as bad news stories overwhelm my timeline making me so sad I can hardly bear it. I have avoided opening my app and averted my eyes from the newspapers  but there's no escape.

Jumping into my car and turning the ignition the radio automatically starts and I am ambushed in between boy bands and moody pubescents singing about how gangsta they are by news and phone-ins which recently have reduced me to tears. Scrolling through my timeline on social networks - there it is again. No avoiding bad news. No, worse than bad news-catastrophic news.  So many areas of the world where conflict, natural disasters and disease are overwhelming human lives I lose track of what is happening where. Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Liberia......sadly I am naming just a few.

I am  proud to be Christian. There! I wrote it down on the internet as I often have. Without fear that someone is going to behead me or worse, chop one of my children in half. IN HALF! I feel sick just thinking about it.

Feel stranded in the house this holiday, feel trapped? But how about those thousands of Yazidi people really trapped on a mountain watching helicopters hovering ahead, sometimes unable to drop aid for fear of killing the very people they are trying to help.

Please trolls don't start leaving nasty comments about religion and politics. This transcends religion and politics. No-one, not ever, should be distracted by that. These are human beings and let's face it humans will always find a reason to kill- football, colour, gender, sexuality, jealousy, greed.... this time it just happens to be faith. And as for politicians? Even the most charismatic leader doesn't actually hold the killers hand on the axe/gun/noose.

Then today - Robin Williams. Trivial in contrast to genocide? No. I think not. I feel today for people who suffer with mental illness, addiction, despair who are today thinking: "Well if Robin, a much-loved family man with all his money and access to top-class help, couldn't beat his demons, what chance have I?

I normally get faintly irritated by the flood of tributes when someone famous dies but not so much this time. I was a big fan. Not a stalk 'em, join a fan club or wear a T-shirt fan but someone who enjoyed his performances in whatever genre.

So many other news stories I could focus on, so much bad news. But I'm afraid I think I need just for a while to turn away from it. To hug my children a little tighter. To be thankful I live in a country where I can practice my faith relatively safely. To not have to climb a mountain and stand for days, exhausted and terrified in the hope I will be able to grab water and blankets. To be happy. Not ecstatic. Sometimes a bit low, even depressed but never to the point I could take my own life.

And in fear only of people who might be snide, or dismissive I will pray tonight. For Robin and his family and fans. And for everyone in the world, regardless of faith, colour or whatever who is suffering in any way. Join me if you can - or if you can't or won't just pause awhile and focus on what's good in your life and be thankful.
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