This week I …

So this week I got wet and windswept! Not the best weather for a half term break but we adjusted our plans and ended up doing some great things we might not have necessarily done in fair weather.

We were joined this week by a lovely old friend who came to stay for a few days. She is the most special person and just exudes positivity and calm. I love having her around, it feels like she’s our family’s Mary Poppins, supporting us all. She definitely helped add a sparkle to our week.

Here are some of our highlights of the week …

I read …

Sophie Kinsella’s book Surprise Me was perfect holiday reading. I’ve enjoyed her work for many years with strong female leads resolving everyday challenges. I really liked how the lead female developed over the story and it was an empowering ending.

I listened …

I’m a huge Desert Island Discs fan and this was one of the best episodes I’ve listened to. Ian Wright’s story is different to what you expect, a personal history of loss, domestic violence, an inspirational teacher, overcoming the odds etc… It’s sad (tissues needed) but inspiring and uplifting.

I also watched the final episode of Cold Feet and they finished on a high with a brilliant song The Female of the Species by Space. In the late 90s I loved this song so much I bought the CD and played it on repeat. For those original Cold Feet fans (I was one) in the 90s, it was the first theme tune and the neat use of the song to end the series was pure class.

I made …

Last weekend I created a Valentines dessert for a special meal. I was trying for macarons but they ended up more like almond meringues with a white chocolate cream filling, delicious.

With a visitor I’ve also made a special effort with meals, some warming soups, a casserole and a risotto. I enjoy cooking for others and it’s a pleasure to sit around the table, to talk and laugh over good food.

As well as my efforts this week, Little Miss made some gorgeous peanut butter and chocolate brownies. When we were at a National Trust site on Wednesday we were given the recipe flyer and she was keen to give them a go, with a wet and windy afternoon it was the perfect opportunity to bake.

I played …

Thanks to a gift from our visitor we have discovered Qwirkle this week. It’s a great game of strategy with colours and shapes and strangely addictive. Again a great indoor activity for a wet half term.

I explored …

In a wet and windy week (mmm I think I’ve mentioned that a few times now) we needed to look for more indoor activities. The children have been to an indoor Wipeout inflatable session and a wet inflatable activity at the local pool. We also visited some local museums. In one we followed a lava lamp trail as the lava lamp was invented in a local town and we discovered how they work and got to chill in a lava lamp sensory area. I’m so tempted to buy one, it’s relaxing just looking at the way the wax (or globule as I learnt the technical term) moves in the lamp.

The children also visited a pottery and painted their own animal models, this was a surprisingly good activity for them both and they really focused and concentrated carefully on their task.

And finally …

It’s back to school for Little Miss and I on Monday whilst the boys have an extra day. I think a trip to the cinema is planned as we didn’t manage to get there this week. Little Man wants to see Sonic the Hedgehog and I’m happy to pass that to Mr S. It’s pancake day next week and a little eco challenge for Weds when I have to send in a packed lunch with no plastic wrapping.

Have a happy week.

#20for2020, No.2 Have my rings resized.

My #20for2020 is an eclectic list of things to do this year, some are simple and brief, others are a whole year’s project. Some will positively impact my health and therefore ‘serious’ others are just for fun.

Today I went and collected my resized wedding and engagement rings from the jewellers and got to tick off my second item from this year’s list.

The rings were on my list as it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years but never quite managed to organise. Seven years ago I had an accident at work and attended hospital where the rings had to be removed. For a few months after, my hand was bandaged and healing so the immediate need to have them done wasn’t there. I didn’t know if the accident would have lasting damage or if I would be able to wear the rings again so I simply put them away for safe keeping. I’ve thought about having them done in recent years but thought it would be expensive and complicated. In fact it was one of those things which was simple and much cheaper than I had budgeted for! I popped into our local jeweller, tried on the sizing rings and one week later my rings were ready to sparkle on my finger again.

I do love the simplicity of my rings. Mr S and I chose both rings together, the engagement ring in December 2000 and the wedding ring in the summer of 2003. Mr S no longer has his wedding ring as it got lost one day when he was potting in the garden! I don’t mind this and actually didn’t feel any less married when I wasn’t wearing mine. However now I’ve got them back. they do remind me of nice times and special people.

So that’s 2 items on my #20for2020 down, 18 to go, of which 8 are in progress. I do enjoy this challenge!

This week …

After a busy weekend it was back to normal for the week before a much needed half term. We’re all a little tired and in need of some lazy moments next week.

This week I had a meeting with some important people from the education department with regards to Little Man’s special school place. They were very nice people and it was a very nice meeting but there’s no resolution, yet.

This week, I have …

This week I have finished two books. One fiction, the other non fiction. I liked the ideas in The Art of Making Memories and it is full of beautiful images and some nice anecdotes. However for sensory ideas and a holistic approach to daily life, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach remains my go to book. Dear Evan Hansen is a YA book, as my daughter gets older I am reading more of the genre to try and know the type of books she may be reading. I liked the book, it starts with a suicide but is a story of loneliness and being your true self.

After last week’s school play I’ve been listening to the Fame musical soundtrack. Bring on tomorrow is my favourite track and was sung so strongly and with such feeling, a real anthem for the young performers.

In cubs the parents are asked to volunteer one session a term and for me it was this week and a trip to the local fire station. Little Man wants to be a firefighter when he’s older and was in his element for the visit. It was so cool, we learnt how to use heat sensor cameras, move safely around a dark room and try different hoses. Some firefighters also showed us how they can use the power tools on their engines. It was a really interesting visit and a great one to volunteer for.

I’m trying hard to use more recyclable materials and in wrapping Mr S’ valentines gift, I used brown paper for this reason. However to brighten the package and make it more personal I added a few scribbles, key dates in our life together. I’m not artistic but I like the sentiment behind the doodles.

Little Miss is going through another tough time, but I was pleased to see her wearing a badge I had popped into her Christmas stocking. I think it’s beautiful and just what she needs to know at the moment.

This week I have …

#20for2020 have a rainbow 🌈 of nail colours

Wow what a week. I am grateful that on this stormy Sunday afternoon I can finally relax, breathe and reflect on an eventful week.

At present we are trying to find our son a special school placement and it is the most stressful and unpleasant experience. It’s a simple situation, everyone agrees he needs specialist support and we would like him to attend our local state Special Needs school. However the process is hell. We now have a complaint lodged with the government ombudsman and we have been given appeal to tribunal. This is what I spend most of my free time doing and it is genuinely making me quite poorly. I spent a couple of evenings on it this week when I really needed to relax.

Despite the stress caused by the above I was happy to get my Uni result and I have a good pass for my module 1, yippee. I’m now halfway to my qualification. I did feel my result was a little overshadowed by some bad news we had about the school placement and I still don’t think I’ve had chance to feel pleased with myself.

However here are some of the things from a very busy week which definitely seemed longer than 7 days!

I read …

Lots of people have recommended The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy and I found myself listening to the author talk about his book on radio 4 last week. He was so lovely that I popped into the local bookshop for a copy. It is so beautiful and what I can only describe as an heirloom book with such wise words and delightful illustrations. I read the page above on Tuesday when I had really struggled to get up in the morning. I genuinely felt sick with the stress of the school place but this gave me a little hope.

I watched …

No doubt about the watch this week as Little Miss starred in her first secondary school production Fame. It was brilliant, a little gritty in places but what a show with such amazing talent. We all saw it but on different performances. Little Man saw the dress rehearsal put on for all the town’s Year 5s and 6s, this was the child friendly version. I saw it with my parents and Mr S saw it with his dad, sister and brother in law. With the dress rehearsal it was five performances in total and three late nights but Little Miss has been brilliant throughout and loved being part of such a special event.

I listened …

Two of my favourite podcasts had interviews with Marian Keyes this week. I love listening to Marian Keyes’ beautiful Irish lilt as she talks with such honesty and wit. Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail was poignant and a thoughtful listen, this is a great podcast and the interviews are always very telling. Marian Keyes features prominently this week as her new book was published and I am so excited to have a signed copy as a belated Christmas present. It’s my first ever signed book and one to treasure. Marian has been there all through my adult life, I’ve read all her books but love her in Twitter too, I’m definitely a fan girl!

I wore …

This week I treated myself to a skirt I found on the White Stuff website. During no spend January I kept it on my wish list and with a special offer I finally bought it in February. The skirt is amazing, it’s one of those items you just put on and feels so right, so you. It’s a perfect potter around town outfit and with thick black tights and a bright red jumper and pumps, I felt like skipping rather than walking, it brought me that much joy!

I made …

I’m afraid it’s a tenuous link this week as I’ve been a bit busy to make anything new. However pesto seems to have been my secret ingredient in a couple of dinners this week. One night I needed a super quick tea and tossed together a few vegetables, pesto and whole wheat pasta for a delicious meal. I also added it to the stock for a casserole which worked well too.

Happy new week.

Welcome February

I’m looking forward to February, the days are getting longer and there’s little glimpses of spring. It’s a busy month in the Sparkles household, with lots of visitors, Little Miss’ big school production and the half term holiday to look forward .

Later this month, my uni results for module 1 are due and I’m busy planning and starting my action research project. No doubt there will be developments in our quest to find Little Man a special school place. January saw us at mediation with the local authority but after their failure to resolve the issue then it’s on to tribunal which might be this month. When I started my uni course I never realised I was going to be living some of the legal aspects we’ve been taught. It’s been handy to have the full knowledge!

I need to up my running this month to meet the 100 mile winter challenge. I did this in the summer but the weather and dark mornings are making this very much a challenge. I’m also keen to do the parkrun on leap day as it’s a special with a theme!

It’s the month of love with Valentine’s Day, it’s a bittersweet day, a day to celebrate love in all its forms but there’s a personal sadness to the date. February also features pancake day, which is always fun as we all try to toss our pancakes and create lots of delicious fillings.

Happy February everyone x

This week I …

This was a tough week with Brexit on Friday so here’s some beautiful flowers to cheer me up. I got these in Aldi following a friend’s recommendation. I was really impressed by the quality and price of their flowers it’s just a shame that it’s over 25 miles to my nearest store.

I read …

This was my first 5 star read of 2020, it’s such a lovely read. It’s a tale of a couple from when they meet until their deaths and shows the different types of love shared throughout their lives. It’s incredibly moving and I sobbed at the ending.

I watched …

Something else that had me sobbing this week was the tv programme shown on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, The Windermere Children. It’s the true story of the children liberated from the camp and brought to England to be cared for and supported. It’s a drama based on real stories and the final scene is incredibly moving with the real people appearing with the actor playing their younger self.

I made …

Well this is the 3rd costume I’ve needed to create this month and we haven’t even come to World Book Day ( I’m thinking Stig of the Dump using some of the clothing above) So far I’ve done an 80s costume for Little Miss’ school production, a soldier for the cubs gang show and now a Viking for class assembly. I’m afraid that I didn’t have the time or creativity to make a helmet this week. Surprisingly we have a fancy dress shop in town so I popped in there for the helmet. It’s a v small town but with carnival, NYE, lots of local productions etc.. there’s a surprising need for fancy dress.

I listened …

With Me Now is my favourite podcast, it’s like listening to friends chatting, there are in jokes, gentle teasing and a shared love for running. It’s the only podcast for which I’ve gone back to the beginning and listened to every show. This week it was released too late for my Thursday run and I couldn’t wait until my car journey on Saturday so I cuddled up on the sofa on Friday night headphones on to listen. This podcast never disappoints.

I wore …

There were no new outfits this week but it was a week where sunglasses were definitely needed. It’s been so bright and sunny. This was a photo taken on Tuesday morning when I was out for a walk with a student. We both paused just to appreciate the sun on our faces.

Happy week everyone.

Je suis Européenne

Today the UK leaves the European Union. I thought I would feel angry but instead it’s a deep, deep sadness. I have grown up as a European citizen and appreciated being part of Europe. It felt that the EU was a community of nations who had learnt lessons of the previous century and created a new period of cooperation and collaboration. As with all large organisations it needed ‘fine tuning’ but it was a genuine force for good.

I embraced Europe, I loved languages at school and went on to study French and European politics at uni. I spent an amazing year living and working in France. As a young person I was a beneficiary of many grant and projects funded by the EU.

So many people have benefited from projects funded by the EU. As a teacher we were able to take some pupils from a very deprived area in Cardiff to Crete for a EU project. These children who had never left their town had the world opened up to them and as a consequence had new opportunities to pursue. There have been so many rejuvenation projects in communities, art projects financed by the EU of which we have all benefited, knowingly or unknowingly.

I fear for the UK being out of Europe, a policy of splendid isolation is never effective. We are not the grand nation some think we are and others will be in no rush to work collaboratively with us. I hate the right wing politics that is pervading our society on the back of Brexit, we are becoming intolerant and divisive. One of my proudest British moments was the 2012 Olympics which seemed to showcase the inclusive society we were. I was proud to hang my Union Jack flag outside the house and dress us all in Union Jack tshirts. I would never do that now, sadly the flag has become a symbol of the right wing of our society.

I hope this is a brief sejour from the EU, the younger generation are strongly in favour of the European Union and I feel that when the reality of Brexit affects ordinary people opinions will change further. Europe, thank you for your dignity and friendship in Brexit, please leave a light on for us.