Saturday, 31 August 2013

We Are Twins! by Sylvia Pagán Westphal

Sam and Ben are twin brothers. In this book, aimed at children between the ages of 1 and 4, we discover the differences and similarities of twins and how they are most certainly not 'two peas in a pod'.

I am a nanny and my charges are twins. They are a boy and a girl so they aren't saddled with many of the stereotypes typically associated with twins but we get our fair share. If I had a pound for every time someone says to me 'double trouble' then I would be a very rich woman. Some people seem to leave their brains behind when talking about twins. I have been asked whether they poo at the same time, whether they learned to walk at the same time. Some people find it very hard to get it into their heads that even though twins may have shared the womb together, were born on the same day, may often have a bond that non-twins can't even imagine, they are two different people.

I enjoyed this book because it addressed this common misconception. It looked at how twins can look differently, behave differently, have different skills and they are all viewed positively, ''I love blocks and can build towers so high they reach Papa's knees!' (Sam) 'But I would rather kick a football with Papa and say "Goaaal"!!!'' Some children are mathematical, some are more creative, some are loud and expressive, some are shy and quiet this book addresses that and says 'It's okay.' It also discusses how twins each have their own thoughts and think about things in different way.

The similarities between twins are also compared. Like any siblings there will be some things, whether nature or nurture, that they will have in common. The illustrations show the two boys playing closely together and I like how their bond is shown to be encouraged.

The book also contains a humour which I think will appeal to toddlers and young children. The illustrations were simple but bright and they accompanied the story well. Sadly, the Kindle version was badly done so the pages were a little mixed up and some of the illustrations were spread over five pages so that was a shame. There were also a lot of exclamation marks which I think were a bit impotent and quite annoying.

Overall I gave this book 3 stars, its very simple and doesn't have much of a story but it does its job of showing that twins are very different from each other.

We Are Twins! was kindly supplied by Netgalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

New Blog Layout

As you have probably noticed, I've given my blog a bit of a beautify. I really didn't like my old blog design and layout, I just hadn't had the time to properly sit down and trawl the internet for how-to videos and tips, seeing as I didn't even know where to start. Its was actually surprisingly easy and I was amazed at the amount of blog resources that are out there. I'm not one-hundred percent happy with it yet but it's better than it was, I can keep chipping away at it.

I just thought that I would share some of the resources which I used, in case anyone is looking for a little inspiration. - This website had some really easy-to-follow tips, the Blogger Design Series is really informative. I look forward to more. - Some more great tips on here, and some great resources. I was surprised at the quality of the free resources, very good. - There are some really pretty shabby chic blog resources on here. - This had some really lovely colour schemes, you can search for a key word/s, 'duck egg' for example, and LOADS of colour schemes come up. You just click on one which catches your eye and copy and paste the colour's code. Easy as pie. - There were some more tips and tricks on here.

Have a go, it is insanely addictive and extremely fun!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Interview with Cathy Glass

Cathy Glass is a foster carer and an author who has fostered many children. She has written numerous fostering memoirs, which tell the stories of some of the children she has fostered. These include Damaged, her first published novel and number one in the Sunday Times best sellers chart in paperback and hard back. 'Cathy Glass' is actually a nom de plume, because of the sensitive nature of her work she writes her books under a pseudonym.

I'm not going to copy Wikipedia and spout off a million facts about her, if you would like to know a bit more of Cathy Glass's background then you can look here. She also has her own webpage.

I am so pleased that I have had a chance to ask Cathy Glass a few questions, she is a massive inspiration to me, being a writer and also a foster carer. Foster caring has always interested me, it is something which I have felt very strongly about doing at some point in my life and reading her books, which show the ups and the downs of foster caring, have really given me an insight into the fostering world. I really do recommend her books, they have moments which will make you laugh out loud and moments which will make you sob your heart out (in my case, this has sometimes been on the tube. How awkward). The work which she, and other foster carers around the country do is invaluable. You can tell just by reading her books that the relationships the foster carers build with these children, the boundaries, love, shelter, food and nurture they give really do make a difference to so many vulnerable children and their families.

So, with her latest book Will You Love Me due to be released on September 12th, she has very kindly answered some of my questions about her fostering experiences and writing routines.


What do you find to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a foster carer?

Probably the most challenging aspect of fostering is listening to a child disclose abuse. It is heartbreaking. Also, having to say goodbye at the end of a placement is difficult. The foster family bonds with the child and goodbyes are never easy. The most rewarding aspect of fostering is seeing a child improve – to learn to trust and smile again. That’s wonderful.

How do you fit your writing around your home life and children?

My children always come first so when I am writing a book I rise very early to write. I answer emails whenever I have the chance during the day.

Do you have any advice for people who are interested in becoming foster carers?

There is always a shortage of foster carers so if you are interested in fostering I suggest you contact your local fostering service and ask for more information. Different countries vary in their procedure for recruiting foster carers, but there will be an introductory evening where you will learn more about fostering and you will be able to ask questions and share your concerns. The application and assessment process to become a foster carer is long and in depth so you will have plenty of time to think about your commitment. Fostering doesn't suit all families but if you go ahead and foster you will find the rewards - of seeing a child improve and be happy - are never ending.

Do you have a designated 'writing space'? If so, what is it like?

I have two places – one is comfortable armchair where I write the first draft of my books in longhand, and the other is my desk in the front room where my computer and printer are. I describe these in more detail together with my writing routine in my book About Writing and How to Publish, which is out in December.

Do you have any favourite genres, authors or books which you enjoy reading?

To be honest I read many different genres and authors. I have recently finished The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence, and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

Was it difficult to get your first book published?

Yes. Although I’d had articles and short stories published in newspapers and magazines it took me twenty years to have a book published.

Will You Love Me is out on September 12th and About Writing and How to Publish is out on December 6th.

Monday, 26 August 2013

'A Chorus Line' Review

For my birthday my boss bought me two tickets to see 'A Chorus Line' at the London Palladium. I chose to take my mum and you can see how the rest of our weekend went here. We went to the evening show which felt very glamorous. The London Palladium was beautiful, an old style, vintage theatre with lots of character.

When we got there we gave our tickets to the collector and he said 'Oh, the upper circle is closed tonight...' my stomach just dropped. If something is going to go wrong then it will happen to me, always. But that foreboding statement was followed by 'so you've been upgraded' yes! 'To the Royal circle' YES! We were really close to the stage but still raised up enough so that we could see the whole stage. I quite like sitting high because you get the effect of all the actors on stage, especially in a musical where there are often lots of dance routines.

 Around halfway through the show I realised that the whole show must be set like this, the whole thing focuses on the audition. I was a bit worried that it would be boring but the songs are so different, some fast-paced, some slower and more emotional, that it really mixed the whole thing up. The only things on stage are the auditionees. They each have a kit bag which they leave at the side of the stage and at some point in the show they have a hat to dance with. The only set change is the back wall of the stage which has rotating sections which show either black wall or mirror, like in a dance studio. There are no costume changes apart from the closing number. I honestly thought that I would be so bored but it was absolutely excellent. Its amazing how a mirror at the back of the stage can really change your whole perspective and shake things up a little bit.

The show is set in 1975 with an audition in for a Broadway show and shows the journey of a group of auditionees, the director (played by John Partridge) and his assistant. After the opening number, 'I Hope I Get It', a number of auditionees are cut, leaving the main characters which we see throughout the show. The director then asks each remaining person to tell him more about themselves, which they do reluctantly through funny, clever and sometimes heartbreaking songs. There are stories about growing up in a broken home, homosexuality and being unable to sing.

The Auditionees Source

There is also a personal story between the director, Zach, and one of the auditionees, Cassie, played by Scarlett Strallen.We learn that they used to be in a relationship but they split-up because he was having more of a relationship with his work. When the others go downstairs to learn another song Cassie stays to talk to Zach. Zach is angry with her because he thinks she's better than the chorus line. She sings a very passionate song, 'The Music and The Mirror' which tells all about her struggle in the theatre environment and her life in general.

Cassie and Zach Source

Zach calls another auditionee back who was reluctant to tell more about himself, Paul. He gives a very emotional account of his childhood, his homosexuality and his relationship with his parents. He breaks down and Zach comforts him. Later, during a tap sequence, Paul falls and hurts a recently operated on knee. He goes to hospital and the rest of the auditionees realise how precarious their careers are, they could end at any moment. They then sang (my personal favourite) 'What I Did For Love' which talks about how much they've enjoyed their careers and how they wouldn't change their experiences, mostly!

The final eight dancers are selected, four boys and four girls. I was genuinely sad. I had half hoped that we wouldn't see who was picked. Each person had different qualities which made them worthy of being in the chorus line. The main thing which I enjoyed about this musical was how relative the characters were, there would have been at least one person whom you could have related to. I saw many of my traits in a number of different characters and 'A Chorus Line' embraced these.

'One/Finale' Source

The closing number 'One' shows the auditionees coming out in identical outfits, they each take an individual bow then start to dance the routine. It is surprising how people, who had once looked and acted so individually, blended together and it was very difficult to tell who was who.

Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila Source

I absolutely loved the character of Sheila, played by Leigh Zimmerman. An ageing dancer who acts very provocatively and has some brilliant one-liners but she also has some heartfelt moments like in 'At The Ballet'. Leigh has won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (which is a bit of a bloody mouthful!). I thought she was excellent.

When we came out we heard some screams from the side of the theatre and there was a group of fans waiting for the actors come out of their dressing rooms for their programmes to get signed. About ten actors signed my programme but it was really awkward because they looked so different in real life, I didn't recognise some of them!!

I would thorougly recommend this show, it has definitely been one of my favourite musicals to date, I've been listening to the soundtrack non-stop. Watch this space for more musical news!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Very, Very Bad Blogger - My Week

I know, I'm terrible. I haven't written in so long but it seems to have been pretty hectic here. That's my excuse anyway! This post will just concentrate on catching up on some news.

I'm currently re-reading the Harry Potter series and I am thoroughly enjoying them. Reading them now, when I am a bit older, the emotions and deeper aspect of the books are really hitting me. I find it amazing how the books 'grew up' with their audience. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is extremely simple in language and plot, it is a children's book. However, as the series goes on the books start to become more complex as they move into the young adult genre. J.K.Rowling has aimed for her audience to be the same age as Harry when reading the books (but her books obviously appealed to a much wider audience) and as they've grown up, so has he. I think it's brilliant how she's adapted her writing for the subtle change of age each year brings. I've just started on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. They are excellent and when I finish the series I am going to be mourning the loss all over again.

I am also MAJORLY excited because I'm going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour next week. Oh my god. I've got butterflies already! I can't wait, and there will be a full write up, including many pictures, on here so keep your eyes peeled.

An awesome photo I found when looking up the Harry Potter tour. Love it. Source
I went home last week for a holiday, its was so nice to catch up with my family. I didn't do much, to be honest I'm pretty fed up with running up and down the county seeing everyone so this time I just spent time with my closest family.

We bought my Gran a puppy! She's been talking about getting a dog for about four years but I don't think she's had the confidence to do it herself, it's a big step. So, when I visited her and she said again about wanting one, and that she likes Border Terriers, I thought 'right'. I went home and looked for Border Terrier puppies and there were three litters in Wales, about an hour to an hour and a half away from where my mum lives. We arranged to go and meet one family a few days later and came out with this gorgeous little man. It was complete surprise to my Gran, I don't think she knew what to say at first but she was so pleased. She has called him Oscar. He really is a lovely puppy, he was so quiet when we were driving him in the car. I get very regular updates on his behavior and how well his toilet training is going! She says she hasn't laughed this much in a long time, he's so funny. They are both very much in love and I am so pleased.

Millie, Daryl (brother) and Shaz on Saundersfoot Harbour wall.

My brother and I took our dogs for a walk on the beach, well, near the beach. Dogs aren't allowed on some of the beaches in Pembrokeshire during the summer so we walked from Coppet Hall beach, along a walkway which is built on the side of the cliff going around the beach. There is a tunnel cut through the cliff so that you can get to Wiseman's Bridge beach. We walked through the car park to another tunnel which brings you you Saundersfoot. We walked around Saundersfoot harbour, had an ice-cream (of course) then walked back. It's only about three miles all together but it is such a beautiful walk. And being that close to the beach is always a winner for me. It was a hot day too so it was perfect, the dogs slept well that afternoon!

The view from Saundersfoot Harbour

The view from Saundersfoot Harbour
I've recently finished a big crochet project which has taken me ages, I haven't been keeping up with it all that regularly. It's such a satisfying feeling to finish a project, especially a large one, there'll be a post on it a little later in the week. To fill that crochet sized hole I have started my Christmas projects! I know, pretty early to be thinking about Christmas but I've got a few fiddly things I want to try which I think will take up quite a bit of time. Here's a little preview of what I'm working on -

Yesterday, Manon and I went to see Soul Sister. It's the story of Tina Turner's life with Ike Turner and features many of her songs. I absolutely loved it, it was a brilliant, sing along musical. My favourite kind. There'll be a full review soon.

The Great British Bake Off has started again, hurrah! It's one of the only things I watch on TV, it's brilliant and it's inspired so many people to bake. Saying that, the standard of their tasks are getting higher and higher. Some of the things which the contestants make are absolutely brilliant. I'm so happy that it's back to brighten up my Tuesday nights, especially now the nights are getting shorter. Follow this link to see one of the best pictures I have ever seen. You're welcome.

Well, I'm going to get ready for my date now, I KNOW! Off for a few drinks with a pretty nice guy so you may hear more on the subject soon.