Guest Post: To the Women of Rock- thank you

Exciting times here at Just Another Blog from a Woman as I have my very first guest post on my blog today.  Let me introduce you all to Em Linthorpe. Her blog covers everything from music to parenting with a little bit of Cumbria mixed in. She also happens to be a very nice person to boot. She’s here to talk about her time in an indie girl band and about her favourite indie girl bands of the 90s. Enjoy!

20614446_10155062016897991_1905605071_n
Hello you sweethearts!
I’m Em, captain of the fair blog Em Linthorpe and I have sailed over to this part of the internet to say hello and to have a natter about lasses in music. Thank you very much to Hayley for having me!
Many years ago, when the world lived in fear of the millenium bug and and it was still socially acceptable to like Tony Blair, I was quite cool. I have no idea how this came about. I had a part-time job in a record shop. A vinyl record shop, yes. I had bright pink hair and my boyfriend was a sound engineer, meaning I obtained free entry for almost every gig and nightclub in town.
A second hand guitar happened, some friends of friends happened too, and all of a sudden I was a rhythm guitarist in an all-girl Riot Grrrl-inspired punk band.
I want to make this quite clear, I am not a great guitarist. I could never quite hold down an F chord properly. But the freedom of the Riot Grrrl ethos meant that didn’t matter particularly. I just made sure that all the knobs on the guitar and the amplifier gave me epic distortion and it was all good.
This new and exciting adventure (coupled with the Sociology A Level I was studying) thrust upon me my first real experiences with feminism. Music was so important to me, and I evaluated how little of what I listened to was coming from a woman’s perspective. The artists and bands I grew up listening to that had my heart? Queen, Elton John, Dire Straits, Davids Bowie and Essex…
All blokes.
And the bands that I had discovered myself, through mixtapes or gigs or the NME or recommendations? Super Furry Animals, Lo Fidelity Allstars, Blur, Bob Dylan…et cetera…
…you can see where this is going, can’t you? Of course there were some ladies I listened to, but my balance was all off kilter. I began listening to more girl rock, more American soul, jazz and R&B…in fact, any genre was a goal, but my focus was much more on the women leading the show. I thought I would compile a list of some of the best female fronted and girlstrong bands from the 1990s, as a tribute to the time where my true musical awakening happened.Bring on the girls!
Kenickie – Punka
 It’s not particularly my story to tell, but this song pissed off a fair few folk who had helped Kenickie get to where they did. It still stands as a proper belting tune, I cannot deny them that.
 
 
Catatonia – Strange Glue
 I really held a torch high for Cerys Matthews and her band in the late 90s. Sad to say, I don’t think a lot of the tracks have aged that well. Sorry Cerys. This one however still sounds beautiful.
 
 
The Breeders – Divine Hammer
 
 From the album Last Splash which I played again and again and again. It’s utterly fantastic and I found it inspirational, although I knew I would never have as much talent as Kim and Kelley Deal et al.

 

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

Just empowering and perfect and AWESOME. Can’t really say much more than that. Just listen to it.

Republica – Drop Dead Gorgeous

Full of energy, style and strength, despite the admittance of a weakness for pretty boys.

Skunk Anansie – Charity

I was a great fan of this band, Skin’s vocals always blew me away and the band’s heavier-leaning rock sound was something that made me smile loads too.

Shampoo – Trouble

Bubblegum-rebel faux-punk PERFECTLY executed. Marvellous.

Want to read more about the fabulous contributions women have made to popular music? I stumbled across The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women a few days ago and it is a fantastic and inspiring list. A great resource for expanding your playlists.

Take care,

Em

You can find more of my writings on life, music and feels on my blog Em Linthorpe, or if you prefer fewer words at a time, I’m on Twitter too.

20668808_10155079811807991_897883060_n.jpg

Em in her 90s indie girl band heyday!


And here’s a Spotify playlist of Em’s selected songs.

Just Another Book Club- July Book

Woo-hoo our first book club discussion! Please leave your comments below or within the right book club post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

51wG7x-S+0L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

Synopsis

Set during World War II, the book tells the parallel stories of two children, Werner Pfennig and Marie-Laure LeBlanc. Werner is a clever German boy who is bit of genius when it comes to radio engineering and Marie-Laure is a blind French girl in possession of a valuable jewel. Over 200 chapters we witness their lives before the war, the onset of war, what part they took during the war, how their lives finally connect and events after the war. It is a tale of survival, morals and ultimately love. It’s worth noting that it took American author Anthony Doerr 10 years to write this historical novel.

My Quick Review

All the Light We Cannot See is so beautifully written it actually incites jealousy. I cannot help, but feel envious of the fact that I would never be able to write as well as this. The way Doerr describes scenes is so vivid, the reader has no problem with imagining them. In particular his description of Saint Malo, the house that Marie-Laure lived in and the bombing that took place there, sticks in my mind.

It was very interesting how the books depicts two different families torn apart by war for different reasons. So often books set during wars, tell the story from an adult’s perspective, so it was refreshing seeing how war affected children from both sides.

I recently visited Eden Camp, a Second World War museum inside an actual old prisoner of war camp, in North Yorkshire. It had a whole section on Hitler’s Youth, so I took a couple of (not very good photos) for you all.

IMG_7052

Information on the Hitler Youth

IMG_7055

A member of the Hitler Youth saluting a picture of Hitler

The book is made up of very short chapters. This gives the feel of a fast moving book that keeps you interested and makes you keep on turning the pages.

I can’t decide if I’m satisfied with the ending or not. Werner dies, Marie-Laure never finds her Father and the jewel is lost. However, I also feel this is a reflection on the reality of war. There are obviously so many unhappy endings in war and at least Marie-Laure continues on with a happy life.

Lastly, I want to mention the title of the book. Initially, it would seem to refer to two different things in relation to the two main characters. The more obvious one being Marie-Laure who is blind, whose other senses are heightened because of this. It also could be said that it might refer to the radio waves that we cannot see, but bring much light. This is a reference more so of Werner. However, I think the title also has a third reference, in that during something as hideous as a war, there is still much light. It may not be as obvious and would not dominate the discourse surrounding war as much, but nevertheless it is there. Do you have any other thoughts regarding the title?

As much as I loved this book, the story and the writing, I probably wouldn’t call it a masterpiece as many people are.

Whilst reading it, I could clearly imagine and predict this book will be turned into a film. I can’t see any evidence of it happening yet, but there certainly are rumours.

oU4jkTB5gb4o8fpZhQXyAfzj

Saint Malo today

Questions to Consider

You don’t have to answer these questions in your comments, but they might help to get you thinking about the book or to kickstart the discourse. 

1. The book opens with two epigraphs. How do these quotes set the scene for the rest of the book? Discuss how the radio plays a major part in the story and the time period. How do you think the impact of the radio back then compares with the impact of the Internet on today’s society?

2. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

3. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

4. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (pages 48–49), and Werner recalls these words throughout the book (pages 86, 264, and 409). How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story? How does it relate to Madame Manec’s question: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (page 270)?

5. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This . . . is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

6. Reread Madame Manec’s boiling frog analogy on page 284. Etienne later asks Marie-Laure, “Who was supposed to be the frog? Her? Or the Germans?” (page 328) Who did you think Madame Manec meant? Could it have been someone other than herself or the Germans? What does it say about Etienne that he doesn’t consider himself to be the frog?

7. On page 368, Werner thinks, “That is how things are . . . with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they’re told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not.” But in fact many of the characters show great courage and selflessness throughout the story in some way, big or small. Talk about the different ways they put themselves at risk in order to do what they think is right. What do you think were some shining moments? Who did you admire most?

8. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

9. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

10. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

11. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

12. When Werner and Marie-Laure discuss the unknown fate of Captain Nemo at the end of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Marie-Laure suggests the open-endedness is intentional and meant to make us wonder (page 472). Are there any unanswered questions from this story that you think are meant to make us wonder?

13. The 1970s image of Jutta is one of a woman deeply guilt-ridden and self-conscious about her identity as a German. Why do you think she feels so much guilt over the crimes of others? Can you relate to this? Do you think she should feel any shame about her identity?

14. What do you think of the author’s decision to flash forward at the end of the book? Did you like getting a peek into the future of some of these characters? Did anything surprise you?

15. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote that “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” All the Light We Cannot See is filled with examples of human nature at its best and worst. Discuss the themes of good versus evil throughout the story. How do they drive each other? What do you think are the ultimate lessons that these characters and the resolution of their stories teach us?

Just a reminder that August’s book is “Hotel Alpha” by Mark Watson. I’ll be starting the conversation for that on Monday 4th September.

For a list of all the other books we’ll be reading this year, please click here

Top 10 Kylie Songs

When, at 18 years old, I landed in Australia, all fresh faced and ready for my life-changing travels around the world’s biggest island*, I took a deep breath, fainted from the heat, collected myself and thought “Yes. Here I am, on the land of Kylie”. I soon learnt, at this time in history, Australians didn’t hold the same affection that us Brits held for our Kylie. From the moment she broke into a window at Madge’s gaff, in attire that would make people collectively think “ah she must be a tomboy” to the “are they/aren’t they” relationship with Jason Donovan (I remember a “friend” telling me they definitely were “doing it” and I almost cried). To her prancing about joyfully in cutesy outfits singing about how lucky she was or how somebody should put their hand on their heart (which sounds quite dangerous and kinda gross to me), to her burgeoning pop career that went from strength to strength, where with each passing year instead of seeming to age she just became hotter and hotter, where she became a gay icon and where with no arguments she was crowned the Princess of Pop. I loved her at 10 years old in those terrible days when Neighbours was only on at lunchtimes (thank God for pulling sickies from school) and I love her now where – bless our gracious princess of pop- she is still going strong.

I was inspired to do my top ten Kylie tunes after I read the Guardian’s, where they’d got it all wrong, so I thought I’d rectify that. Also, I just wanted to mention, if you’re a fan of our Kylie (which I assume you are if you’re reading this) then please check out Steve at Talk About Pop Music‘s post on his 30 year journey with Kylie here. It’s wonderful and he clearly has good taste.

10. Finer Feelings

Album: Let’s Get To It

Year: 1992

UK Chart Position: 11

Kylie_Minogue_-_Finer_Feelings

This is one of Kylie’s most underrated songs in my opinion, a forgotten or hidden gem. It came from the album that also gave us Word is Out and it was in the video for this song that Davina MacColl was her backing dancer, fact fans.

9. Where the Wild Roses Grow

Album: Murder Ballads

Year: 1995

UK Chart Position: 11

5803a08d9b13950c478a8f01cb810b7a--the-bad-seed-nick-cave

Back in 2002, I was lucky (lucky, lucky) enough to see our Kylie in concert at Sheffield Arena. She was as, you’d expect, awesome. However, in the middle of the concert there was a technical fault, which left tiny Kylie standing in the middle of a huge stage, with only the microphone in her hand working. So being the consummate professional that she is, she said she’d sing one song acapella whilst the problem was being fixed. She asked for suggestions and one guy shouted out for Where the Wild Roses Grow. “Okay” she said, like it was no big deal and promptly sang it to us (she didn’t put on a Nick Cave voice for his lines, though that may have added comedy value if she had). In conclusion, she sounded amazing. She’s never received much credit for her singing voice, but this impromptu rendition put pay to any Kylie cynics out there.

8. Better the Devil You Know

Album: Rhythm of Love

Year: 1990

UK Chart Position: 2

Kylie_Minogue_-_Better_the_Devil_You_Know

Taken from her third album, we see her moving slightly away from cheesy pop, into pure pop (yeah I’m just making these terms up as I go along). A firm favourite among both loyal and casual fans.

7. Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Album: Fever

Year: 2001

UK Chart Position: 1

Kylie_Minogue_-_Can't_Get_You_Out_of_My_Head

Ooh, this was clever. Just as the title of this song states, one equally cannot get this track out of one’s head. Some might say this is her most credible period (though for me that would be ’94/’95), written by Cathy Dennis (anyone else remember Too Many Walls?), it went to No.1 in 40 countries (including every single country in Europe bar Finland. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT, FINLAND?!). It’s the 75th best selling single of all time in the UK and her most commercially successful single in the US. Nice one Kylie.

6. Your Disco Needs You

Album: Light Years

Year: 2001

UK Chart Position: 152

Your_Disco_Needs_You

Technically, the least successful chart position of my selected Kylie tracks, but it was never formally released as a single in the UK, so the sales were based on import sales. This is Kylie at her most gloriously camp and I bloody love it. I dare you to listen to it, without feeling even slightly cheered. Also, if Kylie had entered this into the Eurovision Song Contest (don’t get me started on Australia being in the contest. Let’s just assume she’d represent the UK), it would have won by a mile.

5. Some Kind of Bliss

Album: Impossible Princess

Year: 1997

UK Chart Position: 22

minogue101

Kylie wrote this song with the Manic Street Preachers, well James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore anyway. This song and album was deemed the “indie era” for Kylie and it always surprises me how many people don’t remember it. It’s a fun, little guitar pop tune, where you can hear the influence of the Manics.

4. Especially for You

Album: Ten Good Reasons

Year: 1988

UK Chart Position: 1

Especially-For-You-cover

Best duet ever. Don’t bother arguing with me. My view on this won’t shift. Oh Jason. How I loved thee. With your blond hair, blue eyes and Aussie charm, I pored over pictures of you, imagining what it would be like to be your girlfriend (evidently snorting shed loads of cocaine would have been involved, so not quite what 13 year old me would’ve imagined). Anyway, as much I hate to admit it, you and our Kylie were perfect together. I mean, look at them here:

jason-kylie--z

And now, some 30 years later:

article-2171470-023284CD000004B0-771_468x468

Adorbs. And yes, Jason, in case, you’re wondering, you’d still get it.

Here’s the back cover of the single (which I bought with my pocket money), it represented the B-side, which was the equally brilliant All I Wanna Do is Make You Mine.

115940476

*Sigh* that was all I really wanted to do with Jason too. Anyway, Stock, Aiken and Waterman (SAW)  really hit the jackpot with this song. They knew exactly what they were doing as it is their best selling single to date.

All together now:

now we’re back together, toge-e-ether, I wanna show-o-o you, my love is OH SO TRUUUUEEE and all the love I have is Especially for You“.

3. Step Back in Time

Album: Rhythm of Love

Year: 1990

UK Chart Position: 4

Kylie_Minogue_-_Step_Back_in_Time_single_cover

Now we move on to groovy 70s chick Kylie. What a tune, from the brilliant Rhythm of Love album (that album just chucked out superb pop tune after superb pop tune). Much like, no.6 on my list, this tune never fails to cheer me or get me dancing.

2. I Should Be So Lucky

Album: Kylie

Year: 1987

UK Chart Position: 1

220px-KylieIShouldBeSoLuckyCover

The original, the (almost) best, pure 100% perfectly cheesy Kylie pop. This is the flawless pop song that introduced the world to Kylie Minogue as a pop star. There is nothing wrong with it. Some may say it has dated. A lot. I think those people have pitiful taste. This song in its own right is as iconic as our Kylie is.

And as I know how much we all love the fantastically 80s video, here it is for you all:

 

  1. Confide in Me

Album: Kylie Minogue

Year: 1994

UK Chart Position: 2

XXX-202302

Oh yes, my very favourite Kylie song is this atmospheric, sultry pop song that was released way back in 1994. I think it is her most underrated songs to date, even though it got to a very respectable no.2 in the charts. It’s such a strong track and has been lauded increasingly by critics in more recent times. I also think this track compliments our Kylie’s vocals fantastically.

 

The one that didn’t quite make it: 

Shocked (Rhythm of Love, 1991, No.6)

Kylie_Minogue_-_Shocked_single_cover

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all these Kylie tunes. I’ve added the Abbey Road Sessions version of the glorious I Should Be So Lucky for you too.

Which is your favourite Kylie song?

 

 

*Geography pedants can do one. It’s an island. End of.

New York with Kids

IMG_6931

Brooklyn Bridge Park

You might think that taking a small child on holiday with you to New York City, would be a bad idea, but you’d be wrong. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York, but my time there has only been for myself or with my partner. So, when I recently visited New York for 8 days with my little person (she’s 7) whilst her Dad worked over there, it was a completely different experience. I got to see New York through different (little) eyes. It was just the two of us venturing around the Big Apple. With this experience I have compiled a list of tips and things you can do with young children in this crazy, but wonderful city. Look out for hyperlinks throughout this post for further information on each suggestion.

  • Staten Island Ferry 

4ACDC2C2-BC1B-48FC-BA0B-5A306BD6D33E

So first thing’s first, get yourselves on this ferry. Why? First of all, it’s FREE. Yes you heard right. The first thing I’m offering up for you to do in NYC with your children won’t cost you a dime. Secondly, you get to see an amazing view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. When you get to Staten Island, many people just jump straight on to the next ferry back (you can’t stay on the one you’ve travelled over on), but I’d encourage you to take a few moments admiring the views over on Staten Island. We sat in the sun, not quite believing what we were looking at and got a ferry half an hour later. If you want to stay even longer and see a bit of the island, the Seaside Wildlife Nature Park (or Pirate Park as its locally known) is meant to be fantastic for kids.

The Staten Island ferry leaves every 30 mins, but is best to be avoided during rush hour as it is used by commuters. The nearest Subway Station is South Ferry- Whitehall St (1 train) and it is located near Battery Park, so you can have a wonder around there whilst you’re at it.

  • One World Trade Center Observatory

IMG_6601

Go to the top of the tallest building in the USA and the 6th tallest building in the world with your precious darlings, you say? Why yes. Yes I do. Honestly, mine didn’t bat an eyelid at the prospect of being so high up and being pelted up a building at high speed in a lift (elevator, sorry). It is all rather fabulous. The views of New York are fantastic, as you’d expect. The ride in the lift alone is great as the walls of the lift turn into video screens that show you how New York has developed over time. My daughter was fascinated by it. My top tip for you visiting here is PRE-BOOK YOUR TICKETS. You’ll avoid unnecessary long queues and you also get a slight discount buying them online. Under 5s are free, 6-12yr olds are $28 and 13-64yr olds are $34. You have to select a time to visit and arrive about 15mins prior to this time, but it will be worth it once you see the queues on arrival. Oh and it’ll definitely be worth it once you get to the top. There is of course the 9/11 memorial and museum nearby. Whilst we spent a short moment quietly at the memorial (my daughter asked if she could jump in to the flowing water. That was a firm “NO“), we didn’t visit the museum as I did not feel it appropriate to take my young child to. Older children would probably get a lot more out of it though. There are lots of Subway stations nearby to the One World Trade Center. You can find out which ones here.

  • Central Park 

IMG_6716

You could easily spend a week just exploring Central Park alone with your kids. Not only do you have vast amounts of green space for them to run about and rocks to climb, there are 21 different playgrounds spread across the park. Each playground is unique. We played in the Heckscher Playground near the park entrance, mainly as it was the first one we came across, but also because it was a very hot & humid day and it features a maze-like structure with water features throughout. If you’re visiting NYC in the summer, playgrounds with water features or sprinklers will be a Godsend. However, if the green space and the 21 playgrounds aren’t enough to entertain your children, there’s the wonderful Central Park Zoo. IMG_6717It is a compact, but marvellous zoo that actually feels a bit magical. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it and every other second exclaimed “WOW” at everything she saw. Our particular favourites were the penguins and the seals that you can watch as they swim about under water. There’s also a Children’s Zoo that is included in the price of your ticket that is situated close to the main zoo. The zoo is quite reasonably priced especially if you don’t pay to view the 4D film. For myself and my daughter, it cost us a total of $19. If we’d wanted the price of the film included then our ticket price total would’ve gone up to $31.

And if you still need more entertainment for the kids in the park there’s also the lake to go boating on, an amusement park (in the summer), an ice rink (in the winter), the Alice in Wonderland statue that was designed for children to climb all over, fountains, a carousel and a flipping castle for goodness sake. I promise they will not be bored. There are toilets and cafes situated in several places in the park. You can buy $2 maps from several posts situated all over the park or you can pick up a free one from the many visitor centres there (or just download one from the website here). Considering Central Park is 2.5 miles long and 0.5 miles wide (stretching from 57th street to 110th street), there are several Subways that you can get to the park, depending on whereabouts in the park you’re going.

1, 2, 3, B and C trains for the west side

4, 5, 6 trains for the east side

A, B, C, D, 1, N, R, and Q for the south side

  • American Museum of Natural History

IMG_6785

Or the Night at the Museum museum as we call it in our house. There is so much to see at this museum. You could easily spend two days exploring here. Obviously, one of the biggest hits with the kids are the plethora of dinosaurs (head straight to the 4th floor for those). There is also the African Mammals and Ocean Life exhibitions that my daughter loved. Not to mention The Mummies, primates, an Imax cinema and your ticket also includes entry to the Rose Centre for Earth & Space (where there’s a planetarium and everything). Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to go there (too much to see at the museum and not enough time). Oh and if you’re also fans of the Night at the Museum, “Dum-Dum” can be located on the 3rd floor in the Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific People. There are plenty of toilets and cafes throughout the museum and lifts elevators to every floor. Tickets start from $22 (depending on what package you want) and you can buy them online. If you want to pay less, you’d have to buy your tickets at the museum. Nearest Subway station is 81st Street station, C & B trains.

  • The High Line

IMG_6727

Well it’s about time we took ourselves to another park, isn’t it? How about one that is off the ground? Like, up high? One that was once a freight rail line, but has now been transformed into a beautiful, public park for all to enjoy and meander around? How about the High Line? The High Line runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street (1.45 miles). It’s either accessible via stairs or at certain points via ELEVATOR (I’m learning). Elevator points are at Gansevoort & Washington Streets, 14th Street, 16th Street, 23rd Street and 30th Street. There are also places to eat and restrooms along the way too. We particularly enjoyed the part of the High Line at 14th Street, the Diller von Furstenberg sundeck & water feature. It was perfect for my daughter to cool down in on a very humid New York day. Whilst you’re there, you may as well pop to Chelsea Market and get yourselves an ice cream or taste some of the delicious food they have there.

  • Dylan’s Candy Bar

IMG_6761

Dylan’s Candy Bar is apparently the world’s largest confectionary emporium and sells itself as a modern day version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I took my daughter here as a surprise and the look on her face as it lit up when she first saw it was delightful. Visiting Dylan’s Candy Bar was definitely a holiday highlight. If your child has a sweet tooth (and I’m guessing that they probably do), then they’ll be in heaven. Technically, it is free to visit, but it would be near impossible leaving here without spending any money as your child runs around with a wild look in their eyes squealing, “can I have this Mummy? And this? AND THIS AND OOOOHCANDYFLOSSOOOHLOOKATALLTHECHOCOLATE”. Don’t expect them to get to sleep early that night. On the 3rd floor (yes this is a 3 storey sweet shop), there is a reasonably priced cafe that serves pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and ridiculous sweet based drinks. In the above picture my daughter is drinking the Pink Cloud Lemonade (and yes that is a heap of candy floss on top). The service was great and if you’re lucky you could be seated in one of the huge cupcake seating areas. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is also played on loop in the cafe. Oh and parents, the best thing about this place?  There’s a bar, so you can get drunk on cocktails and forget about how much you’ve just spent on bloody sweets that have seemingly turned your child slightly demonic. Nearest subway station is Lexington Ave/59th Street, N, R, Q, 4, 5, 6 trains.

  • Coney Island

IMG_6886

 

What’s not to love about Coney Island when it comes to entertaining the kids? Large sandy beach- check, amusement park catering for all ages- check, world famous hot dogs- check, pier- check, plenty of toilets- check. Perfect. I totally recommend taking the Wonder Wheel ride at Luna Park (which is right by the beach and boardwalk) as you get fabulous views of New York at the top. Some carriages swing and some are stable. You can choose which one you want to ride in. IMG_6887You can buy all day wrist bands for unlimited rides at Luna Park, that start at $29. My daughter loved it at Coney Island and I think she could’ve happily come here several days in a row. Nearest subway is Coney Island- Stillwell Avenue, D, F, N, Q trains.

  • Prospect Park

IMG_6631

Prospect Park in Brooklyn was designed by the same people that designed Central Park. It’s a beautiful and peaceful park and much like Central Park there is lots of green space for your balls of energy to run around. We ended up finding and spending 4hrs at the Lefrak Centre at Lakeside, where my daughter roller skated for 2 hrs and ran around the sprinklers for a further 2 hours. Other attractions for kids in the park are 7 different playgrounds, Lefferts Historic House, the zoo and boating. At Prospect Park, you are also close to the Botanic Gardens and the Brooklyn Museum. So much to see and do with kids and probably not enough time. Nearest subways are 7th Ave (B, Q), 15th Street (F, G), Eastern Parkway- Brooklyn Museum (2, 3, 4), Botanic Garden (S), Prospect Park (B, S, Q) and Parkside Ave (Q).

  • Brooklyn Bridge Park

IMG_6930

Wow, get yourselves down here as the views of Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge are amazing. Also by the water, you have some playgrounds, a nice park walk, a swimming pool, climbing walls, a carousel, fitness equipment, a roller rink, sports fields, BBQ areas, a beach, ferries, cafes AND the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory who serve delicious and generously sized ice creams. It’s cash only though, so don’t forget your dollars. Nearest subways to the park are High Street (A, C), Clark St (2, 3) and Court St (N, R, W).

  • Thoughts on Times Square

IMG_6760

I mean, I’m not sure why I’m even bothering to put this in here, but my thoughts on Times Square might help you decide if you want to bother going there with your young child or not. To be succinct, I hate Times Square. It makes me feel all…stabby. I only took my daughter there as we were in the area and thought that she may as well see it. As you can tell by the look on her face, she wasn’t too impressed. As you can imagine, it’s very busy and hectic and there’s not a lot for them to get excited about. However, we did find the big Disney store, which she loved. There’s so much else to see and do in New York that is so great for young kids. If you’re short on time, I’d spend it elsewhere. Somewhere much more enjoyable for them. And you. Nearest subway 42nd St (1, 2, 3). Have I sold it to you?

Things that I wanted to do with my child, but didn’t have time to do.

  • Brooklyn Bridge: I really wanted to walk across the bridge with my daughter, but it will have to wait until next time. If you fancy it, it’s best walking from the Brooklyn side towards Manhattan. The pedestrian entrance is on Washington Street and Prospect Street.
  • South Street Seaport: This is a lovely area to walk around with great places to eat outside. For children there is the South Street Seaport Museum where they can wonder around a huge historic ship or hop aboard the Shark Speedboat. There’s also the Imagination Playground and great views of Brooklyn Bridge.
  • See a show: Okay, so it seems almost sacrilegious going all the way to New York with our child and not taking her to see a show, but it all came down to money and again, time. However, there are cheaper ways to get tickets via Todaytix. Current shows in NYC that would be great for kids are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion King, Aladdin, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, School of Rock and Wicked.
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum: the first museum in the world specifically for children, offers lots of play and art activities. I think this would be a great place for a rainy day. They can also hold and feed animals and play in a miniature city. There also seems to be lots for under-5s to do here too. More info here
  • Washington Square: Hot day and need somewhere free for your kids to cool off? Chuck ’em in the fountain at Washington Square. Your child can also do things like the free kids yoga or join in with the National Geographic kids club that takes place once a month, but mainly they’ll enjoy splashing about in the water and playing in the playground.
  • Governors Island Play:groundNYC: Don’t do what I did and that was go to Brooklyn Bridge Park with the idea that we’d hop on the ferry there across to Governors Island on a weekday. The ferries only run from the park at the weekends.  Restrictive hours aside, the great thing about play:groundNYC is that you can actually leave your child there and go off and explore the island. They have play workers within the playgrounds at all times keeping on eye on children. And your children? Well they’ll be given lots of materials to build with, imagine with or indeed destroy if that’s what floats their boat. Other things to do on Governors Island with your kids are the play fountains, other playgrounds and huge slides going down hills (one is 57 feet long). Oh and a castle. And kayaking. And learning centres. Quite a lot then.
  • Alice’s Teacup Being huge Alice in Wonderland fans, this would’ve been a perfect place to take her for lunch, but we didn’t make it. There are three Alice’s Teacups in New York with the one on West 73rd Street being the original one. Looking at the menu it looks very traditionally British, so it might feel like a home from home place.

Other Suggestions (particularly for older children)

  • Empire State Building: as we’d already been to the top of one tall building, I felt it would’ve been almost a waste of money and time to take her up another. Next time, I’ll take her here though.
  • Statue of Liberty: most people say that the queues are so bad when visiting the Statue of Liberty, it’s not worth going and sailing past it on the Staten Island Ferry is enough. Personally, I loved visiting it and climbing up to the crown, but then it was February when I went to see it.
  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum: one of my all time favourite museums. I think it would be appreciated more by older kids though. Your ticket to the see the Statue of Liberty includes entrance (and the ferry rides) to this museum.
  • Tenement Museum: this is a fascinating museum that is only accessible by guided tour, but again it would probably be more ideal for older children. The museum recommends that if you do take young children the “Meet Victoria Confino” tour would be the only one suitable for them.

Tips

  • Subway: generally the subway is bit of nightmare for prams and wheelchairs, but there are some accessible stations, so it’s worth planning ahead for your journey here. Unlike the London Underground, you generally only have one flight of stairs to conquer to access the stations. The trains run much closer to ground level than they do in London.
  • Uber: it’s worth downloading the Uber app for times that you’re too tired or lazy to get the Subway. Of course, there are the yellow cabs too, but I found Uber cheaper and more convenient.
  • Water: if you go to NYC in the summer, please make sure you drink plenty of water and have water on you at all times. New York is a very hot and humid city during the summer months. The great thing about the city is that there are plenty of water fountains where you can refill your water bottles. Generally these are in the park areas. It will save you money as well as reducing plastic bottle wastage.
  • Safety: generally New York is a very safe city, especially Manhattan. As it is a 24hr city, this actually makes it much safer to walk around at night as there are so many people about. Google do a New York safety map for all five boroughs though that can be useful when choosing whereabouts to stay.
  • American School Holidays: it’s worth noting that American school holidays run at slightly different times to ours, so it might be a good idea to check when they are depending on what you’d prefer for your holiday. Personally, as my child is an only child, it was great for us that the American children where on their school holidays  when we went, as my daughter had plenty of children to play with. Generally, we found American children to be very friendly and open, so my daughter came away with a new best friend at the end of each day. During the American summer holiday, the parks and other child-friendly places often have crowds of summer camp children. They usually all wear the same bright-coloured t-shirts, so you can’t miss them (we started referring to them simply as “the T-Shirts”)! And I have nothing, but total respect for the young leaders that look after these summer camp children. It’s definitely not a job I could do.

So, in short we had an absolutely fantastic time in New York with our young daughter. She whole heartedly loved this crazy city. She walked around wide-eyed and fed off the energy that the city provides. We created some very special memories in New York and I felt quite emotional leaving. So, thank you New York for such a wonderful and exceptional holiday. We’ll definitely be seeing you again.

IMG_6657

 

 

Just Another Book Club

Books-IFOA-2016-Tanja-Tiziana

Yes, my beautiful friends, I have set up a book club on these here pages for anyone to join in with this book worming fun.

I’m finding more and more often these days, that I’m reaching for my smartphone to entertain me rather than a book. Reading used to be my favourite pastime, but now it seems to be doing ‘If you were a cheese, which would you be?’ type quizzes. FFS (I’d clearly be Wensleydale & Cranberry btw) or looking at slideshows of celebrities who remarkably look a bit older, now that they are -you know- older.

So, I’ve started this book club as a way to motivate me to get back to my regular reading habits and I’d love you to join me.

Here’s how it will work.

  1. I will provide a list of 6 books, one for each month for the rest of the year.
  2. At the end of each month (or beginning of the following one, depending on how organised I’m being), I’ll pop a quick post giving my thoughts on the book.
  3. Your lovely selves can then provide your thoughts/opinions within the comments section and a discussion can evolve from there.
  4. Obviously, there’s no obligation. You can read all six, only three or just the one. Whatever suits you best or how much you want to join in.
  5. You can join in the discussion whenever you want, but the closer to the time I published my book review post the better, as you’re more likely to get a response from other readers.
  6. If this is a success, I’ll list 6 more books at the end of the year for the first half of 2018.
  7. Drinking wine/gin/tea/coffee isn’t obligatory whilst joining in with the discussion about these books, but it might help.
  8. Any questions, let me know.

Okay, so now for the 6 books for the rest of this year.

July: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (as you’re not seeing this in advance of July, I won’t publish the review post until 7th Aug. The next book will be a shorter one)

51wG7x-S+0L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

August: Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson

51wYJqtbPKL

September: Irresistible: why you are addicted to technology and how to set yourself free by Adam Alter (I thought this would be appropriate as we’re trying to smartphone less/read more).

cover

 

October: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

51qh4Es5nmL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

November: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

30347641._UY200_

December: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

9781444775853

The chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month. If I carry on with this into 2018, I’ll select the odd old classic book too. I’ll always provide at least one non-fiction book within a list.

Lastly, I just want to thank the lovely Angela at You Are Awesome blog for providing me with the inspiration to set this up. Check out her blog post here about book clubs.

So, join me! Together we can put our phones down and pick up a book. Do me a favour first though and holler below in the comments (or within the comments of my Facebook page) if you fancy joining my book club. Also, please spread the word. It will be fantastic to get people from across the globe coming together to discuss a mutual love- books.

292553

Nigella Lawson in her library. Further proof that I should actually be her.

The Importance of Creativity for Children

kids-music-class

It is often thought that teaching children art, music and drama is not as important as teaching them Maths, Technology and Science. Creative subjects have been maligned and are seen as frivolous time wasters. They are seen as merely part of “playtime” and that the most important subjects to teach children are academic. What’s the point of teaching little Jacob art as he’ll hardly make a living as an artist, will he?

Truthfully, to think this is not altogether incorrect. The chances of someone making a decent living on an artist’s wage are slim. However, children should not be taught creative subjects with the idea that they will grow up to be the new Banksy, or the new Adele or the new Cumberbatch (best surname ever by the way). No, children need to be taught creative subjects as creativity is needed in any job that they will end up doing. Whether they are an accountant, a scientist, a teacher, a secretary, a shop assistant or a lawyer. They will be required to use their mind creatively.

One of my all time favourite heroes, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson’s (he’s definitely invited to my dream dinner party) definition of creativity is:

I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Creative work in any field often passes through typical phases. Sometimes what you end up with is not what you had in mind when you started. It’s a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies.

He goes on to debunk some myths surrounding creativity:

There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative; another is that creativity is just about the arts; a third is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression”. None of these is true. On the contrary, everyone has creative capacities; creativity is possible in whatever you do, and it can require great discipline and many different skills.

Considering that the same areas of the brain that are used to create music, are also used during mathematical processing, you can see how encouraging creativity can benefit across the board. You can watch Sir Ken’s excellent TED talk on the subject here

So, why is it so important for children to be taught creativity at an early age. Can’t we just encourage adults to think creatively in their jobs?

There have been numerous studies that show children’s experiences early on in life can greatly influence the developing brain. Children are born with billions of neurons, but only a small portion are connected to each other. Throughout childhood the connections that are underused are cutback to make the brain more efficient. The connections that are used regularly become stronger. Therefore, the optimum time for people to develop skills are in the early years of childhood. As you may have often heard before, the early years develop the foundations of a person.

Creative play fosters cognitive and social development. Crucially, it also helps nurture problem solving skills. Critical thinking and social skills are vital for a person once they join the workforce.

Whilst academic subjects such as Maths and Science are important, creative subjects are as important. Without the nurturing of creativity, our society will stagnate and languish. We won’t see new inventions that will help enable people and create a more dynamic society. We won’t see new cures for diseases. We won’t find easier and more efficient ways of doing things, thus deterring a more economically sound society. Our progress will halt and everything our ancestors have done for us, will seemingly be futile. For society to be able to progress and evolve, new ideas need to be “created”, new and innovative ways of doing things need to be discovered and implemented. This progress with society is not possible without creativity.

Sir Ken believes that the current education system is stifling children’s creativity due to more focus on academic subjects and the way subjects are taught. There are already studies that show a child’s creativity starts to decline once they enter schooling.

Nobody knows what the future of this planet and the human race holds. These are unpredictable times. We need all the creative thinking that we can get. Creativity is not to be sniffed at.

So in short, let your child do as many rubbish paintings as they like, let them build countless structures with Lego, let them role play, let them try out the violin and let them sing to their heart’s content. Children are the future and all that.

 

The Book Lover’s Tag

So, the superhot Gary at Fiction is Food nominated me to give you the lowdown on the following questions all related to loving books, which I do. A lot. Ever since, as a 5 year old, I cast my eyes upon the Roger Red Hat et al books, reading is my very favourite thing to do. For such a sociable person, I love the solitude and escapism it provides me. I’ll stop blathering on now and give you my answers.

Do you have a specific place for reading?

Whilst I have inherited my Father’s love of reading, I definitely don’t follow in his footsteps when it comes to where I choose to read. His place to read was annoyingly on the latrine. We only had one toilet in the house, so once Daddy was in there with a book, we had hours to wait to use the loo. Anyway, my specific place to read is undoubtedly in the garden, in the sun. If it’s not sunny, then on the sofa. However, when I am super rich, I will have my own reading room. It will have the most comfortable chair that looks out of a large south-facing window. The room will have floor to ceiling shelves upon shelves of books and I will be the only one allowed in this room. This will be where I will read.

Bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

I have a beautiful bookmark made for me by my daughter. It has a picture of ET that she drew on it and it has been everywhere with me. She made it 4 years ago and it’s still going strong.

Can you just stop anywhere or must it be at the end of chapter?

I can stop anywhere, but one prefers it to be at the end of the chapter.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Tea, tea and more tea. If I’m feeling particularly decadent then wine. I generally don’t do any eating whilst reading though. Too distracting.

Music or TV whilst reading?

I love listening to music. I love watching TV. And I love reading. But never shall the twain meet.

One book at a time or several?

I used to be a one at a time girl, but now I can keep several on the go at the same time…wait, what were we talking about again? Oh books. Yeah me too. Definitely talking about books, I was.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

Circumstantially, it happens to be at home. Pre-having children and giving up my career, I read only on the commute to and from work. Though obviously, my preference would be elsewhere, if it’s abroad in the sun, looking at some stunning landscape.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently. I’m not 5.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I’m not a monster. One NEVER skips pages or reads ahead.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I neither break the spine or try to keep it like new. I’m a fan of natural wear and tear. Much like arthritis.

Do you write in your book?

I’m no longer a student, so no. If I particularly like a sentence or paragraph, I make a note of it somewhere separately or take a photo of it.

I thought I’d add some extra questions because I am self obsessed and find myself terribly fascinating (but I’d also be interested in reading other people’s answers to these questions).

What book are you reading now? 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Favourite childhood book?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

All time favourite book?

Yeah, so this is kind of impossible to answer (why did I give myself this question?!), but it would be between Paddy Clarke HaHaHa by Roddy Doyle, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Wild Swans by Jung Chang or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Actually, I think I need a whole separate blog post for this question as I’ve just thought of 20 other contenders.

Now I need to nominate some others to answer these questions. Sorry if you’ve been nominated before. Just point me towards the relevant post, if you have been.

  • Lisa at Lisa’s Ramblings a lovely lady, who not only writes a lot about books, she also writes about all types of other important issues. Not to mention the fact that she is a YA author herself.
  • Angela at You are Awesome the gorgeous Angela is another author and her blog covers social commentary and real life stories about inspirational people.
  • Christine at I’m Sick and So Are You the very, very funny Christine writes about her illness honestly and inspirationally. She’s also bloody funny, did I mention that?
  • Em at Em Linthorpe Em is ace. She won’t tell you this, so I will. She also writes about a plethora of subjects including parenting, health, life and does fabulous photography around Cumbria.

Cheers!

Chilled Summertime Playlist

IMG_6465

I’ve gone and done another playlist. This time it’s for chilled out summer days, where all you want to do is drink Pimms, eat Cornettos and soak up all the Vitamin D whilst it lasts. So slap on the SPF, spark up your BBQ and play these lovely summery tunes.

Expect lots of old school soul, Neo-soul, and a bit of 60s pop, rap, reggae, jazz, indie and The Fresh Prince. You’re welcome.

Which one is your favourite? Mine’s probably the Mamas & the Papas (though I love every single song).

 

Curly Girl Issues

So, if like me you have unruly, curly, frizzy hair there are problems that you have to deal with that only us Curly Girls can truly understand. Here’s just a handful of them.

When you’re watching Brave and Merida wakes up in the morning and you think “Mate, I feel your pain” (and you have to have been with your partner for at LEAST several decades before you let them see your morning hair).

f50e487f049ac8e13bee65554ac15510

When having your hair rained on means your hair ends up resembling Phil Spectar’s. On a good day.

image

When the weather is hot, your spirit animal becomes Monica Geller in Barbados.

monica-geller1

When your straight haired friend complains of their hair getting a bit frizzy in the rain.6717335be79db197a7fe9ec77f2d2b7c

When you have red, curly hair and you hilariously get compared to either Merida, Rebekah Brooks or worse Spuggy from Byker Grove. No actually, the worst is Mick Hucknall.

When you look back at photos of yourself from the 80s and/or 90s and you’re just grateful that social media didn’t exist back then.

Nicole Kidman Private Photo Shoot In Sydney

When your straight haired friend tries to give you advice on how to control your curls “Have you tried just using a bit of Frizz Ease?”.

Genius idea, it’s not like I’ve already tried using every single product available for curly hair in a pathetically vain attempt to control my hair already. Good one. I suppose you’re going to suggest I try brushing my hair too

DY57m_s-200x150

Do you remember that time you had a good hair day? Yeah, you remember, it was back in 2003. In June. On a Tuesday.

279a1130fa7f98e8e83e96b4aedc2381.jpg

When you’ve just styled your hair and you’ve done it all wrong and the only way to fix it, is to jump in the shower and wash your hair all over again.

giphy

When your hairdresser suggests cutting you a fringe (and you never go to that hairdresser again as they clearly know nothing about curly hair. Also, do they not remember Spuggy?!).

ezgif.com-resize-11

When you see all the wonderful, different hairstyles your straight haired friends can get and your choices are short or long and side parting or centre parting.

53a05395b78d4_-_tumblr_lh42tcnuw71qa4w2fo1_500

When your straight haired friends say they can use any old shampoo and conditioner off the shelf.

giphy-2

Even worse, when they announce they don’t even use conditioner.

brave-curly-hair-gif

When it’s been windy outside.

giphy-3

But when you’re pretty sure that having curly hair somehow gives you super powers.

54dc40cbc31a9_-_e9d295c8-2b92-4c64-bbd7-cee7255adec5

So curly girls (and boys), is there anything that I’ve missed out? Do you love your curls or hate them?

1934308_22808055118_26_n

The stress of having curly hair (it’s ok, I like my curls really)

 

“I Love Manchester” Playlist

JS77642064

A quick, little Friday afternoon post for you. In homage to a fantastic and uniquely creative city, I compiled a playlist of all the best music that has come out of Manchester for you. From the “Madchester” scene to 90s rave, from punk to perfect pop and yes even to Herman’s Hermits, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Manchester is one of the most culturally rich cities in Europe.

Light up your BBQs, pour some Pimms and kick back and listen to the sound of Manchester.

P.S. They are still trying to raise money for all the families affected by Monday night’s Manchester Arena attack. You can still donate here

 

Don’t forget to let me know which are your favourite tracks.

 

I-love-manchester