Geeky guinea pig!

I have to confess to being a bit* of a geek.  In fact when we were doing The Big Hoot last weekend, the kids were asked if they were taking such interest in all of the names etc because they were doing a school project – and I had to confess it was just me who was really into it!!

Recently one of the Mums in the village – who is a doctor – mentioned she was doing some research into the Neural Effects of Steroid Hormones.  This triggered an interest – mainly because a friend’s son is being treated with steroids, amongst other things, for a brain tumour, so it was kind of on my radar.  This particular study, though, is for people with a specific genetic disorder of the adrenal gland – but they need some healthy adults with which to compare results – and that’s where I come in!

I offered to be one of the guinea pigs.  I was given lots of literature and counter indications to consider, but I still was eligible.

So – next week – I will be heading off to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for 4 hours of IQ tests, 1 hour of psychological questionnaires and an hour having my brain MRI-ed (don’t think that’s really a verb – but you know what I mean).  I am a bit nervous – but more excited in a geeky kind of way!

People have asked if I’m worried about feeling claustrophobic in a MRI machine for an hour – and I’m sure it will be a weird experience – but hey, I know an amazing boy who has to be in there for double that time, so I’m sure I can channel just a little bit of him and get through it.

Obviously I will overshare about how it all goes………..

* Actually a lot, possibly one of the biggest geeks ever?!

Owl Woes – Wicked Wednesday 29th July 2015

Last week the children and I started finding owls around Birmingham for the Big Hoot 2015.

Now there’s a lot of scope for Wicked Wednesdays photos from this!

We could have the one outside Cadburyworld in the pouring rain where they all look seriously unimpressed (apart from the eldest who is doing a great fake smile!!) ….

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Or the one about 3 hours in on Saturday when I was making them march between owls at pace, and they were slowly losing the will to live……

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Or an infamous youngest child strop on the steps of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, just because that’s what she does……

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I have to say there are also some fab photos in the album I’ve set up to record all of our owl spottings, and we’ve really enjoyed seeing more of our great city.

52 down, 37 to go………………

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The Big Hoot for Birmingham Children’s Hospital

As many of you will know, we have been helping our friends to fundraise for Birmingham Children’s Hospital for the last year – as their son is being treated there for a brain tumour. They’ve already raised in excess of £20k – but are still looking to support them even more. (Blatant request for donations as the Just Giving link is here.)

Anyway – this summer BCH (that’s what those in the know call Birmingham Children’s Hospital!) have an amazing event on in and around Birmingham – called The Big Hoot and here’s a quote from their website to give you the background.

The Big Hoot swoops into Birmingham 20 July – 27 September 2015

Presented by creative producers Wild in Art working in partnership with Birmingham Children’s Hospital, The Big Hoot has brought businesses, artists, schools and the local community together to create a public art trail of stunning owl sculptures on display across Birmingham from 20 July until 27 September.

With 89 giant owl sculptures to see – each one individually and intricately created by artists from Birmingham and beyond – this ‘owl-spotting’ experience is inspiring fun for everyone and is completely FREE.

Follow the trail from the City Centre to Sutton Coldfield; Winson Green to Bournville and many places in between and enjoy beautiful open spaces; inspiring buildings and Birmingham’s cultural heritage along the way.

All the giant owls have been sponsored by companies and organisations and at the end of the trail, they will be auctioned to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Children and young people from Birmingham’s schools have also been busy creating over 120 owlets. These are displayed in ‘parliaments’ across the city as part of The Little Hoot education programme.

We hope you have fun discovering all the owls and now…let the ‘owl-spotting’ begin!!!

The Price family were very excited to hear about this and immediately downloaded a copy of the trail from the website (you can also get hard copies at various locations around the city).

This week we’ve started on our owl spotting quest – and are ticking off the owls as we find them (we have a copy of the trail on the kitchen wall, as well as one for when we’re out and about – we’re taking this very seriously!!)

The kids did a couple over near Thinktank earlier in the week,

The Big Hoot 1 The Big Hoot 2

and even more today…

Big Hoot 3

(They were excited, I promise, but it was just raining heavily at the time!  A trip to the Cadburyworld shop afterwards did help cheer them up!!)

I’ve set up a Facebook photo album and will update it as we add to the viewing list with the various owls and owlets – and it would seem most of my Brummie Facebook friends are also on owl spotting missions.  Lots have also been involved, through the schools that they work for, in the painting of owlets – so we’re hoping to spot those too.

Not only are these owls beautiful – it’s also a great way to get ourselves out and about around our fabulous city this summer.  If the weather could just join in and play the game a bit better that would be great!

The kids are already deciding which one they want to bid for in the auction in October!

Happy Blog-i-versary to me!

It is exactly one year to the day since I posted my first ever blog post. In answer to the title of that post, the conclusion was definitely to blog!

It’s been a hectic year – I’m not really sure there’s any other kind of year in this house – and I haven’t blogged as much as I’d thought I would – but I didn’t envisage spending so much time in the company of teddy bears (but it’s not every year you help to SMASH a world record) or organising a ball (more of that to come in the coming months). I guess it highlighted to me my priorities – and blogging had to take a bit of a backseat to helping friends in difficult times.

That’s not to say I’ve been too slack with the blogging – I’ve blogged about transatlantic trips to New York, Chicago and Washington – about many, many books that I’ve read (some that I’ve been given for free for solely that purpose – result!), about my family, our days out, our days in and lots in between.

I’ve joined in linkys with Tara on The Sticky Fingers blog and Emma on Brummy Mummy of 2 – but only when I had suitable content (I can’t bear when people shoe horn irrelevant stuff into the supposed topic!) Through these linkys I’ve ‘met’ some lovely fellow bloggers – and in a ‘it’s an incredibly small world’ my sister ended up picking up teddy bears from one of them down in Hampshire for the aforementioned world record attempt. #smallworld

I even made Mumsnet Bloggers front page with my A-Z of strops from my youngest.

I was asked the other day why I blog, and what I’d change. Well, I feel like I’m mainly doing it as a record of the Price family’s life. Even in one year, it’s great to look back at what we’ve done (and read!) and have everything kept in one place to flick through. The modern day equivalent of a photo album / scrapbook I guess.

Part of me thinks if I devoted more time to it then maybe I could be making more of it – reviewing more things, running competitions, my own linky etc – but there aren’t enough hours in the day on top of family, work, home, friends – so for now I plan to pootle on as I have for the last year. We’ll save world domination for the future – you have been warned!

Thanks to everyone who has commented, ‘liked’, shared, guest written, been a star of a post (especially my long suffering family) and just stalked from afar. Lots of love to you all!!

Here’s to the next year!!

Book Review: One Summer Night at the Ritz by Jenny Oliver

One Summer Night at the Ritz

“One Summer Night at the Ritz is the enchanting fourth story in Jenny Oliver’s delicious Cherry Pie Island series.
For Jane Williams, balmy August evenings are usually spent swimming in the river or lounging on her house boat on Cherry Pie Island. But, this summer, a set of tragic wartime diaries has changed all that.
Now, Jane’s heading for an appointment with Will Blackwell, one of the world’s most infamous hoteliers, in the heart of London’s West End. And, standing under the spectacular twinkling lights of The Ritz, it’s safe to say she’s feeling a tiny bit out of her depth…
But Jane’s about to discover that, sometimes, the bravest steps can lead to the most magical summer nights!”

I have just devoured the 4th in the Cherry Pie Island series in one afternoon!  I have loved the previous books in this series, and this one was no different.  It’s a stand alone book – but with clever nods to the previous books throughout – and the scenes being set for the next.

I’ve never stayed at The Ritz – although have had breakfast there – and the book really gives the feel of the old fashioned glamour of it – and describes London beautifully.  Jane is a lovely character – and you’re rooting for her throughout the book. She also makes me feel less bad about my falling apart Birkenstocks!

I enjoyed the fact the story takes you off Cherry Pie island – but brings you back to familiar ground as well.

As always, a lovely, funny, feel-good, escapist, easy read.

On a geeky, pedant level (both being my forte!) there is a grammar error in the first few paragraphs (story where it should be storey, as we’re in England not America) and about six times during the book there are typos, where an additional letter features in front of a word where it shouldn’t.  I know this doesn’t affect the story overall – but it does grate with me.

** carefully checks I haven’t written ‘effect’ or ‘great’ **

I’m slightly gutted we have to wait until October for the next instalment – although as that’s going to feature Christmas weddings, I guess it’s closer to the festive season.

Oh – and Jenny Oliver has very, very kindly donated the chance for the winning bidder at a charity auction in September that I’m helping to organise to be a named character in a future book – so who knows, one of us could be a guest at one of the weddings maybe?!?  (Obviously I will  blog about how you can bid for this once the auction site is up and running!!)

But for now – why don’t you catch up on the beginnings of the Cherry Pie series?

Book Review: A Meditation on Murder by Robert Thorogood

I was offered a copy of this by Mumsnet to review – and never one to turn down the opportunity of a free book – I jumped at the chance.

A Meditation on Murder

I must confess at this point that I have never watched the BBC series ‘Death in Paradise’ – it has always struck me as something my 86 year old Nan would like – real ‘Sunday night telly’ in the style of Bergerac but on a slightly more exotic island than Jersey. (Got to love a 1980s TV reference!) However – I’ve seen enough trailers to know what the original main cast looked like – and their mugshots are also on the back of the book – so the characters were immediately pictured in my head.

Here’s what Amazon says about it (and it’s pretty much the first page of the book too).

“An original story from the creator and writer of the hit BBC One TV series, Death in Paradise, featuring on-screen favourite detective, DI Richard Poole.

Enhance your enjoyment of the series as, for the first time, Robert Thorogood brings the characters to life on the page in an all-new locked-room mystery.

Aslan Kennedy has an idyllic life: leader of a spiritual retreat for wealthy holidaymakers on one of the Caribbean’s most unspoilt islands, Saint Marie. Until he’s murdered, that is. The case seems open and shut: when Aslan was killed he was inside a locked room with only five other people, one of whom has already confessed to the murder.

Detective Inspector Richard Poole is hot, bothered, and fed up with talking to witnesses who’d rather discuss his ‘aura’ than their whereabouts at the time of the murder. But he also knows that the facts of the case don’t quite stack up. In fact, he’s convinced that the person who’s just confessed to the murder is the one person who couldn’t have done it. Determined to track down the real killer, DI Poole is soon on the trail, and no stone will be left unturned.”

You are immediately transported to a spiritual retreat in the Caribbean – having been to a similar place in St Lucia, I could really imagine being there (rather than in a slightly damp West Midlands which is where I was actually reading the book).  The author really evokes the feeling of the tropical island throughout the book.

The prologue sets the scene (and at the end of the book I had to go back and read it again to see if I’d missed any clues) but within a few pages the murder has been committed and Aslan is dead.  The story then follows the murder investigation.

DI Richard Poole (a UK police officer now based in the Caribbean) hates the sun, sand and sea and living in Saint Marie.  His people skills are rubbish – but I must admit to really liking him.  His geekiness, analytical mind and sand-phobia all making him rather similar to me………

I have to say that I did guess the means of the murder very early on – if not the definite culprit or the reasons why – and I found myself shouting at the book a bit because neither the DI or his colleagues had sussed it out.

There are loads of twists and turns, with red herrings and seemingly random bits (the removal of the lizard from Richard’s ‘house’?) – but I can see how it would make great TV. In fact it almost feels like it’s been written for the TV rather than as a book.  There are a few places where the plot to date is summarised – like it’s the start of a new episode.  One thing I did really like is that at a three or four junctures in the book, the contents of the white board in the police station are written down giving details of the victim, suspects etc – and that was great – and I guess something, as a reader, you are always doing in your head.

The conclusion of the book comes quite quickly – and all the loose ends are very cleverly wrapped up.

Overall I did enjoy the book.  It was very ‘nice’ and ‘harmless’ in the traditional style of an Agatha Christie or Murder She Wrote episode. It was well written, excellent at bringing about the character of the Caribbean and concluded well.  It made a nice change from some of the more psychological and graphic thrillers that seem to be the genre of the moment. A pleasant, easy summer read.

Now maybe I’ll lend it to my 86 year old Nan…………