On NaBloPoMo 2012

Did it.

Send cake.

Advertisements

On the Elefun Snackin Safari

Toys are tricky things, or at least they are when you don’t buy them at car boot sales for a pound. Luckily, you can buy a lot of toys for a pound at the car boot sale. You particularly recommend such places for random plastic animals, small cars and things that go beep, because mostly they still go beep when you get them home and put a new battery in. Oddly enough it is also quite good for jigsaws and card games. Perhaps other people are as obsessive as you are about keeping track of the pieces. This never ceases to surprise you.

The car boot sales are less good for things that come in large boxes, have many parts, need adult assembly and have instructions for the obvious reason that with the best will in the world, which mostly sellers have, there is a much higher likelihood that some crucial part has gone missing and got broken. But since the Star, and now the Comet, started to take an interest in the world around them can reasonably be expected to enjoy something a bit more complicated than a shape sorter, you have entered the world of paying actual tens of pounds for things like this, particularly at times like… well, like Christmas.

Now the problem with this is that when you are paying real money, it really helps if the toy is appreciated and played with. At least once. Unfortunately, or so it seems to you, the attrition rate for toys increases exponentially the more complicated, the bigger, and the more expensive the item is, and you find this very stressful.

So when you were offered one of the newer toys on the market this season, the Elefun Snackin Safari, to review, you rather jumped at the idea.

The Elefun Snackin Safari is a sister toy to the original Elefun game. There you catch as many little butterflies in a net that the elephant shoots out of his trunk. Hours of fun, although the Star always tended to just run around with his hands out yelling and crashing into the other kids on the occasions he got to have a go with it.

Here, with the Elefun Snackin Safari, you race to sucker up more little discs of foods than the other player, by bouncing your elephant’s slinkyesque elephant trunk up and down. Lovely simple premise, and the elephant heads are also splendidly easy to assemble, and to store too. The noses clip neatly back onto the main face, so you aren’t dealing with yards of increasingly battered spring all the time. In fact, the Star and the Comet are perfectly capable of getting the game set up and put away all by their four and a half and one and a half selves. Which is pretty much what you want in a toy.

The anticipation level generated by the game was pretty high. The Star was, of course, won over by the animal connection

You also appreciate very much the utter gender neutrality of this piece of kit. There has been no attempt to make this for little girls or boys. The packaging shows a child of each sex playing, GASP, together and even the handles for the elephant units are in green and orange. You can’t describe what a relief this is in this blue and pink modern world of ours.

Elefun Snackin Safari

In fact the only slight problem with it is that your son has terrible trouble actually getting the elephant to actually pick up any of the snacks. He is not the most manually dexterous of children, and had the patience of a not very patient thing. You recall that you were the sort of person who couldn’t ever get a yoyo to work, not that you tried much once you couldn’t do it immediately, so the apple is definitely not falling far from the tree there.

This doesn’t matter much because, while you daughter seems likely to get the hang of it all far earlier than the Star, she is still too young to really be able to play the game as advertised with him properly. So while she flails happily around the living room with her elephant trunk, you and the Star take it in turns to bounce it up and down in order to stick the little sucker to the floor. The score is about even there.

In short, the Elefun Snackin Safari it is the sort of toy that even if you aren’t actually hoovering up the snacks you cam still get quite a lot of enjoyment out of it.

Certainly your kids are still voluntarily hauling it out of the toy corner and having a go after a week, which in your book, counts as a win.

Elefun Snackin Safari: aimed at 3 and above, £14.99.

Full disclosure: I have not been paid for writing this post, but I did receive the Elefun Snackin Safari free of charge.

On New Year’s Resolutions

So here you are nearly at the end of NaBloPoMo month again, and so far you have a blog post for every day this November.

This’ll probably jinx it, of course.

You don’t think this is your finest BloPo. That was 2010, despite the fact that you missed a day there. Technically. Too many rather lightweight postings and not many of the meatier posts that are still half written in your head. There just isn’t enough time in the day.

Some nice stories though. That’s the good thing about not blogging much for the last year. The kids do the funniest things. You are glad you caught some of those moments, finally.

Thing is, just posting every day for a month isn’t enough any more. You have decided that you need to try a little harder with what you write.

This is tricky. Trying hard isn’t something you do, as a general rule. You have a tendency to slack off without deadlines and someone cracking the whip. Self motivated you are not.

Just like your son. Oh dear.

So as a pre-New Year resolution you are going to give yourself some targets for next year-until-November. The hope is that a schedule will mean you don’t just let t’blog and your ability to type languish, but that you can’t just get away with dashing off 500 words of lightly amusing this is what the Star did today, and isn’t the Comet just darling too. All the time. You reserve the right to do just that when they are really really cute though.

Firstly, you are going to write some entries for h2g2.com. Broadly speaking, this is factual writing, but it is a Guide not an encyclopedia, so there’s quite a lot of scope there for making the pieces interesting. You find it difficult to be interesting and broadly factual without becoming anecdotal, so there’s challenge in that. Plus, you get feedback from fellow h2g2ers, which is always a good thing if you are trying to push yourself.

Topics identified so far are:

Urban fantasy as a genre of writing.

Mummy blogging.

How to celebrate with food Russian style.

How to make borscht and schee.

VDNKh – my favourite place in Moscow.

How to collect Soviet medals (with B).

In addition, you really enjoyed writing the toddler’s Guide to… series of articles, so you are going to commit to a bi-weekly column in h2g2’s newspaper, the Post. If they will have you. You haven’t actually asked yet. This is just for fun really, but there is something interesting in trying to remember the point of view you are writing from, at least for about half the time.

You are also going to try not to neglect the blog too much. A post a week as a minimum and more trying to enter in the yeah write challenges. You have totally failed to hit the target the last two times, so this will require effort. Good. There are some great blog writers participating in the project too, and so if nothing else you will have plenty of examples to live up to. You would say, make sure you participate every two weeks, but it really depends. At least once a month though, and you can certainly hang out on their coattails the rest of the time.

Finally. You have been dying to have a go at NaNoWriMo now for years but aside from the total lack of time, you also had a total lack of really workable ideas. It’s the whole plot thing. You are no good at plots. However, you had an idea recently which came built in with something of a plot and it might work for 50,000 words or so. Certainly you could have fun researching it a bit and playing around with some related fiction writing, and as this is something you hardly ever do, it would also go towards the goal of stretching yourself. Whether or not you will actually do the novel writing thing next November remains to be seen, but at least you will have a pleasant day dream for the rest of the year.

There. It helps to have a plan.

On convalescence

You aten’t dead.

Your husband aten’t dead, although he might be traumatised.

The children are also fairly perky, which is excellent news. Mainly due to the power of both Calpol AND Nurofen mind. There has been no more throwing up but the sheer amount of snot two children working together can produce has to be seen to be believed.

So you are in lockdown mode. The windows are sealed shut, the TV is on, the pancakes are slathered in chocolate spread, the toys are scattered all over the floor, and your MiL’s voice is in danger of going, after she has read approximately five million books in one day.

Tomorrow, round two. Attack of the even better feeling children. You have therefore decided that the Solnushka family will be making Christmas cards and/ or presents, depending on what you can find lying around the house.

Might as well get some use out of the situation. Especially as you can probably post the pictures for tomorrow’s post.

On statistics

So the Comet has just woken up with a raging temperature and in the same 30 minutes, the Star’s cough got the better of him and he has thrown up.

All over his Papa, which makes that a 100% record. Papa covered in 100 litres of sick in the last four and a half years, Mama zero. Result.

You have resisted the impulse to take a picture of the carnage for blogging purposes. Just.

On why I love Richard Castle

One of the ways that the newborn bonding milk producing hormonal rush takes you is that you develop odd crushes on people on the TV.

With the Star it was Gordon Ramsey. No, you don’t know why either.

With the Comet it was Richard Castle. Who, helpfully, is quite fictional. Not Nathan Fillion, the man who plays him. Fillion’s roles seem to be quite distinct, and while that may be the mark of a good actor, you are sure he will be pleased to hear that it makes it very unclear who you would be fixating on so you didn’t.

Anyway. Castle is the lead character on an American detective show called Castle. He’s a mystery writer who wangles himself the right to shadow a detective, Kate Beckett, and her team around. Indefinitely. Which seems unlikely, but hey. It’s a conceit.

He is, well, actually now that the hormones have worn off it has to be said that you find him somewhat irritating. With the detectives he is boundlessly, irritatingly immature. With his family he is still quite twinkly, but also wise, which seems unlikely. You daresay the family scenes are there to show that he has hidden depths, but you find the shift between styles too extreme. Possibly Fillion’s ability to show diverse personalities is not working in the show writers’ favour here. Not that you are particularly sure which aspect you prefer. The homebody is warmer, but the detective is funnier.

So why are you still watching? Mainly because you still definitely would, and also because unlike many ‘amateur helps the police’ storylines, the police get a pretty good showing.

A lot of the times in these sorts of things, the police go blundering about pedestrianly, not really getting close to the answer, and then the amateur swoops in and solves the whole case from start to finish by the power of their total awesomeness. In Castle, however, Kate Beckett is no mere foil, and yet no aberration herself. She is simply a professional at the top of her game. While Castle often does provide the insight that provides the final piece to the puzzle, which is fair enough because otherwise what is the point of the series, you enjoy the way that the rest of the time he is quite genuinely being led around by Beckett, and how she is the driving force behind all the investigations, and most of the deductions too.

Of course, she’s also the love interest. You gather. You are only on season two in the UK. This just makes it particularly nice that as a woman, nay, the totty in someone else’s show, she also gets to be the strong, competent one.

Or does she? Last week’s episode ended with Beckett’s apartment blowing up, after shots of her taking a shower and answering the telephone to Castle, who had just figured out that the bad guy they were hunting wasn’t dead after all and… BOOOOM! Ooooops, too late.

It could be an emphatic way of writing Becket out of the series. But you suspect not. You are not going to be caught that way twice in one episode. Not after a new and slightly unsympathetic character had been revealed as a loving mother to a small child, a fact underlined by a short chat about it between the two leads, scant seconds before walking into what Castle and Beckett suddenly realised was… A TRAAAAAP! Only to emerge, unscathed, moments later. Although not before your blood pressure had shot through the roof. Mothers to small children, are, in your opinion, to be protected.

No. You think it is much more likely that Beckett had reached the conclusion that the killer was still on the loose a lot earlier than Castle and was sheltering in a nearby hotel at the time of the explosion.

Which is a deeply satisfying little plot device.

They really should have named the show Beckett.

From Wikipedia Commons by Gage Skidmore

On watching a film I don’t know the name of.

Tonight you are watching a Russian movie about the stilyagi, or hipsters, the men and women who followed jazz and rock and roll, the music, the clothes, the lifestyle in the Soviet Union of the fifties.

It’s not historically accurate. It is, appropriately enough, stylised with a strong touch of the musical about it. Everybody lives in beautiful rooms, even the ones who live in communal flats. The shops are very chic, even if they are full of black or grey clothes, the better to highlight the vibrancy of the stilyagi. And the musical numbers are in Russian, which wasn’t how it worked at all. As you understand it. Everything you know on the subject comes from a book called ‘Back in the USSR’ by Artemy Troitsky. But he definitely knows what he is talking about, although mostly it’s not about the stilyagi.*

Mind you, the film makers seem to have read it too. They are certainly doing the highlights anyway. Atmosphere of hostility. Much spitting and haranguing. People getting their hair shaved by well meaning mobs. Bootleg copies of American records on old X-rays. Many of the leading lights being the children of the upper ranks of Soviet society. Someone has just got arrested.

The story charts the journey of a young member of the stilyagi from onlooker to leading light in the movement. We are nearing the end of the film now and his best friend and wife have just spent the last half an hour highlighting how they over the fad they are in contrast to our hero, who is still determinedly sporting a quiff and playing his sax loudly enough to wake the baby.

You are not sure if the film has a point. Possibly there is a bit of sniffyness at what is essentially something of a hollow lifestyle, and one that is built on a romanticised view of the West at that. But the film definitely doesn’t stint the contrast between the joy and enjoyment of the stilyagi in contrast to that of the rest of the country either.

Plus the rather jolly song at the end sees the boy with delusion intact, albeit somehow also in the present day, surrounded by the youth cultures of the last fifty years, and seems to have trumped that rather downbeat conclusion. Who knows?

Pushkin**. Or someone with a better command of Russian, anyway.

UPDATE!

You have found the film. It is called, appropriately enough, Stilyagi. And here is the lead at the moment his hipster life really takes off.

And you really like this song.

*You highly recommend this book, but only to people who have a working knowledge of Russian rock music, otherwise it probably makes no sense at all. Still, there’s always youtube.

**There’s nothing worse than a bad joke explained, but it might help to know that in Russian, there’s a little call and response thing which goes: ‘Who knows?’ ‘Pushkin knows.’ I dunno, become a revered national poet and writer of dirty limerics, and suddenly you are omniscient.