Thursday, 26 November 2015

Game of the Week!

This week, it has to be UNO, a firm family favourite.

It's a really simple concept- seven cards each and you have to get rid of all your cards to win. You can put down a card that's the same colour or the same number as the one on the top of the pile, and there are other cards that you can use to make others skip a go, pick up more cards or change the colour of cards that can be put down.

I forget what the age recommendation is but we've played this with our toddlers for years, with a bit of help, and obviously its fab for helping with number and colour recognition, as well as handling unfair concepts like losing and someone making you pick up loads of cards or taking your turn away!

Image result for uno

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Writing Wednesday - Nanowrimo 2015

I finished today! Came in at 68 thousand or so, which isn't huge, but this particular book didn't need to be- it's number six in the series of game books that I have written. Like a sort of more grown up version of the old fighting fantasy books, the chapters can be read in any order and you make choices at the end as to which chapter you read next. The narrative is bound together with a prologue and an epilogue and clues along the way answer an over arching mystery.

I'm pleased to have got this out the way in 25 days- yes, I now know that I can write much faster and much longer but that doesn't mean I have to or even should every time. I'm glad to have completed this second trilogy and to have realised my long term plans for this set of characters- I'm also slightly sad to say good bye to them, but that is the way of things. You let these people into your head and live with them for so long and really get to know them and then there comes a part where you have to move on to different things, and different characters. It's not impossible that I write some more, but it won't be for a while- six is enough for now and I'm yet to do anything with them but let them languish in a drawer.

This also marks my fourth book this year, which is not bad going. In all, that represents well over three hundred thousand words, not including blogging and tweeting!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Book sharing Monday- Princess Pearl

This is an absolutely gorgeous book- a lovely story by Giles Andreae and utterly sublime pictures by Sophy Williams.

It has romance, standing up for what you want in life, what real friendship and love is- all the good stuff.

Even better, the main character, the princess herself is blind- and not from some dramatic event or curse, she was just born that way.

Furthermore, although her blindness does come into it, it's not the crux of the story, not really, it's just incidental to her character. Perfect.

Cosplay 101

Things I have learnt from cos-playing this year-

1) Choose a recognisable character.
Trust me on this one. Spending the whole day explaining who you are to blank faces that remain blank gets depressing. Choose one that's well known and you have people commenting on it and telling you how much they love it, and even wanting to take photos of you- much more fun!

2) Don't worry about playing a character that others might be playing too.
I used to worry about this which is how I ended up in costumes that no-one else 'got'! In fact, it's the most fun ever to find someone else being the same character as you- it's like finding an instant pal. You get to chat about the different decisions you both made over which costume version to do and how to execute it, and commiserate over difficult bits and so on, and of course take photos together!

3) Prepare for the temperature. 
It will almost invariably get quite hot at the venue, so bear this in mind when choosing costumes. Go to a con in a one that involves lots of layers and you will soon find out why skimpy costumes like slave Leia are so popular! Don't forget to figure in wigs- wigs, especially long ones, are extraordinarily hot to wear.

I learnt this one the hard way. Not only are they fiddly to make and, if you're unlucky, gradually fall apart throughout the day, but if your character carries a sword and shield then you ending up do so too, all day, which can be tricky when there's stalls of things to look at and pay for and children to marshal and people to meet and greet.

5) Go in a group.
Preferably with a muggle or two who is not in costume so they can carry your keys, phone, camera, purse, sandwiches, emergency repair kit, etc. Alternatively choose a costume that includes a roomy backpack.

6) Take emergency supplies.
Take an emergency repair kit for your makeup, hair, costume and props. Gaffa tape, sewing kit, hairspray, glue- those sorts of things. It's one of those things that you'll probably not need if you take it but definitely will if you don't.

7) Check out your local cos-play group beforehand.
They might be running fun competitions, can give advise on make up or the best glue to use, will have an area you can dump stuff in on the day, and are generally a good source for help and support.

8) Comfortable shoes/boots. 
You will be on your feet for most of the day and if you're not used to heels you will really feel it round about lunchtime! Maybe compromise and have a smaller heel or flat shoe that's otherwise accurate, or use those insertable gel pads, or get in lots of practice wearing your foot wear beforehand.

9) Dress rehearsals and dry runs.
Definitely practice the different components of your costume before hand, and most importantly do several  full dress rehearsals before the event. It's only once you get into the full costume that you realise things like gaps that need pinning, or bits that rub and clash and so on. If, like me, you don't wear make up normally and haven't used it for years, give yourself plenty of time to practice- half an hour before you have to leave is NOT a good time to discover you can't do a good lip line.

10) Keep it simple.
Obviously it's up to you and it's always better to go for a costume you feel passionate about, but fiddly, complicated costumes are not only stressful to make, they're also really irritating to wear, especially after an hour or two. After you've re-settled the shoulder armour piece for the fiftieth time you will be ready to chuck the whole thing in the bin- trust me on this. Also, the simpler the costume, the easier it is to make, and not only that, but the easier it is to repair if needed and it's easier to wear again at other events, too, which makes it more economical, of course.

11) Be realistic.
Cosplaying is addictive and exciting. You  may find yourself unable to look at almost any character in a comic or film without going- hmmmm, I could make that! Do try and be realistic about what you can make. If, like me, you haven't used a sewing machine since you were in school and even then all you made was a skirt, then making an elaborate ball gown or high action jump suit completely from scratch might be a little to much for you. There's nothing wrong with starting off buying your costumes, or converting clothes, or with using bondaweb, glue and safety pins or even staples. In the end, it's supposed to be fun, and if you end up sewing a million seams by hand at 2am the night before the event only to find it still doesn't fit, well, you're not going to have much fun!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Happy Birthday Dot!

Dot was six this month! After a bracing birthday breakfast of oreo soup, toasting waffles and strawberries, she got down to the serious business of opening presents...

 Luckily everyone was up so we could do presents before the oldest three scurried off to college and school.
She was very pleased with everything!

 Lunch was a picnic in the park (thank goodness it didn't rain) then we headed home for jelly and custard- look, the rabbit came out whole! No road-kill here!
 Also lemonade and squash drinks with (dairy-free) ice-cream floats
 and spaghetti bolignaise and cake for dinner - yes, her day was punctuated by menus that she's been planning for weeks!
 Then the following weekend was THE PARTY! This immense and beautiful cake is dairy and egg free and was made by a dear home edding friend of ours who runs a vegan shop. It was delicious and disappeared fast!

As has happened before at this time of year, we invited lots of guests and half of them couldn't make it, so we invited some more and some how ended up with fifteen or so additional children to our own plus attendant parents, so that was exciting. Dot has declared it the best party ever- success!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Wyntercon 2015!

Finally, last weekend the great day arrived! After months of planning and a hectic week, for me, of sword and shield making and almost endless painting, Wyntercon finally arrived!

We met some of our cosplaying friends we had made on facebook- Black Widow here gave me some great make up advice, which I needed seeing as how I haven't owned any make up for years, let alone used it!
Here we see Delta, from Jurassic World, with Owen Grady, the velociraptor trainer. Hoof chose this costume himself, and loved it! I prepared by having him wear his Batman shorts and tshirt set underneath in case he wanted it off, but no- he kept it on all day!
Dot's Tinkerbell hair- pretty accurate for my first go, I thought!
Petal's Rosetta hair. Not as accurate, but there was no way I was going to back-comb it to make it poofy enough, with her fine hair I'd just end up with a nightmare tangle scenario.

Dot and I had a professional photo done on the replica Iron throne- so nice to have a decent picture of our costumes!
Here we all are (why my eyes are shut I don't know)
One of the most fun things about cosplay is finding someone else cosplaying the same character- here's another Wonder Woman costume! We had a good chat about weapon props!
Fluff (Rocket Racoon with the gun) found another Rocket Racoon!
The tardis was there, plus Cyberman.
We made cupcakes for Virginia Hey-
By now we're old friends!

We got a great haul of dice, comics and lego figures and all went home happy.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Junior Associate Taster Day at the Royal Ballet School!

 I'm not sure which of us was more excited, nor which of us told more people about this while we counting down to the big day, but finally the great day arrived! Petal and I were off to the Royal Ballet School at Covent Garden- just us two, one the train and the tube!
 Here we are in the foyer... It was all so beautiful. Still quite a new building, it is pristine - all polished wood and white walls and gorgeous black and white photos of the many famous principle dancers the Royal Ballet has had over the years, in their various roles.
 Getting ready for her class.... Which was wonderful! All the parents got to sit and watch and it was a good hour and half if not two hours and so well done. There were two teachers. One who is based at the Royal Ballet School who was leading the class and one from Birmingham Ballet which is also a centre for the Junior Associate Programme, who was assisting. They were both excellent. There was also a REAL piano (baby grand) with a REAL pianist who played REAL music! It was so well done, organised and paced. The atmosphere was positive, uplifting and nurturing- at the same time, the attention to detail was excellent and the discipline was quite, calm, and ever present.

The whole day was impeciably organised, in fact.

And yes, of course we found the ballerina statue afterwards! We also found the Royal Opera House shop and strolled round Covent Garden market. We even went into the Dinsey shop AND got out alive! (No mean feat.)

Petal absolutely loved it all, we even  made friends with another dancer and her mum who were from the next county and needed extra hairpins! (Which I had, being a good Girl Guide). Neither of us wanted to leave and she was talking determinedly about 'more lessons' before we had even walked out the room- so it looks like we'll be applying to audition next May for the Junior Associate Programme... They usually have around 900 to 1000 audtion-ees and take on about 50% so fingers crossed!

We even saw Darcy Bussell's costume from Prince of the Pagodas. We didn't see, sadly, Gary Avis - the Royal Ballet's Principle Character Artist and one of our favourites, we've seen him in the cinema broadcasts of Swan Lake, La Fille Mal Guarde and, most recently, as a very dashing Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. He was there all day, but working hard, I expect. Ah well, maybe next time!
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