Happy Tracks in the Snow

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Website of the week – Common Ground June 29, 2007

Filed under: environment,General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 7:33 pm


Common Ground is internationally recognised for playing a unique role in the arts and environmental fields, distinguished by the linking of nature with culture, focussing upon the positive investment people can make in their own localities, championing popular democratic involvement, and by inspiring celebration as a starting point for action to improve the quality of our everyday places. We offer ideas, information and inspiration through publications and projects such as Field Days, Parish Maps, Flora Britannica, Apple Day, Community Orchards, Tree Dressing Day, Confluence and the campaign for LOCAL DISTINCTIVENESS.



Filed under: General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 3:42 pm


So there I was cycling to pre-school yesterday with my son’s scooter under my arm, thinking about my pizza date with a friend (who works for Life Cycle who run cycle training for adults & children ironically enough) when bam, the scooter gets caught in the wheel and I fly over the handlbars.

There are many guardian angels, gods and goddesses in my opinion (not least St Anthony, patron saint of lost things – ask him for help when you next lose your car keys) and there was definitely a goddess of cycling at work that day as I got a few scrapes and bruises but nothing else. There are so many lessons to be learnt but I guess the main one is don’t cycle with stuff under your arm.


Safe as houses

Filed under: parenting articles,the kids — paulabrown @ 3:35 pm


So I’m the last one to panic about safety: I have an old-fashioned attitude that kids will learn their limitations and consequently don’t freak out when they jump off walls and the like. We didn’t do stairgates, cots (for long) and my children can use scissors and knives with precision.

This week though my elder son, Gabe, was messing about around a grit/sand box on the side of the road when my husband saw there was a hypodermic needle in there. I properly freaked out when he told me as you can imagine! (He hadn’t touched it btw). Later that week an old man started pawing my younger son in a shop and looking far too interested in him (he does have a chubby, angelic face). I don’t want to live thinking my children are constantly surrounded by danger but I guess it served to remind me that though it’s not everywhere, it’s still there…


Recommended Reading: The Dangerous Book for Boys! June 19, 2007

Filed under: General,parenting articles,Paula recommends — paulabrown @ 9:56 pm


Switch off your television set and go and buy the Dangerous Book for Boys! We love this book – it’s so British and old-fashioned. Gabe has already made the lighthouse at Alexandria (Ancient Wonder of the World) out of cardboard boxes and we’re all looking forward to a good game of conkers/chess/bear baiting (OK the latter isn’t included).

Here’s a brief synopsis:

How many other books will help you thrash someone at conkers, race your own go-cart, and identify the best quotations from Shakespeare? “The Dangerous Book for Boys” gives you facts and figures at your fingertips – swot up on the solar system, learn about famous battles and read inspiring stories of incredible courage and bravery.

Teach your old dog new tricks. Make a pinhole camera. Understand the laws of cricket. There’s a whole world out there: with this book, anyone can get out and explore it. “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is written with the verve and passion that readers of Conn Iggulden’s number one bestselling novels have come to expect. This book, his first non-fiction work, has been written with his brother as a celebration of the long summers of their youth and as a compendium of information so vital to men of all ages.

Lavishly designed and fully illustrated in color and black and white throughout, it’s set to be a perfect gift for Father’s Day and beyond. Chapters in “The Dangerous Book for Boys” include: The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, Conkers, Laws of Football, Dinosaurs, Fishing, Juggling, Timers and Tripwires, Kings and Queens, Famous Battles, Spies, Making Crystals, Insects and Spiders, Astronomy, Girls, The Golden Age of Piracy, Secret Inks, Patron Saints of Britain, Skimming Stones, Dog Tricks, Making a Periscope, Coin Tricks, Marbles, Artillery, The Origin of Words, and The Solar System….

£10 at Amazon


The forthcoming ban on smoking!

Filed under: General,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 8:47 pm


So I sat in a pub beer garden last night (a fairly rare treat!) where a few folk were smoking and what with tonight’s Radio 2 programme on ‘smoking and popular culture’ – led me to write think about smoking and it’s future post the ban-on-smoking-in-public-places.

Now I’m sitting on the fence a bit here because I used to smoke, albeit casually, and even in my own (lovely student) house. I always knew it was a bad idea and eventually got hypnotised (the hypnotist laughed when I said I smoked 10 cigarettes… a week, it would have been cheaper to carry on smoking!).

If you fish around for statistics on the likely results of said ban there’s apparent contradiction depending which lobby you belong to (e.g. FOREST – pro-smokers lobby or ASH the anti-smoking campaign). If you take Ireland as a case study it seems the ban will reduce smoking in homes as it becomes something that is not seen as normal.

Given that around 45% of British children in 1996 lived in a home where at least one person smoked that can’t be a bad thing. If you like statistics you might like to quote that passive smoking kills about 12,000 people in the UK a year, of which about 500 die as a result of exposure to second hand smoke at work – with hospitality and bar workers particularly at risk – and impress your friends with your current affairs knowledge!

My grandmother smoked 40 Benson and Hedges from age 12 until about 6 months before she died (at aged 81) and never had a cough or the like. She was generally made from sturdy stuff though (even half cooked bloody chicken had no effect on her) so I wouldn’t advise repeating her experience. She really shouldn’t have given up as the shock was too much I think.

I’m sure the ban will have some effect on the levels of smoking elsewhere – you only have to visit the States to see how their culture has become very anti-smoking or Spain at the other extreme where you can still find cashiers in banks couting your money while smoking Ducados extra-strength!

Anyway, check out and let me know your thoughts! http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/musicclub/doc_smoke.shtml


Local food June 17, 2007

Filed under: Bristol news,environment,parenting articles,recipes — paulabrown @ 6:47 pm


Now I like my food so I went to a Sunday market at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol this morning with the kids – always a dangerous thing as it only takes a few snacks, drinks and a jar of handmade chutney before you’ve parted with the best part of £15! Anyway, it was lovely and the kids enjoyed it.

It did occur to me that we’re quite spoilt for all things foodie in Bristol – we’ve got the UK’s only regular Slow Food market, one of a handful of UK Organic Food Festivals, the World’s largest Vegan Fair, a brilliant weekly farmers’ market, a new swanky cookery school which is doing a lot of work with schools (Bordeaux Quay), St Nicholas markets with brilliant stalls like the one linked with the Olive Shed restaurant as well as great wholefood shops like Better Food Company that source as locally as possible and grow a lot of their veg at a nearby walled garden and not forgetting lots of beautiful allotment sites.

So if you’re in Bristol – make use of it!


Kick off your shoes and dance barefoot! June 16, 2007

Filed under: Barefoot Books - titles,parenting articles — paulabrown @ 6:50 pm


If you want to get a feel for Barefoot, here are some great YouTube clips using the books!