This weekend the weather wasn’t brilliant but it was time for us to get out of the house and have a day out so we decided to go to the beach. The sea air would do the world of good to clear up lingering coughs and colds, it was time to introduce the girls to crabbing and sand castles and fish and chips, a firm favourite used as a special occasion on beach days. So car packed to the hilt, it’s amazing how much stuff goes with you, off we set arriving at the beach just in time for lunch. Daddy ordered fish and chips and with the windbreaker up we sat on our mat and enjoyed a very welcome meal. Funny how it tastes even better at the beach isn’t it?

We had buckets and spades and I took some photos, happy of the change of scenery at long last! I mean there’s only so many shots you can take of the girls and flowers in the garden before it becomes a bit tiring!

Just spending one day ‘out’ made me realise how much time we’ve spent around the house since last summer and I am so ready for the good weather to arrive and beach trips to take place again.

Other exciting news to tell is I have been invited to a champagne cocktail by Proctor and Gamble, Check. Me. Out. It’s to take place in a swanky hotel in Soho and I shall get to see the launch of their 80th celebrations of which I am part! I’m so excited, my vlog and posts will be added to their website P&G Proud sponsor of mums along with all the other lovely ladies who joined in and exhausted themselves in the name of research for them. Could this be the start of something new I wonder? Bring it on, I am so ready for challenges and who knows this could lead to a prosperous and famous career….I just might start working on my Oscar speech later this week, of course you’ll all be the first to see it :)

Have a great week all, I’m off to my retired wardrobe to see if there is anything in there fit for rubbing shoulders with the champagne posse. Toodlepip

Our flag representing the union of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales which has been flown since 1603 when Scottish King James VI inherited the English and Irish thrones and ruled the countries as one becoming King James I. Pay attention at the back there!

So I have been hunting down Jack (as if I haven’t got enough to do!) because it was the first question that came to my mind. To have the national flag named after him he must have been important, a peer in the land, a Jack that everyone looked up to. But my research has only thrown up that Jack is the name given to any flag hoisted at sea. It’s a navy term… how deluding! There was I thinking up magical stories of a heroic Jack who saved us from unknown Armageddon, but alas I am stopped in my tracks in a screeching halt. However one theory is that the “Jack” part of the name may also have come from the name of King James I/James VI of Scotland which is a little bit more satisfying.

I believe every population holds their own flag in special esteem and one only has to mooch through the local shopping centre to see that our Union Jack is reproduced EVERYWHERE. Leaving to one side that we have a royal wedding this year and therefore merchandise of every imaginable possibility is supporting our flag proudly; plates, napkins, t-shirts, tea towles, bed covers, rugs, throws, you name it – someone has produced it with the Union Jack on it.

It’s not just a recent fashion either, not something just ‘in’ for Kate and William, oh no, I have had a beautiful Union Jack vintage cushion for about two years now and I believe Kate and William were even seperated at that time. Cast your mind back to the Spice Girls era and Geri Halliwell infamously wore the inciest, winciest Union Jack at the Brits and has practically gone down in history for it. Our Flag is also very popular overseas, in fact so much so people don’t realise it is the combination of three flags that make up our Union Jack, St George’s red cross on white, St Andrew’s white cross on blue and St Patrick’s red diagonal cross on white. Whilst in Lake Garda last year, the football (British) World Cup was underway and we proudly displayed our English St George bunting around our temporary home only to be asked by staff if we spoke English!!

I would expect a lot of us have a product with the Union Jack on it lurking somewhere. in my time I have had t-shirts, funny sunglasses (which strangley enough I can’t find now) wooly ski hats, pencils, exercise books and a mug. So tell me, have you got a Union Jack in your house and what form does it take?

So for this week’s Alphabe Thursday I proudly present you the Union Jack, below a slide show of various articles currently for sale should you be tempted – let’s go shopping :)

So S is for Scary, Stories and Supplies today for my entry in Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday now all I need is a monster aged 8 or over…..

Have you ever heard of 826 literacy project? I hadn’t until yesterday, quite by chance via Twitter and that gives me a fourth S today Serendipity but I digress dear reader. The 826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization, set up to assist students aged six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? This is one time that I want to be 10 years old again!

Currently there are 9 centres dotted all over the USA and now, luckily for us, some very hard working people who you can read about on We Made This have secured funding from the Arts Council and The JJ Charitable Trust the author Nick Hornby jumped on board and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies –  Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind opened back in November 2010 for the delight of kids across the land and I WANT TO GO NOW! Only I need to be aged 8 – 18…even my best attempt at a monster disguise won’t let me get away with the loss of that many years!

The shop was established in 1818 and has been supplying Britain’s extensive monster community since. In fact you can find a whole range of Tinned Fears each containing a specially commissioned short story from authors like Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith, there is a wonderful selection of Human Preserves and a very handy Neck-Bolt Tightener amongst other necessary monster wares. The beadier eyed beast will note that the shelves of the shop conceal an entrance. A secret and well disguised portal that leads to the Ministry of Stories which has been architectured and designed in the smallest detail to feel really special and it certainly looks special.

The Ministry has already held numerous workshops which monsters both locally and from afar have given their thumbs up. The BBC themselves were suitably impressed and the journalist from The Guardian gave a glowing report. But let’s be honest – would you dare write a bad review on a monster supply shop? – not me!

So if you have some monsters lying around who need a little inspiration or a creative outlet to create the next Harry Potter then you really should rush down to this place…I’m going to kidnap my niece and nephew (aged 9 and 11) whilst they’re sleeping and leave my twins in their beds so their parents won’t realise, that’ll get me my ticket into the Ministry of Stories. How are you going to get in?

I confess to stealing each and every single photo from the We Made This blog and I am now on a 24/7 monster watch. Aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh

This week I have chosen the heel of the beautiful Boot, a region called Puglia (Apulia). I spent my last family holiday here in 2002 and although it was the beginning of the end as far as my marriage was concerned those sad memories cannot erase the beauty and the perfect holiday I spent in these parts. We decided to hire a camper van and tour the area and it was the most amazing experience allowing us to visit many places in a two-week break.

Again, Puglia offers far too much to be covered in one post so I shall take you along part of our camper van route which starts off on the ‘spur’ of the boot, the stunning Gargano promontory a sailors paradise and full of culture, history and art. The medieval towns like Vieste are a delight to discover and Mattinata can be traced back to 500 BC. San Giovanni Rotondo, home of the infamous Padre Pio, a venerated saint in Italy, is also home to an ancient round temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Apart from the clear blue seas Gargano is also a national park offering numerous treks for nature lovers and one last place that must have a mention is the Tremiti Islands a collection of five islands, two of which have been populated since ancient times and according to myth the island was inhabited by Diomedes when he returned from the battle of Troy. We took the ferry over and walked through the old towns, we had lunch in a tiny restaurant with fresh mozzarella and tomato salad served with capers picked from the island and we hired a dinghy and sailed around the island stopping off in the various bays to swim. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.

‘For sale extra virgin olive oil and genuine home made wine, refer to ex lifeguard Andrea’ (ex – ???) :)

We drove through the province of Bari and enjoyed various beaches along our way towards Alberobello, an inland town home of the trulli. These cone-roofed houses are typical of the area, built amongst olive groves and used today as shops and also villas to let. Each roof has a pinnacle or cross and strange stone markers said to have a magical significance, walking through the streets is a surreal experience and a stop off in one of the stores to buy a ‘fischietto’ or whistle as a souvenir is another must.

puglia trulli Alberobello

Next mention must be Ostuni, an inland white medieval town which sparkles against the red rich soil of the area. We ate at the Osteria del Tempo Perso  in the centre of the town renowned for it’s excellent food and glorious wine list, the restaurant is separated into two areas, one an oven dating back to the 1500’s the other dedicated to the farming history of Ostuni. I ate the most delicious Buffalo mozzarella here I can still taste it today, sigh….

Castel del Monte, a 13th century castle standing high on a rock is a UNESCO world heritage site and is also commemorated on the Italian 1 cent.

There is much more to be seen in Puglia and I’ll probably dedicate many future posts to this beautiful region, if you do decide to go then you must try the pasta of the area ‘Orecchiette’ with cime di rape (broccoli heads)

Delicious wines include Martina Franca and Locorotondo the whites and Primitivo, Malvasia Nera and Negromaro the reds. Puglia is the major producer of olive oil of the country so make sure to bring a bottle home with you.