Local events happening TOMORROW!


Here’s the lowdown on two exciting local events happening tomorrow. If you know of any others, feel free to add the details below!   st mary's hospice birthday party Birthday Party in the Park! Selly Park Recreation Ground, off Raddlebarn Road. To celebrate 35 years of St. Mary’s Hospice, they’re putting on live music and dance performances from Band Baja UK, Elmhurst School of Dance and long established music duo New York Minute. Street food, carnival games and designer stalls. There will also be a special visit from some popular cartoon characters, Peppa Pig and one of Despicable Me character Gru’s faithful minions. 12PM – 4:30 FREE FB-Closeup-play-area-throgh-the-Spring-Meadow Martineau Gardens Storytelling Festival 11am – 7pm Adults £6, Children FREE The third Martineau Gardens’ Storytelling Festival returns for midsummer 2014. “Look forward to a family-friendly day of storytelling, in the grounds of a beautiful community garden, presented by the Traditional Arts Team. There will be storytelling performances, storytrails, live music, arts, dance, stalls, and  crafts for children with delicious food from ChangeKitchen CIC. Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of a wild little corner of Birmingham, whilst we entertain you with the power of storytelling.”


Review of “Marvellous Machines: the Wonderful World of Rowland Emmet”






This exhibition (on at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the City Centre until 21st September) showcases the work of cartoonist, artist, inventor and builder of whimsical, mechanical ‘Things’, Rowland Emett. He’s perhaps best known for designing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. The show features twelve of his quirky moving machines and many of his original artworks.


We went along a couple of weeks back. My two were initially dead keen to race round the space and take everything in at lightning speed, rather than stop and ponder over each piece. I didn’t want to have blown £10 on a 20-minute whistle-stop tour, and I saw that my two would need some extra encouragement to engage more fully with the exhibits. Thankfully I had a lovely long-time friend with me, so we divided and conquered so we could give each child one-to-one attention and go at their pace. That helped massively! Soon they were well into it, and they especially loved looking at what the devices were made of; they had great fun spotting recognisable household objects. The longer we stood and looked, the more we saw! They were utterly charmed.

Once we’d had enough time looking at everything, there was a lovely interactive space with spirographs to try, complex puzzles to complete, marble runs to construct and a few other bits and pieces. So we ended up staying for two hours in the end! That was good value for money. Framing the experience with a train ride and a scoot up New Street is always popular with kids too.


And though we didn’t do it this time, there’s always the rest of BMAG to explore for free, with its pre-Raphaelite paintings, art and objects from the Greeks, Romans and Ancient Egyptians, not to mention the Staffordshire Hoard. There is also a special hands-on gallery called In Touch which is designed to appeal to the senses of little people, or try doing the free family trail (available from the vestibule) or explore the interactive Birmingham History gallery.

I think both kids got a lot out of it in the end, but it was perhaps more age-appropriate for my school-aged child. A good weekend treat or perhaps save it for a wet day in the summer holidays? If you’ve also been, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Marvellous Machines







This post is a couple of days late because it’s been one of those weeks.

Multiple tantrums from the older child (who technically should have grown out of these things). The sort that catch you out when you’re a long way from home and there are no tissues available. I have discovered that leaves can be a useful tissue substitute when the snot is dripping down to Ree’s waist.

Escapades for Lad onto the flat roof via our open bedroom window. I still break into a cold sweat at the thought of that particular drama.

Due to warm weather, light evenings and hysterically over-tired kids, bedtimes have been hovering around the 9:30pm mark. I am most definitely not OK with this. 9:30pm bedtimes are for way ahead in the future, surely?

There was a ‘rough play’ situation with our pet which very nearly led to its demise. I WANT to believe it was accidental injury.

Then, with a partner on night shifts all week we’ve been playing the oh-such-fun “Let’s see how long we can stay out of the house for each day!” game to let him get some sleep.

Finally, we’ve jumped on the chicken pox bandwagon just for good measure.

Anyhow, the fever’s broken, the spots are beginning to crust over, and I’m hopeful that tonight I won’t have a burning hot, fidgety, whimpery bedfellow.

In the meantime, here are two of the best kid-related things I managed to read this week in the quieter moments. I hope you enjoy.

1. 20 frugal activities for kids Usually I pass over these ‘make and do’ lists as they tend to make me feel overwhelmed and inadequate. But I thought some of these ideas were top drawer. I plan to let Ree look over the list tomorrow and pick out a couple she’d like to try. Hoping she’ll pick the miniature twig and wool teepee! Have fun and click through the links.

2. 10 boy-mum musts If you are mother to a son, I’m guessing you’ll smile at this list of things you have to become comfortable with when bringing up someone of the opposite sex.

Thanks for reading!





Blackberry muffins (or raspberry, or blueberry…)


blackberry muffin

After mother nature went crazy last year with an unusually abundant blackberry season, we’re STILL using up the fruit that’s been stored in the freezer. Eight months, is that still OK?!

I came across this recipe and tried it, and it’s pretty good. You do need to have cup measures though. It made 18 muffins in normal fairy cake cases, and there’s just one cup of sugar so they’re not over-sweet for little ones; they’re a U.S. breakfast-style muffin. If you’re feeling patient enough to let really little ones help, then good luck! Remember the secret of good muffins is… don’t over-mix!

I’m not feeling so patient today. Lad smashed a lovely bottle of white wine all over the carpet. Accidentally, he says. Not sure if I was more upset about the wasted wine or the mess to clear up.

P.S. The recipe would work just as well with other soft berry fruits that you have to hand. Some commenters said it could do with more cinnamon or a squeeze of lemon, but I thought they were good crowd-pleasers.

Have a lovely sunny weekend!



Why the Brummie accent gets my vote


images biff and chip

Ree is five and a half. She’s been bumbling along the sometimes rocky road of learning to read and she’s now in the third and final term of her Reception year.

While she’s been furrowing her brow and getting stuck in with Biff and Chip (the Peter and Jane of this generation’s beginner readers), I’ve been trying to keep up with the grammatical terms she’s started throwing around at home.

Digraph. Split digraph. CVC. Magic ‘e’.

It sounds to me like some obscure computer programming language.

scrabble pic

Especially when they stump a grown-up…

Until fairly recently it seemed a real uphill struggle to find a window of opportunity for her to practise reading at home without it becoming a sure-fire way of bringing on tears of frustration and exhaustion. Straight after school? Too zoned out from a day of stimulation and input. Straight before bed? She was so desperate for sleep in the evenings for the first term and a half that it felt pretty mean to make her read as part of a supposedly wind-down, soothing bedtime routine. Over the bowl of Shreddies in the morning? Not the easiest way to start the day, for her or us. So, through trial and error, thankfully she doesn’t seem to have been turned off the whole thing yet.

And as we’ve been working our way through a fair few ‘reading scheme’ books, here’s my revelation. I’ve grown increasingly convinced of the superiority of the West Midlands accent. Even though neither I nor her Dad come from around here, we’re slowly but surely being licked into Brummie shape. Here’s why.

The letter ‘A’

As in,  h-a-y spells hay. If you’re using the letter sounds, how could you not say that in a West Midlands accent when spelling it out letter by letter? If you’re not from the West Midlands, try it now. Go on. H-a-y = hay. See? Makes me think, why exactly do I turn the ‘a’ into an ‘e’ when I say it?

The suffix –ing

As in, going. No one in my immediate or extended family pronounces the letter ‘g’ in this word. We’re a mix of South East, South West, and Yorkshire.  But when Ree painstakingly spells out this word from her book and then does that magical thing they call ‘blending’ to make the word ‘going’, I think to myself, why the heck wouldn’t you pronounce the ‘g’? I think it makes perfect sense.

The letter ‘U’

As in, p-u-t spells put, to rhyme with foot. Yep. Non-Brummies, what are we thinking when we say the words ‘put’ and putt (a golfing term, I believe) in two very different ways? How does that makes any sense at all? The Midlands way of pronouncing both identically is surely more logical.

Accents. I do believe there’s beauty in the diversity. But you know what? I have the feeling that for all the mocking it gets, this region’s might just have the edge! Logical and friendly-sounding. What more could you ask for?


Liz Berry, Birmingham poet


See a recent interview with Birmingham poet, teacher and new mum Liz Berry in the Birmingham Mail here. She has written poetry in the Black Country dialect, and you can read a beautiful one about Birmingham’s roller pigeons here.


Great Brum Indoors

Great Brum Indoors

Here’s the follow-up to my last post, about outdoor possibilities in and around Birmingham. I hope there’ll be something of interest here for you for when you just need to get out of the house.

Activities on this list range from FREE up to around a tenner. Just a couple are quite a fair drive from Birmingham. But as it’s the Easter holidays, I’m throwing them into the mix. It’s always good to have options…

If you know of any other attractions that families on the Busy Parents Network would love to hear about, please go ahead and add your comments below.

Culture / Creative

1. The Barber Institute  on the Birmingham University campus. Parking right outside. Well worth a leisurely look around the permanent collection – hopefully something the grown ups AND the little people can enjoy. The staff are thankfully very tolerant of small children. Once, I even took preschoolers (on their very best behaviour) to the Friday lunchtime free concerts.


Barber Institute of Fine Art


Most Sundays in term time, they offer family workshops in Drawing, Sculpture, Painting, Craft and Printing. Booking is essential.  Holiday workshops are slightly more ambitious in scope, which is reflected in the cost.

EASTER ART SCHOOL: “Dastardly Dragons: Celebrate St George’s Day” Tue 22 and Wed 23rd April. Discover the dragons in the drawings and sculptures around the gallery. Design your own dastardly dragon on day one, then bring it to life in sculpture on day two! £15 per child. Booking essential.  Contact 0121 414 2261 or email education@barber.org.uk


Ikon Gallery

2. Ikon Gallery

  •  Easter family workshops Thurs 17 April £4 per child, payable in advance. Cost includes refreshments. 10:30 -12pm (3 – 5years) 2 – 4pm 6 years + (younger sibings also welcome)
  • Family Saturdays – the first Saturday of every month, 1–4pm, FREE – next one is Saturday 3 May – explore sculpture and Michel Francois’s exhibition. Open to all ages, including adults, these sessions of hands-on creative activity engage, challenge and inspire. No need to book, just drop in at any time.
  • Parent and toddler mornings. Next one Tue 13th May 10 – 11am £2 per child, payable in advance.



Birmimgham Museum and Art Gallery

3.  Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Activities for children and families  take place every day during the Birmingham School Holidays. There is also an art club for children aged 7-11 on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. (next one tomorrow. Come and make paper mosaic artworks inspired by the tessellating patterns of Morna Lockie-Anrig’s installation ‘The Maid’s Puzzle’. With local artist Benny Semp. 1.30 – 4.00pm In The Activity Zone, £1 per child. Suitable for all ages and for families to work together.  Drop – in, no need to book.

As well as the wonderful permanent exhibition, come and take a peek at the Staffordshire Hoard, or the current exhibition of contemporary art (until 18th May). It’s family friendly, and there is a zone especially for small children where they can be as tactile as they like with the props! This was a great hit with my two. Its designed to appeal to the senses where a variety of artworks can be experienced through touch, sound and light.

MAD museum

MAD (Museum of Art and Design), Stratford upon Avon

4. Museum of Art and Design Stratford upon Avon – “Each quirky and fascinating machine has been artistically and intricately made by hand. An extravaganza of gears, chains, pulleys and whirligig paraphernalia!” £6.80 for adults; £4.50 child 6-12 years, under 5s FREE. A great wet weather option.

raf museum cosford

RAF Museum, Cosford

5. RAF Museum at Cosford – A fun, entertaining day out for the entire family. Next to an active airfield. FREE. Easter  Spy Trail 14-25 April. Huge array of aircraft and displays including Fun ‘n’ Flight, a hands-on interactive gallery and the Black Hawk flight simulator. Be prepared for some conversations about war, though!

mud cafe

We are Mud Cafe, Bearwood

6. We Are Mud Café in Bearwood – why not get your kids to paint a bowl or plate? These make great keepsakes for presents, especially for family members.

Indoor active fun

I have looked high and low for some suggestions of ACTIVE indoor fun for you. But I drew a bit of a blank. Maybe you can help us out with some suggestions? I only came up with one. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary, possibly an alternative to the scrum of soft play places or your local swimming pool in school holidays, you could give this a whirl. This enterprise was set up by one cool mama, SKA, who has certainly identified a gap in the market. She puts on daytime disco parties for children up to the age of 7 on the first Saturday of each month in a cafe/bar in the Jewellery Quarter. At BabyGotGroove you will find play tents, reading zones, bubble machines, a face painter, an arts and colouring-in zone, plenty of balloons to play with and music entertainers every month. SKA is a music events director, club promoter, festival curator,  radio DJ/ presenter and a mum of two children under the age of 4.

Happy Easter!