Do you remember the time?

Stills at Glengoyne Distillery

Every so often, my kids do something that stuns me. And more often than not it’s got something to do with their powers of recollection. Saturday was one of those moments.

Whilst explaining to Heather why the sun is rising earlier in the morning recently – and I went for a rather scientific explanation, involving a description of the Earth orbiting the Sun, with her playing the part of the Sun, Teddy being the Earth and the way Teddy was facing representing the Earth’s tilt – I dropped into conversation that I would be out most of the rest of the day.

The rest of the conversation went like this…

H: Where are you going?
Me: I’m going with Grandpa, Grandad and Uncle Ian to visit a distillery, where they make whisky
H: I’ve been there before
Me: Well, it’s a different one, but you did visit a distillery. Do you remember where it was?
H: It was near the Giant’s rocks. I’d like to go there again, we might see the giant this time
Me:

She was, of course, spot on . We were in Ireland for a family wedding about 18 months ago, and made a holiday of it. One day, we drove from Donegal up to the Giant’s Causeway, and then along the coast a bit to Bushmills distillery. My mum looked after the girls while the rest of us went for the tour round the distillery. It was a good day.

I wasn’t surprised she remembered it, it was the detail of her answer that surprised me – I was expecting “Ireland” as her answer to where it was, and her remembering not only that Bushmills was near the Giant’s Causeway, but also that we went there on the same day, went way beyond that. Frighteningly far beyond that, if I’m being honest. That was one day, over a third of her life ago! How can she remember the details like that?

I don’t know if that level of recollection is normal or not, but I do know I had a similar memory as a child. And to a certain extent still do – they don’t call me “Random Crap Fact Boy” for no reason! And believe me, I do get called that – I have the t-shirt to prove it and everything :)

So maybe she has inherited my powers of recollection. From an educational, and future pub quiz, point of view, that is definitely a good thing, and something that’s going to help her out as she grows up. Doesn’t make it any less amazing though.

Saturday’s distillery tour, incidentally, was at Glengoyne Distillery, and was fantastic. As well as the tour, which was better than the Bushmills one, we got to produce our own, unique whisky blend. For fairly obvious reasons, I named mine Megheath. I’ve yet to sample it (there’s only 100ml so I’m saving it for a special occasion) but it smells pretty good, if I do say so myself. A highly recommended day out.

And as for the makeshift, Teddy and child based orrery, it went down so well I had to do a repeat performance on Sunday morning. Have now promised we’ll visit a proper planetarium soon. Smart cookie, that one :)

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Read all about it

Bedtime storiesReading to the girls is one of my favourite things to do. Whether it’s at bedtime or during the day, we always have books around, and the girls know that if Mummy or Daddy aren’t busy we’ll be more than happy to read to them.

Every night at bedtime, each of them gets to pick a book and either me or Gem will read it to them. Most nights we split bedtime between us, so I’ll take Megan up and Gem will take Heather up, swapping over the next night. That balance was a deliberate move on our part, as we didn’t want to end up in a situation where only Mummy or only  Daddy could read the bedtime story, because sooner or later that’s going to cause a problem, if one of us is out for example.

That’s just the way we roll, though – when it comes to the kids, pretty much everything gets split equally down the middle. As it should be.

It seems I’m in the minority though, going by figures released today by Booktrust, as they launch a campaign to get Dads to read more to their kids. “Only one in eight dads takes the lead with reading to their children” they say. Which is certainly a headline grabbing statistic (and one which has got coverage from the BBC and the Guardian among others) but let’s stop and think about it for a moment. What does it actually tell us? And was this the right question to be asking?

I put the question of who “takes the lead” with reading to the girls to Gemma, and after a slightly confused pause for thought, she answered “em, both of us?”. Which made me happy, because it meant I wasn’t overvaluing my own contribution! But if we both read equally, doesn’t that make me one of the 87% of dads who aren’t taking a lead? Does that mean I’m a bad dad?

It sounds like I’m bashing Booktrust here, but I’m not. I wholeheartedly approve of their campaign. By reading to me, and by reading themselves, my parents gave me a love of the written word that I’m keen to pass on to my own children. Enjoying books and reading for pleasure enriches life in so many ways, not least in improving literacy. Which, in an age where the internet is used for so much of our daily communication (news sites, emails, Facebook, Twitter etc), is arguably more important than ever.

There may well be a shortage of dads who read to their kids, and a campaign to encourage more dads to do so is to be applauded. I just wish they’d picked some better survey questions with which to launch it.

You can find out more about Booktrust’s Get Dads Reading campaign here. For parents of BOTH sexes, there’s also the Read It! Mummies and Daddies campaign going on over here.

 

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365 pictures: 41 – 50

February has been a funny month. We’ve had the worst snow of the winter (round these parts anyway) which lasted less than a day, but we’ve also had a few warmer spell which hinted that spring is on its way. Hopefully to be followed by a decent summer, filled with barbecue and paddling pool weather. That would be awesome, although I’m not holding my breath…

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41. Ready for bed
Most of the time Heather is a real whirlwind – never at rest and always up to something. She does have her calmer moments, of course, like when she’s drawing or crafting. Or when she’s winding down before bed like she is here. I was going to say I love those moments the best, but the truth is I love them all. Aw…

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42. Feeling the cold
Of course, just because you’re ready for bed doesn’t mean you can’t still be a bit off-the-wall. Our less than 10 year old house is very well insulated, and is rarely cold – certainly not cold enough for a hat and gloves indoors! Sometimes it’s probably best to not know what goes on in their heads.

43. Flower
As I hinted before, Heather is developing a real love of being arty, and even better her creations are really starting to look good. It’s amazing, actually, how quickly she’s moved from nondescript scribbles to things that actually look like things. Like this flower, for example

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44. Winter wonderland
I thought we’d seen the back of the snow weeks ago, but apparently not. This was a very strange day, actually – it snowed all morning, building up a good inch or two of snow, before turning to rain and completely disappearing by the time I’d got home from work.

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45. Plan B
We don’t normally go out on Valentine’s Day, preferring to go for a meal a week or two later when the fixed price set menus have all been packed away and normal service has been resumed. This year was a bit different, though, as Plan B was in town, so we found ourselves eating at Lebowskis – happy to report the food was as good as normal – before heading over to the SECC for Mr Drew’s biggest Glasgow show to date. A far cry from the first time we saw him, in the 500 capacity Classic Grand, less than three years ago.

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46. Tulips
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be right without flowers though, and I got Gem some of her favourite tulips. I think these were described as a Tulip Rainbow, and that’s certainly apt – look at the colours!

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47. Ice cream
Auntie Ali was round on Saturday, and treated the girls to ice cream from Equi’s, our award-winning local ice cream parlour. We decided take out would fit in better with the rest of the day, but Heather still got to pick the flavours – chocolate, strawberry and fudge. Me and Gem were a little disappointed she went for the less exotic flavours on offer, but it doesn’t really matter, because ALL their flavours are incredible. Mmmmm…

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48. Picnic
The girls decided to have a picnic on Sunday, which basically meant tipping all the play food out onto the living room floor and sitting in the middle of it all. Guess who ended up putting most of it away… :(

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49. Cheeky
I don’t think I really need to say much about this one, other than to marvel once again at how photogenic my children are. They definitely take after their mother!

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50. Off to Grandma’s
On Monday and Tuesday mornings, when Gem is heading out to work and the girls are going to Grandma and Grandpa’s, it’s always a real rush to get ready, and get out of the house on time. As you can see from this picture, though, Megan is generally quite unfazed by it all!

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Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!

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Last year, 2012, was all about change in our house. The goal of that change was losing weight, and although I’ve achieved what I was hoping to, I’m determined not so slip back into old habits and undo all that hard work. That’s made easier, of course, by the fact that Gem still has weight she wants to lose, but we’re both viewing the changes we made last year as being a permanent, rather than temporary, state of affairs. This was never so much about a “diet” as it was a lifestyle change.

One of the changes we made was to drink less alcohol. Not that we were ever heavy drinkers, you understand, although I bet everyone says that. But a cheeky couple of beers on a Tuesday night here, and few glasses of wine there soon adds up. I suspect many people, like us, consumes more than they’d like to admit. And the calories in those drinks tend to go uncounted, making it all too easy to pile on the pounds while maintaining a pretty healthy fruit and veg laden diet. I speak from experience.

Beer is a particularly bad offender, so it was definitely something that required a change. Step one was stopping buying boxes of whatever American or European lager was on offer in the supermarket – those beers are just too easy to drink, because not only are they relatively inexpensive, but because they don’t really taste of much. Rather than denying myself altogether, though, I decided to indulge my taste for better quality craft beers and real ales, but in more limited amounts.

Essentially I swapped quantity for quality, and I have to say it wasn’t that difficult a change to make. Not when the range of quality beers available these days is pretty good. And it’s getting better all the time, with new craft breweries, craft beer pubs and specialist beer shops springing up all the time.

Of course it’s always tempting to stick with the things you love. Once you find a beer, or a brewery, you love, it’s easy to stop trying new things. And so, at the start of the year, I made it my aim to try as many new beers as possible. So far, this year, I’ve drunk 22 beers that I’d never had before. They’re listed here, if you’re interested. Most have been decent, a few outstanding, and only one or two being a disappointment. However…

Whilst I’ve kept a record of which new beers I’ve tried, and for reasons unknown even to myself have taken photos of pretty much all of them, I’ve not kept a note of what they were like.

I think this needs to change, so beginning very soon, probably next week, I’m going to try my hand at reviewing beers here on the blog. This is something I might be absolutely rubbish at – I know I’m not very good at writing about music, something else that I love. but I’m going to give it a go anyway. How bad can it be?

Cheers!

Incidentally, the beer pictures at the top of this post was one I had at the weekend, and was one of the aforementioned disappointments. Alba Scots Pine Ale by Williams Bros is one I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Maybe it was a bad bottle, but it didn’t pour well at all and lost any head it might have started off with very quickly. The beer was syrupy tasting, pretty flat beer with only very slight hints of the pine and spruce that had been used in its brewing. I’d give it another go, right enough, because the rest of the internet seems to love it. But I won’t be rushing to do so. Which is a shame, because I’ve loved everything else I’ve had from Williams Bros.

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