Sunday, 31 July 2011

Silent Sunday - Wonder!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Please excuse any typing errors as my fat fingers and Apple's touch screen technology are not a good combination.

Location:Glasgow, Scotland.

Monday, 25 July 2011

You'll be a Man, my son!

I was going to write a funny post about some things that are happening to A as he nears puberty and high school. This can wait. As I was thinking about the post I was reminded of this wonderful poem that I would like to share.

If by Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Please excuse any typing errors as my fat fingers and Apple's touch screen technology are not a good combination.

Tattoos (not the Edinburgh one)...

To tattoo or not to tattoo, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The droops and wrinkles of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of chavvy tattoos
And by opposing end them?


I am going through my annual impulsive itchy phase. There comes a time every year where I get the urge to just DO something. This urge is not born through boredom or a lack of stimulation but a desire to explore the wonders of life and to aid in my evolutionary cycle. Yesterday, I cut all of my hair off whilst listening to Billie Holliday on a Gramophone and refusing shots of vodka...

This did not quelled the urge...

I've been looking at tattoo designs for a which now and have been pondering my tattoo fate. I love ink and consider myself a bit of an enthusiast but as with everything in life that I tend to over think, this has me in a quandary.

I got my first tattoo at the age of 15 and it is a rather large Gothic band on my right arm. I designed it myself and liked it for about a year and then I got another. I then took up piercing. Puncturing my eyebrow, navel, tongue and inserted a multitude into both ears.

After I had finished with my piercing phase I wanted another tattoo but by now the eczema that had plagued my childhood had come back with a vengeance. Beautification and alteration became a thing of the past as I fought to keep it at bay. A decade and a half later, I am still at war with my skin and so pushed all thoughts of branding aside. In this time tattoos have become incredibly popular and especially having increasingly visible ones. When I originally did it, it wasn't so mainstream, being the preserve of alternative and criminal types. Your tattoo made you an individual, you chose to be tattooed to be an individual but now there is a change in this thinking. Now every celebrity has a different tattoo and a different way of making them popular. Now people are tattooed to emulate celebrities. They copy the placements and the designs, ignoring some steadfast rules that should apply to people who not do have a team of dietitians, make up artists and designer wardrobes. It is so disappointing that now women are being tattooed to be just like everybody else.

One of the aspects that has always torn me is that the style of tattoo has to fit in with your body shape and size and your fashion sense. I've always bern a bit grungy and dark so my tattoos fit in with what I wore at that time. My penchant for Norwegian Death metal during my tortured teen years sparked my love of the Gothic. But then later on, I had kids and I had a kid who is different. I had a kid who needs acceptance and his mother rocking up to parents night with purple hair and tattoos wasn't going to help. I found that as I hid my dark and feisty alternative leanings and my tattoos, the more parents were keen for A to hang around with their kids. Now though...I live in a city, a city that embraces alternative types, a city that has learned to look beyond the exterior to measure a persons worth... It's coming back out again, gradually.

One thing that has put me off getting more tattoos is how mainstream they have become. I know that is ridiculously snobbish of me! Now it is rarer for people not to be tattooed, even a tiny one discreetly placed about your person somewhere is de rigeur. It's the norm now for women in their 20's and 30's to have visible tattoos and I want to get away from looking like this by adding an even bigger one somewhere. Walking down the street, these celebrity inspred tattoo and tattoo placements all just blur into one. I feel that there is a fine line between distinguishing yourself as an ink enthusiast and someone who watches too much reality TV. A line that I would like to cross without ending up like Kat Von D.

However, my war against my skin and my body image haven't made the decision easy. My shape as changed since having the kids, becoming, well shall we say, more robust. I am very aware of the effects of tattoo placement onto fleshy parts. Another particular bugbear of mine when other women try to emulate celebrities, Sheryl Cole and Victoria Beckham being the worst culprits. Now both of these women have an entire entourage to help them look the way that they do everyday. Their fake nails, tan and hair being expertly done are always immaculate and I'm sure the women take great pains to make their fakery look natural. So this combination of their naturalistic fakery and the fact that they weigh about the same as my 12 year old son means that when they draw attention to an area of their body by enhancing it with ink, it can look elegant, stylish even. Ms Cole can get away with a tattoo on her hand because hers is long, lean and elegant, the jewellery adorning that hand costing more than most peoples houses.

When someone put on fake nails from Semi-Chem and whose hand is a little bit more portly than Ms Cole goes and gets a tattoo on her hand, then we are wandering into prison tattoo territory. The same with neck and calf tattoo. Now properly inked ladies look awesome when covered in exposed places. I admire their boldness in the face of conformity but I think that unless you are highly tattooed then these areas should be left alone. There is nothing chavvier than tattoos on visible places with too much flesh.

I am under no illusion that I'm going grow another foot or shrink back to a size 8 anytime soon.

How do I cross that line? What do you think about tattoos? Tattooed celebrities? Does anyone else have these hankerings?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Please excuse any typing errors as my fat fingers and Apple's touch screen technology are not a good combination.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Autism and Friendship.

It is commonly thought that autism and friendship do not go hand in hand and it can be true that autistic individuals find friends hard to make and find it hard to maintain friendships. The concept of friendship is a difficult one to understand when you are autistic. People often assume that autistic people cannot make friends. I've always thought that this is rubbish. The friends that A has are incredibly important to him. One of the first things that a person will say to me when I tell them that A is autistic is "but he is so friendly!?"

In A's case, the strongest bond that he shares with his friends are the friends he has who are themselves, are a little bit strange! When he joined his new school he was adopted by a group of ten boys and within this group there was such variety in personalities and interests that he felt supported. As a group they work, balancing out their little idiosyncrasies and dissolving tensions quickly. Many of the parents I meet with ASD kids lament the lack of friends their kids have and declare the kids incapable of having friends. I haven't found this the case with A is he is supported properly. I oversee everything, which the kids so far do not seem to find and I try my hardest to anticipate any shenanigans happening.

This group is now splitting up with half of the boys going to independent school and one boy moving away. Now I know that in reality, he would make new friends in high school and indeed drift from the friends that he made in primary school, still, the dissolution of this group makes me a little sad. As much as the end of primary school was the end of an era for A, the same goes for this group of friends. A is a little upset by this fact but mostly unperturbed by it, focusing excitedly on the new possibilities that high school will bring. I am MORE upset by it as I see it as the loss of his safety net. On the last day of school while I lurked (supervising) in the background of their unsupervised picnic, I saw something that really moved me. A was very very upset when he came out of the doors for the last time and only one other boy within the group shed a tear. He continued to sob intermittently throughout the preparations for their picnic. As they waited on their pizza being cooked, he started to cry again. Really cry. The guys, instead of ignoring this and being made uncomfortable by A's public display, crowded around him and patted him on the back reassuring him that "it was good to let it all out". I had to make excuses and say that I was off to the shop to get them juice so they didn't notice me crying! A went through the first five years of his primary school career without any friends, the parents feeling uncomfortable about their kids hanging around with some autistic kid. To see this happening was just amazing.

Now this weekend we have to deal with a different event. One of the boys that is closest too is moving away on Saturday. To another country so while they have invited us to visit, he won't see him very often at all, if ever depending on everyone's busy schedules. I'm planning to get the two of them together before the move but know that A will be incredibly upset at the thought of a last meeting. I'm trying to find out ways of dealing with this upset and trying to figure out how best to explain things to him.

I was researching possibly social stories about how to cope with the loss of a friend and found this wonderful site by Stuart Duncan called Autism from a Father's Point of View. Stuart has observed as I have, that autistic kids form different types of friendship, a very simplistic sort. They way that we see friendship doesn't really apply to ASD kids. Familiarity, cooperation, interacting all occur at a very simplistic level. The way that A sees friendship is that everyone is his friend. Why wouldn't they be? Unless (and usually until) they commit some slight, he will be their friend. I will share some of his insights because he writes about them far better than I can! Cameron, Stuart's son and A sound so alike! Like myself, Stuart has observed that autistic kids are able to make friends but in their own different ways.

Four aspects of the effects of autism on friendships:

Doing something together – Not what is important
For my son, doing something together is not what is important. Doing something together leads to conflicts, leads to him possibly losing (if it’s a game)… he, and his friends in his class, are very happy knowing that each other is there, even if seated at separate tables. And when one child isn’t there, Cameron tells me about it. If it’s a friend that he particularly likes, he may even be disappointed or sad.

This is one of those things that builds a level of friendship but doesn’t create nor define the friendship. Keep in mind, this is from the point of view of my son… but he can consider someone a friend from the moment he meets someone. Primarily because he has no reason to think they’re not a friend. They have not done anything wrong to him, so I guess the old “innocent until proven guilty” motto is what he goes by. And rightly so.. children should know not to take candy from strangers but shouldn’t have had to deal with anything traumatic enough to make them believe that people are out to get them in some way. Why wouldn’t they like people until given a reason not to?

So easily defeated
When the children do play a game together, the adults over-seeing the games tend to try to make it as fair as possible, whether it’s their teachers or us parents. Everyone gets a turn to win. But that’s not always how it works out, there isn’t always an adult there or someone just doesn’t get their turn to win, for what ever reason. It’s at moments like these where my son will not only break down but remain in a very miserable funk for the rest of the day as he declares to the world that no one will ever be his friend ever again… no one lets him win. This can happen for many reasons, such as not sharing, not listening to his wishes/demands and so forth… a friend that isn’t doing what he thinks as the friendly thing to do immediately sends him into a tantrum filled tirade about how he’ll never have friends again.
And to think that some doctors still try to convince me that people with Autism are emotionless.

Easily abandoned
Sometimes he doesn’t feel like he’ll never have a friend again, sometimes he’s all too eager to throw away what ever friend he does have the moment he’s mad at them. Now, this is more of a “every child goes through this” thing than it is an Autistic trait, but it still is worth mentioning… mostly just because us parents know it’s cute. Your child does something wrong, you send them to their room or for a time out and they storm off yelling “That’s it, you’re not allowed to be my friend anymore!” You try not to let them hear you chuckle because this is very serious to them. In the case of Autism, perhaps even more so because as I have mentioned, friendships are so very important.

That really is hitting the nail on the head. So if you think an autistic child cannot make friends, you could potentially be mistaken. A's friends compensate for these facets of his autism and I hope that his high school friends can too.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Thoughts on my previous post

Little did I know that my last post would elicit so many comments! From what little networking I had tried, I could see the seeds of something growing. I posted it on some of the networks mentioned and one even sent me an email to say that they were removing the post!

This week has been and will be exceptionally busy so I will take time to read through all of the comments and post about your reactions later in the week. Apologies for not reacting sooner. I had tried and failed to install a comments widget so that I could reply rather than post comments.

I would be especially keen for more comments from people who have fallen foul of any cliques or social networking sites.

Thanks for reading!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Please excuse any typing errors as my fat fingers and Apple's touch screen technology are not a good combination.


Friday, 8 July 2011

Scotland's Secret Shame: Sectarianism.

This is a bit of a serious post but something that has been on my mind recently. Something that I have always struggled to understand and something that makes me so mad!

Here in Scotland, sectarianism is rife. I saw it as a child attending a school that was a shared campus between a Catholic school and a non-denominational school. Kids would shout mindless taunts, aspiring to create some sort of Sharks Vs Jets style of playground warfare (we shared a playground). As I grew up I saw it at high school. The Catholic school was placed at the other end of the non-denominational school and at lunch times this playground warfare would spill on to the street of the nearest town. Now I blogged many a time about where I come from and how it is not exactly the most progressive of places. All of my uncles are Masons and football is THE sport.

Out there this sort of religious hatred, this stirring up a fantasy rivalries is just sort of accepted. Just like tracksuits and white trainers and baseball caps form some sort of uniform, people seek self definitions through football and religion. I remember some silly little boy at school shouting abuse over the playground wall shouting "Fuck the Pope!" and "Proddy's Rule!" When I asked if if he was Church of Scotland, he had no idea what I was talking about. His family weren't Protestant nor had set foot inside of a church (except to nick the lead off of the roof). This kind of ignorance has always amazed me. You would be lazing about on the weekend when a familiar melody would rumble through the street. Wondering what it was you would flock to the windows to see what was happening, as a child your nose would be pressed against the glass in a rush to see what the fuss was about. It wasn't (and still isn't as my memory is terrible  until you heard the drums that you realised that it was an Orange walk parading through the street. The sight of the puffed up old men and NEDS with their flags was enough to turn your stomach. Whether it was through fear, or simply because this display stored up anger, frustration and hatred has nothing to do with religion at all. It is just an excuse, an outlet for ignorant idiots to let off some steam.

It is unforgivable in this day and age but when you live in an insular town/village/council estate a certain amount and a special brand of ignorance is always cultivated. Imagine my surprise when last Saturday, on the day where a selection of Scots armed forces were parading from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace to celebrate National Armed Forces Day, I hear the familiar flute and drums belting out down that same processional walkway. Thousands of tourists from around the world, as well as children and residents had gathered in preparation for the Armed Forces event. I was livid! Welcome to Scotland everyone.

Sectarianism in connection to football, since the New Year has been escalating. Not enough is being done on both sides to quell the fire and the football season is about to kick off (pardon the pun!)

*January 2011: Bullets sent to Northern Ireland-born Celtic manager Neil Lennon in the post are intercepted at Co Antrim sorting office.

*March: First Minister Alex Salmond calls in football chiefs and police after violence mars Old Firm game in which three players are sent off, 13 booked and 34 fans arrested. Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist are engaged in a bitter touchline confrontation. The clubs meet seven times during the season.

*April: Royal Mail intercepts two "viable" parcel bombs addressed to Lennon. Other leading Catholics targeted are lawyer Paul McBride QC and former MSP Trish Godman. Two people charged in connection with the alleged devices.

*May: Lennon attacked by fan during Hearts match in Edinburgh. Scottish football chiefs promise to crack down on violence.

*June: Scottish Government delay plans to introduce legislation outlawing-sectarianism at football matches. Five years in prison and unlimited fines could be deployed against those that engage in threatening behaviour.

*July: Football season due to resume three weeks early despite condemnation from clubs.

In the run up to the 12th of July, there is even a Facebook campaign to turn Facebook orange for the day!

There was a very interesting debate held at the University of Edinburgh chaired by Professor Tom Devine in May. The debate asked a few pertinent questions regarding why Scotland still is a sectarian society. I was surprised to find that  Scotland is now the only jurisdiction across the globe where Irish Catholics and Protestants settled in past generations which has an anti-sectarian strategy in place. Professor Devine posits that it would be wonderful to believe that we might reach a time, sooner rather than later, when the need for such policies became redundant.Professor Devine has written an excellent article for the paper, Scotland on Sunday exposing Scotland's shame. I would like to share it here

World now knows our sinister little secret
Tom Devine - Scotland on Sunday - 24th April 2011

The disgraceful episode of "bombs in the post" has produced unprecedented soul-searching about this country's age-old problem of sectarianism. It has led to claim and counter-claim, assertion and counter-assertion and much hand-wringing in public and private.

The sheer criminality and wickedness of the acts involved demand no less a response to these seismic events and also to the related broader context of brazen sectarian chants at football matches and the vile content of various internet sites.

How the nation now deals with this problem will be crucial, not only to the social harmony and civilised life of the country in the future but to the reputation of Scotland abroad. We should all be clear that the world is now fully aware about our sinister little secret.

When the extraordinary story of devices with potentially lethal potential being sent to the manager of a football club and a few of its high-profile supporters broke last week, the news rapidly spread across the globe. Soccer is a worldwide craze and it was inevitable that these horrific incidents associated with the game would excite enormous interest. The Associated Press agency, an organisation with a possible readership of billions, was among the first to report the sorry saga. Its story was then reprinted in several hundred daily newspapers across four continents.

Now is the time to seek a way forward which will be intellectually rigorous, honest and thoroughly based on representative evidence. There is no doubt that the forces of law and order, which have attracted substantial criticism in the last few days, have now learned their lesson and have publicly announced that they intend to move towards enforcement with much more vigour.

The First Minister himself has also solemnly promised that in future there will be "zero tolerance" of sectarian behaviour. All of this is to the good and represents a significant step forward. But, it might also be asked, is it good enough? There are several problems associated with the development of a robust, sustainable and realistic policy on this complex subject. No consensus exists, for instance, on the definition of the term "sectarianism", a word which platitudinously slips off the tongue of politicians and commentators with little clear understanding.

Again, though academic research can provide a guide to the patterns of the last century, precious little has been published so far on the key period after 1990. We can only really move beyond assertion to careful argument and then policy-framing on the basis of hard evidence.

The current debate has been lively but virtually bereft of impartially verifiable fact.

Ironically, some much-needed evidence does exist, but for reasons which are difficult to understand, given the pressing nature of this serious social issue, it has not yet been released into the public domain where it can be analysed and interpreted. Since the passing of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, Section 74, an additional penalty can be imposed if offences are "aggravated by religious prejudice", that is "if an offender evinces towards the victim of the offence malice and ill-will based on the victim's membership of a religious group".

Apart from anything else, that is an excellent definition of sectarian intent which commentators could do well to adopt in future discussion.

Even more crucially, the implementation of the act has resulted in a huge archive of data on annual numbers of offences and the religious affiliation of both offenders and victims, together with information on where and when indictable offences were committed.

It is most unfortunate that almost all of this invaluable evidence, gathered for over a decade and more, has not been yet presented in public. It has been left untouched without being either analysed or published.

Why this should be so is a mystery, especially since absolute transparency ought to be the watchword if the Augean stable is to be thoroughly cleansed once and for all.

It is now to the great credit of the current Solicitor General that in early March this year he convinced the Scottish Cabinet, among a number of initiatives, that this data should be released after analysis by civil servants, though no timeframe has yet been set for publication.

The information lying in these files could, of course, be potentially explosive. The Cardinal Archbishop of Edinburgh and other senior Roman Catholics have claimed that the Scottish problem is not "sectarianism" at all but, in the words of Keith O'Brien, "blatant anti-Catholicism".

This accusation was partly based on an earlier and limited review of the files covering an 18-month period in 2004-5. On the basis of this snapshot, the Catholic Church's survey of the data concluded that Catholics were five to six times more likely to be victims of such offences than those of other religions. What will the longer-run series reveal? If the results are similar, the Scottish Government may have to consider a root and branch review of its "anti-sectarian" strategies.

But at the same time it is important to remember historical context and perspective in the current febrile atmosphere. Scotland has come a very long way in recent years in eliminating structural and institutional sectarianism. Labour market discrimination, which does affect all life chances from employment to health, has been consigned to the past since the 1970s.

In 2004, for instance, only four cases in Scotland brought under the UK Employment (Religion or Belief) regulations, among the many administered by employment tribunals, had even the slightest sectarian connotation.

Scots of Irish Roman Catholic descent finally achieved occupational parity with their fellow Scots in the 1990s, though this was nearly a full century after their Irish American cousins did so in the US. A large Catholic professional class, fully integrated into the life of the nation, has emerged over the past three decades. Indeed, the two current senior law officers in Scotland, charged with the implementation of anti-sectarian legislation, the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General, are both Roman Catholics. And there can be little doubt that Pope Benedict, on his visit to Scotland last year, was warmly welcomed by Scots of all denominations and none.

The need now is to maintain that progress in order to combat remaining prejudice and bigotry, which is much more difficult to achieve than legislating for non-discriminatory employment practices.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

PRODUCT REVIEW: Burgh Bakes Gourmet Marshmallows.

So the second review in my Scottish Products Section is about Burgh Bakes, homemade gourmet marshmallows.

I am a very proud Scot and I am also a bit of a teuchter (a Scots lowland word for a hairy Highlander but can refer to anyone not from a city) coming from a village outside of Edinburgh. My accent is definitely broad and peppered with awful colloquialisms like whit? aye! dinnae be daft! ken? While for those of you not in the know, Edinburgh and certainly the city centre where I reside is full of English people. Now I'm not going to paint my face blue and start a war, nor is this a slight on anyone, just a fact. This has been the way for many generations and is possibly something to do with the University I suspect. A result of this is that the Edinburgh accent is a gentle Scots accent. A few of my friends who were raised by English parents in this fair city or have attending one of the prestigious independent schools we have here do not have detectable accents (so much so that I recently found out that the partner of one of my best friends is Edinburgh born and bread despite me being under the impression for the last 6 years that he came from London!). A recent tale of how my accent gets me into trouble sometimes can be found here.

Why did I start rambling on about this? Oh aye... I am recounting this tale as recently I left my teuchter village and moved to the big smoke, Auld Reekie as the books call it. Despite my accent sticking out like a sore (sair) thumb, I simply LOVE living in Edinburgh. While there are many farms and local producers situated in the wilds outside Edinburgh, if you do not have a car it can be difficult to access them. The beauty of living in Edinburgh is that local producers here really are only every a half hour journey (usually by foot) away. Part of the wonder of this place is that every day can really be adventure, with new things to discover around the corner.

It was Forest Gump who said that life is like a box of chocolates, well if you apply that thinking to this city, the adage that Edinburgh is like a chocolate advent calendar, you never know what shape of chocolate lies behind the door, is true. The city has layer upon layer of talented people hiding in nooks and crannies just waiting to be discovered. One of the best things about living in Edinburgh is it is so small! It's size means that you always know what is going on and at the moment there is a wonderful culture of arts collectives going around. This collective spirit is also apparent in our food culture where more and more markets and happenings are centering around local producers. Cafes and restaurants are stocking locally made products, cooking with local produce and it really is a time to celebrate all that this great city and it's surrounding areas have to offer. If any of you guys are thinking of visiting Edinburgh during the upcoming Festival season then bare this in mind. There is much more to this city than See You Jimmy Hats and Princes' Street.

Around the corner from a flat I used to have, lies what I can only imagine to be the olfactory heaven that is Burgh Bakes. Burgh Bakes is a company run by the luscious Nicole who works incredibly hard to delight the sweet teeth of Edinburgh with her delicious gourmet marshmallows. 

I was very lucky to be sent a box of samples from her range of gourmet marshmallows. Never again will I buy those pink and white fakes from the supermarket (unless I'm melting them as smores for the kids) as Nicole has changed the way that this house thinks about marshmallows. Now if you're thinking "what's the big deal, they're just marshmallows?", then you clearly haven't tasted these beauties. My passion for sweet things runs deep and a visit to the dentist at the end of the month may prove that it runs deeper still (cavity deep). I have inherited my father's sweet tooth, who himself is a lover of marshmallows and who jumped in the car to make the 30 minute journey to my house the minute I phoned him to tell him I had some REAL ones! And so this father and daughter team sat down one afternoon with a cup of tea to road test Nicole's range and here are the results...

(All images used in this review belong to Nicole and are taken from her website. My father and I are such greedy monsters that I didn't take a picture of the beautiful packaging before ripping them open and stuffing my face.)

Very admirably, Nicole uses only Fairtrade sugar in her marshmallows along with Scottish butter and local organic fruit to produce her range of seven different varieties. The majority of the Marshmallows are not only delicious but Gluten-Free, Dairy Free and low-fat!

Nicole says that the opportunities for flavours is virtually limitless and so new taste sensations are always evolving. You can keep up with the latest specials and even shop now from the Burgh Bakes Facebook page. The range has been such a success that more and more local businesses are stocking them and figuring out how to incorporate the range into their businesses. Amongst the many business that have discovered and are still to discover these wonderful sweets are Candy Cupcake, the Suburban Pantry, The Edinburgh Larder, Barnton Fine Foods and also 'SACDC 'Scottish Arts, Crafts and Design Centre'. You must stop by and try these marshmallows if you get the chance. 

The seven flavours available to date are seasonal berry, , key lime pie, millionaire shortbread, caramel swirl, mint chocolate, Cherry & Chocolate, and Lemon Meringue.

Seasonal Berry: we use the best berries in season to give an experience similar to that of a fresh home-made yoghurt smoothie only sweeter and with the mallow texture

Key Lime Pie: An interesting twist on this classic dessert. A crumbly biscuit base combined with a bitter-sweet lime mallow.

Millionaire Shortbread: An experience to be had. Subtle creamy notes give way to the sweet buttery texture of a shortbread base finished off with the rich chocolate and caramel of the real millionaire shorty.

Caramel Swirl: icky, gooey, chewy and lasting – which is why the fans of this favourite have dubbed it “hang around caramel”

Mint Chocolate: to love the ice cream is to love the mallow. Made with real mint and topped with high-quality dark chocolate.

Cherry and Chocolate: The finest Morello Cherry Marshmallow topped with high-quality dark chocolate.

Lemon Meringue: A light, refreshing citrus treat with a lovely zing to it

The taste test:

We tried three flavours. The Millionaires shortbread, the Key Lime Pie and the Raspberry. All of which were delicious and unusual.

The Millionaires Shortbread was constructed just like the usual cake with a layer of biscuity base, then the mallow and then caramel and chocolate swirled on top.

An uncut slab of the Millionaires Shortbread!

The raspberry mallow was just that, so raspberry tasting and very moreish. Mmmmm....

The Key Lime Pie was heavenly. A sugary biscuit base holding up a zingy lime mallow.

The mallows come cut onto generous two bite portions (for when people are looking) or can be devoured in a single bite when the curtains are drawn and no one will laugh at your appreciative noises!

As you can probably tell. We loved these mallows and have since made a few trips to our nearest supplier, The Edinburgh Larder. Nicole is in talks with an organic food market as a potential stockist that is situated about 100 meters from my flat! Uh Oh!

If you are interested in buying the mallows or stocking them please get in touch with Nicole:
103/1 Easter Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH75PP

Alternatively Nicole is holding a tasting event at the Earthy Food Market on Causewayside in Edinburgh. Come and experience these delights for yourself and of course buy bags and bags of the mallows for family and friends.

The event will take place on the 16th of July from 10am until 3pm so hurry while stocks last (they always sell out quickly!). Directions to Earthy can be found through their website and through their Facebook page. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wordless Wednesdays: Being unique.

The Mark of a Parent...

...Is sitting in front of a computer for four hours hitting the refresh button in order to buy tickets for the EIBF.

While I am now completely disillusioned (more below) by the whole event and in serious need of a visit to my chiropractor as a consequence of being in the same position for hours and hours, I am glad that I got some of the tickets I wanted in the end. My life would not be worth living otherwise! I have taken A to the Book Festival since he was teeny and the same is happening with B.

The stress of buying tickets and attending the festival runs deeper than a desire to be seen to be swanning about Charlotte Square with my kids declaring to one and all that kids are uber intelligent and cultured and it certainly runs deeper than looking for a cheap entertainment option during the holidays. For kids with ASD (not Aspergers), lacking imagination, it can be hard to get involved with books. Kids can get frustrated that they peers are reading at an advanced level compared to them or simply find the experience boring. Having the festival at out doorstep means that we could turn reading into a more holistic experience for A. We could spend time prior to the festival reading the books, imagining what the author will be like, trying to imagine the author's motivation for writing the story. This has made reading more exciting for A and has encouraged him at times when he really isn't that interested. Through the festival he has found authors that he didn't expect to like, books that he would never pick up off the shelf. The incredibly hard year that he has just had at primary school has had an effect on his reading. Having to trudge through books that he didn't like as part of his assignments has had a knock on effect and stopped him reading as much. We've struggled to get him excited about reading again and have tried all sorts of strategies. Even getting him involved in B's book sessions and demonstrating to him how good it is for her development.

I love having access to such an event here in the city but over the years have watched it evolve into something I don't particularly like. You would think with all of these literary types hanging around and everyone coming together through  books that this was an enjoyable collective experience. No, it is not. It might be if you're sitting in the VIP section hobnobbing with Ian Rankin and the likes but the plebs who cue for hours just to get in to an event that you have already pad for, its torture.

Pushy parents of little brats make this a living hell. We're not all in it together. We haven't all come to celebrate literature and experience the wonders of the mind of an author has to show us. We are there to push in front of each other, to squabble with little people who are bored of waiting for something to happen having been torn away from their PC's or consoles. We are there to push our children to the front of the queue of the book signing. To elbow each other with the voracity of a professional wrestler. It's bloody insane, completely un-enjoyable and a ridiculous display to teach the future generation. In previous years, I've sat with A who was in tears because some little monster has taken his place in the queue (he can't cope with this) and it's parents actually ignored me when I asked them to move their child, staring at the ceiling of the tent. While the middle classes of Edinburgh can be a competitive ignorant bunch, this hysteria is actually fostered by the organisers. Signs are plastered everywhere about latecomers not being admitted (to a kiddies event). I've had someone shut the door in my face because there was a queue to the toilets and I had to change B's dirty nappy or that we got stuck in traffic, when we travelled over an hour to get there.

Year after year, the festival has become more popular meaning that now the demand for tickets is ridiculous and events always sell out within hours. After the torture of buying tickets, waiting in line with the spoiled brats of the city and elbowing our way into a seat, we then have to watch as 20 or so VIP kids are ushered to their seats after the plebs have sat down because they know a man who knows a man who kept them tickets aside months previously. I was interesting to watch the comments on their Facebook page in the first few hours of the booking lines open. Suddenly I discovered that a huge percentage of residents share my frustration and dismay. We came together in solidarity as we were disappointed and bored and angry. Some people were trying using both their telephones and three laptops to get the tickets they wanted!

I will be going this year. Not through choice but a desire to have my children experience something magical. All of this crap is forgotten when the lights dim and an author walks on stage. I love to watch them be mesmerised by the characters that appear on stage whether it is the truly wonderful Michael Rosen or the mental case that is Andy Stanton, or the motherly and loving Shirley Hughes. I sit through the event, stressed out by the impending book signing palaver. Wondering how I am going to negotiate my autistic kid and my toddler through the maze of elbows and toes...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Week That Was.


I haven't written a post in ages but have been so tired that I can barely function let alone blog. The last few weeks have been mental, so this is just an update post. I've been so busy with the kids that I have barely had time to do anything except upload photographs to Facebook so everyone knows that we're still alive.

A's three day visit to high school was a roaring success. He loved every minute of it and went alone without a learning assistant. There was always help in the classrooms so he wasn't overwhelmed by the experience. He actually feels a bit better about losing some of his good friends to other schools as the visit allowed him to identify who would be there in the Autumn. All of the parents were invited to an information evening on the last day and it was there that I had the chance to meet with the deputy head who already has a soft spot for A and the principal teacher of the support for learning department, who all remain confident that they can support A as much as he needs it.

On the weekend after it was A's party and I am pleased to report that it went without incident unlike most years. Because the venue is decorated by passing artists some of the murals in the bathrooms were a bit graphic and half way through as the pizza arrived we were treated to the sight of a homeless man sitting down at the piano outside the hall, dumping his bedding beside the door, tying his dog to the piano leg and breaking into Chopin's Piano Concerto no.1 in E Minor (second movement I think). All of the kids were blown away by the shabby chic bohemian venue. It was a little bit dark and dangerous and the loved the thrill of it. I unveiled A's special mural to him before the party and he was overjoyed with it. The disco went down a storm despite the DJ playing the Macarena at one point! The kids were plied with super tasty pizza and filled with fizzy pop just in time for a breakdance crew to burst in and put on a special show for the birthday boy. He was gobsmacked! I did have to stay behind for over an hour afterwards as someone forgot to pick up their son! He was a bit of a hero at school that week.

A rushed from his birthday party to a five hour long rehearsal for his play that night. The play was fantastic and sold out on both nights. We were all particularly proud of him as he was at least three years younger than the rest of the cast. He is joining the company for a week long workshop during the summer holidays.

After this we were busy wrapping up his very last and very emotional week of primary school. A torturous week with many, many tears shed. He was also wrapping up the last of his activities with a breakdance show and a judo grading and the presentation of a football trophy. There was a special mass for the leavers where a song that had been composed by one of the primary seven girls was sung. The mass was the culmination of a year long fundraising campaign that the school had been running in conjunction with the parents of an ex pupil, Gary O'Donnell who was killed in Iraq a few years ago. His parents were there to receive the money to put towards a foundation set up in Gary's name. A was very emotional after the mass and upset for the rest of the day.

That night all of the primary seven kids put their gladrags on for a leavers prom. Now I know that I slagged off the idea of a prom before but in comparison to most of the other proms taking place across Edinburgh and the Lothians, this was a sedate affair. A ceilidh in the gym hall with crisps and pizza. No limos or helicopters in sight. A looked awesome and the girls were swooning at his feet!

At the end of the week, all of the pupils waved goodbye to each other and the teachers sobbed as they watched their charges leave the school gates for the last time. A was in tears again and his mates rallied around him telling him it was good to let it out (this made me cry!) but then brightened up when he received a kiss on the cheek from the love of his life. All of the parents were banished from the side of the boys (except me, this is because according to one mum, that I do not look like a parent) and we took off to Pizza Hut to buy supplies for a picnic. The whole year were meeting for ice cream and a water fight later but this particular group are really close and are going their separate ways come August so they sat for a while having a quiet picnic before buggering off to climb trees. The janitor of the school let us have the playing field as our venue. The very same janitor, George Parakevakis, who recently received an award from the local authority for his work at the school. ' Mr George' (as the kids call him) said that he hoped the boys would come back to visit him when they are grown.

The weekend brought his actual birthday. We bought him a PC as he'll need something for high school next year. We haven't seen him since...

Miss B is really blooming and was going to all of her activities and toddler groups for the last few week too.

I am so bloody tired........