Tuesday, 20 August 2013

'New Glory' for Cullompton High St.

A hearty welcome to Amy and Kerry, who have, this fine summer's day, opened a brand new gift shop in the middle of the high street. It is beautiful and filled with enticing objects for the home, and great gift ideas. There's a lovely mixture of old and new, furniture, crockery, hangings, frames and all sorts of pretty little things.

This is just what our town has been wishing for, and what I personally have been waiting for ever since before I moved here 5 years ago.

It's nice to be able to browse for presents from the comfort of your own high street, instead of always having to go elsewhere. There'll always be that birthday that you somehow didn't plan for, and need to find something quickly. With New Glory, and La Bella, which now stocks a lovely range of homely gifts, we now have a choice on our doorstep. 

Cullompton is a dear, sweet town whose reputation has had to battle and compete with other towns and villages for recognition and appreciation. But I love our town. Apart from having a really wonderful community and being surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, we have so much to offer, from the Hayridge Centre and Library, to excellent Health Centres and Community Centre, several charity shops, a whole heap of hairdressers, a greengrocer, butcher, bakery, and more.

And the bar was raised early this year with the emergence of the excellent Bakehouse cafe in the Bullring. With its successful opening and lasting appeal, suddenly, the people of Cullompton have realised that our town deserves such a gem and more of equal calibre. We have all been anticipating the knock-on effect this bravery and quality would bring.

It seems that a new season has begun, where local people want to invest in our high street, and make it something to be proud of, for ourselves and for our visitors. It seems that everywhere you turn there's scaffolding there, hammering here, fresh paint and busy workmen giving our shop fronts and interiors a bit of TLC. The hopeless high street of a year ago is gone, hopefully forever, making way for a fresh new generation of shops and businesses. 

Cullompton is a special place and it's up to us as shoppers to support local businesses and have faith that there are even better things to come. I know I'll be sticking around to see it happen.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Last Post at Creepy House: Spooky Spider Crispy Cakes

Well, it's been an absolutely amazing week talking to you all here at Creepy House, but it's time for someone else to introduce themselves on Monday and for me to say goodbye. I'll still be here to answer your comments and questions til the end of Sunday so keep it coming! I'll leave you with a few last book recommendations and something yummy to make. These are super easy, rather creepy, and completely yummy, so we're sharing the recipe here for you all to try. We've been making them in our cafe  workshops here in Cullompton, Devon.

Is your library doing anything crafty this week? Let us know what you've been making!

Don't forget to explore the rest of the Creepy House website for games, a competition, and interesting videos.  Have you tried "Charlottes' Web" by E.B.White, "Spider Stampede" in the S.W.I.T.C.H series by Ali Sparkes, "The Very Busy Spider" by Eric Carle, or "Aaaarrgghh, Spider!" by Lydia Monks, which is a lot of fun. See what you think and let us know!

100g chocolate - dark or milk.
60g butter
3 table spoons golden syrup
90g Rice Krispies
Small marshmallows for eyes
Shoe-lace sweets for legs and mouth
Black icing (from a tube if possible.)

1) Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave, 10 seconds at a time, stirring each time.
2) Add the butter, making sure it melts.
3) Add the syrup and then the Rice Krispies, mix well.
4) Make into balls and put into cake cases.
5) Using a little black icing, attach 8 legs and marshmallow eyes.

TIP: Allow to cool slightly at step 5 to make the balls easier to form.  


Day 5 in Creepy House - Robot Workshop

Have you ever heard of a book called "Welcome to your Awesome Robot" by Viviane Schwarz?

Well, it is BRILLIANT and FUN and CREATIVE and SUPER CLEVER and guides you through how to make your own robot to wear and activate. 

Here at Cullompton library this morning we have been very busy cutting, sticking, taping, planning, drawing, imagining, yelling, giggling and Robot-ing. 

We had an excellent crowd of kids from age 3 to age 14, and each one of them ended up with their own unique robot. We had robots to help with housework, robots that do your homework for you, robots to test cupcakes, robots that dance, robots that jump, robots whose heads are on hinges, robots who have laser eyes, and so many more.  
We had saved heaps of lids, pots, plastic bottletops, cardboard tubes and cartons to use as buttons, knobs, dials, levers, and shutes. We had a mountain of cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes so the kids had fun selecting their Base Unit to fit over their heads and bodies. Some boxes were big enough to use for the whole robot.  

Kids made armholes and assorted eyeholes - two small holes/ a single cyclops hole/ a long slit or full facial. 

They also added small containers inside to collect coins/food through flap and attached tubes for disposal shutes. One cheeky chap had a coin slot for doing chores! Once they go home they might even add temporary attachments like torches and kitchen tongs! 

It's such fun deciding on stop/start buttons, speed dials, status displays and warnings. Your robot can be made just how you want it! 

I highly recommend the book because it is so clever and has some excellent tips and advice, as well as a lot of inspiration. If you make your own robot, remember to be very careful with scissors and ask an adult for help wit the fiddly bits. And get creative! 

If you would like to read about robots, why not give some of these a try?

Robot Dog by Mark Oliver
No-Bot, the Robot with No Bottom by Sue Hendra
Harry and the Robots by Ian Whybrow
Usborne Stories of Robots
The Heartless Robots by Simon Bartram
Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot series by Dav Pilkey and Martin Ontiveros
Astrosaurs- the Robot Raiders by Steve Cole
Norby the Mixed-up Robot by Janet and Isaac Asimov
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Operation Robot Storm ()Mythical 9th Division series) by Alex Milway
Dangerous Games: Robot Invasion by various authors
or even the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve, for older kids and teens. That's got one enormous machine! 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Day 4 in Creepy House: Stinky Stickers!

Pheeeooowww! How pongy are these Creepy House stickers! 

For those of you who have already earned some of your stickers you'll know just how strongly-smelling the first set of stickers is. But I encourage you - the stickers get less and less disgusting as you progress through Creepy House, and the last one is quite pleasant. 

But it got me thinking, some smells are absolutely yucky. 

And some are definitely delightful.

But others, it's a matter of opinion. 

What are your favourite and worst smells?

I think a few of my favourites would be bacon frying, freshly cut grass, and my apple shampoo. My worst would definitely be the cats' litter tray! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Day 3 in The Creepy House: Creepy Colouring and Fantastic Pets

Before the summer holidays I got thinking about the Creepy House theme and got scribbling away. This is the drawing I came up with. 

And the lovely people in our Devon Library Headquarters decided to use it as a Colouring Competition Sheet to hand out at all the libraries in Devon, which is rather fun. And for all you wonderful people who don't live in Devon, that's ok! You can colour it in too. Just click to download it for free, and print it off, then have fun with your felt-tips, crayons, pencils and paints and make it just how you want it to look. It might even trigger you to have a go making your own Creepy House drawing. Have fun, and let us know how you get on. 

The big scary plant in the pot is carnivorous, which means it eats creatures. But the little kitty in the picture doesn't look too bothered. 

My own two cats, Daphne and Wolfgang are quite fearless, except for when they see the enormous black cat from next door!

Has anyone else got any funny pets? Or read any good books about animals?

I'd love to hear about them. 

Bye for now. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Currently Reading

Day two of guest blogging on the Summer Reading Challenge Website and I've added a little book recommendation. 

Follow the link to see it live and add your own comments or questions. 

I've currently got my nose stuck in A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E by Penny Dolan and I'm loving it.

There's plenty of mystery and danger and a whole heap of brilliant characters to love and hate.

Mouse has had it pretty rough, and after escaping his cruel school, is on the run from some evil chaps whilst also trying to trace his lost mother, who might not be his actual Mum, and if she's not then who is she? It's a good thick book, full of excitement. Mouse is a brilliant climber too so there are a few hair-raising escapades on top of high buildings!

It's the first book I've read by Penny Dolan but I'll certainly be exploring her other books now too.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Summer Reading Challenge 2013: Creepy House - Guest Blogger 5th - 12th Aug.

This week I am enjoying answering kids' bookish questions on the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge Website. 

You can see my first post here and see what kids have to say about their book choices:

Here is my little intro for the week ahead. More following soon. 

Greetings from Susie in Cullompton! 

Here in Devon, we are having a monstrously marvellous time giving out stinky stickers as our challengers read their books. We just don't stop! We are giving our stickers and prizes so frequently we have almost turned into robots, except how could we, when it's all so much fun?

It's fabulous hearing about what everyone's reading here in Devon, and we'd love to hear about the books you're all getting stuck into too.  

Something magical has really got into our books here, because they are FLYING off they shelves. (Ok, not actually.) I'll see you again later to tell you about the book I'm reading right now and what's going on in Cullompton. 

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Book Discovery: Bartolomé, The Infanta's Pet.

I picked up this book a few days ago with the vague sort of feeling that I wanted to read something a little different. It was somewhat frivolous as I have a mounting pile of tempting books that I am itching to read, but somehow this one has queue-jumped. 

This story of a deformed young spanish boy, Bartolomé, is inspired by the painting 'Las Meninas' by Diego Velazquez, who painted in the court of King Philip IV in the 17th century. Velazquez regularly painted the royal family, especially the king's little daughter, the Infanta in question. 

'Las Meninas' now resides in Spain's national art museum, the Prado in Madrid, and you can view it here: www.museodelprado.es

The original children's novel by Rachel Van Kooij was first published as Kein Hundeleben fur Bartolomé, byJungbrunnen Verlag in Vienna, a decade ago. But freshly translated by Siobhan Parkinson, we are now able to enjoy it in our mother tongue, here in the UK.

Apart from being an interesting story, the physical book itself is very diverting. It's unusual to see a book with its blurb written on the front, and quite refreshing to see a publisher break the mould and play with an accepted order. The front cover gives us all we need to know to want to read the book, with a clean, strong design and an appealing handwritten block of curving text that invites us into Bartolomé's world. The paint splodges in raised, shining gold are delectable and give us a taste of the expressive nature of our little hero. 

Part of the famous painting is generously spread around the spine and back cover, providing a visual anchor for the reader in the rich setting of royal Madrid. 

Another enterprising effort from Little Island, is their success at securing funding to support the book's publication. Grants were given by the Goethe Institut in Germany, the National Lottery, through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Ireland Literature Exchange, and the Bundesministerium fur Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur, Vienna, which is something to do with art and culture. Hurrah for all of them.  It's really really hard for publishers to survive and flourish, and for artists and writers to make a living, so it's encouraging to see something creative being supported in this way. 

I haven't quite finished reading Bartolomé, the Infanta's pet, but I am riveted to its every word. I've been sceptical about translations in the past, and worried I'm not getting the real deal if I'm not reading a story in the language it was created for, but I am increasingly understanding that a translator is as much of an artist as the original author and I have come to appreciate their voice through the story. 

It's tricky, at first, to juggle these characters around Bartolomé, and understand their behaviour and perspectives. The era is one thing to get your head around, and the way married couples related to each another. The way a wife submitted to her husband, unquestioningly. The inequality of things. The expectation on a young girl to marry early. The power of a man over his household. And then there is the huge issue of the way Bartolomé is treated by his family, by his village, and by society as a whole. The inhumanity is disgusting and unbelievable. It would appear that his mother does love him, but not strongly enough to stand up for him, or even to show much affection. His siblings on the whole, don't have a lot of time or sympathy for him, and everyone is ashamed to be seen with him. 

In every situation Bartolome is given the least affection, the least food and comfort, the least praise. His life is blighted, not by his own deformity but by the lack of opportunity, hope and love around him. Despite his circumstances though, he is ever eager to please and always appreciative of any small break in monotony or misery. 

The family are poor and uneducated but Juan, the father, has work - tending to the King's horses. Eventually, Juan is given permission to collect his family from rural Seville, to live with him in a basic flat. While the family travels to Madrid on foot, with a small cart of furniture to start their new life in the city, Bartolome is confined to a small wooden chest to avoid being seen. Cruelly, Juan keeps him hidden until they are in the confines of their apartment and Bartolomé is forbidden to show himself outdoors. Juan barely tolerates Bartolomé's presence and at the earliest opportunity dismisses him to a new life as the Infanta's plaything. 

In this story of courage and unlikely hope, Bartolome shines through the degradation to prove his worth to those who would persecute.

As ever, the quest for kindness and love is one worth persevering for.