Child Rescue Alert Service – be alerted when a child has disappeared

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Child Rescue AlertThe Child Rescue Alert Service (CRA) is a partnership between the police, the media and the public that seeks the assistance of the public where a child has been abducted and it is feared that they may be at risk of serious harm.

Last month, news of the abduction and rape of a teenage girl in Oxford made national headlines. The 14 year-old, walking to school, was forced into a car on a busy street in daylight. Whilst incidents like this are thankfully rare in the UK, they are very distressing when they do happen. If your child went missing wouldn’t you want the world to stop and look for them?

Child Rescue Alert is a nationwide system, run by the National Crime Agency, the charity Missing People and technology company Groupcall. It has the potential to save a child’s life in the event that a child is missing and believed to be at imminent risk of serious harm or death. Registration is free and takes just minutes to complete, online or by text. By taking 30 seconds to register, anyone could save a child’s life.

Child Rescue Alert aims to activate a fast time response to help find an abducted child before they come to any harm. There are four key criteria to be met before an Alert is issued:

– A child apparently under the age of 18 is missing
– There is reasonable belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious harm or death
– There is a reasonable belief that the child has been kidnapped, abducted or taken under the influence of a third party
– There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist the police to locate the child.

A typical appeal will include the description of the child, a description of the suspected abductor and any vehicle they are driving, together with location details.

You can register to receive alerts at www.childrescuealert.org.uk. There you give your details including the postcode of your home and workplace, so you can be sure to receive alerts relevant to the area where you live and work. The Child Rescue Alert Service will then send alerts to you by text and email if you are registered in the relevant area. They only expect about 4 to 6 Child Rescue Alerts to be issued each year, and not all of these will be nationwide.

You can also register by texting the word HERO, together with your postcode, to 85050. If you text to register for Child Rescue Alert, you will be charged your standard text message rate as specified by your network provider. If you register on the website as outlined in the paragraph above, it is free. Any Child Rescue Alerts sent via text are free to receive, regardless of how you registered.

Stephen Fry is the face of the campaign. He says: “I am delighted to be the animated face of this campaign as I believe that Child Rescue Alert should be a national institution – something for everyone to find out about and sign up to. It reminds me of a fire extinguisher – everyone should have one ready to use at a moment’s notice but we all hope that we will never need it.”

The Child Rescue Alert Service is also supported by some large organisation including Royal Mail, Facebook, Google and the Press Association.

Please sign up today.

Super Easy Banana Mini Muffins

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Homemade Banana Muffins.  I need to bake 30 of them at retail’s busiest time of the year. And I’m a retailer.

It’s our eldest’s 11th birthday tomorrow. Birthdays in December can get a bit lost with the Christmas thing. Plus birthdays on a school day are not the best – who wants to go to school on their birthday?

So a couple of years ago I made Banana Muffins so he had something nice to take into school. This, you understand, was when he was in a Speech and Language Unit – a class of 8.

Now he has transitioned back to mainstream school and he’s in a class of almost 30. But of course I’m still going to make Banana Muffins for his class… aren’t I?

Well actually it’s pretty simple with this Easy Banana Muffins Recipe, slightly adapted from the one I saw some time ago on This Mummy’s Blog.  I use the recipe to make Mini Muffins as 30 little muffins easily fit into my extra special Rose-covered Cath Kidson bowl with lid (don’t you know).

Mini Banana Muffins
Mini Banana Muffins. Yum.

I have to say this morning I was thinking “How have I got myself into this? I really don’t have time to do this today”. However I’d forgotten one of the best things about this recipe: you can throw it all together in a few minutes using only one bowl, a bowl which you can pop into the microwave and on/off the scales (if you have the kind of scales you can put a bowl onto) and there’s only one bowl to wash up.

And I have to admit I enjoyed doing it, albeit at breakneck speed this time. A nice change from packing parcels, sorting out orders, Christmas and cyber wotnot.

This is enough to make 30-32 mini muffins – enough for all the children, a teacher and a teaching assistant in fact!

Ingredients:

125g butter or margarine, or 50/50 butter & margarine if you like

150g caster sugar

Few drops vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten

2-3 over-ripe bananas, mashed

190g self raising flour

60ml semi skimmed milk

&

around 32 mini muffin cases.

Banana Mini Muffins
Mixing in the flour with the wet ingredients

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees, or 180 if you have a fan oven. Put a glass bowl on your scales and measure out the butter & sugar. Microwave it for about 30 seconds until the butter has melted. Mix the melted butter and sugar together, add the vanilla extract, the mashed bananas, the beaten egg and the milk.

Finally fold in the flour being careful not to over-mix as that can take the lightness out of the muffins.

Fill the mini muffin cases almost to the top and line them up on a baking tray.

Banana Mini Muffins
All ready to go to school tomorrow

Bake for 15-18 minutes (start checking after 15 minutes to ensure they don’t catch).

Voila! Banana Mini Muffins for the whole class.

The other great thing about these muffins is they have a high banana content and stay moist for a couple of days. So baking them the day before is no problem – they’ll still be yummy on the all important birthday.

If you want to make them into full size muffins then the ingredients will make about 12-14 depending on the size of your cases. Big ones will take more like 20 minutes to cook but, again, keep checking them after 17 to ensure they don’t catch.

I hope our big boy has a lovely birthday tomorrow. I just can’t believe he will be 11 years old… where on earth does the time go?

Myths and legends surrounding Halloween

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The end of October is a superstitious time of year.  A black cat crossing your path. Carving a face in a pumpkin. Touching wood. A great many traditions, myths, and legends are rooted in the Halloween celebration. Some of them (like pumpkin carving) originate from the Celtic roots of Halloween, others are more recent.

Myths and legends surrounding Halloween
Paper Wings Bat Flock Tee

Let’s take a look at some of them, learn a bit about where they come from and find out what they mean.

Bats
Bats are the inspiration behind lots of Halloween superstitions. One superstition involves a bat getting into the house – it’s said to be a sign that a ghost lives in the home, and the ghost let the bat in.

Myths and legends surrounding Halloween
Doodle Do Cat Meow Dress

Black Cats
Like bats, black cats are considered omens for superstitious people. The association of black cats with witches goes back to the Dark Ages, when black cats were considered witches’ “familiars.” Tradition says that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, yet in today’s modern society a black cat crossing your path is considered lucky.

Candles
The lighting of candles is traditional around this time of year. People used to set large bonfires on “Hallow’s Eve.” In the UK bonfires now take place on the 5th of November aka Guy Fawkes Night. Superstitions involving candles have sprung up over the centuries. One myth says that if a candle flame that suddenly turns blue, it means a ghost is close by. A candle flame suddenly going out is considered a sign of a nearby ghost.

Myths and legends surrounding Halloween
My ‘Help’ in the Office today…

Dressing up on Halloween
Celtic myth states that dressing up as a ghost or ghoul on Halloween fools the evil spirits into thinking that you were one of them so that they could not take your soul. Oo-er.

Protective Gestures
All kinds of superstitions involve doing something to ward off evil spirits or mischievous pranks.
• Touching wood is said to bring good luck.
• Pulling out your pockets when passing a graveyard is supposed to prevent an accidental “bringing home” of a ghost in your pockets.
• Carry bread with you because offering it to an angry spirit may appease it or so the legend goes.

To keep evil spirits from invading your home, superstition says to walk around your home backward in a counter-clockwise direction before sunset. And finally, if you are walking at night and hear someone walking behind you, legend says don’t turn around – you may be hearing the footsteps of the dead, and if you turn around to look, you’ll soon join them.

And whilst you’re at it, don’t look at your shadow in the moonlight on Halloween – superstition says this will hasten your death.

Macabre as some of these superstitions are, they are interesting and often rooted in history. They teach us a lot about times past when Halloween wasn’t just a commercial event and a ‘bit of fun’ like it is today, but rooted in pagan beliefs.

Spooky…

Six Great Family Films to Watch for Halloween

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When the leaves are falling from the trees and frost is in the air, darkness sets in earlier every night. It’s perfect movie-watching weather! Halloween-themed movies can be gory, scary, funny, and family-friendly. Pop your popcorn and sit back and enjoy these Six Great Family films for Halloween:

 

Five Great Family Films to Watch on Halloween
Harry Potter – the complete collection!

1. Harry Potter

Children and adults alike are fans of the Harry Potter series. There are eight of them to choose from, so you could make it an all-night film festival or watch one each night for eight days over Halloween. Or then again, you could just choose one! The movies are based on the books by JK Rowling, and are produced by David Heyman. These films are magic-based than fear-based, making them a safer choice for families.

 

 

Five Great Family Films to Watch on Halloween
Wallace & Gromit’s Curse of the Were Rabbit

2. Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace & Gromit (W&G) are a classic pair of clay-animated characters. Wallace is a private investigator/inventor and Gromit is his smart, and loveable dog. They are hired to capture whatever critter is raiding the town’s vegetable gardens (these are sacred). “Were-Rabbit” has some amusing moments for adults like tributes to classic movies, while amusing children with gentle humor and fun action. Our boys get frightened by films very easily but they really enjoyed this one.

 

 

Five Great Family Films to Watch on Halloween
Hocus Pocus!

3. Hocus Pocus

I Smell Children!!!! A disbelieving teenager named Max accidentally releases three evil witches on Halloween night in this 1993 Disney movie starring Bette Midler. The best part? Midler singing and her fellow witches acting as her backing singers. Hocus Pocus is enjoyed more by children aged 7+, younger than that may find it a bit too scary.

 

Five Great Family Films to Watch on Halloween
The Nightmare Before Christmas
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The self-proclaimed king of Halloween decides to scare people at Christmas instead. This is a musical animated film, originally though by Disney to be too dark for children, but has been a roaring success ever since its release.

 

 

Five Great Family Films to Watch on Halloween
Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie

5. Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)
This sweet film follows the inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood as they discover there’s nothing to fear from Halloween. Again, this is another animated film and this is perfect for younger children who want to wear their Halloween costume as they watch the movie.

 

6 Great Family Films to Watch for Halloween
Ghostbusters! How could I forget?

 

6. Ghostbusters

OK so I have a confession.  The original title of this blog post was Five Great Family Films to Watch for Halloween. And then my mate Melanie over at Cossins Music School reminded me that I’d missed off arguably the great one of all!

Ghostbusters tells the story of three scientists fired from their University who go into business as a Ghost Extermination Company. Fantastic film for the whole family to enjoy this Halloween.

So what’s your favourite family Halloween film?

How to Carve Your Halloween Pumpkins

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Nothing says Halloween more than a carved pumpkin! You don’t have to do the traditional (known as jack-o-lantern) face; you can get really creative and carve all kinds of designs. Here are some tips for how to carve your Halloween Pumpkins:

How to Carve your Halloween Pumpkins
I carved this Pumpkin myself*
* you know that’s not true

1. The Perfect Pumpkin
The perfect pumpkin may not be what you think. Round and flawless may seem like the ideal shape, but I really love the oddly-shaped ones. They can inspire interesting designs, and may result in a unique pumpkin that stands out from the crowd!

Regardless of what shape you go for, look for a nice firm pumpkin without any soft or rotten spots.

2. The Right Tools
This is one of the most important tips for pumpkin carving. Not only do you get more attractive results with the right tools, it’s also safer to have tools that are designed for the purpose. Here are some of the tools you’ll need:

How to carve your Halloween pumpkins
Bob and Blossom Pumpkin – a favourite design from yesteryear

* A pencil for drawing your design on the pumpkin before you start.

* Knives – You’ll need a large knife to cut the top off the pumpkin. A large carving knife or a serrated bread knife – both as sharp as possible – are good choices. You could also use a small saw, such as a coping saw or keyhole saw. For carving, a small paring knife with a thin, sharp, flexible blade is helpful. If you have one a scalpel is fantastic for creating fine details.

* A Spoon – A large spoon is essential for scooping out seeds and pulp. Some of the pulp can be stubborn, so a metal spoon is a better choice than a plastic or wooden one. If you have a fruit spoon with a serrated edge, that might come in handy for scraping out stubborn bits. Also, a small fruit spoon with a serrated edge can help if you want to scrape some of the pulp thin for a glowing effect without actually cutting through the flesh.

* Cocktail Sticks – Having some cocktail sticks or toothpicks handy can help if you cut off a chunk you meant to leave in! For example, if you are carving teeth and cut one of them off, you can use a cocktail stick to re-attach the “tooth.”

* An Apple Corer or Melon Baller for making perfect holes.

3. Cutting Techniques
When you cut the top off of your pumpkin, think of a bathtub plug shape. These plugs are wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, so slant your large knife slightly inward so that the base of the cut-off top will be narrower than the top.

When you carve out your design, people often recommend going slowly, and making sure that the blade of the knife never comes out of the pumpkin flesh when you’re cutting with it. Starting with the centre and working outward also tends to work better than going from the outside inward.

4. Inspiration
If you look around online you’ll find masses of ideas to inspire you! We loved this video hosted by a lady who is a Disney Pumpkin Carver for 2 months of the year (who knew anyone in the world had that job title?)

As the Pumpkin Carver (yay!) on the video says, if you do more of a surface-level design on your pumpkin (as opposed to cutting really deeply into the flesh) your fabulous carved Pumpkin could last as long as 3-4 months.

Will you be carving a pumpkin this year?