February, 2015 Archive

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Mother’s Day

Did you know these twelve strange-but-true motherly facts?

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  1. In the UK, Mothering Sunday always falls on the 4th Sunday in Lent. But not so in the rest of the world. In the USA, thanks to a vigorous campaign by Ms Anna Jarvis in the early 1900s,   Mother’s Day is celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May. Although Anna Jarvis never actually became a mother herself, she made a pledge on her mother’s death bed to fight for the establishment of a special day in the calendar to honour mothers. In 1914 she succeeded when President Woodrow Wilson enshrined the day in law.
  1. However Anna Jarvis hated Mother’s Day cards, calling them “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.” Youch.
  1. The origins of the UK Mothering Sunday stretch back far longer, and are not what you might expect. Historically, poor families were often forced to send their children away to work as domestic servants for rich families – very often many miles away. The children were rarely given time off to visit home, however they were usually granted a Sunday off during Lent to return to their ‘mother church’, worship the Virgin Mary and take their mothers gifts. This day became known as Mothering Sunday.
  1. According to a survey conducted by Cafemom in 2012, some of the worst presents mums have received for Mother’s Day include anti-wrinkle cream, vacuum cleaners, and… er, a toilet. What most in fact wanted were trips to a spa, something handmade by their children and time off from chores!
  1. The U.S Bell telephone system was built with Mother’s Day in mind. The annual rush to wish mum a Happy Mother’s Day causes the mother of all phone traffic peaks, so Bell designed their operating system specifically to be able to cope with Mother’s Day. These days things are slightly different, given that there are so many means available for telling our mums how much they means to us, but more phone calls are still made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year.
  1. In Britain we send around 23 million Mother’s Day cards, of which approximately 30% are homemade.
  1. In Britain Mother’s Day as a tradition had all but died out by the 19th But during the Second World War, Britain became home to thousands of U.S servicemen who brought their proud Mother’s Day traditions with them and it was once again resurrected.
  1. Where is the correct place for the apostrophe in ‘Mothers Day’?
  • Mother’s Day
  • Mothers’ Day
  • Mothers Day
  • All of the above

It all depends on how many mums you’re honouring of course. Anna Jarvis specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honour its mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers of the world.” But if you answered (e) Don’t Know and Don’t Care, you’re in luck because all are considered appropriate ways of writing the name of the day. (If the day is to celebrate all mums, then it comes after the s. Or maybe it’s a day not belonging to any mum, but is simply a day about mothers in which case it’s Mothers Day.)

ID-10097441 Mothers Day

 Photos by – FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Stuart Miles

There are plenty of people who will shout you down whichever usage you plump for though so for the avoidance of argument, it might be safest to use the term Mothering Sunday instead.

  1. In Nazi Germany, Mother’s Day took on new political significance. On this day, between 1939 and 1945, the Nazi Party awarded medals known as the ‘Mother’s Cross of Honour’. The medals (which came in gold, silver and bronze varieties, depending on how many children you had) were awarded to mothers who had provided the state with at least four children, and whom were considered exemplary motherly role models. Over 4.7 million of the awards were handed out in the six years they were in existence. Amongst other criteria for the gold award, a woman must have raised at least eight children, and there is evidence that a new ‘Diamond’ award was in the offing when the war came to an end in 1945, honouring mothers who had at least sixteen children.
  1. The highest recorded number of children born to one mother is 69. Yes, you read that right. Included in that count are sixteen sets of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four quadruplets. Given that these children were born in Russia in the 1700s, it is quite astonishing that 67 of them survived infancy. More recent contenders for the crown include Leontina Albina from San Antonio, Chile, who claims to be mother to 64 children, although only (Only!) 55 of them are documented. Just imagine how many daily loads of washing that would be.
  1. In the overwhelming majority of the world’s languages, the word mother begins with ‘m’. This is because the phonetic sound ‘m’ is the first a baby usually makes, and since mothers tend to be pretty important to babies, we associate that sound with their need for mum.
  1. The average mother changes 4,500 nappies in the first two years of a child’s life. That alone warrants a phone call home on Mother’s Day, don’t you think?

 Don’t forget your mother this Mother’s Day, 15th March 2015.

 

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All Sewn Up! 50 Easy World Book Day Costume Ideas

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It’s nearly time for World Book Day again, that annual celebration of reading and all things bookish. And with it tends to come the annual parental World Book Day costume panic. So this year, get in early before the party starts on March 5th and check out our list of easy-peasy, no-stress World Book Day costume solutions, before the little ones spring their own suggestions on you. All require little more than a couple of everyday items, and, just like our great range of ready-made costumes, all will have you breathing a big sigh of relief.

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Easy Dressing-Up Box Adaptations

Start by raiding the Dressing-Up Box. You’ll be amazed by how many characters can be made from last year’s Halloween outfits.

  • Think Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch, Meg and Mog, Winnie the Witch, Room on the Broom, and Roald Dahl’s The Witches (although you might need to purchase a bald-cap for extra authenticity with this one!) And for older children, there’s always the hubble-bubble witches from Macbeth. A skeleton outfit can become Funny Bones with addition of a top hat.
  • Got a fairy costume of any colour? Then you’ve got a Rainbow Fairy costume!

witch costume

 

  • Animal outfits can become instant children’s book favourites with Mog, Spot, Peppa Pig, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, What The Ladybird Heard, Fantastic Mr Fox, Wind in the Willows, Monkey Puzzle, Guess How Much I Love You and 101 Dalmations being just a few of the hundreds of classic animal tales to choose from.

fox costumebunny costume

  • And it’s easy to forget, but Rapunzel, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White and friends all started life as traditional fairy tales long before they became Walt Disney classics. The same applies to Spiderman and Batman and all their comic book hero friends. And who doesn’t have one of those outfits somewhere in the dressing-up box? 

Easy Wardrobe Up-cyles

Thankfully, not every literary character was born in the Victorian era. There are plenty of great characters that require nothing more than a pair of trousers or skirt, a T-shirt and a well-placed prop.

  • A pair of old trousers and top can become Charlie Bucket with the help of a painted cardboard ‘Golden Ticket’. Or Matilda, with the addition of a couple of books (and a newt if you happen to have one to hand!) Or George from George’s Marvellous Medicine (add a bottle of brown-gooey potion). Or James from James and The Giant Peach, with the help of, you’ve guessed it, a peach. The children from We’re Going on a Bear Hunt need no more than a pair of wellies and a fishing net to turn ordinary clothes into costume (not forgetting the teddy bear of course).
  • Pippi Longstocking is easy – a suitably cheeky-looking combination of dress/shorts/T-shirt/dungarees and stripy tights, plus red hair or a wig in plaits and wired up with pipe cleaners.

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  • Harry Potter and Hermoine Grainger need little more than school uniform, witch’s cape and a zig-zag scar on the forehead for Harry, and stuffed cat for Hermoine, to come to life. And there are plenty of other fictional characters who spend most of their time in school uniform. Think the girls from Clare’s, Mallory Towers and St. Trinian’s.
  • Stripy T-shirt or jumper somewhere in the ironing pile? Then you’ve got a whole heap of characters open to you from Where’s Wally to Horrid Henry, Dr Seuss’s Cat In The Hat and Dennis The Menace.
  • Does your daughter have a ballet outfit? Add a pair of mouse ears and a bit of stuffing round the midriff and voila… you’re in the presence of Angelina Ballerina! Without the stuffing and ears, you have any of the Ballet Shoes

horrid henry

  • Or do you have riding gear to hand? Then you’ve got the Pony Club
  • And if you have a combination of leggings and T-Shirts or leotards, you’ve no end of possibilities, from Stick Man, to The Gruffalo, to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • And what about The Boy In The Dress? As costumes go, this one is very easy to source, it’s a popular character and there’d be no mistaking who the wearer was meant to be, particularly if the dress is accessorised with football boots and a football trophy.

sophie bfg

  • And if you’re still stuck, don’t forget nightwear. Pyjamas and nightdresses make fantastically easy, cheap costumes. Who doesn’t love Sophie from the BFG (complete with glasses, a cucumber for a snozzcumber and a homemade Dream Jar)? Or Little Princess (add wellies and a crown)? The Darlings in Peter Pan? Or Emily Brown and The Thing? And what child doesn’t love rolling out of bed and going straight to school in their PJs?!

Still drawing a blank? Visit our online costume store for more ideas and ready-made costume solutions.

Flippin’ Good Pancakes

Mix flour and eggs, you get pasta. Mix eggs and milk, you get scrambled eggs. Combine all three and you’ve got the food of the Gods.

We love pancakes at The Event Experts. Which is why when it comes to Pancake Day proper, we like to ramp it up a bit with the undisputed best pancake recipe on the planet. Undisputed? It’s a bold claim, but we’re willing to bet you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll Need:

There are a hundred variations on the humble pancake. American, Scotch, Buckwheat, Buttermilk, Blinis, Blueberry… the list goes on. This recipe, however, is for the traditional Shrove Tuesday sort.

220g Plain Flour

4 eggs

400ml Whole Milk

150ml Water

Pinch of Salt

What to Do:

This batter gets even better when made in advance and popped into the fridge for an hour or two (it tends to make for lighter, fluffier pancakes). But it isn’t necessary so don’t panic if you don’t have that kind of prep time.

Sift the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and break in the eggs. Add about a quarter of the milk, plus the pinch of salt. Whisk, bringing in small amounts of flour as you go. Add the rest of the milk and water and continue whisking until it’s smooth and there are no lumps.

Pancakes 1

Cooking :

  1. Heat the frying pan over a moderate heat.
  2. Wipe the pan with oiled kitchen paper. If your oil starts smoking, your pan is too hot.
  3. Using a ladle or a small jug, pour enough batter into the pan to cover the base. Carefully swirl the batter in the frying pan to distribute it evenly. If you have too much, pour the excess back into the bowl.
  4. Cook the pancake for approximately 30-40 seconds until the cooked side is golden brown. If it’s taking much more than this, you’re probably using too much batter. Lift the pancake carefully to check the colour. When it is golden brown, flip it, or (if you’re nervous about doing a full ceiling-scraping somersault) use a spatula or palette knife to lift and flip it over. Cook the other side for the same amount of time, making sure the pancake is flat in the pan, without any folds, before transferring to a plate.

Toppings :

There’s no end of possibilities when it comes to toppings, with every Pancake Day bringing a smorgasbord of new ones to try. From sweet to savoury, trendy to trad, there’s nothing like experimenting. But since you asked, here’s a few of our personal favourites:

Classic Lemon & Sugar
They say good things come in threes and where pancakes, lemon and sugar are concerned, never a truer word was spoken. Simple it might be, but boring, never. This timeless classic faces some stiff competition these days with so many rivals on the menu, but for understated purest pleasure, lemon and sugar is a winner every time. It has to be freshly squeezed lemon juice mind (never bottled), and for our money, golden granulated sugar.

Nutella with a Squeeze of Orange

Another sweet-citrus classic, chocolate and orange is an unbeatable flavour combination.

Bananas and Chopped-Up Melting Mars Bar / Snickers
There’s something about the mixture of bananas and confectionary that makes grown-ups feel like kids, and kids feel spoilt rotten. If, like us, you have pancakes at least once a week and are in need of something to make Pancake Day feel like a proper treat, then this is for you.

Vanilla Ice-Cream with Salted Caramel Sauce
Simple sophistication.

Mixed Berries & Chantilly Cream
Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cream. What more is there to say?

Poached Apple, Cinnamon & Vanilla Ice-Cream
A winter warmer for Pancake Days that fall early in the year.

Avocado, grilled cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, poached egg & shaved parmesan
If you’re going to go savoury, then go big. This one works just as well as a hearty weekend breakfast, brunch or supper. Or make even more of a meal out of it and add smoked salmon.

What’s your favourite Pancake Day topping? We’d love to know.

In Need of Some Valentine’s Inspiration?

In Need of Some Valentine’s Inspiration? Take a Look At History’s Greatest Romantic Gestures

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about making a romantic gesture. But if you’re stuck for ideas, then why not take inspiration from some of these budding Romeo and Juliets.

  • if you’re planning on going down the jewellery route this Valentine’s Day, you’d have to go a long way to beat Richard Burton in the bling-stakes. When Burton presented Elizabeth Taylor with the world’s most expensive diamond necklace in 1969, there was no doubting his commitment to his glamorous jewellery-loving wife. At 69.42 carats, this eye-wateringly expensive romantic gesture set Burton back a whopping $1.1m (about $15, 200, 000 in today’s money). But before you start applying for that second mortgage, it’s worth remembering that it’s not the price tag that bestows romantic status on a gift. (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were divorced a mere 5 years later after-all.) A Haribo ring presented with love can mean just as much to the person receiving it as a Cartier one.

haribo box of rings

  • Nothing says a reason worth celebrating, than a good bottle of champagne. And it seems that ten years of marriage was more than enough reason for Ravi Viswanathan to splash out on a special bottle. The world’s oldest unopened bottle of champagne infact. Discovered in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, the romantic champagne-lover bought the 170 year old bottle of (still drinkable) Veuve Clicquot at auction for €30,000 in 2011.   You’ll be glad to know, our own range of special champagnes come in at just a fraction of the price… And you could always drop one into a lake and fish it out during a surprise romantic lakeside picnic for two, for added effect.

Bolly Close Up

 

Freshly salvaged.

  • Sometimes life can grind you down, and it’s at times like these that romance can seem to take a back seat. So why not follow in Jay-Z’s footsteps this Valentine’s Day and relight the fire with a romantic getaway. Okay, so no, most of us can’t afford to take that getaway on a private island purchased for your loved one at a staggering $3m, but then we’ve not all got Jay-Z and Beyonce’s budget. A surprise romantic weekend away however needn’t cost the earth. With so many romantic locations on our doorstep, a stay-cation can be just as much fun as a luxury long-haul break.

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All that’s missing is the private beach.

  • Or take a leaf out of one of history’s most romantic literary couples’ books, and write your significant-other a letter. Robert and Elizabeth Browning (she of “how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways” fame) wrote each other nearly 600 letters during their 20-month courtship before marrying against their family’s wills in a secret ceremony in Marylebone in London in 1846. Aww.  Temporarily mislaid your inkwell and quill? Don’t worry. Why not order a dozen helium balloons with love-notes attached instead? Just don’t make the mistake some poor couples have, and release your romantic offerings into the sky, or you might just land yourself a hefty penalty for air pollution.

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Don’t let go!!

  • Make something. A gift you’ve crafted yourself trumps anything shop-bought in the romance stakes and it’s a great way to show how much you care without breaking the bank. A handmade card, or a photo collage of all those digital prints your partner has been meaning to download from their camera, all beautifully-arranged in a frame, is packed with sentiment. Or why not write your lover a song? It worked for Eric Clapton whose chart hit ‘Layla’ was in fact written for his neighbour George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd. She left Harrison for Clapton not long afterwards.

 

  • And just to prove that it isn’t that it isn’t the price tag that gives a gift value… Screen legend Clark Gable was a well-known car lover with an impressive collection of expensive wheels. But his favourite was always the beat-up Model T Ford that the great love of his life, Carole Lombard, bought him for just $15 on their first date in 1936. She had it delivered with a note saying “You’re driving me crazy”. Oh yes, and painted white with red hearts. Which, FYI, is optional, if you’re thinking of going down that route.

sian and michael's wedding blessing 050

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
these better not be from a service station,
or I’ll divorce you.

  • Flowers might not scream original, but their timeless appeal exists for a reason. Done right, there can be no greater way of expressing love. (And by done right, we mean flowers that have had some thought put into them, rather than a half-dead bouquet of carnations bought from an all-night garage.  Take for example, Joe DiMaggio, whose actions in 1962 after the death of his former wife Marilyn Monroe, must go down as one of the most romantic gestures of all time. So stricken by grief was DiMaggio, that he placed a 20-year standing order with a local florist to have long-stemmed roses delivered to Monroe’s grave three times a week, proving that the perfect romantic gift is the one which says something that just cannot be put into words.

 

Planning an amazing works Christmas Party in Nottingham

Planning an Office Party Everyone Will Look Forward To

There’s no better way to show your team they’re appreciated than with a good knees-up. But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re the one tasked with responsibility for organising the party. So here’s a few pointers from Galaxy Fireworks who organised a recent team night out in Nottingham.

  • Create a Wish List

When it comes to successfully mixing business with pleasure, it’s all in the planning. So start early, particularly if you’re wanting a Christmas party. Christmas is a busy time for us, so we opted for January, but even though we avoided the mad Christmas rush for party venues, we still had to start our planning back in October.

If you’re stuck for ideas, list everything your ideal venue would provide. Do you, for example, want a venue that can provide live music and entertainment after the meal, or are you happy to travel between different venues to get everything you want? It needs to work within your budget obviously, but does it also need to be close enough to a town centre to ensure guests can get home easily at the end of the night? Is the dancing and entertainment the priority, or the food and the setting?

Think about your audience. This is really important. Would your guests appreciate a lavish affair, or would low-key work better? Do they want dressy, or relaxed? Masquerade ball or BBQ followed by ball games?

Another thing to consider is whether you want a shared party, or an exclusive venue hired for private use. Shared parties allow smaller groups to experience celebrations on a grander scale, whereas private parties allow you to opt for something more intimate and tailor-made, although there are of course variations on both. We opted for a restaurant with a reputation for excellent food that also offered live music on site. It turned out to be the perfect choice.

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 The Riverbank, Nottingham. Venue for our annual Galaxy Fireworks party, held in January.

  • Food and Drink

Whereas in the past there might have been an assumption that mass-produced = poor quality, this is no longer the case. There are plenty of restaurants and catering companies who successfully manage to combine great food with large scale, so don’t settle for a menu that is poor on choice and poor on quality. A well-designed, comprehensive menu, means that it meets everybody’s requirements, means that no-one goes hungry. Which leads us on to our next point…

Everyone knows that drinking on an empty stomach makes for a sore head in the morning (and quite possibly a few diplomatic incidents on the way too). So ensuring everyone gets food they can’t wait to tuck into, means there’s no need to substitute food for drink! Providing a late-night snack or tea and coffee-making facilities after the meal are also welcome thoughtful touches that can help negate the effects of too much alcohol.

riverbank dessert         riverbank_kitchen_06

  • Music

 This is one area where it’s almost certainly impossible to please everybody. Which is perhaps why most venues choose to stick to chart hits and tried-and-tested dance-floor fillers. But you don’t always need to play it safe. Live music brings a party to life, and guests will appreciate music based around a theme, even if it isn’t what they’d ordinarily listen to at home, so things like Samba nights or Funky Disco themes work well. The DJ who played the night we visited The Riverbank got the mix just right, filling the dance-floor without needing to resort to the Macarena or the YMCA.

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The Galaxy Girls hit the dancefloor.

  • It’s The Little Touches That Make The Difference

 It’s often the small things that set really memorable events apart from run-of-the-mill ones.

Table Place Name

Place cards printed with diners’ names and meal choices cost very little to produce but add a real sense of occasion and formality to a meal. (Not to mention helping those who forgot what they asked for when the meal choices went in).

Setting a theme can also help to bring a sense of fun to the occasion. Providing party bags at the table complete with comedy wigs, glasses and masks, or a ‘dressing up box’ for people to raid, are real energy level-raisers, and can help break the ice at the start of the night.

Send invites rather than a memo. If you’re planning activities to keep your guests entertained, concentrate on things that everyone can have participate in. Pub quizzes and photo-face competitions make great conversation starters and help to ease any initial awkwardness before the food and drink starts flowing. A ‘Worst Christmas Jumper’ competition can help lighten the tone, as can arranging for Secret Santa presents to be exchanged at the party. Activities like these unite social butterflies and shrinking violets alike and make sure no-one feels left out.

Ultimately, you want people to enjoy themselves, so don’t go for options which you know will push them too far out of their comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean always playing it safe either. The aim is to make those attending feel like guests, rather than employees. Succeed with that and you’ve got yourself a celebration everyone will look forward to in the run-up to the big night, and remember afterwards for all the right reasons.