Helping kids to make the most of a video camera

helping kids make films

Before I was a mum and writer, I was Head of Media Studies in a secondary school. I spent my time enabling teenagers to get the most out of video cameras. So today I thought I would share some tips.

Letting a child hold a video camera is wonderful on one hand, it’s like giving them a passport to another world, will it release their inner jackass, their dormant Speilberg, their latent iCarly, or their desire to be a Blue Peter presenter? On the other hand they create badly filmed epics which keep them entertained for hours - they always involve zooming, panning, screaming – anyone watching swings between feeling utterly sick and wondering when the film will ‘kick in’.

I’ve been trying to gently introduce some theory, mine are a little young still, but older kids are ready to fully grasp the techniques that make their home made films look more like TV. Kids consume media, they get the conventions, they are quick to recreate them.

Film making would be taught over several weeks, but this post shares some basic things kids can dip into to develop their skills.

1. Teach them to work the camera and to respect it, whether it’s their camera, an old flip cam, or the family camcorder. That’s half the battle won! Technology is coming down in price rapidly, Tesco do a Sponge Bob video camera for just £24 which is a small investment if you are worried about kids breaking your phone or an expensive camera. Mine are currently playing with a flip cam I no longer use because my camera and phone both do great video now. Teach them about memory cards, they need to do their own ‘edit in camera’ aka deleting the stuff they don’t need.

2. Play with framing shots with a still camera first. I love this example and it can be fun to do this with still shots and a toy if you want to help your child learn how to frame things. Work out how much of someone you need in the picture, are they just talking or using their whole body to demonstrate something?

shot-composition

3. Shots look nicer when people have a nice amount of head room and are looking into the shot, rather than being placed too far across the frame. One third of the frame as a gap at the top and placed a third from the left, looking into the frame looks good.

The rule of thirds is used in film and photography, its all about placing things on these lines because it makes things look good!

ruleofthirds

4. Try out playing with angles, they make people look higher or lower status (or lose or gain a few pounds!)

5. Give them a cheap tripod to practice framing shots and playing with angles. Once you’ve got the basics you will instinctively frame things better ‘freehand’. There is nothing worse than watching the camera flying everywhere. Okay, I get it, it’s fun, but only for so long.

6. Edit some shots together and play with the possibilities of using music to create mood, titles to create meaning. iMovie on the mac and Movie maker on pc – free and easy to use software.

7. Storyboarding is the ‘true’ way to plan a film. Start with very simple narratives. Try to encourage them to draw the actual shots they will use and not just the story. Can they use 5 different shots form the examples above? Toys can be great to film with to start with as they don’t run off or get bored like siblings, pets and friends. Google storyboard template for printables like this one.

storyboard

8. Keep zooming and panning (moving left to right) to a minimum, cut to a new shot instead when you edit.

9. Start to focus on sound, becoming more aware of background noise, how near people need to be to the video camera’s microphone.

10. Have fun adding music and exploring how different music changes your film!

Having fun and playing safely with their video camera is the main thing.

Do your kids like playing with video cameras?

Written for Tesco.

Girls’ Night In: Can you have your cake and eat it?

weightwatcherscakes

It’s been a while since me and Emily from A Mummy Too did a video, but the cake decorating ones went down so well, we thought we would get together again. This time we’re not doing the cooking, we were sent a hamper of cake to test and a camera to record our antics. It’s a hard life!

If I am honest, I’ve always thought WeightWatchers wouldn’t be my choice of diet,  I like to go back to basics of unprocessed veggie food, but I often come unravelled after a few weeks of ‘being good’, when faced by the temptation to eat things like cake. So I was interested to know whether I would notice the difference between a cake and a low fat cake or biscuit.

So we decided to test these products on taste…and be honest about how we approach food.

What do you think, have you tried these, do they work for you?

Useful links

The cup cake decorating video

Knackered Mother’s wine tasting at Camp Bestival

Read Emily’s post.

Join the conversation: #WWFeelGoodFood @WW_UK @AMummyToo @AResidence

Photo by Emily – dead good isn’t she?

 

UK Our Way: Travel guides by kids, for kids

There’s still time to make the best of Britain’s beaches, September is always warm. A weekend getaway this month could be the perfect way to escape the back to school stress. Or perhaps you are looking for an October break or thinking towards 2015. If you are planning a beach holiday, who better to tell you if a beach is everything children want, than young people themselves?

Want to know the best beach to rock pool, how to take great photos, the best place to build sandcastles or fly a kite? UK Our Way is a series of video travel guides by kids for kids.

I gave my two an old camera this Summer and they had lots of fun making films and snapping away. This video has some simple tips and a lovely recommendation for a brilliant beach to take pictures.

For more inspiration and travel guides by kids, for kids see the other videos over at Parkdean holidays.

Post in association with Parkdean

Parents Guide to Motor Maintenance: Checking your Tyres

car tyre swing

At its last MOT our cars tyres came back borderline okay, so we were given a reminder on checking your tyres with a plan to have them replaced at the car’s service. The legal limit is 1.6mm, anything under 3mm can seriously compromise performance and safety. Tyres can seem expensive, but a stitch in time really does replace nine, from a safety and a fuel consumption perspective. Here are five little motoring life hacks I use to help me keep on top of car tyre safety. Many of them come courtesy of Point S Car Tyres.

1. Keep a record of all appointment/due dates for car stuff on the calendar – insurance renewal, service, MOT. If the garage ask you to look out for something or come back in a couple of months put that on the calendar too, or the time will slip by before you know it. I used to use the government MOT text reminder, but it has been scrapped, helpful eh?

2.  Checking your tyres is easy.

Either use a dedicated gauge, the legal limit is 1.6mm, anything under 3mm can seriously compromise performance and safety. But chances are you won’t have one to hand, or need one.

OR

Use the Tread Wear indicator:

tread-wear

The Tread Wear Indicator (TWI) is a raised section moulded into the grooves of a tyre. There may be several TWIs around the tyre’s circumference and they can be located by finding a small triangle marked TWI on the shoulder of the tyre. The triangle points towards the TWI. The TWI is approximately 1.6mm high and when the tyre has worn down to the point where the tread blocks are level with the raised TWI, it should be replaced.

Point S car tyres dealers are a leading network of car tyre dealers in the UK.

3. Keep on top of tyre pressure when you refuel. If the kids get involved it can become a fun thing to do, rather than a chore, and a useful lesson for them. Each car comes with recommended pressures which you will find in the sill of the driver’s door or inside the fuel cap. Tyres will wear unevenly if not at the right pressure, causing you unnecessary expense. Under inflated tyres cause blowouts which are a common cause of fatalities.

4. Always replace tyres in 2s or 4s, never singly as they will wear unevenly.

5. Check any shaking, steering to one side issues with a reputable garage asap as incorrect wheel alignment also ruins your tyres.

You don’t have to know a lot to stay safe in the car, and much as I would like to remain ignorant of the heap of metal that gets me from A to B, I have come to realise the benefits of having even the most basic car knowledge.

Are you good at checking your tyres?

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters #giveaway

ghostbusters-image

To celebrate the special 30th anniversary Blu-ray™ release of Ghostbusters, I’ve teamed up with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to give three lucky winners a Ghostbusters poster and copy of Ghostbusters I & II on Blu-ray!

ghostbusters prize

From September 1 fans will be able to own the Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray™ and a two-disc Blu-ray box set, which includes theGhostbusters II 25th Anniversary Edition, debuting on Blu-ray.  Both films have been fully restored and remastered in 4K and will be presented in high definition on Blu-ray from those 4K sources.

Both the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters I & II Blu-rays come loaded with exclusive bonus materials, including revealing conversations with director Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, as well as never-before-seen deleted scenes from Ghostbusters II and more. The Ghostbusters anniversary edition features the original music video of the Oscar® nominated song “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., while Ghostbusters II includes the original music video for “On Our Own” by Bobby Brown. In addition, Ghostbusters will contain all previously released legacy content, commentary and an interactive Slimer Mode, offering fans a picture-in-picture graphical viewing experience.

The Blu-ray™ Anniversary Editions of GHOSTBUSTERS and GHOSTBUSTERS I & II are available now

GHOSTBUSTERS has been restored and remastered in 4K and will be returning to cinemas for one day only across the UK on October 28th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/3-x-ghostbusters-1-and-2-blu-ray-and-poster#sthash.sBjpchzR.dpuf

Do you have a Family Travel Bucket List?

family travel bucket list

For a while I have been thinking it would be good to make a family travel bucket list. I don’t like the word ‘bucket list’, but I can’t think of a better one. So instead I am going to change the connotations. I think of the bucket more like a bucket and spade on summer holidays or a container to pull ideas out of, like a magicians hat.

Amadeus.net is a fun way to research, organise and save your travel ideas online. I love it’s sentence search function. I would love to have New York on the list, but maybe when the kids are a little older. I can see us walking about, chins on the floor, looking up at amazing sky scrapers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 13.51.21

We had an amazing time cruising the med and the Caribbean, I real want to cruise from Seattle next, I want to see Alaska.

Amadeus.net’s clever mix of planning tools means you can research the cost of flights at different times of year, save that search to come back to later, work out the best dates to go weather wise, add links to the site.  it is in Beta, but soon you will be able to add hotels too.

You can then share the site with someone, and add comments together.

Here is my Seattle plan, what do you think?

Next I asked my husband, he wants us all to go to the Grand Canyon. To see something really awe inspiring. I am with him, America is endlessly fascinating and the scale is just mind blowing when you hail from a tiny island.

My son wants to go back to Corfu which made me smile, as its good to know your kids really enjoyed a holiday. I would like to take him to Lapland though, I think he is the perfect age for some Christmas magic to blow his already out of this world imagination. I would take my daughter too of course, but I think at nearly 8 perhaps her mind is slipping out of the imaginary and more into reality.

Although, she really really wants to go to Disneyland. I blame the telly. Luckily my cousin lives near the one in Paris and we met up again at my brother’s wedding over the Summer, promising not to leave it so long, so that one could happen.

Me? I want to see the beaches in Mauritus, we didn’t go for paradise as a honeymoon option, but did an amazing awe inspiring and new Mr and Mrs team building road trip through Canada, Montreal, New Brunswick I’ve no regrets, but I think everyone should be able see water that clear and sand that white, at some point in their life. Of course I would love to take the kids to Canada, I want to see the other side amazing lakes in the Rocky Mountains.

I would also like to do Thailand. I’ve never backpacked and probably never will, but my brother returned from his trip telling me how many kids he saw and how easy it was for families and I would like us to go somewhere beyond Europe.

I would love to Interrail round Europe as a family, another demon I have yet to purge from my youth. Travel always worried me, and now I am over that it’s never too late to embrace it. I have fond memories of my mini inter rail adventure with a friend from Uni, I wish we’d gone further and taken longer.

Have you got a family travel bucket list? If not why not? Why not hop over to Amadeus.net and make a plan, share it with family members and get going. For me half the battle is getting started, once you decide to go somewhere and take the first step int searching, it gets real and exciting! Or…why not get inspired by other’s plans?

Amadeus.net is a non transactional site, but parent company Amadeus.com are an IT company who specialise in building software for booking sites so they will find you help you build the trip and find the best price, then you can simply click over to other sites and book everything.

Where else should I add? I feel like I barely scraped the surface here.

Are you a now or later kind of travel blogger?

I first used a portable wifi device in Africa, I arrived after a long overnight flight, an over excited travel blogger (most of my travels are over on A Residence) keen to start sharing my first impressions of Tanzania on social media. Remarkably the taxi driver handed me a tiny white plastic oval and within seconds I was sharing images from the car window.

Both of my trips to Africa with Comic Relief have been about live blogging, and they really gave me a taste for it. I think there’s something really different, immediate and engaging about live blogging/tweeting/instagramming your travels. I love it when my friends go away and I can see a window into their world through their social media. When they come back I feel more connected to their experience, so more interested in the rest of the holiday.

Okay, I admit sometimes it makes me feel a bit jealous, but I am travel hungry, I love the inspiration seeing other people’s travels gives me, the chance to be in their pocket, if only fleetingly. Travel blogging is a delicate art, getting the balance right so you don’t just annoy people. I don’t mind seeing a toe, knee or even a face selfie, as long as you don’t block out the sights completely – it is almost as if I want the proof you are actually there, not just some picture postcard shot, although I love them too.

Holidays have a shelf life. In real life people don’t often want to hear about it when you get back, it’s so last week. Your own memories, thoughts and feelings fade and I find that can come through in my writing. Post holiday blues, I feel sad to be home, my writing takes on an air of distance and desperation. I have to force myself to look at the pictures, to find the words, to take myself back there in my mind, it’s an effort. Reliving the journey can of course be the great thing about holiday pictures. But when I am away, well my writing flies free, sailing high and full of the joys. We always kept a scrapbook, then a journal as kids, and blogging fills that desire.

I’ve learnt from bitter experience to not let social media interrupt my holiday, especially when travelling with my kids, I snap to relish and compliment the real life moments, but now accept I don’t need to capture them all. I resist the temptation to share immediately, instead I bide my time and when the rest of my family are relaxing, I revisit my snaps and share some carefully chosen windows into my holiday world. Sometimes I get it wrong, too many cocktails, too many selfies…

This Summer I decided to keep Corfu pretty secret, it was amazing, but the weeks are passing by and memories are fading. It seems harder to blog about it the further it slips away…I need a date with my holiday snaps this week!

Obviously cost and access to wifi can be an issue too. It’s been while since I totally unplugged on holiday, but to be honest I am not sure it’s completely necessary, I accept actually having the time to share some images I really love and talk to people back home about travel, without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else, actually brings me a lot of pleasure.

All Day Internet created a device which works as portable WiFi. It means you can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, great for busy families who have laptops, phones, iPads, tablets, PSPs etc. They blogged here about WIFI in Valencia for tourists with AlldayInternet devices. The devices mean you will be able to surf the internet through the Spanish 3G network without paying exorbitant roaming costs.

How about you, do you share holiday pictures as you go, as soon as you get back, later on, or never at all?

Collaborative post

How to make blackberry and vanilla jam

blackberry and vanilla jam

Persil challenged us to make jam. I have always fancied it. But thought it must be hard. Turns out it is really, really easy and hugely satisfying and perhaps this was the best day spent at home of our summer holidays.

The day started on the old railway line, picking lots of blackberries. Then to the corner shop to buy sugar and back home to start jam making using a blackberry and apple jam recipe from Kimberley Wilson’s Jam Dual Recipes.

Blackberry and Vanilla Jam

Ingredients – blackberries, sugar, vanilla bean paste, 1 vanilla pod

1. 1kg of blackberries to 1 kg of fruit, you can make less or more but make sure you have only filled the pan one third full as jam rises when boiled.

blackberries in a pan

2, Add the sugar and cook on a gentle heat until dissolved.jam sugar

3, Turn up the heat and boil until the temperature reaches 106 degrees C.

I gave the kids an old flip cam to play with over the summer, they had great fun making silly films and recording their jam making exploits.

little vlogger

A thermometer is really handy as it tells you when the jam is jam hot! There are old school ways of doing this, but I am happy to pick those up as I go along.

jam thermometer

4, Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, at this point Kimblerley adds 1 tsp of vanilla paste, but we didn’t have any (our jam was still jamtastic!).

5, We had washed the jars in hot soapy water, rinsed them and used the microwave sterilisation method on the jars for speed and ease, but you have lots of options, and a quick google is all you need.

6, A jam funnel is really handy to get the warm jam into the warm jars. You can strain the jam through muslin, but we like fruit bits!

pouring hot jam

7, Add the vanilla pod, pressing it into the centre of the jam. Seal with a greaseproof disk and lid.

8, Store in a cool dark place and allow to sit for a month before use.

When the pan had cooled I let her taste it, as you can see she delighted in making a mess of her Persil apron.

jam tasting

They were genuinely fascinated to see if the Dual Action tablets (they contain stain remover and powder in one capsule) could get the stains out of their clothes and the apron and sat munching their sandwiches in front of the washing machine, until they realised it might take an hour.

watching the washing

Mr G loved making labels most, I asked him to make me a label that would remind me of our days in the Summer when we were back at school as the jam needs to rest for a month. Here he is deep in thought. I love what he came up with.

labelling our jam

We did cheat and use our jam the next day to sandwich a chocolate cake, the recipe is my mum’s easy chocolate sponge, I mixed the jam with Greek yogurt. You can see the lovely label, with Mr G’s family picture on the left, Miss L’s n the right says ‘Hands off My Jam’ which we spent the day singing to the tune of Pump Up the Jam. Happy days.

jam with labels and chocolate cake

UPDATE

We have since tasted the jam and it is out of this world. The flavour of the blackberries is so intense that it almost tastes like cherries. I haven’t tasted jam like it and I will never ever eat shop jam again.

And, you will be glad to know, the stains came out of the clothes and apron.

Thanks for making this a summer to remember Persil.

Our Summer in Stats

DSC06389

When we unpacked Miss L’s rucksack, a blue dolphin paddlepak which Trunki sent us at the start of the summer, it brought back some lovely memories and helped us to see our summer as a whole. The paddlepak is a great rucksack, it’s waterproof, easy to stuff, due to the wide opening, easy to roll down and close with a clip, and it has a handy pocket for a water bottle and a secret purse in the tail. Did I mention it is waterproof?

paddlepak from Trunki

Mr A last night said it felt like the first really exciting, proper summer holiday we’d had. We couldn’t put our finger on why, perhaps it’s the first when they’ve both been school kids, perhaps they are just at that magic age.  Mr G also loved his Trunki BoostApak and was a very grown up traveller, more on those here. They seemed grown up and ready for endless adventure this summer, perhaps that’s why I see this summer in stats!

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak and dolphin paddlepak

102 the number of times they made me listen to Nickleback‘s Rockstar in the car 

Fortunately no one has asked me to explain the mile high club, popping pills out of pez dispensers or playboy bunnies yet….

3 pilgrimages to our favourite place

1 hangover for me, more on that to come…blame Jen

1 child free weekend with the girls, more on that to come!

6 jars of blackberry jam made

1 bag of sloes picked while dens were made.

1 bottle of sloe gin still to be made.

8 apples scrumped from next door

1 apple pie made

16 years with Mr A and 9 years married

20 new things we learnt how to do at Camp Bestival

4 water slides tried at Aqualand, Corfu. Posts to come!

3 major tourist attractions tested in one day with the London Pass

2 nights spent in luxury at The Cavendish Hotel. 5 reasons to stay.

8 surprisingly simple new things learnt about photography on a blogger’s course in Birmingham

1 theme park

1 happy morning’s scrapbooking

summer holiday snaps

Countless arguments, but thanks to this next stat, they are getting easier to sort:

80,000 the number of people who saw my post on stopping sibling, or in fact any children’s arguments with six words. I now believe in Pinterest, I’ve never had a post do that before.

15 minutes school uniform shopping thanks to buying it too BIG last year.

back to school

So there it is, our summer in stats, back to school for this pair, and the Paddlepak will come into its own for swimming lessons too!

Linking up with Tara over at Sticky Finger’s The Gallery and with…

The Mad House

 

How was your summer? Hope it was lovely.

Trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak – for kids who are going places

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak

Mr G has felt a bit left out on the review front recently, so rather than further sabotage Princess Alexa Barbie reviews with Ken’s bottom, he was excited to be asked to trial the Trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak on our trip to Corfu. Plenty of recipes, style and travel inspiration coming soon from gorgeous Corfu both here and on A Residence, we stayed at the Corfu Club which was paradise, we organised the trip through On the Beach after winning this competition on A Residence.

The BoostApak is a rucksack and car booster combined. It is perfect for holidays, but also just as handy for kids who often take lifts with other family members or friends.

On our trip to Corfu we were in and out of taxis and our hire cars several times. It was great to know we already had a car seat and that it also doubles up as a rucksack. Airlines vary, but Ryan Air allowed this plus a Trunki as hand luggage, so that was G’s luggage for the week sorted without any hold baggage!

Miss L took her new dolphin paddlepak, latest in the paddlepak range, and her Moshi Trunki, the waterproof dolphin paddlepak came in really handy, not just for the flight, but for beach trips. It also folds down so I would be tempted to pop Mr G’s paddlepak in his BoostAPak or Trunki next time!

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak and dolphin paddlepak

There was no way round it, Mr G just knew how cool he was, the Lotus F1 Team logos and colour way of this Boostpak make it especially grown up and stylish.

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak on phone

 

He was happy to carry the bag for most of the journey, but we also found it sat nicely on top of our cases so was no hassle. It slipped neatly under his seat on the plane too.

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak as rucksack

Mr G is 5 and took great pleasure in flipping up the side rests and padded back rest, and converting the bag to his booster seat. It is an easy peasy manoeuvre. You can see the little red buttons in the picture below, just click them and the sides lift up, they then fold down under a  flap on the rucksack when not in use.

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak taxi greece

There was plenty of room for all his journey essentials inside and the tough exterior means games consoles, iPads etc (and bears) are well protected.

trunki Lotus F1 Team BoostApak inside

We are big fans of Trunki, we tested the cases on our trip to Miami,  and the paddlepaks to Camp Bestival.

trunki-paddlepak2

The more I travel, the more I believe that having the right luggage makes a huge difference to the experience, especially when you travel as a family!

Next I need a pashmina, and an upgrade. Mr G did us proud on the style front at Corfu airport though look, 5 going on 15…