ShareAware from the NSPCC

Around a year ago, I wrote about choosing to give my then 8 year old an iPod Touch – it’s since become the most popular post on the blog by far, particularly in the run up to Christmas when I guess many parents were facing this same dilemma. And in fact we were facing it all over again ourselves – my girl in the middle (age seven) is now the very proud owner of her own iPod also.

Until recently, I’ve been fairly confident in my ability to police tactfully supervise the use of internet enabled devices – I tend to be pootling about nearby when the kids are online; I have set the devices up to only access age appropriate apps and content; and Google and Youtube are also set to safe search to give another layer of security. Realistically I know that I won’t be able to maintain this level of supervision as the kids get older, a point driven home when my eldest came home from school last term and informed me he’d need to borrow my laptop to log on to the gaming/social networking site he’d signed up for on the class computer earlier that day.

I’d never heard of the site in question, though after some research I’m cautiously ok with it under fairly strict conditions. However the experience served to highlight a couple of things to me – firstly that despite considering myself social media savvy, I am actually completely out of date as far as being aware of what’s popular with kids and teenagers; secondly although I can and do supervise his online access at home, I can’t expect that he will have an equivalent level of supervision elsewhere, even at school.

Given that I can’t wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from the world for, like, EVER (sob), AND that I seem to be horribly out of date (and there was me thinking I was all down with da kidz – I mean I’m on Instagram and everything!!) I was really pleased when the NSPCC contacted me about their new #shareaware campaign. It’s aimed at parents with children ages 8-12, to help them support their kids to use the internet safely; it includes a parents guide which offers general, sensible and realistic advice for parents, and there’s a section on ‘Talking Tips’ which I found particularly useful for suggesting ways to open conversations about staying safe online.

#Shareaware also addresses the biggest problem that we face as adults – staying up to date with the vast number of apps, games and sites that young people use to communicate with each other. There’s a brilliant guide called Netaware where you can search by name, by popularity, and even by the colour of an icon – and once you have identified the app you want to know more about, there is a wealth of detailed information available, including:

  • how young people use the app, and why they like it
  • how easy or otherwise it is to find/change privacy settings
  • how likely it is that a child will come across inappropriate content
  • safety advice for parents and children using the app
  • Other similar or related apps.

I’ve seen various other online guides for parents, and none have been as comprehensive and user friendly as Netaware; and the great thing is that the content on the site is being continuously reviewed so that as quick as these pesky new apps get popular, us dinosaur parents will be able to get with the programme! And let’s face it, the internet isn’t going anywhere, so getting with the programme is the best chance we have of making sure our kids enjoy the digital age for everything that’s brilliant about it, rather than get caught up in a situation they can’t handle.

If your kids are online in any shape or form, I’d highly recommend a browse through Netaware, as well as the other #shareaware resources from the NSPCC – and I’d love to hear what you think about this, or other parent friendly tools for safe online use, below!

Building Control

Now that my Dad has plumbed in the cylinder-that-means-we-can-lose-the-water-tank (which, by the way, has transformed our rather limp shower into a veritable POWERJET, happy days!) I have been getting my head around what we need to do to get our work approved by Building Control. This isn’t the same thing as getting planning permission – though it’s only now that I’m dealing with it that I have fully understood the difference. I figured it might be useful to do a quick post on this in case anyone out there is starting a project of their own in the New Year – see how good I am to you?

Basically, planning permission (in the context of a house reconfiguration) deals with the external appearance of the development and its impact on the surroundings. Building Control deals with making sure that fire safety  and environmental regulations are adhered to, both for layout and materials, and that the plans are structurally safe. I haven’t been that interested in this side of the project so far, until it dawned on me that ‘structurally safe’ actually means ‘will not fall down join the middle of Sunday Lunch’.  Oh, see, NOW I’m interested – NOTHING comes between me and my roasties!

So, the good news is I now understand the importance of Building Control – and the bad news is that this means hiring a structural engineer (for a loft conversion, this can cost anywhere between between £300-£1,000). His/her role is to look at the architectural plans in conjunction with the existing structure of the house, and to provide a detailed plan, backed up by calculations, for the builders to work from.

At this stage, the overall costs can change quite drastically as the structural engineer’s calculations will dictate how much steel is needed for your project. Unless you’re very lucky, you’ll need at least a couple of steels put in to take the load away from existing joists; you may need more depending on the details of your conversion – we do because we’ve included a large dormer.

Once your Structural Engineer has made their recommendations and you’ve cried a bit at the price of all the steel, you will need to submit the plans and calculations to your local authority for approval before you start building. This is generally a much quicker process than applying for planning permission but guess what – it also comes with a cost – for our loft we are looking at between £400-£500. Huzzah!!!! It’s the throwing money out the window game!

When you submit the plans, you have a choice between asking for a full inspection or a ‘Building Notice’. Both options cost the same but if you are in a hurry, the ‘Building Notice’ route means you will be able to start work within a couple of days, whereas the full inspection will take longer – as the name implies, this will involve a detailed check of the plans along with a visit to your property, before approval is granted.

A note of caution here – if you start work on a Building Notice, you will still have in-progress inspections of the work; if at any point the Building Control Officer is unhappy with the work from a technical/safety/structural point of view, you will have to undo what’s been done and redo it to the appropriate specifications – this can add time, costs and tears to the process. Whereas if you go for the full inspection, and then stick to the approved plans, there is no risk of having to pull out the work already done – unless, I guess, something majorly unforeseen occurs but let’s not think about that!

Because we’ve taken such a long time to get to this point so a few more weeks don’t seem to matter, and because our house has some idiosyncrasies, AND  because we absolutely CANNOT afford the risk of taking stuff apart to redo it, we have decided to go for the full inspection up front – if it is straightforward, and if the Party Wall Agreements go smoothly (more on these at a later date…) we could be looking at a January start!

More soon….

Purple Poppadom, Cardiff – Review

One of the really lovely things about this blogging lark is that sometimes, extra special treats come your way, and one such treat appeared on the horizon recently when the Millennium Hotel Group asked me to pick my favourite thing to do in Cardiff for their popular Millennium Guide.

I did think long and hard (well, for about 30 seconds) about choosing a family experience that we could enjoy with the kids, since this blog is technically mostly about them. But then the voice of reason pointed out that this might be a perfect opportunity for the Husband and I to actually spend some time together, in a date night type fashion. Get us!

It didn’t take long to choose our favourite Cardiff activity – we both love eating out (or used to, before it became a wallet busting test of logistics, patience and endurance) and we both love Indian food. There’s no shortage of excellent curry houses in Cardiff but our absolute favourite is Chef Anand George’s award winning ‘The Purple Poppadom‘, which has been reviewed in glowing terms by Jay Rayner for the Observer among others, and which also gained a spot in the 2014 Michelin Guide.

If you’re visiting Cardiff, the Purple Poppadom is right in the middle of what Jay Rayner called ‘the endearingly scuffed Canton district’.  Very handy indeed for us endearingly-scuffed type people who live in Canton,  however it’s also an easy 20 minute walk from the centre of town, and well worth the trip. And what better than a brisk walk to set you up for the feast that awaits you!

The à la carte menu is a mixture of familiar sounding dishes along with more unusual options, and seafood is strongly represented, not least in Chef Anand’s signature dish, Tiffin Seabass. I’m indecisive with food choices at the best of times, however help was at hand with the newly introduced 5 course Christmas Tasting Menu which offered a mouthwatering range of dishes, along with suggestions for the best wine to match each course – great if (like me) you’re nervous with a wine list!

Our amuse-bouche (delicious) was followed by Tiffin Cup Hake – named for being the dish that won the prestigious Tiffin Cup earlier this year. The hake was served delicately balanced on a bed of tapioca mash, surrounded by a coconut and smoked tamarind sauce, and a petite naan that literally melted in the mouth – it was a million miles from any naan I have tasted before!

A platter of tandoori chicken, curried lamb ball, pig’s tenderloin sheekh and Bombay Chat followed – this sounds an overwhelming dish but in fact the portions are the perfect size for enjoying the different tastes and textures; the dish was complemented by another petite naan, this one laced with garlic.

The penultimate dish was Varutharachia Beef, served with rice and thoran – the latter is a sort of dry curry made with cabbage, carrot and coconut. Light, crunchy and flavoursome, this offered a perfect contrast to the richness of the beef; I enjoyed it so much that I’ve even found a recipe so I can give it a go at home for my packed lunches – not that my efforts will be anywhere near as special as Chef Anand’s but hey, a girl can dream!

Though the five course menu is undoubtedly a lot more food than I’d ever usually eat in one sitting, the sensible spacing of the courses meant that we were still able to do justice to the final course – and wow, what a final course it was! Have a look at the picture at the end of the post – in case you’re wondering, that is in fact a triangle shaped bomb of chocolate ganache – flanked by a crême brulée and a piece of tandoori pineapple – oh my goodness, perfection on a plate.

At this point Chef Anand popped out to say hello – I must admit to being a little starstruck by this! I needn’t have been nervous – like the whole Purple Poppadom team, he was absolutely lovely, and was very keen to know our thoughts on the new menu, particularly whether we thought that five courses was the right amount for a meal. I was amazed to learn that due to customer demand, a seven course menu was also available – I honestly do not think I could have managed another mouthful, let alone another two courses!

An evening at The Purple Poppadom is so much more than a curry.  It’s a very special treat indeed, and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Cardiff. And if you live here, and you’ve not visited yet, then take it from me – you’re missing out!


Purple Poppadom Cardiff

**Disclosure – Millennium Hotels and The Purple Poppadom invited me to a meal in exchange for an honest writeup for the Millennium Guide to Cardiff**