Book Update – I did have fun!

Have just updated the cover and information for ‘A Practical Guide to Storytelling:for large and small groups’.

This update means that you will now be able to purchase this title on Amazon in print format as well as kindle – which is still in the old format. Please have a look and let me know what you think.

The original cover was all black which I have now changed to green – yes, it’s a bit different and takes a little getting used to.

I did have a great time playing with all the colours ( I’m such a child ) and almost went with the deep purple – luckily I caught hold of my senses before I clicked on ‘save’!

Here’s the link:


The New Books are Out!

I’m very proud to announce the publication of two new books and both are available in e-book format.

Experience Books Like a Baby
These simple steps will open up a whole new world of literacy, fun and laughter for you and your baby. Designed for use with babies under 12 months, the information will assist parents, grandparents and care-givers to enjoy regular story-times with young babies and will offer tips and suggestions for professionals that will allow young babies to explore in comfort and safety the many opportunities that books and stories provide


Breathe Life into Your Family History
A new take on an old concept. Build a family history that lives and breathes, that truly reflects the past, encompasses the present and lays a solid foundation for the future. A family history case or box will fascinate, surprise and unite your family in a truly unique and interactive way.

Stay tuned, brand new e-Books are on their way

Just to let everyone know that I will shortly be producing a range of ‘How to…’ e-books on 2 main topics.

The first series will compliment my ‘Practical Guide to Storytelling’ where I will break the chapters down and add further practical examples and up-to-date information.

The second series is a new subject but one I am passionate about, Social and Family History. This set of e-books will outline ways to expand and extend your family history to incorporate a range of technologies and presentation methods that will engage a wider audience far into the future.

After this, I intend to update my ‘Classical Music for Young Children’ book adding practical examples and suggestions for parents, carers and teachers

So stay tuned

Helen V


And It’s Off To Church We Go – Again!



As you can tell from the title and pictures, this post is all about the churches and we are currently up to 4 in 7 days – I guess that’s what happens when you lose 3 members of your immediate family within 6 months, the urge to go to church is very strong. Having said that, the experience here is definitely highlighted by the magnificence of the churches and cathedrals that we have seen, with each visit being to various locations around Paris. I have already posted photos and details of Notre Dame but I have to say that the smaller churches ( and I use the word smaller very loosely ) are every bit as magnificent in their own ways.

We were, of course, determined to find the Church of Saint Genevieve ( the photos above were taken from there ). This is the church that we found by accident on our last visit in April this year that left such a lasting impression that Beth took the name of Genevieve as her confirmation name.  As you can see, the interior of the church is every bit as lovely as the larger, more well known. The tomb pictured is the actual Sarcophagus in which Saint Genevieve was originally interred ( her remains were later cremated and spread across the Seine ). This minor detail doesn’t stop the faithful from honouring this relic – the sarcophagus did hold her remains after-all, and the church is a very popular as well as beautiful one.

We also managed to find a little church in central Paris whilst shopping – as you do! We wandered in just in time for mass – it also coincided with the day of Dad’s funeral in Australia so felt like it  was meant to be. This little church was very quiet, the people were obviously local and many were holding rosary beads, something we hadn’t noticed in the other, slightly more international churches. Plus the atmosphere and ‘picture’ presented inside this church was an interesting contrast to the rampant capitalism going on outside! Can’t remember the name of this church, we weren’t expecting to visit and there were a number of beggars outside that we had to try not to fall over on the way out – but we certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.

The last church we visited ( so far, I have a feeling there will be more ) is connected to the Church Of Saint Genevieve. This church is within walking distance of where we are staying so was perfect for Sunday Mass.  Of course we managed to choose the time again for the French mass ( difficult to get out of bed when there is no light until 9.30am )! Basically, this means that there is plenty of time for thought and gazing around at the lovely surroundings – not me of course, I was concentrating!

One thing that all these churches have in common, regardless of age ( and some are very old ), wealth of the area, physical size, patronage ( and the French sing more than we do ), the churches are all magnificent. Intricate wood, marble and stone carvings, amazing stained glass windows, beautiful altars and alcoves plus murals, paintings and statues depicting saints and stories that cannot fail to simply inspire.  And then there is the Church organ, always playing loud and proud from above. 

For us, with the year that we have had, these churches have truly made a difference to the beginning of our trip when we were all a bit heart sore. They have welcomed us, rallied our spirits, allowed us to grieve in our own ways and inspired us. We have been awed, amazed and truly impressed.     

Christmas Day in Paris



Well the aches and pains of the first day are over and some semblance of daily life has started to kick in – sort of.

Christmas Day dawned at 3.30am ( still haven’t adjusted to the new time zone ) where we all woke up full of life and Christmas. We soon discovered that Paul and I had actually managed to squirrel away presents for everyone that was a total surprise because we both thought that we had the jump on each other – we don’t sound competitive do we?

Beth received – roll-on Xmas soap that she hasn’t had since she was 3 making her laugh and nostalgic at the same time ( first point to mum ), then she got an Irish Cladder ring ( family tradition ) so 1 point each since we chose that together and then she received a One Direction DVD – damn! Daddy wins

Paul received – an Ipod already loaded with his music ( thanks Hannah ) plus some extra music from one of his favourite artists ( thanks again Hannah ) – he was blown away and it took him totally by surprise which is very hard to do – so, Hannah wins!

I received – a crossword puzzle book ( love these so well done Paul ) and Prince’s biography, thanks Beth and yes it was a great choice so she decided that she officially won all the necessary points for the day!! He he he.

After that we had tea and croissant for breakfast then we all went back to bed – Christmas morning has never been this simple and relaxed ( or early ) before.

Sometime later, it’s time for church. We head over to Notre Dame ( see how casually I said that – not pretentious at all ) for the 11 o’clock international mass. We were there in time for the end of the solemn mass ( we thought that might be a bit too much for Beth ) and took some good pics of the Archbishop as he came out at the end with all the pomp and ceremony necessary for us to feel that we hadn’t actually missed anything. Then we all filed in for the next mass which was – amazing. Conducted in various parts in English and French, the African priest had the most melodic sounding voice ( in either language ), the choir was powerful and the church organ loud and proud from above. The effect was entrancing and the fact that we couldn’t understand the words meant nothing – we knew the service of course, but the church, the overwhelming feelings that it inspired and the large number of cultural groups all coming together to celebrate Christmas was awesome – this is a Christmas that we’ll never forget.

Afterwards we wandered around a little – not the ‘my feet hurt” type of wander, just a lovely stroll around and a couple of metro trips to get back. Time for another short snooze! 

After this it was time to start preparing Christmas dinner. I took the chicken that we had purchased the day before out only to find it was off – big time. The smell was so bad that it was obvious that the poor animal had died twice – once at the hands of the butcher and once in the fridge! So, Christmas dinner is off – in more ways than one. Is this a Christmas Day disaster? Not really – we are all still seriously jet lagged and if honest, not particularly hungry, so no big deal. We made do with baguette, cheese, gherkins and ham for the grown ups and nutella and baguette for Beth. Then time for bed again. Happy Christmas!

We’re Here – in Paris

We’re here at last – it’s Christmas Eve, it’s cold, it’s raining solidly, it’s Paris – and it’s wonderful!

Day 1

Supposed to be about jetlag and sleeping right? Wrong! Anyone who knows Paul, knows that won’t happen. He took off to re-discover the local shops whilst we unpacked to the strains of One Direction ( I really need to ‘lose’ her I-pod ).

Once he returned, we went out to have a look at the famous Christmas markets at the Champs Ellysee. These markets go from one end, up both sides of the road with the L’Arc de Triomph at the top – so the plan was to go all the way up one side and then down the other – simple right? Hardly – you forget we have a Paul!

So, the first stall we see sells hot spiced wine, manage to buy one and understand that if I return to glass to any other stall selling the same stuff, I get 1 euro back – not happening, it’s a cute cup and I am after souvenirs. Walking slowly amongst the stalls, I find I have finished the wine – it goes down reeeeal smooth and I’m feeling very warm and cosy. At the next wine stall, I ask if I can re-use the cup – not only do I get a re-fill for the original price I paid but I get 1 euro back ( I still have the cup so not sure they are winning or not ). Don’t care, still warm and getting happier by the second. So that’s how things progressed. Don’t forget, we had two sides of the street to explore. I stopped counting wines ( or trying to understand the ‘still have the cup but getting 1 euro back each time thing ) at 3, Beth stopped counting at 5 and Paul says he stopped at 6 – no way I had that many, honest!. We also had … 1 fairy floss that was bigger than Beth’s entire head, 1 giant sized hotdog ( don’t know what the sausage was as it came in 3 types and 2 colours – we had plain, inside the longest baguette roll I’ve ever seen with sauce, called ketchup ). We shared this between all three of us and it was lovely. Paul also had roasted chestnuts and Beth a cup of hot chocolate – and no I can’t imagine that her warmth was the same as mine at all! We walked around the monument with Paul explaining the history as we went ( he’s better than a tour guide ) before heading down the other side of the street for the rest of the markets.

Time to head home – only now we need the Metro – hmmm, didn’t need it before. Paul’s wearing his ‘I’m exploring face’ which bodes ill for us because we know it can go on for hours. Paris at this time of year is wonderful. Lots of people, lots of music ( all carols ), bustling activity, pretty lights and general happy feelings – not just me and the wine either, everyone is in a good mood around us with plenty of other sightseers taking photos, laughing in groups and couples holding hands – awww. So, another 2 hours goes by in a happy but now slightly painful for our feet blur. Beth and I start quietly singing the ‘my feet hurt’ song under our breaths and taking it in turns to lean on the other – she’s tall enough now that we can both lean on each other which is nice.

Back on the Metro and Paul gives into our pleas about being tired and sore and says he’ll take us home – yay! More Metro and walking, another 1 and half hours later and we are having trouble believing the ‘we are going home, I promise’ thing. More shops ( we’re not actually buying anything, just looking because Paul can’t stay still for very long, I might add ) and the wine is wearing off. Beth is now hanging off me like I’m a coat rack and all we can see is the bobbing black hat racing ahead of us so fast that I’m worried we’ll lose it. Then I realize that we just got off the train that would have taken us to the Place Monge, where even I know we need to be in order to go home and our singing about our feet is now murderous – um desperate. Then Beth realizes where we were supposed to be and that the train we were on actually went where she wanted to go and that Daddy got off it – who needs a crabby wife when we have a tired child in tow, who now knows where she is and that it’s not where she wants to be! She’s now walking like a drunken sailor her feet hurt so much and she’s so tired she can’t see straight, she’s crying and very cranky and I’m pretty sure she swore. Just as well I make the perfect coat rack for hanging off because I like being the good parent for a change. So we get on the Metro again, this time in the right direction

Finally within walking distance of the apartment and still no food for Christmas Day ( apparently this was the original mission ). Beth and I go home – even I know where to go now! We have been out for 6.5 hours with no food or water in the last 4.5 hours of that time. Paul goes off to find food and we don’t expect him back anytime soon. A hot shower and pyjamas is looking good.

He comes back an hour later with stuff to make Christmas dinner and Christmas Eve presents – we totally love him  again! The presents are as follows ;-

Beth – a One Direction onesie which is very cute and has the faces of the boys suitably( or is that unsuitably ) placed over her bosom. She thinks it’s hilarious and the colours suit her down to the ground. It has a very convenient flap at the back

Paul – a grey onesie with a hood that looks like a tracksuit so very civilized and has a zip all down the front for convenience. He looks amazingly good in this which is so wrong because onsies are supposed to look uncool

Helen – mine is a light blue and very pretty until you realize that the images are of Tinkerbell with very nerdy glasses on! Hmmm, do I detect a little fun making here? Mine has buttons – very small buttons, all the way up the front that makes for absolutely no convenience whatsoever when you have to take the whole outfit off – did he not get that it’s winter here! Then Beth convinced me to take a look at myself in the full length mirror – believe me, you soooo don’t want to know! Merry Christmas Eve!

Finally, we discover that the computers won’t deliver films or TV, the TV only does the news in English and we have plenty of food for tomorrow but nothing for today! Our brains are definitely in holiday mode. Beth eats half a bag of corn chips and half a jar of salsa and heads for bed, Paul has some crackers and gherkins and cheese and I have tea and toast before heading to bed – it’s now 8pm!!

What can I say? We are in Paris and it is still amazing!

At 3 in the morning, Beth’s snoring, Paul’s reading and I’m typing. By now, it’s 6am and both Beth and Paul are snoring and I’m still typing and wondering how I’m going to get up for church in the morning.

But still in Paris, it’s still amazing and tomorrow is Christmas – YAY!

Merry Christmas everyone – and I’ll keep you all posted.

Stories and Grief

Having lost two members of my immediate family recently, I have had occasion to consider grief and the effects that this has on all of us. I have seen how grief affects everyone so differently and have truly worried about how this affects young children.

My questions to myself were … what do I do? How do I deal with this? How do I help my child and my husband with their grief as well? In the end, it came down to what do I do best, that can help?

The answer was ‘Stories’. We are always told that communication is the key, that we must talk about our feelings and express our grief in some way. Not everyone is capable of doing this. Men often don’t have the words that will effectively express their thoughts and feelings, they are taught ( or believe ) that this in some way weakens them, children also may have difficulty speaking up or even wanting to, hoping that it will all just go away.

Stories; however, are different. They are easier to present in spoken or even written form because they don’t directly deal with ‘feelings’ or complicated concepts. Stories may be related in first person or not, depending on the ability or sensitivity of each person. Stories can be funny, sad, recent or drawn from the past and these remembrances may be articulated without the guilt that speaking in such a way is somehow wrong – it’s only a story, not a statement or personal belief or even a condemnation. Stories may even assist by allowing people to gradually take the steps through all the stages and levels of grief.

In our case, the stories were all personal. Every member of the family had a story to share, many stories interconnected so one or two of us could contribute extra information or laugh or cry at different perspectives, thus bringing us closer together. We rediscovered times and places, holidays, Christmases, girlie shopping trips, childhood games … the list goes on ( and on )!

 Storytelling is a natural part of communication. Children relate the events of the day, funny ( or frustrating ) things that happened in class or the playground. Adults also share the days events, their conversations with workmates, their child/young adulthood antics and plans for the future. This style of storytelling  allows everyone, regardless of age, ability, language. culture or embarrassment level to be able to bring some kind of a story to the table.

These family stories have brought our family together, although we live geographically apart. Extended family, with their own stories, have been able to contribute, express their own grief and bond over each tale. These stories provided the material for two of the most amazing eulogies that were able to appeal to every person at both funerals, regardless of their age, relationship with the deceased and would have been highly appreciated by both of our departed family members as well.

Stories also bring us comfort, they provide real, tactile examples of shared love and experience. Children , particularly, rely on these connections in order to maintain their equilibrium with the  necessary changes that death and the resulting grief that comes with it. Stories will also provide for continuance and an accessible platform for understanding the changes, ways to adapt to new conditions within new family relationships and a format for them to find their own place in the new scenario.

To this end, we have laughed, cried, been angry and rolled our eyes. We have spoken of our feelings ( this is where most of the eye rolling happens ) and we have agreed to understand the need for space, silence, angry outbursts and  the need for the odd shoulder massage! 

Thank God for stories! Without them, this process would have been so much more complex, there would have been less understanding and little communication. Instead, we do have our grief but we know that we can work through it together, in our own unique ways for however long it takes.