31 Mar 2015

CLAWS at Sea Life Manchester

A new army of crustaceans, CLAWS, have touched down at Sea Life, Manchester from faraway Paris just in time for the Easter holidays. I was pleased to be one of the select few invited to attend the opening of this new exhibit. As the name suggests, CLAWS is all about animals with claws and shells. From a variety of crabs to shrimps, the exhibit also brings to the UK, Claude, a giant Tasmanian crab from Australia who is predicted to weigh a whopping 13.5 kg when fully grown.

As luck would have it, Claude was caught up in an immigration mix-up at Manchester airport and was in quarantine when we went visiting Sea Life. But all his compatriots had made it through airport security, and were snuggly housed in their new Mancunian home, ready to receive visitors.

30 Mar 2015

Animals Jigsaw and Sticker Book Review

My little J loves his books. If there is one other thing he loves more, it is sticker books. There is something fantastically soothing about trying to peel off a sticky-backed picture, handling it carefully as you try not to get it stuck to your clothes or the furniture and balancing it on your fingertips as you flick the book to find the right place to stick it.

One other thing J loves, perhaps as much as sticker books, is jigsaws. Unusually for a nearly 4-year old, the child can spend hours (I exaggerate, but definitely a good few minutes) pondering over the orientation and fit of jigsaw pieces.

Imagine his delight then, when Animals by Little Tiger Press came in the post for him to review. Animals brought together his two favourite pass-times, sticker books and jigsaws, in one snazzy carry-box. It was a surprise for me too, for you don't really expect a cardboard carry case when you are looking to review a book. But having a chunky jigsaw as a companion means that the sticker book too gets housed in a lovely container.

Animals Jigsaw and Sticker Book

29 Mar 2015

Rust-Oleum Dry Wipe, Chalkboard, Magnetic Paints

Anybody who knows me and has been following my blog for any length of time will know that I am a DIY novice who lacks any sort of DIY knowhow, but packs a lot of enthusiasm for the whole experience surrounding a DIY project.

So it was with abundant fervor that I took up the Rust-Oleum challenge to transform our home with a trio of novel paints - a Dry Wipe paint, a Chalkboard paint and a Magnetic primer.

Rust-Oleum Dry Wipe, Chalkboard, Magnetic Paints

26 Mar 2015

1/3rd Off Vichy and La Roche-Posay Skincare at ChemistDirect.co.uk

Are you somebody who does beauty regimes? Or are you, like me, a soap and water kind of person whose only beauty routine consists of making sure there are no remnants of sweat/grime/food stuck to her face. I honestly do not remember the last time I followed any sort of skincare regimen apart from the occasional slather of some random moisturiser when my skin felt especially dry. This is even before motherhood became an excuse to neglect my skin care.

Midlife is looming and years of neglect seem to be creeping up on me. The time might just be right to do something about all those sensitive, dry, rubescent patches of facial skin and get my complexion all aglow as I stand poised to enter the fifth decade of my life.

So off I go to take a look at what ChemistDirect.co.uk have to offer this March, and come across a range of savvy skin saviours that go by the name of Vichy and La Roche-Posay. What's better is that they are being offered at a third of their usual retail price throughout March. So you are making a tidy little saving of 34% per product, whether it is from the Vichy or the La Roche-Posay range.

25 Mar 2015

School Run Colours 25/03/2015 - Hide and Seek Adventure

School Run Colours

My son is now an age when imagination runs riot and there is a 'benture' (adventure) to be had around every corner from on the living room sofa to under the dining room table. Everyday happenings that grown-ups take for granted elicit intrigue and the questions flow thick and fast as he tries to make sense of the world around him. Add a vivid imagination and a keen sense of hearing to the mix and we have the perfect recipe to keep Mum on her toes trying to sort fact from fiction.

This is my first attempt at writing a fictional piece for children. Needless to say, it has been inspired by my son's current favourite obsessions. 

Pretty pink flowers all in a row
What is that hiding in the shadows
Of its boughs? 

Is it a fierce dinosaur 
with a roar strong and loud
Or a little red squirrel 
digging for nuts in the ground 

Is it a wise old wizard
in a cloak and pointy hat
Or a crooked cackling witch
with a green and black cat

Is it a big giant spaceship 
with friendly aliens on board
Or a king in his castle
fighting battles with a sword

Is it a fierce snarling dog
hunting for a chewy bone
Or a teenie tiny dragonfly 
hovering like a drone

Is it a scary ghost train
chuffing all around
Or a digger-turned-helicopter
Transformers abound!

Is it an enormous monster
with three eyes and a snotty nose
Or a huge hungry 'helephant'
that eats a pink rose

What secrets lurk under 
the shadows of these boughs
Come and join us 
on an adventure to explore.

These are my School Run Colours for this week. If you are new to the School Run Colours linky, you can read all about it here, including how to link up. 

Grab the Badge: 
School Run Colours

Prose for Thought


24 Mar 2015

Honey Monster Puffs Review

We did not get the opportunity to meet the Honey Monster on its tour of the UK. But we did get to try out the newly redeveloped Honey Monster Puffs breakfast cereal.

Honey Monster Puffs

23 Mar 2015

Pisamonas Shoes Review

Spring is in the air, and if the glorious sunny weekend is anything to go by, summer is set to be a scorcher. Well, fingers crossed it will be. The onset of spring means I need to get my son's wardrobe sorted in anticipation of balmy summer afternoons spent in the garden, in the park or on the beach.

I bought him shorts, hats and t-shirts and was on the lookout for some nice footwear, when the lovely people at Pisamonas got in touch with an offer to review their products. I had never purchased shoes for J from an online store before, so was interested in trying out the Pisamonas service.

18 Mar 2015

School Run Colours 18/03/15

School Run Colours
A haiku inspired by this photo captured on this week's school run.

Leaden grey morning 
The burden of clustered buds
On a broken bough

These are my School Run Colours for this week. If you are new to the School Run Colours linky, you can read all about it here, including how to link up. 

Grab the Badge: 
School Run Colours

16 Mar 2015

Play at Brewers Fayre at the Old Brickworks

Last Saturday saw us visit the Old Brickworks in Drighlington near Bradford for a Play at Brewers Fayre event. The building was used as a brickworks for nearly 100 years before being converted into a pub to house Brewers Fayre. I am one for a bit of history, and the old chimney sticking out into the sky made for charming first impressions.

Play at Brewers Fayre at the Old Brickworks 

14 Mar 2015

Mother's Day

My son came home from school yesterday clutching this in his little hands. 

I do not have the words to describe the emotions that swept over me in that instant when I held it in my hand and clasped him to my heart, my eyes brimming with tears as I bent down to kiss his little head.

When asked by his teacher, my four year old could have said he loves me because I give him sweeties or take him to the park or buy him toys. But he chose to say this. "...because she gives me kisses and cuddles when I go to bed." 

I could not have asked for a better present for Mother's Day. So simple and yet so precious that all the wealth in the world pales in comparison. It gave me a sense that perhaps I was doing something right after all in this most difficult of tasks of bringing up my son and doing right by him with every ounce of my being.

11 Mar 2015

School Run Colours 11/03/15 - Daffodils

School Run Colours

Spring would not be spring without daffodils. My first introduction to Daffodils was during English lessons at school. From the moment I read the poem, I was hooked. William Wordsworth had me under his spell with his description of golden daffodils dancing in the sunshine.

A few years ago I had the incredible good fortune of walking along the shores of Lake Ullswater in the Lake District. It was so much more than a mere lakeside walk. I was walking in the footsteps of the great Poet Laureate himself, reliving the inspiration sparked by thousands of yellow daffodils swaying in the breeze.

We then headed over to Grasmere in Cumbria to pay homage to one of the greatest romantic poets that ever lived. Visiting Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, two properties steeped in Wordsworth history, was like going on a pilgrimage to the birth-place of the romantics. Ironical, for the romantics would have frowned at the idea of a sacred pilgrimage. Nevertheless, my heart was at peace, a dream fulfilled.

Daffodils. Simple flowers. Weeds in the wilderness, even. And yet, so richly exemplifying romanticism in English literature. The world is the richer for such a gift.

These are my School Run Colours for this week. If you are new to the School Run Colours linky, you can read all about it here, including how to link up.

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School Run Colours


10 Mar 2015

Sooty ABC - Learn the Alphabet DVD Review and Giveaway

When I was little, we learned the letters of the alphabet the traditional way, learning the names of the letters rather than the sound they make. We had very limited access to audio-visual aids, so all learning was book based. We started with A is for apple and went all the way to Z is for zoo, looking at pictures of things as we went along. I don't have enormously pleasant memories of the experience. It felt like studying.

I look at J now, tackling the alphabet at nursery school. And I love the phonetic approach being used where he is learning the sound each letter makes before learning what it is called. They are being shown everyday objects that begin with a particular sound, they are singing alphabet songs and making marks in sand trays as part of the play-based learning experience. And my heart is glad. For J is enjoying his learning journey.

This brings me to a lovely little learning aid featuring the well-loved characters from The Sooty Show. The Sooty ABC - Learn the Alphabet DVD.

Sooty ABC - Learn the Alphabet DVD

The Sooty Alphabet DVD is a fun way to introduce little ones to the alphabet and it supports the Early Years Curriculum as well. 

Sooty, Sweep, Soo and Richard embark on an adventure full of fun and mayhem as they make their way through all the letters of the alphabet. The gang visit Wookey Hole near Wells in Somerset and find themselves in a race against time to find things that represent every letter from A to Z.

There are lots of gags and slapstick humour all the way through that are sure to keep little ones enthralled as they develop early literacy skills.

There are lots of bonus features packed in too. The DVD houses three classic episodes from the Sooty TV series along with a printed A-Z poster and printable worksheets.

My J has fallen in love with Sooty and ends up singing the alphabet song with Sooty at the end every time he watches the DVD. I am pleased with how the storyline has been developed and embodies the essence of fun and play-based learning.

You can also be in with a chance of winning a Sooty ABC Learn the Alphabet DVD. Just enter via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of this DVD for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

9 Mar 2015

Train and Zip It - Books by Little Tiger Press

We celebrated World Book Day last week, so it is only apt that we should be reviewing a couple of lovely children's books by Little Tiger Press this week. Not that we need an excuse to read books in the C-house.

First up is a cute little board book called Train written by Judi Abbot. This award winning title was available in paperback, but is now available as a board book due to popular demand. Quite rightly too. The audience it is aimed for means that it is more likely to survive in its current hard board format.

Train by Little Tiger Press
For here is a book that is certainly going to be a hot favourite with little ones if my J's reaction is anything to go by. We have had a reading every day since he first set eyes on the book. By the way, Train is the one word J can now sound out and write down all by himself (other than his own name, of course). So he knew what the book was about even before we had read it.

8 Mar 2015

Use Your #PowerToSwitch

What would you do if you had an extra £200 jangling around in your pocket? I would put it towards a holiday. Or an extra special day-out for all the family with a nice meal thrown in.

Something as simple as switching your energy provider could bring you savings of up to £200 a year. You heard it, I did say it was simple. Switching times have now been cut in half to about 17 days, down from 5 weeks last year. The tariffs and discounts have been streamlined and the pricing structure simplified.

Moreover, the government is promoting the #PowerToSwitch campaign and encouraging new suppliers into the energy market. So now you have 27 independent suppliers to choose the best deal from via www.BeAnEnergyShopper.com


4 Mar 2015

Mr Strong Costume for World Book Day

We are huge fans of the Mr Men in the C-house. So it came as no surprise that when it was time to choose a character to dress up as on the occasion of World Book Day, my little J turned to the one he truly adores. Mr Strong.

I had tried taking the easier route out by showing him pirates and tigers and all sorts on the internet, in the hope that he would choose one of those as his outfits for what is to be his first World Book Day costume. But J was having none of it. The frugal trait, which is so dominant in both his parents, seems to have found its way into my little boy after all. Unbeknownst to him, his choice of Mr Strong was to save me a small fortune in an otherwise expensive expedition aka picking a costume for World Book Day.

Mr Strong Costume for World Book Day

For Mr Strong was nowhere to be found. Not on the internet, and certainly not in the shops. So all that was left to be done was for me to resort to some DIY and create the look at home.

School Run Colours 04/02/15 - Writer's Block

School Run Colours

I sit blank, poised over sheets
Waiting for ideas to splash 
Out in a stream unending
Painting a picture of dreams
Pondering over the next letter
Choking on the stuck syllable
Wondering what mark to make
What is it I wish to create
Seeking the spark to guide 
My hand over paper to write
The story waiting to unfurl 
Listless clouds in blue skies 
Framing the last remnants 
Bleeding red on thorny spikes 
The words ring hollow 
Yet sound so true
Coming from a place 
Further away than I care to
Remember the reality of
The waiting
For the words to flow
In an endless stream.

These are my School Run Colours for this week. If you are new to the School Run Colours linky, you can read all about it here, including how to link up. 

Grab the Badge:

School Run Colours

Prose for Thought



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