Saturday, 23 August 2014

Book review - On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah and Benji Davies

On Sudden Hill cover

On Sudden Hill, published on 28th August 2014 by Simon & Schuster, is a new story from from Linda Sarah, illustrated by Benji Davies. It's a story about friendship, childhood and emotion, and accepting someone new.

On Sudden Hill Linda Sarah

The story follows Birt and Etho, best friends that take their cardboard boxes up to Sudden Hill every day and have all sorts of imaginary adventures. But then one day they meet Shu, who has found a big box and the courage to ask if he can play too. Birt isn't quite sure, and it isn't long before he begins to feel left out and then refuses to come out to play any more. But Etho and Shu haven't forgotten about him, and they've been busy making things out of cardboard...

On Sudden Hill Benji Davies

Conflicts with childhood friendships is something that I would imagine all children have to deal with at some point, if not at several points. Two friends that are close can find it very difficult when a third child appears on the scene. So I think that this is a wonderful book to share with young children. The message is that although just having one friend is great, when you introduce more children you can widen your experiences and have a lot more fun together. It's a lovely book to share with children to help them deal with these issues. It's also a beautiful and simple read, with enchanting illustrations. 

I received a copy of this book to review.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Manchester - What to do?

Manchester activities with the family
Manchester Cathedral from Blackfriars Bridge

You are planning a visit to Manchester; there is plenty to do to keep the whole family entertained, with lots of family friendly attractions and museums. I've picked out a few which I think look fantastic for some family fun.

When you visit a new city, a good way to orientate yourself and make sure that you don't miss anything is to take a guided tour, and in Manchester you can take an Open Top Bus Tour around the city. The tour takes two hours and is accompanied by a local guide, visiting sites in both the city centre and surrounding districts.

Even if you've never visited Manchester before you are bound to have heard of Old Trafford Football Stadium, the home of Manchester United.

Manchester Old Trafford Stadium
Old Trafford -

There's a museum you can visit which is free until the end of August, and for an additional £18 you can book a tour of the stadium which allows you to visit the home dressing room, the tunnel and the Manager's seat in the dugout. It's a little way out of the city centre, so if you are planning a visit have a look at Hotel Direct for details of hotels nearby.

Football fans would enjoy combining a visit to Old Trafford with a trip to the National Football Museum. Located in the city centre, entrance is free but you can purchase credit to take part in Football Plus+ activities, with some hi-tech experiences for older children like a Penalty Shootout and a Match of the Day Commentary Challenge. Younger visitors can enjoy the Discovery Zone aimed at children aged 5 and under, and there are interactive objects and games throughout the museum. There is plenty here to keep football fans of all ages interested and entertained, with all sorts of football related artefacts and memorabilia.

The Legoland Discovery Centre is a completely indoor attraction, so perfect for rainy days. There are all sorts of Lego related activities, with rides, a 4D cinema, a Miniland built of Lego featuring local landmarks and plenty of opportunities to play with Lego bricks.

Manchester Lego Discovery Centre
LEGOLAND Manchester -

You can build your own Lego racing cars and race them down a track, and younger children can construct in the Duplo village. The Legoland Discovery Centre is located inside the Trafford Centre.

The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry takes you on a journey through Manchester's heritage. It's located on the site of the former Liverpool Road Station, one of Manchester's most important historic sites.

Manchester MOSI
Manchester Museum of Science -

Among many other exhibits you can go underground and walk through a Victorian sewer, learn about the Manchester cotton mills and see road transport and locomotives. There is also a 4D theatre. Entrance to the museum is free, and you could easily spend a whole day here.

If your children are obsessed with trams, buses and coaches then the Museum of Transport would definitely be worth a visit. It's located about a mile outside the city centre, with excellent public transport links. It's based in one of Manchester's earliest bus garages, adjoins the first tram depot, and has a large collection of restored vehicles from the county. There are also regular special events with chances to ride on some of the historic buses.

Children aged six and over might like to visit the CBBC Interactive Tour at MediaCityUK and visit the home of many favourite CBBC shows, including Blue Peter and Newsround. Children can try their hand at being a television presenter, and find out all about what goes on behind the scenes. Make sure to book in advance as capacity is limited!

If you are planning a visit soon then there is plenty going on in Manchester and the surrounding areas over the next few weeks.

Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends will be visiting the East Lancashire Railway from the 4th to 5th October 2014, with rides on Thomas and lots more. The following weekend, the Autumn Diesel Gala takes place at the East Lancashire Railway, and from the 18th-19th October 2014 there will be a full weekend of steam, with locomotives from both the home collection and further afield.

At Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park, children can visit Crocodile Joe's Wild World on weekends throughout the summer, including the 24th and 30th August, and meet a collection of cold-blooded creatures in an interactive show.

From the 15th October to the 19th October 2014 Disney on Ice will be visiting the Phones 4u Arena with a show featuring a cast of Disney stars, and Disney's The Lion King will be performing at the Palace Theatre from the 17th January to the 22nd February 2015.

With so much to do, Manchester is a great place to visit with the family!

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

A bracelet of story beads

I first encountered story beads on the blog Mudpies and Marmalade - Story Beads. It's a lovely post if you are interested in learning more about them. Basically, story beads are beads which are used as a prompt for telling stories, and they can be stored as a necklace or bracelet worn by the story teller.

I've been meaning to make a story bead bracelet for a while now, and I started collecting beads for it, but I'd been putting it off. I wasn't sure why at first, but then I realised it was because I was worried that I'd forget the stories associated with the beads. But I decided that it's not important, if I forget the stories I can just make up a new one! The stories can vary anyway according to the mood of the teller or the listener.

Story beads are also popular for helping children to remember famous stories like the Nativity or Thanksgiving. I've also discovered Great Story Beads, which are an amazing way of symbolising a story spanning 13.7 billion years. You can find plenty of fascinating information and ideas here - Great Story Beads.

story bead bracelet

I made my bracelet using some beads that I bought ages ago, and some that I received recently as part of some crafty goodies to review. The beads that I bought mainly came from the Brighton Bead Shop which I really love, I picked up some little silver charms that I like to represent certain things about me - an anchor for travelling, a feather for writing, a cupcake for baking. I was in Hobbycraft recently and noticed that they had a nice bead selection in there too, and that's where I bought the purple elastic that I used to string the beads together. Among other things, there is a little stone on the bracelet with a hole through it that I found somewhere, and an old bead that I found in the garden of our old house.

I deliberately made my bracelet while the children were around so that they could see what I was doing, and of course they both wanted to make one too. Luckily I had plenty of beads! Mia was happy just stringing away, but I encouraged Harry to think about the beads that he was using. I asked him what particular beads reminded him of, and I loved his responses. He chose one that had a large hole through the middle and said that it reminded him of a rabbit because they live in holes. He chose the sparkly ones because they reminded him of pirate treasure.

how to make a bracelet of story beads

They are pretty cool bracelets! I've told Harry that if he sees me wearing my story bracelet then it means that I'm in the mood for telling stories so he can come up to me and ask for one.

story bead bracelets


I thought that I'd find it difficult to come up with stories for the beads, but it's not hard at all. Sometimes my stories are based around things that we've done together, and the children love stories about themselves or children just like them. I've used them as a way of helping them to remember things that we've done. It's a similar idea to the storytelling bottle caps that I made a couple of years ago, and that Harry still asks for today.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - Little Red Riding Hood

Vintage Ladybird Little Red Riding Hood

The Ladybird book Little Red Riding Hood is from series 606D - Well Loved Tales. I think it's probably one that most of us owned at some point! According to the back of the book, the books are graded in reading difficulty, with Little Red Riding Hood being Grade 2.

Vintage Ladybird Little Red Riding Hood

The story starts as all fairy tales should, with "Once upon a time", and Little Red Riding Hood sets off on her familiar journey through the forest. It's not a long story, but they manage to stretch it all out very well to make a decent book of the tale. It has the familiar "What big eyes you have!" and so on, and of course there is a happy ending to the story.

Little Red Riding Hood

I love that this book is interesting enough for an adult to read to a younger a child, and then simple enough for children to be able to read themselves as they start learning to read. Some of the illustrations are pretty scary, and I remember I was never very comfortable myself with the idea of Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma being cut out alive from the stomach of the wolf, but it's a great re-telling of a classic tale.

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Lollibop 2014 at Hatfield House review

We had such a great time at Lollibop last year, and so I was really grateful that thanks to Little Tikes we received a family pass and the opportunity to experience the festival for a second year.

Lollibop 2014 review

The venue changed this year to Hatfield House. We arrived around half an hour before the festival opened, and had no problem driving into the car park and parking. Parking cost £10.

We headed first to Tikes Town by Little Tikes, very easy to spot near the entrance. It was a large fenced off area, filled with Little Tikes toys - cars, outdoor play equipment and smaller toys like play kitchens, cars and diggers. Children took turns to play in small groups, with a very short queue and smooth handover. We visited again several times through the day because the children loved it here so much, it was really well organised with loads for them to do. I even got to sit in an adult sized Little Tikes car!

Little Tikes Tikes Town at Lollibop 2014

Nearby we also enjoyed the Duplo area, where the children could build their own constructions and take them into a special tent where a computer brought their creations to life. This part was a bit hit and miss to be honest, but the children were very impressed and kept running back in with their latest models!

Lego Duplo at Lollibop 2014

The Thomas and Friends area was another very good part of the festival. If you could do without having your picture taken with Thomas then there were very few queues, and lots of little games that the children could play to win small prizes, like hooking a train and knocking down blocks.

Thomas and Friends at Lollibop 2014

We spent most of our day wandering around and exploring the different tents and activities, which we didn't find too busy. We spent some time watching chickens hatching from eggs in the Incredible Eggs tent, and making shapes from clay to stick to a tree in the National Geographic tent. In the Science Museum tent Mia held a bubble with some kind of cloudy gas inside and we saw some helium balloons being exploded.

One tent that we very much enjoyed was the Wizard School, with a Harry Potter theme. There were short queues for the children to make spiders, magic wands and a little pot of magic beans, and we were just in time to watch a magic show with Harry Potter and Hagrid. We also enjoyed the den making area, where we were provided with sheets and pegs, with ropes strung from trees to build between.

Review of Lollibop 2014 at Hatfield House

The Nintendo area had a cool slide which the children loved and a challenge where you had to collect stickers by doing different activities. We didn't manage it as the children didn't have the patience for it, but it did look like a lot of fun.

We arrived half an hour early at the main Lollibop Live stage to watch Justin Fletcher, easily the most popular performer, and we had a pretty good view. We were quite near the back but many people towards the front were sitting down on the provided benches and also there was a slight slope. We did still had to lift the children up to see though and it was quite uncomfortable with a large helium balloon in front of us that kept bopping us, so we didn't last the whole set.

I've read several other reviews of the day now, and everyone seems to have found different things to see. We spent all day there and felt that we'd seen it all, but I keep finding things that we missed, in particular the free Haribo passed us by this year! There is certainly plenty to do without watching any of the shows. We didn't spend any money at all once inside as we brought our own food.

Our only disappointment was the organisation of the Lollipalladium tent. I tried very hard not to promise anything in advance to avoid disappointment, but I did tell Harry that Andy Day from CBeebies would be there as he loves his dinosaur programme. Unfortunately the show was in the Lollipalladium tent, and it soon became clear that there was no way we were going to get in at all due to limited capacity and long queues all day. Fortunately our children weren't too bothered and we were able to distract them elsewhere, but I did see some upset people.

At the end of the day we found a face painting stand with no queue (included in the ticket price), so Mia had her face painted for the first time. She's never shown any interest before, but she loved it, she chose her design from the book and sat so still while the lady painted some pretty pink flowers. It looked really good!

Facepainting at Lollibop 2014

We had a great day at Lollibop and I would love to return next year. We didn't really see any of the shows but we still found plenty to do in the tents across the festival. But at £82.50 for a family ticket (advance price for two adults and two children) plus £10 parking I do think that Lollibop need to improve it somehow so that everyone can see the acts that have been advertised, as they are the main incentive for the cost of the ticket.

We received complimentary tickets to Lollibop, with big thanks to Little Tikes.

Review - Crafting materials from Viking

Recently I was invited to choose some craft products to review from Viking. After a look through the Viking website I found a huge range of art and craft supplies, suitable for both adult and child crafts. I was completely spoilt for choice!

We've been having a lot of fun with modelling clay lately, but the clay that we've been using has quite a firm texture and is too difficult for smaller fingers to manipulate. The ModelAIR modelling material is really light and almost puffy in texture, and much better for younger children. I chose a pack of bright colours which contains red, blue, yellow and white, so you can mix it easily to make any colour that you need.

It's not sticky at all and doesn't make any mess while you are using it, and then it just needs to be left out for a few days to dry. When it is dry it stays really light and soft to the touch. We've not tried, but I would think that you could paint it pretty easily. There is loads in the box too, we've had a couple of crafting sessions already, with friends too, and there is plenty left over for another day. The children made some fantastic monsters, a clown fish and then some food for the monsters to eat! The finished models were sturdy enough to play with too.

Viking craft materials modelling clay

I'm always crafting with felt, and we do get through it very quickly, so I was pleased to find a huge pack of felt. This felt bundle really is gorgeous. There are 100 sheets with four sheets each of 25 colours. The felt sheets are really, bright, vibrant colours and the felt itself is lovely and thick.

Viking art and craft supplies felt

We used some of the felt to make a monster land for the monsters to live in. I just used a green sheet for the base then we talked about the things that we wanted monster land to have. Harry decided that they needed nests to sleep in and Mia wanted a pond. Later on Harry wanted some snow so I cut out lots of small circles of white felt and we sprinkled them around, it looked really good!

Monster land made with coloured felt

Finally, we get through a lot of coloured card in this house, and so I chose a pack of 100 sheets of coloured card which will keep us going for some time. It's a lovely selection of colours, and although the description says pastel colours there are some nice bright shades in there too. I'm planning on getting my Cricut out for some more crafting soon, and this card will be perfect!

I received these products from Viking for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Hama bead elephants

This really has been a summer of Hama beads, and I've been enjoying them just as much as the children! As a #craftmerrily blogger I was sent lots of Hama beads and boards, including the Elephant pegboard which I have had my eye on for some time. I've been having a lot of fun coming up with some different designs.

This is the standard design which came with the set, Harry helped out with a lot of this one. This board does use up quite a lot of beads!

Elephant Hama bead

Then I changed the colours a bit to make a pink version of the elephant:

Pink Hama bead elephant

More confident now, I created a Hama bead Elmer elephant which I'm rather proud of, using a picture from the book as a guide:

Hama bead Elmer elephant

Finally, I made Mrs Jumbo from Dumbo! I wanted to try Dumbo himself but I think that the board is the wrong shape for him, you'd need to make his ears bigger.

Hama bead Mrs Jumbo from Dumbo

I now have a little parade of elephants across the top of our mantlepiece, and I keep thinking up new elephants that I want to make!

My Elephant pegboard was part of a Hama bead kit that we were sent by Craft Merrily. You can buy a pack of four pegboards at Craft Merrily which contains an elephant among other animals - Elephant, Giraffe, Lion and Camel Hama bead boards or you can buy a larger kit which contains these boards and others, along with lots of beads - Safari Hama beads giant gift box.
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