Saturday, 28 February 2015

Book review - Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds blog tour

Today I'm taking part in a blog book tour for Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds. The Heart of Two Worlds is the third book in the Oksa Pollock series (the first two being The Last Hope and The Forest of Lost Souls) by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf. There are six books in the French series, and The Heart of Two Worlds has just been translated and published in English. 

The series follows Oksa Pollock, who has just moved to London with her family, when she discovers that she has special powers. She finds out that this is because her grandmother was a princess in another land, Edefia, and Oksa has inherited her gifts. Oksa is now the last hope of the group of Edefian survivors, and the series follows her as she leads a group of other survivors as they fight against their evil leader, in a world populated with exciting spells, supernatural goings on and mystical creatures.


I'm taking part in the Oksa Pollock - The Heart of Two Worlds blog tour! You can see a list of all the blogs taking part below, do pop over to see what they are sharing about the book each day!

Oksa Pollock Heart of Two Worlds blog book tour

I received a copy of this book to review.

Book review - T-Rex Terror from Parragon

T-Rex Terror is a part of the Dino Supersaurus range from Parragon, and a few months ago I reviewed another book in the series, the Dino Supersaurus Boxset. T-Rex Terror is a comic strip storybook, written by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Tim Wesson. It is great for children that are reading independently, with the comic book style making it particularly good for those that are intimidated by books containing large blocks of text.

T-Rex Terror from Parragon

Harry grabbed this book as soon as he saw it. It's the first book that we have in this format, and it clearly caught his eye. I wasn't sure what he'd make of it, but he absolutely loved it and read it over and over. This story introduces us to the Supersaurs - four ordinary dinosaurs endowed with special powers after being struck by a radioactive meteorite. As well as fighting crime in New Dino City, they must also deal with the evil T-Rex, who wants to destroy the Supersaurs and rule the world.

T-Rex Terror book review

It's a fun story, which Harry really enjoyed, and so I'd definitely recommend it!

I received this book to review from the publisher as a Parragon Book Buddy. However they have not paid me for this review, and they do not exercise any editorial control over my review or anything else on this site. T-Rex Terror retails for £5.99. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Book reviews - Gorgeous picture books from Flying Eye books

This week I've been looking at some gorgeous new picture books for children from Flying Eye books.

Beautiful Birds by Jean Roussen and Emmanuelle Walker

Beautiful Birds picture book review

Beautiful Birds is a large alphabet book, filled with stunning illustrations of the world's most beautiful birds. A playful poem leads readers through the book, accompanied by bright and cheerful pictures.

Beautiful Birds picture book inside

Many of the birds, like ducks and flamingoes, will be familiar to everyone, others, like tanagers and kakapos are less well known. It's an educational book, both a classic alphabet book and a way to teach young children about the bird kingdom. I think that it's equally suited to younger toddlers that will enjoy the rhyming text and colourful illustrations, as well as being a wonderful book to share with older children and even adults that are interested in all the different types of bird.

Beautiful Birds picture book from Flying Eye

The book itself is sturdy with lovely big pages and bright neon colours that really pop. It's a wonderful book to keep on the bookshelf to browse through.

Black and White by Dahlov Ipcar

Black and White picture book review

Black and White tells the story of a little black dog and a little white dog that are friends. They play together, and they dream of adventures beyond their wildest imaginations.

Black and White picture book from Flying Eye

The rhyming text follows them as they play during the day, and at night they dream of black and white creatures and places before telling each other all about them the next day.

Black and White was originally published in 1963 during the height of the US civil rights movement, and was intended to promote equality within the turbulent political landscape of its time. This edition contains the original artwork, printed using a limited palette of just a few colours on each page.

It's a beautiful book. Although the story would be appreciated more by older toddlers and children, I know that my son in particular was fascinated by high contrast images in books from just a few weeks old, and I would have loved a book like this to share with him when he was first starting to focus on books. The text flows beautifully, and it's a pleasure to read aloud.

I received copies of these books to review.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What to do with old diaries?

I'm currently decluttering. I'm coming to the end of a February decluttering challenge (more on that to come!) and I'm also following a year long organisational programme - Declutter 365. I've always thought that I was quite good at getting rid of things, but I'm amazed with some of the things I've been keeping that I'd forgotten all about.

One thing that I unearthed recently was a big box of my old diaries. I did know that they were there, but the box had been pushed to the back of the wardrobe and I'd not seen it for a while. This is just a few of them...

Pile of old diaries and journals

I started keeping a diary around 1990, in my final year at primary school, and carried on pretty much until I went to University in 1998. There is a 2002 diary in the box, but I gave up around March that year. I always used A5 hardback diaries, beginning with two days to a page and working up to each day being an entire A5 page. I usually filled the page, and I stuck in various tickets, free stickers from magazines, and ephemera as well.

The diaries themselves are mainly pretty boring to be honest. They contain detailed descriptions of what I got up to in each lesson at school that day, along with plenty of teenage angst which makes me cringe when I read it back. It's like reading something written by a different person, and I can't believe that I got myself so worked up over such little things.

My instant reaction was to bin them, as I find them very difficult to read back. But when I asked for opinions on Instagram, almost everyone said I should keep them! I would hate for anyone else to read them though, so a note to family and friends - when I'm gone, burn them!

Although I stopped keeping such detailed diaries, I still kept a holiday journal with long accounts of our travels. But on my birthday last year I began keeping a diary again. I have a Five-Year Memory Book where I write just a few sentences each night about what I've been up to that day. In years to come I can bore Ram before bed with details of what we were up to on that day in previous years. I also have my Smash Book, which I've started to use as a way to keep a few notes about memorable days and holidays, as well as a place to stick in tickets and other daily life ephemera. This is a really quick double page spread that I did the other day for our recent holiday to Disneyland Paris:

Disneyland Paris Smash Book pages

Do you have an embarrassing box of old diaries? I'd love to know what other people do with them! I can't help feeling that I'd feel much happier if I just binned the whole lot, but I don't want to regret it!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review - Hot Wheels Track Builder Spiral Stack Up set

The Hot Wheels Track Builder Spiral Stack Up set is a part of the Hot Wheels Track Builder system. The Spiral Stack Up allows you to build and rebuild in all directions. It's a smaller set, so it's quite compact to store, and it also doesn't require any batteries which is a big plus.

Hot Wheels Spiral Stack Up Set review

I started with the basic layout, and assembly was fairly straightforward. I do sometimes find the instructions difficult to follow, but along with the help of the picture on the box and my previous Hot Wheels assembly experience I managed to put it together quite quickly without too much trouble.

Hot Wheels Spiral Stack Up

To play with the set, you position two cars on the launchers part way down the track, then launch a car from the top of the track. As the car passes the launchers it will fire the other two cars off down their separate tracks. So it's a great way to begin a more complex Hot Wheels layout, and you can add your own tracks and layouts onto the ends of the three different tracks, as well as adding more track to the base piece. It's a shame that like all Hot Wheels set only one car is included, as it works a lot better with several cars, although we found that our other cars did work well in this set.

The two separate launchers can be slid up and down the track to change their positions. We had to fiddle a bit with the positions sometimes, for example if they were too close to the curve then they didn't work, but they also needed to be near the supports for stability. Once in position though they worked fine.

You need quite a lot of floor space so that you have room for the cars to fly off in different directions and space to extend the track. It does mean that several children can play at once though, as they can each build and take control of a different section. My two played with it really nicely together. I left them to it for a short while, and they had soon filled the living room with Hot Wheels track, building a massive Hot Wheels city!

Hot Wheels set review

I've found that the Hot Wheels sets are much more fun if you have more than one set that you can combine together, or if you do as we have done and purchase some extra pieces of track. This set in particular works much better in conjunction with other sets, rather than having it as a standalone set. We've also had much more fun making up our own layouts using the different pieces rather than sticking to the instructions. It really is so customisable that you can do all sorts of fun things with it.

I have also reviewed these other Hot Wheels sets, which all form part of the same Hot Wheels Track Builder system. Click the links to read my reviews:

Hot Wheels Super Looper Track Set
Hot Wheels Total Turbo Takeover Track Set

The Hot Wheels Spiral Stack Up set has an RRP of £20.99. I received this set in exchange for a review.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review and Giveaway - Craft bundle, including Envelobox and Boxer boards

Sorry, this giveaway has now closed.

Today on the blog I have a great giveaway for fellow crafters, a bundle of crafting materials from Crafter's Companion, including two fantastic products - the Envelobox and Boxer embossing boards. The Envelobox board and the Boxer board are both part of the Ultimate Pro crafting system, which is a compact carry case which can be used with a variety of inserts to create boxes, card blanks, envelopes and more. Although these boards are designed to slot into the Ultimate Pro, they can also be used independently and as you can see below I've been having a lot of fun crafting with them.

Crafter's Companion craft bundle to giveaway

The prize bundle is pictured above and consists of:

The Boxer Board
The Envelobox Creator Board
The Advanced Construction Techniques DVD
1 pack of double sided A4 Centura Pearl cardstock
1 tape runner
1 bottle All-Purpose Glue
1 bottle Tacky Glue

Enter the giveaway below, and read on to find out more about the different products included in the bundle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Full terms and conditions for the giveaway can be found at the bottom of this post, the giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday 8th March 2015. As a mandatory entry you must leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favourite craft, extra entry options are available as per the Rafflecopter form. If you are commenting as Anonymous or using a nickname, please leave your full name in the comment so that I can moderate entries.

These are the two boards - The Boxer and Envelobox Creator:

Boxer and Envelobox Creator boards from Crafter's Companion
The Boxer and Envelobox Creator boards from Crafter's Companion
And here are some of the pretty things that I've made so far:

Pretty patterned paper envelopes and box

The Envelobox Creator board

The Envelobox board is used to make 3D envelopes to protect your larger and more delicate cards or as a small gift box. You can make envelopes in hundreds of different sizes, and of several different thicknesses. Although it comes with full instructions it's a little complicated to work out until you've got the hang of it, so it's worth watching a video tutorial to start with.

The board comes with a booklet containing sizing guides. You need to cut your cardstock to the correct size, then place the cardstock onto the embossing board and use the scoring tool to mark out the creases. Then just fold it up, make a couple of cuts for the corners, glue it together and then you are done.

Box envelopes made using the Envelobox creator

These are the first basic box envelopes that I made, they can be neatened up a bit by rounding off the corners and then decorated as you wish. The board also has some patterns that you can trace over with the scoring tool to add a pretty embellishment, you can just see it on the flap of the green envelope above.

The Boxer board

The Boxer board can be used to make boxes in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, and it works in a similar way to the Envelobox. You need to work out the size of box that you want to make, then cut your cardstock accordingly. Again, you use the scoring tool to mark the creases for the box, then make a few cuts, fold and glue together.

The board is very cleverly designed so that by lining the edge of the cardboard up with a different side for the box base and the box lid, the lid will be very slightly larger so that it can be placed on top for a snug fit. I made these simple boxes very quickly, before the children spirited them off to play with and decorate. Boxes this shape would make great gift boxes for homemade treats.

Boxes made using the Boxer board

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

The prize is a craft bundle from Crafter's Companion as described and pictured above. 

As a mandatory entry into the giveaway you must leave a blog post comment telling me your favourite craft. If you are leaving a comment as Anonymous or using a nickname, please leave your full name in the comment (and if possible a Twitter handle or e-mail address) so that I can moderate entries. 

 The giveaway is open to UK residents only. The giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday 8th March 2015. All entries to the giveaway must be received via the Rafflecopter form above. The winner will be chosen at random through Rafflecopter and invalid entries will be removed. If the winner does not respond within 14 days I will redraw and reallocate the prize. One entry per person, no third party or automated entries. There is no cash alternative. 

I received these items in exchange for a review and giveaway.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A half-term break to Disneyland Paris

Ram keeps a pretty good eye on holiday prices, and last year he spotted a great deal on Disneyland Paris this February half-term. We hesitated for a while, after all we've only just enjoyed a fantastic trip to Disneyworld in Orlando, but in the end we just couldn't resist and booked ourself a four night stay at the Sequoia Lodge Disney hotel.

Disneyland Paris with small children

We last visited Disneyland Paris by train for Harry's second birthday back in 2011, staying at the Santa Fe hotel. This time we drove all the way from home, using our accumulated Tesco points to cover the Eurotunnel fare. 

Children outside Disneyland Paris castle

The Sequoia Lodge was a great choice. We had a good sized room with two double beds, and it's just a 15 minute walk from the parks with continental breakfast included. Most of the walk is through the Disney Village, past a variety of shops and restaurants. Both Disney parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park) have their entrances almost next door to each other, with the station just a few minutes away. Because the parks are adjacent you can easily pop in and out between the two, and having the station so close means that central Paris is less than an hour away by train.

When you stay at a Disney hotel your park passes are included, even for your arrival and departure days. We left home after lunch the day before and stayed an extra night beforehand at a local Novotel so that we could enjoy a full day in the park on our arrival day, then we travelled back in the evening of our final day.

The parks were very busy during this half-term week. Although as a Disney hotel guest you can enter the park two hours early, we didn't find that this really helped, especially as only a few rides were actually open at that time. It was pretty cold too, although we were well wrapped up.

Alice's Curious Labyrinth, Disneyland Paris

Harry is pretty timid when it comes to going on rides, but he's more worried about the movement of a ride rather than what he's going to see. So he loves the Phantom Manor and Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White) but doesn't like Pirates of the Caribbean because it has two gentle hills. Mia on the other hand loves the faster rides but found some of the dark rides scary, in particular Snow White where she was terrified of the witch and had to ride with her hands over her eyes.

Both children loved the new Ratatouille ride which is an innovative 3D adventure ride through the Paris restaurant from the film. It was very popular, and we only managed to ride it by queueing up first thing in the morning for Fastpass tickets later in the day. This was a pretty stressful experience to be honest as the queues weren't very well managed, but it was worth doing.  

Another favourite attraction was Alice's Curious Labyrinth, and the children enjoyed Peter Pan's Flight, It's a Small World and Le Pays des Contes de Fées (a boat ride through fairytale scenes). Disneyland Paris park has several walk through attractions, like Le Passage Enchanté d'Aladdin, as well as the Pocahontas Indian Village playground and Adventure Isle play areas, and underneath the castle is a dark cave occupied by a very realistic dragon. It's nice to have these areas to explore without the need to queue.

The parade took place at 5.30pm every day and was very popular, to get a space at the front you needed to be in position well over half an hour beforehand. It was pretty good, some lovely floats and of course the Frozen sisters.

Frozen float in Disneyland parade

Every evening just before the park closed there was a performance of Disney Dreams! - a fantastic show around the castle with lasers, fireworks, music and projections onto the castle. It was very very good, probably the best evening show that we've ever seen at any of the Disney parks. Although the view was better if you were nearer the castle, you could still get a pretty good view from anywhere on Main Street, only arriving just a few minutes before it started. 

Disneyland Paris castle by night

One morning we ventured into central Paris with the children by train. Knowing that the Paris Metro is not at all pushchair friendly we left it at the hotel and found a route that avoided too much walking to save little legs. We popped up at the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and finished at La Défense where we ate lunch. I'm really glad that we took the chance to do it, as the children really enjoyed it.

Children in front of Eiffel Tower, Paris

One downside to Disneyland Paris is that eating out can be expensive, and unless you want to travel away from the parks your options are limited. We found that the food in the parks was very over-priced and not that good. We paid nearly 47 euros for a buffet meal at Buzz Lightyear's Pizza Planet and the food was not great with a poorly designed layout, although there was a good play area there for the children so we could eat in peace. We had a nice meal one evening at the Rainforest Cafe in the Disney Village, but again it wasn't cheap. There is a McDonald's if you need something quick and more budget friendly, and we took plenty of snacks with us to avoid buying lunch.

I must admit that we all felt a little Disneyed out by the end of the holiday, and it will probably be a few years until our next visit. But we had a brilliant holiday, with lots to see and do, and plenty of Disney magic. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Colouring books for grown ups

Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of time colouring in. Although I've always enjoyed it, having children was a great excuse to stock up on crayons and pens, and invest in a colouring book or two. Fortunately both children love it too, and while they received plenty of gifts for Christmas, the runaway favourite gift was a Frozen colouring book. It was given to Mia, Harry loved it too, I joined in, and it was completed in a week or two.

Colouring books for grown ups


I really enjoy colouring in, it's so relaxing, and because the children love it too it's a great way for us to spend some quiet time together. On my various social media channels I had spotted references to grown up colouring books, so I decided to investigate further and was really surprised and excited to see that there are so many colouring books around that are aimed at adults! I didn't know where to start, so I chose one that looked cheerful and fun - Feel Good Colouring: Illustrated with Love by Nadine Staaf.

Colouring books for grown ups

This book doesn't have many recognisable images in it, much of the book is swirly and geometric patterns, interspersed with positive words and phrases. Sometimes though you can pick out your own pictures from the patterns. One page clearly depicts a boat sailing in the sea, and there are flowers and insects. It has loads of pages, and I feel like I've barely started, it's going to keep me busy for ages!

Adult colouring book page

It is of course much nicer to do the colouring if you have your own set of decent felt tip pens. But as I tend to do my colouring while I'm sitting with the children I just use theirs, and they love that I'm sitting down doing colouring with them.

There are loads of grown up colouring books around! Here are some of the ones that I have my eye on! Do you enjoy colouring?

You might also like these lovely free colouring pages for grown ups - Mystical Patterns



This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Easter crafting with Baker Ross

I blogged recently about some lovely Mother's Day crafts made using items from Baker Ross, and with this post I'm going to share some Easter crafts. Easter Sunday this year is on April 5th 2015.

We started with these Easter Egg House Kits. I must admit that they were pretty fiddly to put together and needed reinforcing with glue and tape. If you are making these with young children I'd strongly recommend assembling the house first at your leisure and then passing on to the child to decorate! The children loved sticking the stickers on to personalise their houses, and the finished creations are really bright and cheerful. I can see them coming out again at Easter for years to come!

Baker Ross Easter egg house kit

The we made these Chick and Bunny Pop-up Puppet Kits. All the pieces are included, and the chick or rabbit puppet is made by pushing a stick up through a decorated paper cup.

Baker Ross pop up bunny puppets for Easter

This was a great craft to make when we had friends over for a play date. Because all the pieces are self-adhesive it's not messy, and it made a satisfying finished product that the children had a lot of fun playing with afterwards.

Baker Ross pop up bunny puppet

Finally we decorated some 3D Wooden Bunnies. They are a simple plain bunny shape, with slot in pieces so that they can stand up. First we painted the wooden shapes with poster paints, then when they were dry I put out a selection of different bits and pieces for decorating - ric rac, ribbon, googly eyes, egg shaped sequins, pom poms and so on.

Decorating a wooden bunny

Harry wanted to use some white acrylic paint to add some extra features, unfortunately Mia got a bit carried away with her white paint and hers ended up as albino bunnies! The finished bunnies stand up really nicely, and they look lovely on the mantelpiece as Easter decorations.

Wooden bunnies from Baker Ross

I think that these craft kits are such good value. They'd be great if you were entertaining a group of children, perhaps for a party, especially as many of the kits are available to purchase in larger quantities and they often come with everything that you need to do the craft. The smaller packs are also fantastic to keep on hand for play dates if you need to quieten things down a little, and it's something nice for the guests to take home. Many people like to avoid giving too much chocolate or sweets for Easter, and craft kits like this would make fantastic alternative gifts.

I received these items as part of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Springy Valentine's Day Cards

Harry and Mia both have a particular sweetheart, and when we received our latest Valentine's themed box as part of the #bostikbloggers group, making Valentine's cards seemed like the obvious craft. We were provided with two blank cards, and a variety of stickers and decorations. To make the cards a bit more fun, I showed the children how to use a strip of card to make a simple spring so that a heart could pop out from the inside of the card.

Springy Valentine's Day cards

Here's how we made them:

Materials:

Card blanks
Coloured card
Heart decorations and jewels to stick on
Bostik glitter pens
Bostik micro dots

Instructions:

First you need to make your folded springs for the inside of the cards.

How to make a paper spring

Your finished spring will look like this, and you will glue one end to the inside of the card and the other end to the back of a decorated cardboard heart or similar. You want it to be about 2-3cm in length. I tried to describe how to make it with a series of step by step photos:

Folding a cardboard spring

But in the end I realised it would be easier to just make a quick video to show how its done! My strips of cardboard measure about 1cm by 30cm.


Then the children each cut out and decorated a large heart from red cardboard to stick inside the card, and decorated the fronts of their cards with a variety of heart stickers and decorations, kept in place with the handy Bostik micro dots. They both finished off their cards with the Bostik glue pens which went on really smoothly and dried to a nice sparkly finish.

We also used the materials from this box to make a lovely jewellery box for Mia.

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Review - The Red Box jigsaw from Ravensburger

The Red Box is a beautiful 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger. It's a gorgeous Chinese themed jigsaw, like an oriental puzzle box with many different compartments, each filled with a different, fascinating picture to complete.

The Red Box jigsaw from Ravensburger review

The design looks complicated, but I found this puzzle really enjoyable to complete. Because all the sections are so distinctive, it's quite easy to sort out the pieces for the different areas. Once I'd been working on the puzzle for a little while I found that I could take a piece from the box and slot it roughly where it needed to go almost immediately, which was very satisfying. There is a huge amount of detail to discover in the picture, with some strange creatures tucked away, and many different styles of artwork to keep it interesting.

Red Box puzzle review

Like all the Ravensburger puzzles that I've reviewed, this is another high quality jigsaw. The sturdy pieces fit together beautifully, and I know that I'm going to be doing this puzzle again and again.

I received this jigsaw in exchange for a review.

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Valentine's themed jewellery box

I'm a Bostik Blogger, and every month I receive a box of themed craft materials along with some Bostik products. This month the theme was Valentine's Day, and as Mia has recently started collecting together little treasures with nowhere to keep them I decided that together we would make her a heart themed jewellery box.

Valentine's Day themed jewellery box

It's really simple to make and is a great way to corral tiny bits and pieces together. You can also customise it with the child's name and they can take pride in adding their own little touches.

Valentine's Day themed jewellery box

Here is how we made it:

Materials:

Small, sturdy cardboard box
Something to cover it with - for example coloured duct tape, paint or wrapping paper
Decorations - for example stickers, plastic jewels, foam stickers, coloured paper and cardboard, washi tape
Adhesive for your decorations - we used Bostik micro dots

Instructions:

The most important thing is to find a suitable box. It needs to be sturdy and easy for a small child to open and close.

Empty cardboard box

My box originally held a bathroom accessory. I modified it by removing the side flaps on the lid and cutting the front hinge down so that it easily opens and shuts. Then I used coloured duct tape to cover the entire box. I hid the messy edges under the lid with some pink cardboard, and used some pretty washi tape around the top and bottom.

Decorated cardboard box

Then I let Mia loose with the decorating. She was very eager to use the large plastic gems that she found in our pack, and I found that the Bostik micro dots were brilliant for sticking them firmly. I'd not used them before and they were fantastic, a sheet of tiny sticky dots which you just press something against to give it a sticky backing. It also worked really well for the foam heart stickers. I cut the letters of her name out from glittery red cardboard and she also found some letter stickers to spell her name.

Red decorated cardboard box for jewellery

She was so pleased with it, and showed it off to Harry as soon as he was home from school. This meant of course that we then had to sit down and make him one as well! It's so nice for her to have her own place to keep little things that are important to her (although I'm not sure it will stop her leaving them lying around the house!)

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Review - Vintage Speaker Hoodie from Scruffs

My husband is quite excited by the idea of wearable tech, so when I was asked if I'd like to review something from the Scruffs men's winter range he was very keen to try out the Vintage Speaker Hoodie, which he selected in Black.

Vintage Speaker Hoodie review

Ram is always listening to music on his phone, and with this hoodie he can easily listen to his music while he's out and about. One of the pockets at the bottom of the hoodie has a standard headphone jack plug which you connect to your phone or other music player. There is also an inner zipped pocket to stop if falling out if you are moving about. Then the cable runs up inside the hoodie to the hood at the top, all enclosed within the seams so there are no loose wires.

Inside the hood there are two small zipped pouches that hold headphones, and there is also a speaker on each side inside the hood, if you want to play your music out loud. Just inside the top zip at the front is a simple control panel, and there is also a microphone so that you can make calls when your phone is connected.

Vintage Speaker Hoodie from Scruffs

All of this tech is fully machine washable, (just remember to remove your phone from the pocket!) which is brilliant, and we felt that the headphones and speaker were good quality. The hoodie itself is really thick, warm and comfortable, perfect for wearing outdoors in colder weather.

Scruffs Vintage Speaker Hoodie

This hoodie would be great for anyone that spends a lot of time outside, perhaps working or taking long walks. Or else you could just wear it around the house - it's so warm and comfortable!

The Vintage Speaker Hoodie retails for £59.95, and is available in Black and Grey. I received a hoodie in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dealing with our threenager

Harry was a difficult baby, but we were very lucky with him as a toddler. I used to scoff at articles about threenagers, because life with Harry improved immensely when he turned three. He finally began sleeping through the night (at least most of the time), he was dry night and day, and was interested in everything. You could always keep him busy by talking to him about what was going on around him and sharing interesting facts. Of course he had his moments, but I don't remember him ever lying on the floor kicking and screaming.

Mia however became a bit of a tempestuous toddler, and I find myself having to deal with her in a completely different way. They are both so different personality wise. Harry is sensitive, needs time to himself, and takes things very much to heart. Mia is more unpredictable, if she is upset she explodes with anger, hitting and screaming, but then a few minutes later it is all completely forgotten, as though you've flipped a switch. Harry has never really done anything naughty, Mia is a little more contrary - for example if you tell her not to touch something she will immediately try to touch it, and then look at you to see your reaction. She is never sitting still, even if I try to sit them on the sofa in front of the television she is jumping and climbing about.

It has taken me a while to realise that I need to deal with them differently and to cater to their different personalities. When Harry is feeling tired and emotional especially he needs time to himself, perhaps to be set up and left alone with a Lego set to build. Mia needs someone to play with her, either to play a board game or to engage in some role play with her dolls. This leads to frustration from them both if Harry wants some space and Mia wants him to play.

Toddler pretending to be angry

It's hard work and when it's just me and Mia I do feel like I'm constantly on the go, with no time to get on with anything by myself. But when I do play with her it's a lot of fun. I enjoy playing board games and I love seeing her little imagination come alive, even if she does get cross with me when I don't play out her role play the way that she wants me to, and at least I do have three mornings to myself when she's at nursery so that I can recover a bit!

I'm just hoping that she calms down a little bit before she starts school in September, although at least then it will be down to the teachers to deal with her tantrums and not me!

Do you live with a threenager?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Review - Weekend Box, a fortnightly craft and activity box

This week we've been having a lot of fun reviewing a Weekend Box. The Weekend Box aims to be a fun and educational box of crafts, recipes and activities, all aimed at children aged 3-6 years old. The activities are neatly packaged inside a handy box which fits easily through a letter box, and each box costs £7.50, delivered monthly or fortnightly. There is no commitment, and you can pause your boxes at any time.

Weekend Box Club review

Each box has a theme, and our theme was the Aztecs, with a box containing three craft activities and a recipe. Not all the ingredients for the cooking activity were included, and customers will receive an e-mail with details of the extra ingredients required when the box is dispatched.

I loved how everything fitted so neatly into the compact cardboard box, with each activity clearly separated into a coloured paper bag with corresponding coloured activity card. There is a sheet of stickers to stick on the cards when the activity has been completed and the base of the box forms a certificate to complete when the activities in the box are finished.

The activities in our box were:

Aztec Hot Chocolate

This was definitely the one to start with! The box included some special Aztec spices, to which we needed to add 50g dark chocolate, 50g milk chocolate, 200ml milk and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence. Luckily after Christmas we still have plenty of chocolate in the house which we could use up! The Aztec Hot Chocolate was pretty easy to make, and there was enough for four delicious mugs.

Aztec Hot Chocolate

Aztec Mosaic Coaster

To make the Aztec coaster we were provided with two sheets of sticky backed foam and two sheets of thin cardboard, along with some pattern inspiration. We cut the foam sheet up into simple mosaic shapes, which were stuck down to decorate the coaster.

Aztec mosaic foam coaster

I really liked that this activity was suitable for a range of ages - older children can help to cut out the foam shapes and think about copying some Aztec patterns, and younger children can arrange the pieces however they like, but still be involved in thinking about how to fit the pieces together.

Aztec Parrot

We always keep quite a collection of old toilet roll tubes around, and Mia loved the opportunity to up-cycle them into some colourful parrots, inspired by the Aztec people's sacred bird, the Quetzal. The Weekend Box included enough lovely bright poster paint, googly eyes and feathers to make two birds, and we have since gone on to make a few more with our own materials as they look so good!

Aztec parrots from toilet roll tubes

Aztec Pattern Prints

Making the Aztec pattern prints was a two step process. First we glued string down to cardboard to make the stamps, then we mixed up paint and printed our designs onto coloured paper. We've not done this before, and the children loved it. They each made several different stamps, and I loved watching their concentration while they painted the string and pressed it down to print. They were so proud of their work! This idea has certainly inspired me, we'll be returning to this painting technique I'm sure.

Aztec printing using string and paint

I found that the Weekend Box contained just about enough materials to carry out each craft twice, and indeed could probably be stretched to include more children too, if you were able to supplement with your own materials. You can also add a sibling to your account for an additional £4 per box to make sure that you'll have enough.

If you'd like to try out your own Weekend Box, I have a special code which you can use to receive your own free box. Just visit the Weekend Box website and use the code JENNIFER211 (new customers only, and one free box per household). 

We received a Weekend Box in exchange for a review. Each monthly or fortnightly box costs £7.50 and you can also buy vouchers for a set number of boxes if you'd like to purchase some as a gift.
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