Making It Up as we go along Fri, 07 Jul 2017 18:05:03 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:48:09 +0000

Amazon link (affiliate).

I read this in a day, back when it arrived as a proof. See?

(I’m pretty much avoiding twitter all the time now. You’d think I’d have more time for blogging, but mojo has deserted me. Ah well. It will return. Am reading more though, so there could be more book reviews.)

I promised a more detailed review back in that insta post didn’t I? Well, for starters, they haven’t updated the clothes on the cover.

And that’s about it for negative comments. Sorry. This is a really immersive book, that will catch you up and keep you turning pages somewhat frantically, running as breathlessly as the characters do. And yet at the same time, there are some delicate, so true to life moments of motherhood that will hit you just so.

This isn’t the kind of book I read normally – I struggle with children in peril these days, as I see my own offspring overlaid on the characters. (Does everyone do that? Or am I once again overthinking? I don’t know how to set that mother part of me aside, I’m not sure it’s possible.) But once I’d started this there was no way I could put it down. The attention to characterisation and detail of parenting is astounding in the middle of mortal peril – what’s that thing about in the midst of life? This book brought that home to me in way very few other fictional accounts have.

If heart in the mouth parent related thrillers are your thing, grab this now. If they’re not, you might be surprised to find they could be. Book is just so beautifully judged, paced and delivered. Enjoy.

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Win one of two Peppa’s Laugh & Learn Laptops! Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:07:45 +0000 I know I’ve been quiet here for a little while, but I’m back with a burst of blog posts today, starting with this fabulous giveaway, with two chances to win Peppa’s Laugh & Learn Laptop!

(I’m just too good to you. Doesn’t this look fab?)

Want to learn more about it? Check out the video.

The blurb: Little ones can get busy on their very own laptop. With a lovely chunky design, it has fun shaped buttons and a backlit screen to help children engage with the toy and answer different questions and challenges. Peppa’s Laugh & Learn Laptop features four different games modes to help with colours, numbers, letters and word recognition. The cute laptop also has a lift-up lid and carry handle for play on the go!
• Helps with early number and colour recognition
• Builds communication and vocabulary skills
• Hand-eye co-ordination
• Imaginative play
• Suitable for ages 2+
• Available to buy for £17.99rrp eg Amazon link (affiliate)

More about Peppa Pig Electronic Learning Toys (although I’m guessing most parents of young children will have come across these before anyway).

Peppa Pig fans can look forward to joining Peppa on her adventures with the fun educational learning range from British toy company, Trends UK. Whilst having oodles of fun, the new Peppa Pig Early Learning Toys include lots of activities that help pre-schoolers develop early learning skills including understanding colours, communication, phonetics and numeracy skills through interactive play features.

Colourful, tactile and easy for little hands to use, these engaging toys inspire and educate children to learn letters, numbers, shapes and colours through a variety of fun games and puzzles with Peppa Pig!

Available from retailers now, the Peppa Pig Electronic Learning Toys are suitable from 18 months and over.

Other toys from the Peppa Pig Electronic Learning Toys range include:
Peppa’s Alphaphonics™ Campervan
Peppa’s Laugh & Learn Alphaphonics™
Peppa’s Flip & Learn Phone
Peppa Pig’s Sing & Learn Microphone

Just get on with the competition you’re saying! It’s all in the rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Disney Crossy Road unboxing, or the story of how not to do a video review. Sat, 03 Jun 2017 16:26:53 +0000 >> somewhere) but the main one is that when it comes to video cameras, I am technically inept. I had almost […]]]> There is a reason I am a blogger and not a vlogger.

Well, there are several actually, and you can see some of them if you follow my instagram stories (handy link over there >>> somewhere) but the main one is that when it comes to video cameras, I am technically inept.

I had almost trained myself to hold the phone the right way round, but then I started doing vids on insta stories and it wants the phone the wrong way (portrait in terms of video format is the wrong way) and so I lost the plot again.

Which means that when I was sent a box of lovely Disney Crossy Road toys for an unboxing video I sat down very carefully with a small child and very carefully videoed it all in portrait. And then of course the small child ran off with the toys, and that meant that I couldn’t do it over again.


However, where there is a will, there is a way. Or more accurately, where there is google, there is a solution. Just in case you ever should make the same mistake, you may find this article from how to geek on how to rotate video useful. Of course, windwos movie maker is out of support, so downloading it isn’t nearly as straightforward as the article states. Or downloading it is straightforward, but then it claims to be a trial version, except somewhere in the background I seem to also have a non trial version, and I’m very confused, but the video is the right way around now.

Here you go.

It’s fabulous isn’t it?

The toys are very lovely, we got a pixelated plush Buzz Lightyear as well as a variety of other bits and pieces (I appear to have failed to take actual pictures, getting somewhat carried away with the whole video thing. And like I said, small child, who adored them all, has legged it into the distance aka the living room, and none of it will ever be seen again. Not today anyway.)

However, here is a picture of the Simba plush – they retail at £9.99 and the mini figures are £10.99 for a 4 pack, or £3.49 per blind bag. There are 40+ characters to collect.

They all tie in with the apps that are available across a variety of platforms – more details on the Disney Crossy Road website. And as we all know, square is where it’s at these days. See Minecraft, instagram and so on if you don’t believe me. Square is in. Cool even. (Is cool still cool? I don’t know any more.)

Please enjoy the video. I have cried over this. If you’d like to see other unboxings, there are a variety on the Moose website here, and you can see more about the range at Character Online. You can find Crossy Road items at a variety of retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Toys R Us, Smyths and Argos, and of course, Amazon. (affiliate links in some places.)

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Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor Tue, 30 May 2017 19:29:05 +0000 Wishbones by Virginia MacGregor
Buy at Amazon (affiliate link)

Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships

When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problems run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Wishbones is a book with an interesting premise – instead of it being the teenager with the eating disorder, it’s the parent. I found Feather to have a really strong voice, and I’m pleased to be hosting an extract from Wishbones as part of the blog tour today.

I was born seven weeks premature. An incubator baby.
Tubes stuffed up my nose, eyes screwed shut, looked like a tiny wrinkly vole.
I wasn’t meant to survive.
When the nurse put me into Dad’s arms for the first time, he said: She’s light as a feather. That’s how I got my name.
Kids at school think it’s funny, the boys especially.
Featherweight champ, they say.
Quack quack, they chant, waddling with their feet turned out.
Tweet tweet, they chirp, flapping their arms.
I was so small that doctors came up from London and peered at me through the incubator walls and journalists
sneaked onto the ward to ask questions and take photos.
I wonder whether that was what made Mum hospitalphobic – the scare she got from me being so small. And then
I think about her other phobias too and where they came from, like her leaving-the-house phobia and her swimming
phobia and her running-out-of-food phobia.
You were the tiniest baby Willingdon had ever seen, Dad’s told me more times than I can remember, like I’d won a prize. Anyway, it’s all turned out to be what Miss Pierce, my History teacher, calls ironic, because people say the same thing of Mum now – except the opposite: that she’s The Biggest Woman Willingdon Has Ever Seen. People sometimes ask me if I’m adopted. I know what they’re thinking: how can someone so small belong to someone who takes up as much space as Mum?
People are still really interested in Mum and her weight and the fact that she hasn’t come out of the house in years. Last summer, I found Allen, a reporter from the Newton News, hiding behind our hedge with his camera angled at Mum’s bedroom window. He said he’d give me a hundred pounds if I let him take a photo. I told him to get lost, obviously.
Anyway, Mum’s been chubby ever since I’ve known her, it’s just the way she is. What’s more important for you to
know is that she’s the best mum in the world. A mum who’s funny and clever and always has time to listen and doesn’t obsess about stuff like homework and being tidy – or eating vegetables. And although she’s a little on the large side, she’s beautiful, like proper, old-fashioned movie-star beautiful: long, thick, wavy hair, a wide, dimply smile and big soulful eyes that change colour in different lights – sometimes they’re blue and sometimes they’re green and sometimes they’re a brown so light it’s like they’re filled with flecks of gold.
Whenever I think about Mum and how awesome she is and how close we are, I realise that there can’t be many
daughters out there as lucky as me.
So Mum being overweight has never mattered to me. As far as I’m concerned, there are a million worse things a mum can be.
That is, it never mattered until last night, New Year’s Eve, when everything went wrong. Really, horribly wrong

If that’s whetted your appetite for the rest of the story, I’m not surprised. It’s one of those books that you find yourself just reading a couple more pages of until suddenly you’ve read it all. If you’d like to win a copy for yourself, enter via the rafflecopter widget below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Watching paint dry. Mon, 29 May 2017 09:21:34 +0000 Playing with my paints again. 

I’ve deleted twitter from my phone and am trying to wean myself off Facebook. I’m enjoying instagram, although I find the algorithm frustrating. 

Hopefully all this will mean less stress and more creativity. I miss the community though, and I don’t know what to do about that. There used to be community in blog rings, comment boxes and so on, but facebook, twitter etc wiped that out. And replaced it with what has become an angrier, shoutier place overall. Too much noise. 

I was clinging on for the friendships I’d found and cultivated there, but I don’t know how much room there is for that sort of thing to grow up any more. Is this a natural devolution, or have the algorithms and tweaks pushed social out of existence? 

(I’ll pop back with the finished picture when it’s finished. )

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Smyths Toys (free!) Party 27th May Mon, 22 May 2017 17:48:30 +0000 and NI 27th May – that’s this weekend!

The parties are from 9am until 2pm and there’s a free goodie bag for every child (while stocks last, queueing system in operation). I’m intending to get there early 😉

There will be free face painting (children 3+ only), a raffle every hour for a £50 voucher, a DJ and candyfloss. I think Smallest and Tigerboy are going to absolutely love it – with brands like Lego, Play Doh and My Little Pony up for grabs, there’s something for every child.

Pop over to the website to check out the details and find your nearest store and pop the date in your diary/bujo/google calendar whatever.

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The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace Tue, 16 May 2017 22:44:51 +0000
Buy at Amazon (affiliate link)

Liverpool, 1976: Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

Meanwhile, there are lost property mysteries to solve: a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, a stuffed monkey that keeps appearing. But there is one mystery Martha has never been able to solve – and now time is running out. If Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…

My first memories are of the summer of ’76 – long and hot and playing in paddling pools in the garden.

A very different life to that drawn in this story, which is entrancing. Martha is a wonderful narrator – I warmed to her immediately – even though the tale she tells is just that tiny bit implausible, even to the other characters around her.

You just want to find out how it’s all going to work out though, so you keep on reading.

Even through weeks when your five year old redecorates the living room carpet with acryclic paint, so you get everything out of order and forget you are supposed to be publishing your blog post review.

I’m so sorry this is late! (Other people have these weeks too don’t they, it isn’t just me?) I’m serious about the 5 year old and the carpet I’m afraid, although I did just about rescue it. But it’s thrown everything out of whack, and now I’m talking about me instead of the book and I’m sorry again…

I love this story, and Martha, and the cast of characters who unite around her. I confess that I haven’t *quite* finished it yet, but I can’t see any reason I’m going to suddenly go off it, and I’m already a day behind where I thought I was this week and it’s only Tuesday (well very nearly Wednesday but still).

I will do better. Don’t forget to check out the other blogs in the tour, I’m sure they are much more organised than I am right now.

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Dinosaur Train app review Mon, 15 May 2017 09:00:24 +0000 Recently I was very pleased to be offered a chance to do a review of the Dinosaur Train Paint and Match app. From Kuato Studios Based on the Jim Henson TV Series, Tigerboy recognised it immediately and got stuck in straight away.

Front page of Dinosaur Train: Paint and Match app on iPad mini

There are 24 pictures of Buddy the dinosaur and his friends to colour in, so a great selection available, and Tigerboy found the controls very intuitive. There’s a variety of pencil and brush sizes and plenty of colours to choose from, and you can print the end results (although I might not have told him that as I’m a mean mummy 😉 ). When they’re done with painting (if they’re ever done with the painting), there’s also a memory skills game with Mr Conductor, trying to match up as many train tickets as possible across 4 different levels.

For 99p, I have to say I thought this was a good value app. In the past I’ve concentrated my attention on free apps, although preferably from known organisations, but in app purchases or ads can make them really offputting and hard for children to navigate and enjoy. There’s at least several hours of play value in this – Tigerboy enjoyed free drawing as well as colouring in and really got quite inventive – and it would be ideal for a train journey or some such, and much easier to deal with than my usual tool of choice of crayons and a pad. (I can’t be the only one who gets fed up of crawling under train seats trying to retrieve the crayons?)

It did help that it was dinosaurs – he is very fond of dinosaurs as I think young children often are. (Why? What is so much fun about dinosaurs?) In terms of educational value, if you are looking to tick those boxes, this has a focus on memory skills and hand eye coordination, both of which are key to early years development.

Colouring in Buddy on Dinosaur Train app

Available to buy in Apple itunes link and Play store link

Disclosure: I am being recompensed for the time taken for this review.

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The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Coral Rumble and Charlotte Cooke Fri, 05 May 2017 09:00:49 +0000 Buy at Amazon affiliate link

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a box on the living room floor.
They sailed away for a year and a day and these are the things that they saw…

Any book that starts with a box is starting out well as far as I’m concerned, particularly as my own children are rather like cats if you leave a box unattended 😉 Tigerboy was a bit perturbed that it wasn’t about a *real* owl or cat, but he quickly got into the swing of it, and loved spotting all the items mentioned in the captions. In fact we had to read it over immediately as he was afraid he might have missed some details. It’s a gentle imaginative build on the poem (would fit in really nicely into a unit study on the poem, were I to ever get myself organised enough to do such things) and I really enjoyed it – definitely won a place on the shelf by the bed reserved for frequent bedtime reads. Also made me think that we could do with some Edward Lear as I don’t think we current have a dedicated volume, so that’s gone on my wishlist, does anyone have recommendations?

Author Coral Rumble says: I have worked as a poet and performer for many years and I’m proud to have my work featured in Favourite Poets (Hodder). I have three published poetry collections of my own and have contributed to more than 150 anthologies. I am also one of the writers of the popular Cbeebies programmes ‘Poetry Pie’ and ‘The Rhyme Rocket’. I have given workshops in some fairly unusual venues as well…the grandest of which being Buckingham Palace!

Illustrator Charlotte Cooke says: I was thrilled and proud when my picture book The Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat was highly commended for the Macmillan Children’s Prize in 2010. Since then I have gone on to illustrate many other picture books and I enjoy making the occasional card too. When I’m not in my studio I’m usually outside running or playing referee to my two kids.

Find the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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New tent. Thu, 04 May 2017 21:02:49 +0000 Ebay bargain, exact tent we’ve been looking for. 

Yes, it’s another Vango 🙂

Smallest is very excited. Most of her camping experiences (that she remembers anyway) have been Kentwell related, and she’s hoping that we might manage to fit in some ordinary camping as well. 

I confess I’m a bit inspired too. Dreaming of adventures and magical landscapes – c very inspired by this photobox from millioneyez 

In reality we’ll probably manage a trip to a field half an hour away, but if there’s some peace and quiet to be had I’m feeling like I’m coming out ahead. 

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