Friday, 31 October 2014

How to make your stories enchanting

This week we were invited to the launch of a fantastic new storytime sounds app by Not On The High Street.  I always love the quirky gifts you can get on their site so was excited to find out what they had in store for us with the storytime sounds app.  

We arrived to the Soho basement event to a room filled with little witches, vampires, skeletons and the odd super hero sat ready for a spooky story.

The story tellers were very engaging and the children sat attentively throughout waiting to find out what the next spooky sound would be.  You see the app doesn't tell the story for you but gives you the option of some great sound effects to turn an ordinary story into an enchanting one. 

The great thing is it's not just for Halloween,  the app has other sounds that will liven up your story times.  It is also great for encouraging children to tell stories of their own, using the app as an aid.

The children had lots of fun and we're really spoilt with entertainment swwets and goodies to take away, so the overall launch gets a thumbs up from little man.

The app is available to download from apple app store.

Even the princess who was older than the apps 3-8 target market was very impressed.

So if you're looking to spice up story time go and find the app!  

What other interesting ways have you found to make storytime more fun?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

World Vision Lantern of Hope

Last year I carved my first pumpkin and took part in World Vision's 'Night of Hope' making a lantern to bring awareness to the fact that when our children our celebrating the frights of Halloween, children all around the world are spending that, and every other night, in fear.  So this year when I was asked to take part again to raise awareness for children effected by the Syrian civil war I decided it was a must.

"The Syrian civil war is in its fourth year, and has stolen the childhoods of millions of children.  Children like Hanni, 8, have seen unspeakable horrors.  They have witnessed the deaths of family members, endured sleepless nights of bombing and fighting, and now live in constant fear and uncertainty.

By Carving a lantern of hope you can bring awareness to the cause and show the children of Syria there are people who care.  You can also help by donating, just text Heart8 to 70060 to donate £5.

I decided this year to throw a small 'Night of Hope' party and teach the children a little about what is happening in Syria.  I received a generous donation of 10 pumpkins from Sainsbury's in Purley Way, which the children enjoyed carving hearts into, some got a little more inventive and carved the letter H for hope as well as a heart.  

My daughter and step daughter

The first set we carved

I printed the bunting from the world vision website to hang...

I also made heart shaped sandwiches...

Pumpkin cake slices using an adapted version of the recipe on the World Vision website...

Hope colouring sheets...

and goody bags containing some treats as well as a candle for the children to light in their lanterns when they got home.  My sons little friends were asleep when they arrived so they went home with a pumpkin, a candle and some cake and carved their lanterns at home later that night. 

My son's little friends sent us pictures of their lantern of hope

The children at the party also wrote a message of hope for the children of Syria, it read,   "Dear children, we hope that you feel better, remember the happy times.  Love from your friends in London."  

Each parent donated £5 by texing Heart8 to 70060, even the ones that didn't make it to the party promised to donate.  We hope you can join in and make a lantern of hope and donate if you can.  Visit World Vision to find out more.  Help us turn a night of fear into a night of hope.  We would love to see your lanterns.

The lanterns we lit at home

Luckily for me, the teen and her friend were on hand to clean up the mess after the party :)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I'm not too proud to roll

Recently life seems to be changing, everything feels different, not in a bad way or a good way, just different.  The one constant is my little family and the time we spend together.  Over the last few Sundays, though the weather is getting colder, we have made a conscious effort to spend our Sundays amongst nature.  The first few Sundays were spent at Kelsey Park strolling through the park, having lunch or going on a nature hunt but this week we decided a change of scene was necessary (the big girl was getting bored and wasn't impressed when I told her about the rats I'd seen).

We had attended a baptism service in the morning, where a young man, who will always have a special place in my heart, gave a moving speech about his reason for wanting to be baptised.  Despite not practicing any religion myself, it still warms my heart to see young people choosing a life of servitude and love, which is so different to what a lot of our young are choosing these days.

With the little one getting restless we left straight after the group were baptised and drove to box hill for our afternoon stroll as I knew if I went home and started dinner first I would not be coming back out again.

Box hill was given to the National Trust 100 years ago and is a stunning place where you can view the surrey countryside, take nature walks, cycle, fly a kite or help the kids tick off one of their 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 whilst having a little fun of your own.

We were certainly not dressed for the occasion but had lots of fun and plan to go again soon and explore what else box hill has to offer, I'm especially interested in visiting the stepping stones and the natural playground.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Saturday, 18 October 2014

A large glass of milk from a different cow. (a review)

I met the lovely a2 Milk team at BritMums Live and they had a wealth of information about a2 milk as well as some samples for us to try.  

Little man likes nothing more than a large glass of  milk but when he started to have problems with digestion my first instinct was to switch from cows milk to soy, unfortunately for him that didn't solve his problems but for many who believe they are lactose intolerant, it does.  The thing is, for those not diagnosed by their doctor with lactose intolerance, unknown to them, milk could still be the problem.  

There are many different proteins found in milk.  Studies show that the A1 protein breaks down more slowly in the body, and for some this can lead to uncomfortable symptoms that are similar to those in people suffering with lactose intolerance.  For many of these people, the problem isn't lactose (which is the sugar in milk) at all - the A1 protein could be the issue.

To combat this The a2 Milk Company™  have worked with 20 farms across Shropshire, Cheshire and North Wales to identify milk that only produces the A2 protein, and before you ask they are not cows made in a lab, these cows NATURALLY produce milk only containing the A2 protein.

a2 milk has been available in Australia for over 10 years and is the fastest growing grocery brand down under, and the good news for us?  It is now available in the UK!

The health benefits of milk are many and everyone knows that calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.  I find it shocking that nearly 40% of people don't even let their children try milk.  Dr Hilary Jones, an NHS GP and medical presenter on shows such as ITV's Daybreak, says:

"Milk is the nearest thing you can get to complete nutrition in a glass.  It's a great sustainer and concentration booster for children at school.  It is much healthier than an fizzy drink, and it's an excellent post-exercise recovery food as it has a balance of protein, carbohydrates, water and micronutrients."

So if a2 makes it possible to drink milk without the nasty side effects, why not give it a try?


Little man and I have tested out a2 and found that not only does it taste great but his digestion might just be on the mend.  We will keep you posted!

This is a sponsored post I have been compensated for my time as well as sent vouchers to try a2 milk.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

New Series on Channel 5's Milkshake coming soon!

My siblings and I didn't spend much time watching television as a children, we were out on our bikes, playing forty forty home, curby or chicken run through the neighbour's gardens.  The few shows we did watch were the classics like Thunder Cats,  fraggle rock, He Man and Jem (I'm really showing my age here.)   Nowadays society is changing, children don't play out together as much and parents don't feel safe to leave them to.  

Technology is taking over and television or gaming seems to be the activity of choice.  Some parents are often taking work home and TV becomes a pacifier so they can get things done without too much interference.  All that being said, there is room for a little bit of television, so when we were asked to review a new pre-school series coming to Channel 5's Milkshake on Monday 20th October, we decided that little man could take a break from playing in the rainy garden and spend his days quota watching the 2 review episodes (Legend of the Sea Monster and Toots Talent Contest.)

'Toot The Tiny Tugboat' is an animated series featuring a, "tiny tugboat with a big heart"  it is based on the book Toot and Pop by Sebastien Braun.  With a host of seafaring characters to keep him busy, such as the watchful lighthouse Lenny and the playful Paula the Trawler, Toot sets about his adventures rescuing ships.  With his lack of experience he tends to get himself into problems but Toot is an overcomer and always ends up making things right.  This series aims to show children that, "no matter how small they are, they are capable of big things."  

Little man was immediately hooked by the playful theme tune and as preschoolers are was very ready to throw questions at mummy such as, what is Lenny?  What's a Trawler?  What are sea monsters?  He eagerly put on the second episode and got very upset when I informed him we would not be watching them both again.

I'm not really into cartoons but as this one goes it's not too bad, the episodes seem to have good morals behind them and from what I've watched so far they use some good sea terminology that will encourage youngsters to learn about life at sea.

To watch for yourself Tune in to Channel 5's Milkshake daily from Monday 20th October, "Heave Ho!  Let's go!"

I was sent a dvd containing 2 episodes of the series for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Before I Die...

My lack of writing about the awesome adventures of me and the mini royals might lead you to think a number of things; I could be spending all day on candy crush and inviting them to play a game of trash the house because I'm not bothered; I may have inherited a small fortune and am so busy making investments and buying gadgets that I have no time to write; I may have escaped to a secluded island and decided that words are just not for using outside of my immediate reality, alternatively I could just have been a little busy working 2 jobs, raising 2 children and trying to create some type of balance but I will leave you to decide which sounds likely.

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday.

Another year older and hopefully a little wiser.  I chose not to surround myself with familiar people but instead to spend it in a place I love with two of the most amazing children that I have ever met, if I do say so myself.  We went for lunch and a spot of shopping in Camden.  

This might seem a strange thing to say but as soon as you hit Camden lock even the air seems trendier.  The market stalls, the food and shisha smells, the goths, the emos, the dark angels, the punks and the ordinary folk all meshed together in one place.  It's an area where you shouldn't be surprised to see men chained to lampposts casually chatting about their day, glow strings used as hair accessories and cars weaving their way through people traffic.  There was many a photographer out on Sunday and I found myself in envy of their fancy DSLR cameras, too embarrassed to take out my camera phone and snap many photos.  I was however stopped by one photographer because he liked my hat, I didn't bother to ask for his details so if the photo doesn't end up in the deleted items, as some of my impulse photos sometimes do, I like the idea that I may be floating around in cyber space somewhere, printed and hung on a small studio wall or hidden away on a computer in a Camden named album. 

The Hat as taken by The Teen Princess

Another hat we may yet purchase just for the ears

Our lunch venue was the lovely Blues Kitchen, where we indulged in american sized portions and took in the relaxed southern atmosphere.  The staff was fabulous, the food was delicious the atmosphere was lush and the prices were affordable, what more could I have asked for, except maybe a pre-marriage version of Channing Tattum covered in fudge sauce and laying in my bathtub (wouldn't want to mess up my sheets.)  It's the second time I've been there and will probably not be the last, it's definitely somewhere I recommend stopping by if you are ever in the area.

Loved these lights

Our tasty burgers from The Blues Kitchen Camden

After filling our tummies we then took a short drive up to Borough High Street to write on one of London's 'Before I Die' walls.  

The 'Before I Die' project was started on the wall of an abandoned house in New Orleans by an artist named Candy Chang after in 2009 she lost someone she loved.  It is a space for people in the community to share hopes, dreams and aspirations.  There was something very special about reading the dreams of others and sharing in the writing up of our dreams with my children (or rather with the princess as the prince just wanted to draw). 

How cute is this one?

It made me once again re-visit the things that I want out of this life and really appreciate the life I have had so far and the special people I have been blessed to share it with.

For this birthday there was no blowing out of candles, no out of tune singing (although I did have a few tone deaf phone calls) and no getting wasted on doubles of every alcoholic drink imaginable.  There was just time, love and creating memories with the people who matter most.

It wasn't quite a day in the country but we did have some outside fun learning through art and culture, so I've linked this post to Country Kids, hope that's ok Fiona x

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Stereotyping, we all do it. #StoriesFromTheStaffRoom

In general I am the kind of person that when I'm first getting to know people, I keep myself quiet and speak when I'm spoken to, it gives me a chance to observe and analyse people.  I found myself this week in the staff room of a Roman Catholic school, all the staff were Catholic, most either have been married for years or some were still waiting on God to deliver them their partner.  

If we were to believe that all Christian's were loving, generous and non judgmental as the bible directs them to be, should you find yourself sat in a room full of Christian women having lunch, you would expect to have a pleasant time and be made to feel comfortable.  On the first day that's exactly how I felt, there were the general conversations about classroom antics and children who didn't know their numbers from their letters and the odd mention of the somewhat excitable teacher who takes the children for hymn practice.  

The next day however was a different feeling altogether.  There had been a program on the night before about people on benefits and the conversation in the staff room had turned to a lynching of all those who have received benefits, 

"These people have flat screen TV's and matching Next sofas but are saying they can't afford shoes for their children to wear to school." 

"They know all the loopholes and there are people who help them find the loopholes, and who pays for these people to find the loopholes, we do."

"Oh and of course there are no fathers about."

I sat there at first thinking, I'm glad you don't know my story.  I'm glad you don't know that I spent at least 4 years of my life on benefits, I'm glad you don't know that during that time I had matching sofas and a flat screen TV, I'm glad you don't know that I have two children by different fathers, one of whom is not in his child's life at all.  I'm glad that you don't know that I am one of the very people that you look down your nose at as I am sat in this room with you, taking a break from teaching the children in your community.  That my children, despite not having a father in their home are not hanging about the streets but are at school and nursery mixing with children who come from 'normal' families.  However sitting there not saying anything, stopped me from doing the very thing I should have done, challenge their stereotypes.  

All of those things are true of me, but those things do not define the type of person that I am.  Those things do not mean that I spend my days watching Jeremy Kyle and recognising friends on there.  In fact I just about watch television, and have the odd shows I do engage in, none of which involve Jeremy Kyle (not that there is anything wrong with him).  I read and listen to the news and engage in conversation with my children about modern politics and society.  I work hard to provide for my family and rarely spoil them with the latest gadgets or toys.  I wasn't brought up in a single parent household, my parents were together until I was an adult, and despite having not been married myself, I still teach my children the value of marriage and encourage them to aim for the best in their lives.

I'm very annoyed with myself for not saying something then and there.  I thought at the time, why bother, I will probably not encounter half of these people again, but the fact is I should have bothered.  Yes there are people who know how to 'work' the benefits system but being on benefits doesn't automatically mean you are one of them.  

One of the ladies I was sat with then went on to say she felt like punching one of the women at her church for sending her a "shouty email," I giggled to myself forgot about the previous conversation and reminded myself, they're only human.


House of books

Books on the windowsill, 
books behind doors, 
books under the stairs, 
books on bedroom floors, 
books in the shed, 
and on the computer, 
books set in the past, the present, the future.  
Books on law, 
books on art, 
books on how to write a book if you don't know where to start.  
Books with pages worn and bindings frayed, 
books with markers left at the very first page.  
Fiction, non-fiction, picture books and poetry, more books than clothing, shoes and hosiery.
My love of words expressed through purchase,
cost me a fortune but every one is worth it.