Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ode to the sock monster

Oh, sock monster!
Why must you taunt me with your cotton eating ways?
I'm sure I bought eight matching pairs in black the other day.

But here I am, all bleary eyed, five minutes late for school
searching through a basket of odd socks that's over full
and not a single pair among them even though I'm sure
that when I went to bed there were three pairs there, on the floor.

I know my sloppy housekeeping is just as much to blame
but come on, just this once, can you give a girl a break?

It's PE day on Monday and they have to look the part;
I know their feet need wrapping up and really, hand on heart, 
I try my best to keep you fed with scraps of favourite towels
with unexplained lost knickers and that jumper with the owl. 

Just leave the socks together, just a couple of small pairs
stop eating all the funky ones we save for special days
and in return I'll buy you some of those nice fancy tights
you can feast before a meeting when I have to look all nice. 

Oh sock monster, please let me find a matching pair of socks
just think about it, I'm not really asking such a lot!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Beef and stilton meatballs

I had a stroke of genius the other day; I had some beef mince, I had the last of the stilton that I've been working my way through alone since Christmas, and I had an evening to myself, so thought I'd spend it cooking something genius. 


They were quite probably the most delicious thing I've EVER created, and because I'm the kindest blogger that ever walked the earth, I thought I'd share how I made them. 

Here's what you need:

500g beef mince
100g stilton
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 slices of bread (stale bread, made into breadcrumbs)
1 egg
80g mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms) finely chopped
2 small sweet yellow peppers, finely chopped
One table spoon of plan flour
25g butter
500ml chicken stock
200ml full fat milk
Another 50g or so of stilton for the gravy if you fancy it
Ground black pepper

Here's what you do:
Get a big bowl and put the beef mince, stilton, onion, breadcrumbs, mushrooms and peppers then get your hands in there and mush it all together really well. Add your egg to bind everything properly (this part feels gross, but it works) then carefully make your mix into balls about the size of the circle when you do the 'OK' sign from scooba diving. (That's an official cooking measurement.) 

Lightly fry off your meatballs in a little oil so they're browned all over and set aside. 

Make your gravy by melting your butter in a heavy bottomed pan then add the flour, then gradually add your stock, add your milk, pop in your little extra bit of stilton and stir over a low heat until it's simmering nicely. 

Add your meatballs and stir so they're covered, grind in a little fresh black pepper, and let simmer for ten minutes to ensure your meatballs are cooked through and your gravy has thickened to a nice consistency. 

Serve over some rice and enjoy the best meatballs you've ever had, ever.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Weebledown Farm Wobbily Farm Mill and Barn review

This week the kids were very excited to receive a Weebledown Farm Mill and Barn set to play with; they both know the range from TV adverts and You Tube videos and immediately sang the theme tune "weebles wobble but they don't fall down" - then did impressions 0_o 

For a few days now they've played with the set every day, either together or apart, and have both told me they think it's brilliant fun. 

Really, at close to six, Jellybean is older than the set is aimed at, but he's still had a lot of fun playing with it, and introducing other toys to be spun, slide and twist on the interactive parts of the farm set. 

Midget Gem - at just three - is in the range the set is made for, and has had a lot of fun trying to get the chicken character we received with the set to "stay DOWN you pest!" and he laughs every time it pops back up and wobbles around. 

The set is lovely quality, sturdy moving parts that don't feel like they'll break with a bit of rough play from two young boys, and the chicken is a perfect size for little hands to grab and play with. The colours are engaging, the chicken is very cute, and they've both asked for some of the other animals that could go with the set so that they can play together more with it. 

At £29.99 rrp the set is a good price and would make a fabulous gift for toddlers or preschoolers, and provides hours of fun - and talks about science and how the chicken balances and manages to stay upright no matter what they do to it. 

*disclosure - we were sent this set to review. No other payment was received. 
All opinions are honest and our own.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Have a half-shell heroes Christmas

We work with lots of companies through the year - and this has led to some lovely relationships with PR's - and one of the people I most enjoy hearing from is Sarah, who works late, emails at weekends, and works with some of the fantastic toy companies we've done reviews for in the last year. 

Knowing what big fans my boys are of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - and of the new Half Shell Heroes range, which is aimed more at their age range than some of the other toys, Sarah got in touch to say we were being sent something special - and soon a parcel arrived for each boy. Inside was a special tree decoration and a card sent straight from the Half Shell Heroes themselves (shhh don't spoil it) and these brilliant toys tucked inside a tree decoration. 

The boys have yet to discover that they could get the turtles out of the baubles - but I've had a good play and they are going to be VERY excited when they realise they can take them out and have adventures with them. 

Slightly cuter and smaller than the other turtles toys we've got (and we've got a lot - not just the ones we've reviewed on here!) the Half-Shell Heroes range are suited to younger fans and match with the newer cartoon series that runs on an almost constant loop in between Minecraft videos found on YouTube! 

The baubles also fit perfectly into the theme of our Christmas 'theme' I just mean a kind of "more is more" approach, as you can see - with lots of things that the kids LOVE to spot tucked among more traditional decorations! 

Blogging brings me lots of things - but it's the relationships I've built with people that make it most worthwhile. On my tree you will also see some amazing Hama bead decorations - made by the fabulous Tammy from Me and the Tiny Three and sent as gifts for us - and they are a HUGE hit! 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Ringo Flamingo board game review

With Christmas rapidly approaching I'm trawling shops and not fast forwarding adverts on kids TV in the hope that they - and I - spot something that's fun, sturdy, affordable and unlikely to annoy the ever living heck out of me that I can add to the lists we write for Santa this year. 

It's hard to get the balance right between things they want, things we can afford and things that aren't TOTALLY RUDDY HIDEOUS (board games pulling snot out of someone's nose anyone? Scooping dog poo?! NO!) 

But board games that entertain everyone from three years old to thirty *cough something cough* aren't always easy to find. 

Last week we were sent a copy of Ringo Flamingo and asked to give it a try and see what we thought. Brilliant is what we thought. 

We've played every day, we've bullied visitors into playing, we've arranged playdates with little friends as an excuse to play some more - this game is addictive. 

It's also something that I don't have to pretend to be bad at so I don't beat them every time - they have genuinely got as much chance as I have of doing well at this one. 

You have to use your little boat to launch your rings at the board and try to get them over a flamingo to rescue them - but avoid the crocodiles! 

We've also used the boats to see who can launch their rings the furthest (I totally would have won but Midget Gem cheated I tell you!) and we've played it like a traditional ring toss, standing a couple of feet away and throwing the rings. 

In every variation this game has been entertaining, competitive, balanced and fair (as long as no three year olds cheat) and we all love it. 

It's overtaken the orchard game as the one we play together most, and Jellybean has even turned down the chance to beat his Daddy at chess for another round of Ringo Flamingo! 

Though the game is aimed at children 5+ Midget Gem had no trouble understanding and joining in, and it really is something anyone of any age can get their head around and have fun playing. 

You can get your own copy (and honestly, you should, I'm not just being positive because it's a review) from big bad Amazon for £15.93

We were sent our copy for free to review on the blog. Opinions honest, no additional bribes, threats or promises exchanged.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Four fantastic books to be won

I recently got chatting to a children's author - Russ Brown - on Twitter about his range of books and was thrilled when Russ offered to send me the full range, so that I could read them with the kids and see what we thought. 

Each of the books has a moral, but rather than being a bit preachy about it they have a fun twist that delivers a message in a way that makes the children listening ask questions and begin discussions, rather than just being told something.

The first book is a fun variation of the Christmas story - Daisy the Donkey's first fare. It took Jellybean until the end of the story to realise it was about the nativity and - as a child who has fully, and surprisingly, embraced religion he loved the way the story came together. 

The second book is Poppy's planet. It's a fun story about a cute penguin (we love penguins) who is worried about the planet, and that's a message my kids are totally on board with. 

The third book - Monsters in my math book - is about the struggles and anxieties that children deal with day to day, and the struggles that other children might be going through that we have to take into consideration when we interact with them. This is by far the favourite in this house; partly because my boys are both crazy about maths and numbers, but also because - for Jellybean in particular - other people's feelings are baffling, so a story that explains that and ways to deal with it works brilliantly for them. Jellybean reads this one in bed most nights now, often to his brother. 

The final book in the collection is The Field Fued - a story about sharing. This is a great message for my boys, who find sharing a little challenging at times, to say the least! This is a sweet story about two animals learning to share and think about others. 

The books are all very sweet and they all sparked conversations and messages that the children were interested to think about and discuss. 

And - because I'm great to you - I've got a full, signed set of the stories to give away to a lucky reader. 

I'm going to ask you to comment below to enter, telling me which book is your favourite to read with your kids and why. The winner will be selected at random next Friday - the 14th November - from everyone who commented, and the full set of signed books will be winging their way straight to you.

Good luck - and let's talk books! 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Little gifts

I’ve blogged previously about Jellybean being on the gifted and talented register. He is in a class now – as a year one child – that is made up mostly of year two children. This means that he’s far happier at school now than he was at various points in reception, and he is generally mixing with the older children and building friendships with them that are closer than friendships he made in his first year of school.
He is processing information at a huge rate and every day has more questions and facts and ideas, and is creating stories, scenarios and situations in which he can explore this knowledge. He spends a lot of his time at home making maths puzzles and doing sums, some quite complex, and his fascination with numbers and patterns in numbers is a joy to watch; he gets such satisfaction from this play, and can focus for hours on his activities. He’s also very interested in computers at the moment.
Midget Gem is a bright button, too, and though he doesn’t seem to have his brother’s lack of empathy or understanding of other people’s feelings, he does have the rapid grasp of new information and endless drive to ask more questions, learn more things, and understand the world around him.
Last night we had a parents’ evening at Midget Gem’s preschool and, though we know he’s bright, he’s less showy about it than his brother so I was very interested to see how he was doing there. We know he’s happy, and excited to go, and loves his keyworker (is in love WITH his keyworker!) and that matters more than anything – but to know he’s also doing well would be a bonus!
It turns out that he’s doing brilliantly. There are various measures they check against that he is surpassing, and so his lovely keyworker said she is doing the next level with him – which is where they look for children to be at the end of their time in preschool, ready to begin reception class; again, in many areas, he is surpassing these measures.
He is fascinated – as his brother – with numbers, patterns and mathematical games, and knows his alphabet and phonic sounds for the letters, and is beginning to put these together and to write them himself. He can do basic sums and count to 100. He isn’t interested in drawing recognisable pictures (something Jellybean has just recently begun to do – and he has gone at it like an addict, creating comics and complex story boards!) and in preschool Midget Gem often doesn’t want to draw, and his keyworker bribes him with maths games to sit and do some pictures with his friends!
She used the word ‘gifted’ over and over again, and said that we should speak to the school before he starts to support his learning in the ways that we speak to them about Jellybean’s.
Both boys are very ahead of their peers academically.
For Jellybean this has led to some difficulties building relationships, as he struggles to relate to children his own age in many situations, and is quite sensitive. Midget Gem doesn’t have that issue, and seems to be very popular and have a large circle of friends in his preschool class, naming one or two over and over as his best friends, but this is something I’ll keep an eye on with him as I remember Jellybean’s preschool teacher (a different preschool) saying the same about him and he never quite got it.
I don’t think Midget Gem has the same difficulties as his brother, but he does have quite a temper and gets very frustrated if he doesn’t get his own way. He likes to lead the play and decide what will happen, and this is something we need to work on when he’s with other children.
All in all I’m very pleased with the way he’s being cared for, and educated, in the preschool we chose. His keyworker understands him very well and commits a lot of time and attention to making sure that he’s happy and enjoying himself, and he is such a happy boy – he loves going to school, he has fantastic fun when he’s there, runs in through the door without a backward glance, and is happy to be picked up and talk about his day at home time.
Having two children on the gifted and talented register isn’t always going to be simple – keeping up with their endless questions, explaining things in ways they understand that expand their knowledge but aren’t too complex, but also don’t patronise because of their young age, is challenging. They are so very bright, and won’t be fobbed off with simple explanations for most things, but want the details and a full understanding of how things work, why, how they were developed and who by. I don’t always have enough answers and this frustrates them as they think I ought to know everything – but ‘it just is’ or ‘because’ or ‘that’s it’ aren’t good enough answers – so I spend a lot of time looking things up to share knowledge with them.
This week we’ve put a huge world map up on their bedroom wall and both are now asking lots of questions about how the world is connected, which countries are where, what people living in those counties are like and what languages they speak – and their thirst for information is endless.

They are, however, still tiny children – and we had a great afternoon at the weekend talking about how far Santa has to fly from the north pole to take presents to the penguins in the south pole!

(they look pink because I had lipstick on, and kissed them all over their faces)