Saturday, 3 November 2012

What are you reading?

I'm a huge lover of books and of reading. My husband bought me a kobo ebook reader which I spent many happy months loading with books he couldn't see me buying before I smashed the screen, rendering it unusable. Devastation doesn't even come close.

I read a lot, and whenever I can snatch even a minute to do so I will pick up a book. This often means that when the mood strikes or an opportunity arises that I might be able to read for a few moments I can't risk passing the children to fetch my current read from a distant corner of the house, as they would spot me and demand I paid them some attention instead.

So instead I pick up whichever book is closest to me and begin that, as well as whatever I was already reading.

So I have a book I read in bed, a book in the kitchen I read whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or the toaster to pop, a book in the playroom for those moments when the kids don't need my full attention or participation, a book in the snug for when they sleep and I get to curl up with my husband, and a book in the bathroom for when I am in the bath.

That means that at any one time I am usually part way through at least five books all of which I am equally interested in.

Some may take weeks to read, some less than a day, depending which room I'm in most and how much time I get to read, as well as whether they are the kind of book which takes time or not!

This is my current stack of books, all being read at once.

Terry Pratchet, Dodger.
I only started this today - my Dad finished it whilst he was visiting and has conveniently left it on my kitchen table - he is super.

Ken Follett - the pillars of the earth.
This is about the seventh time I've read this book, as you can tell by the battered spine. It is worn and familiar and smells good so is for bedtime reading.

George R R Martin - game of thrones.
My husband and I are both reading this at the same time, a chapter at a time, and we talk about it constantly - I normally read faster than him and it's fun having to stop and review it chapter by chapter. We each read different angles and twists into it so it's really good fun - I think more married couples should do it.

Suzanne Collins - Mockingjay.
This is the third and final of the hunger games trilogy and I've read all three in around a week - easily readable with lots of emotional wrangling and twists they're really good - I'm only a page away from finishing and have loved them all.

Malcolm Gladwell - blink.
I like psychology and sociology an I like reading one non fiction book in my mix - this is my bath book and always gives me something to talk to my husband about afterwards (or possibly lecture him about as I get all 'educated' and smug- don't tell him I admitted the smug bit) and this one is fascinating and I agree with a lot of what it says. Really interesting reading if instinct is your bag.

What are you reading at the moment? What should I read next?

Thursday, 1 November 2012


I love garden toys and I love toys that lend themselves to imagination play and opportunities for learning.

So when we were offered a wigwam to review from Garden Games I was chuffed to bits because I could fulfil those requirements AND get something I have ALWAYS WANTED for myself.

When it arrived I immediately leapt into the garden and tipped the box out onto the patio to build it. I was initially baffled that there were no instructions included - but then found instructions on the side of the box, and felt a little dim. Then more dim for wanting instructions, because it was very straightforward. 

I found it a little complicated to get the string through the poles and the little wooden balls on in the right order (so that it was a circle when erected, rather than a figure of eight) but that might have been blindness brought on by my over excitement. 

The fabric of the wigwam is very, very good quality. Thick, strong canvas with strong stitching and lovely quality prints of animals for decoration. The loops inside for the poles to thread through are very strong and don't look like they'll just tear off (even with my kids, who can destroy practically anything).

With a waterproof coating the wigwam survived a rainy day's play in the garden and then came inside to the playroom to dry out and entertain some little 'injuns' - we told some stories and did some headband making craft and learned a little about other cultures (as much as kids as young as mine can) and I know that will be something we come back to doing again and again with the wigwam. 

I did initially struggle to stand the wigwam up with the poles spread evenly - it takes a little practice and you do need to take a little time to spread them from inside and play with them a bit. Then I have to hitch the canvass up again a bit as I worry about the seam being pulled apart at the top (though it's well stitched) then I have to adjust the poles again. I thought I was just being a bit dim until I watched my husband try - but as I'd already set it up a couple of times when he tried I had the knack and stepped in, very smugly, to do it for him when he struggled too. 

Once you've done it a couple of times this is easy too. 

As you can see, it's more than big enough for both of our kids to play inside at once. Midget Gem has taken to dragging cushions inside and falling asleep in there with a pile of books. Jellybean likes to talk about the construction of the wigwam and how the poles make a pattern at the top that looks like the sun.

There are some kinds of play tents around that cost less than this wigwam, which retails at £49.99 - but when we've bought cheap options before they last very little time, are very cheaply made with poor quality man made fabrics, and just don't have the feel that this one does. Sturdy, well made, with good quality fabric and wood, this is really something that will last for years and years, and will be fun for children of all ages (and parents who refuse to grow up).

As I type this my Dad, who is visiting, is sitting inside the wigwam reading a story to the kids before they go to bed. He is threatening to take it home with him - but I'd put up a fight! 

*Disclosure* I was sent the wigwam for free by Garden Games to review. All views are honest and my own. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Growing up much too fast

When Jellybean was a very little baby - just a few weeks old - we bought him an amber teething necklace. I have no idea whether they work, I just know that other children in our regular groups had them and I didn't want them to think I was a bad Mummy for not getting him one, and I thought they were utterly adorable as figure if it did no harm why the heck not!?

I never took his necklace off. It was with us through first roll, first crawls teeth, learning to walk, talk, run, sing, dance, tell jokes, throw tantrums, potty train and turn three and start preschool.

The necklace came off once when Jellybean pulled on it and he was so little he didn't know the word for necklace - so cried that his shoulders were broken until we put it back on.

When Midget Gem was born we bought him a necklace too and did the same - put it on at a few weeks old and now, at 20 months, it's still there.

But Jellybean's? No. Not on. No longer worn. Last week he pulled on it again and the clasp broke. It has had a hairline crack in it for months from him fiddling with it and screwing and unscrewing it and doing it too tight - but it survived so much, and now it has broken.

He is three and a half. A big boy, growing more clever and more brilliant every day. I am always amazed by the things he says and does, what he can do.

I am so very proud of him, but also devastated that my tiny baby, that tiny little baby I put a tiny little necklace on to, is all gone and has turned into a big boy, who will never be my tiny baby again.

I will keep this necklace in his memory box, broken and worn. My precious little man wore it through everything.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Snapfish review.

A few weeks ago (more weeks than should have passed before I posted this, apologies to Snapfish!) I was contacted by the PR team at Snapfish and offered a voucher to spend on their photo products to review.

I'd thought about a photo book as a gift a few times but never took the plunge as I wasn't sure what I was getting for my money, so was pleased to have he chance to see for myself whether it was worth it.

I ordered an 8x8" hardcover book with a custom cover. I'd been advised hat there is a noticeable difference in print quality between photos from a proper camera and from a camera phone. To see how true that was I picked some from each. Whilst there is a slightly more grainy finish to a camera phone image I thought the print quality of both was very good.

I picked out a themed layout for my book to see how it looked. I must admit that I'm not thrilled with how that worked out - the font for the comments you add to photos is very small and a little cartoony, which is a bit of a pet hate of mine, and looks a bit odd beside the larger lettering of the theme and doesn't quite work for me - but them I did deliberately choose something twee, to see how it looked, which I would normally avoid.

The quality of the book and printing can't be faulted at all and at £24 I thought the book, with 20 pages and a custom cover, was reasonably priced.

As I was given £30 to spend I also treated myself to a large keyring, which is actually the best quality i've received of these and I order them quite often from various places.

I also got prints of the pictures I chose for my book so I could frame some.

I think you can probably get the same kind of products for the same kinds of prices from a number of places online - but I will use Snapfish again because their guidance, customer service and user friendly website were excellent.

I was given tips on how to get the best out of my pictures when I signed up, and was kept up to date from ordering through printing, packaging and shipping right up until the package arrived, then emailed again in case I hd any complaints. Great service, and friendly the whole time.

If you want to order something similar go to where you will currently find a few offers which would be handy, with Christmas coming up, for gift ideas.

*disclosure - I was given a £30 gift voucher by Snapfish. No other payment was received and words and opinions are my own*

Sunday cakes.

Sundays are all about family and laughter and good times and food for me. I love proper Sunday lunch and sitting around the table afterwards talking and laughing together.

It was always important to me growing up and I have a lot of happy childhood memories of those times with my family, and extended family, all coming together for proper meals and tasty things.

One of those tasty things are what I always thought of as Sunday cakes.

Mum used to make these and her world famous rock buns (she and I, along with Nanny B, used to fight over the ones with the burnt raisins) but Mum skipped the coconut because she hates it, and made them about ten times the size of these!

I called her this weekend to ask for the recipe as I wanted to make them for my boys and she dug out her old be-ro cookbook (we all had that book - there isn't a home in the country whee that book wasn't tucked away somewhere!) and took photos of the pages so I could have the recipe myself!

And here they are - Sunday cakes, known by be-ro bakers as melting moments. You can see from the recipe photo that I did a couple of tiny edits.

3oz caster sugar
2 1/2oz margarine
1 1/2oz lard (I had none so just used margarine for all the fat)
Half an egg (whisked)
1 tsp vanilla essence
5oz self raising flour
Desicated coconut

1- Cream the fats and sugar, then beat in the half egg and vanilla essence.
2- stir in the flour and mix thoroughly.
3- with wet hands form the mixture into balls the size of large marbles and roll through the coconut to coat.
4- place on a greased baking sheet and press down slightly
5- poke a little dip into the top of each and spoon in half a teaspoon of jam
6- bake in a moderate oven (180c) for 15 minutes until puffed up, golden and the jam is bubbled.

7- try not to let them get eaten by your family before you can stuff some in your own mouth!

Silent Sunday

One photo to sum up my week