Monday, 21 January 2019

Paperscapes: The Amazing World Of Animals Book Review/Giveaway (Sent by Carlton Books)

This February Carlton Books release a new range of Paperscapes nature books which have press-out pieces to create a 'parade'. They offered to send one for review and my 10 year old chose The Amazing World Of Animals by Moira Butterfield...

Book Cover Paperscapes The Amazing World Of Animals

This is a book which can be enjoyed by a really wide age group. The text is suitable for independent readers aged around 7+, but it is presented in short text boxes and there are also a list of facts for each animal, so even younger readers can pick out salient points. The facts are fascinating and I've learned loads. The writing isn't condescending at all, so a 12 year old or older will also enjoy this book.

inside page showing poison dart frog

Reviews Revisited 2013-2018... Was it really any good?

I try to be honest in reviews, but quite often what I'm reviewing needs a really good looking at before I can truly judge it, so I often think it'd be more sensible to come back to it. Sometimes we review things which prove invaluable or 5 years down the line are still just as fabulous.

This is the first in a regular series where I'll feature some of the best products we've reviewed since the beginning of the blog... Here's a look back at things we reviewed in the the first half of January...


The first ever published review on the blog back in 2013 was one I did for Izziwizzikids, which was a Facebook page which held discussion evenings on play. We focused on slow play, which nowadays would cover most STEM toys. It was LEGO, the Goblin King Battle set 70910. Obviously we still have it, although the Goblin has a loose hand nowadays...


In January 2016 I reviewed two really great things which have stayed with me ever since. Room the movie, an incredibly powerful film loosely based on real events, in which a young girl is kidnapped and held in a single room until she escapes many years later. Brilliant acting by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, lots of crying and a true sense that as long as we don't give up, we can win.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

10 Of The Best Construction Toys For Future Engineers #YearOfEngineering

It doesn't take much to spot that here at The Brick Castle we are huge fans of construction toys and we like to try everything. Construction is brilliant for encouraging imagination and confidence. It develops problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination. finger strength and it's a brilliant way to learn some of the skills needed to become an Engineer.

2019 has been labelled as the Year Of Engineering and it's about time because the other STEM subjects (science, technology and maths) get a much better press. What we don't always realise though, is just how much relies on engineers. They are the people who decide what we can safely and sensibly build or make, what quantities of materials we'll need, how we should start and how to test the end result.


The people who built the railways were engineers, the people who designed and built your car are engineers. Your Nan was an engineer when she made up her own recipe for biscuits. We really need engineers....

Here, in no order at all, are 10 of my family's favourite construction toys to support Engineering Skills and STEM Education...

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Treads Boys Black School Shoes 1 Year Guarantee Put To The Test

I promised I'd be back and I am! Treads are a relatively new company who make their children's school shoes as durable as possible. They're so sure your child won't go through the toes or scrape through the leather that they offer a 1 year guarantee. My boys Treads shoes still fit and they are now 9 months old... so what do they look like now?

Underside view of brand new shoe with rubber moulded sole

To refresh your memory, Treads make shoes in sizes from 12 1/2 to 'big foot ' 11, so fit most junior/Key Stage 2 children or older. This is what the Treads school shoes looked like when I first reviewed them and they were brand new - you can find my initial thoughts and an explanation of some of the technology in my Treads School Shoes Review.

My youngest son chose a quite traditional style with an easy to use 'hook and loop' Velco-type fastening.

Standard new black 'velcro' fastening school shoes in box

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

January #TBCSmiles

It's January, yeeay! All of my family are finally back at school and work - we are better! Yeeay! I've taken it easy getting back to writing, partly because I was so blooming tired after the flu, partly because my kids were off school, and partly because it made me too ill to take anything for my high blood pressure for 2 weeks, so my eyesight has suffered. The ripple effect is massive.

We are now playing catch up with just about everything. The boxes from all the deliveries before Christmas still fill my hallway and we owe one of the big kids their main Christmas present. The van didn't go to the garage and is now off-the-road waiting for it's brakes to be fixed. We still have Christmas goodies that need to be eaten and best before dates are getting incredibly close. As a bonus the LEGO Winter Village is still all out, something none of us are actually upset about (it definitely doesn't count as a Christmas decoration really).... and we are all well and that's the main thing.


Disappointingly we've had no snow to fill this month's photos. It's cold and slippy, but it forces changes to mundane routine and gets everyone's adrenaline pumping. It excites us and as nature shows it's power, it takes our mind off everything smaller. Instead the weather has reflected the mood of the nation in many ways. Dismal, poor and a bit blustery at times. Boring.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Top 7 Tag: 2018/2019

2019 is here with a bit of a blur for me. I seem to have fallen into it rather than the usual meandering approach through Christmas, possibly because I've slept more in the last 3 weeks than I did in the previous 3 months. Back to Earth with a bang, and a little reflection on the year just gone.


I've been invited to join in with the Top 7 tag by Laura from Tired Mummy Of Two. It was started by One Frazzled Mum and asks me to look back at 2018. To share my favourite 7 blog posts, 7 things I loved about 2018 and 7 things I'm looking forward to in 2019. Then I get to tag 7 other bloggers to take part.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Party Season Women's Clothes with Fashion World

Fashion World is an online clothing store which promises great prices, huge range and good quality clothes.  Before Christmas they sent me some lovely items which I was really excited about wearing - then I got flu. My clothes remained in their bags while I was ill, all I wore for 2 weeks over Christmas was pyjamas.


Finally I am almost human again, although running a cracking temperature and a bit red-faced still, but dressing up makes anyone smile. On Sunday (which also happened to be 12th night) my partner and my 10 year old took some photos of me in my new outfits. Please excuse the fluffy socks, that didn't occur to me until we'd taken half the photos, and my male family members clearly aren't bothered by labels or hanger straps!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Goodbye 2018....

Well, that didn't quite go to plan. Usually at the end if the year I post something carefully crafted and added to over the previous couple of weeks. This year flu decided against that and if you follow my social media you'll know that we really got hit hard. 2 days before Christmas my 10 year old and my partner were so ill they were referred to hospital, and I was so ill that I was told not to go with them. Thankfully my 10 year old was allowed to come back after assessment and my partner was given oxygen and fluids for 24 hours and allowed home Christmas Eve afternoon.

Thank you to every single NHS and public sector employee who gave up part of their Christmas to look after people like me and my family. I honestly cannot thank you enough.


Every year I say just focus on what is really important at Christmas and don't fret about the rest. I was honestly too ill to care about the rest and was struggling with the important, but while I was unable to function, the sparkle and glitter came from everywhere.
Friends offered to cook, to help, to look after the smaller boys. They even offered to finish my Christmas shopping.
Our big kids descended on us, took stock and took over.
One of our Uni kids had to make tricky choices about who to see, without putting older relatives in danger. A very scary choice to make when your Dad has been hospitalised, but we found the perfect solution and there's so much joy in this photo, it brings a tear to my eye every time.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Pyjama Factory Winter Nightwear Review (Sent For Review)

Pyjamas are probably the UK's most overlooked and yet most loved Winter wear. We have such varied weather we can even manage without in Summer, but once Winter arrives there's the whole cold and frosty vs warm and snuggly thing and pyjamas are a necessity.


Once everyone is home and has settled for the evening, there's little better than to get into your pyjamas and truly relax, so I'm very happy to say my boys and I have all been sent new pyjamas for Christmas by The Pyjama Factory.


My two boys both took very little time to choose pyjamas, the range is pretty broad, with Harry Potter, Gaming, TV, movies, sports, dinosaurs and all sorts of children's pyjamas. There will be something to please any child and my almost 9 year old went straight to the gaming section.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Lavender & Lovage: A Culinary Notebook Of Memories And Recipes (sent for review)

It's been a little while since I reviewed a cookery book, but I've dusted off my apron for Karen Burns-Booth's debut cookbook, Lavender & Lovage: A Culinary Notebook Of Memories And Recipes From Home And Abroad. I think the title pretty much says it all really...


I read Karen's blog even before I had The Brick Castle and her food is good, unpretentious, tasty fare. Born in South Africa, she's lived in countries all over the world and has soaked up the food from every one. This is a gigantic recipe book with around 160 recipes. Alongside are snippets giving history, origins or a short tale about the recipe or it's ingredients. They're short and sweet, and really do add to the dish, often giving useful hints for home cooks too.