Thursday 28 February 2013

Little Tiger Press Books

In common with quite a few of you we've been reading a lot of books recently, and so I was delighted when Little Tiger Press asked for people to review some new books.

We were sent My First Touch And Trace: First ABC and Look Out Ladybird by Jack Tickle (that's got to be an alias, surely? Or else it's a just a fantastic name!).

Look Out Ladybird is from the Lazy Ladybird series of books, which boy no.3 is familiar with from pre-school, so he was delighted with it instantly. It has a RRP of £6.99 and a suggested age range of 3+. It is beautifully bright and the characters have real emotion in their faces. It is a nice little story, perfect for bedtime reading with enough language to keep a 4 year old entertained, but not too long or tricky for a 2 year old to understand. It has a message that we shouldn't give up if we really want something, and that sometimes all it takes is some support from someone else, or even just a few kind words, and we can get the strength to carry on.

My First Touch & Trace: First ABC is a really nice little ABC book, with the usual page for each letter and familiar items and characters on each. It has a RRP of £5.99 and is suitable from birth onwards. What makes it special in my eyes is that each page is double thickness card and the letter is shown in counter-relief, so that you can feel the channel as you trace your finger around the shape, following the arrows that show how each letter should be drawn. It's vital when children start to write that they learn to do it correctly, because it's much harder to change bad habits once the child has already become used to them.

This is also a 'lift the flap' book, with each page having something else beginning with each letter hidden under a flap. This reinforces the beginning sound of the words and really helps a child to associate the written letter with the sound it makes. The pictures are big and bold and bright, and the flaps really easy to lift. Boy no.4 is nearly 3 and has 'read' this book for hours, and both boys like to trace their fingers over the letters at the top of the pages.

We're really delighted with both of these books, they'll both be read again and again. Little Tiger Press books are available countrywide, including online from Amazon.

Monday 25 February 2013

No sleep til.......they're how old?

I've been up since 4am this morning. 4am. I've been thinking about making a start on tea since just before 7am.

I don't have a baby.
I wasn't woken by a 2 year old running past en route to the loo.
My 4 year old did not have a nightmare about caterpillars eating everything.
The house alarm across the road finally ran out of power around 4pm Saturday
I am NOT a compulsive cleaner.
I wasn't even going on holiday!

4am is a time reserved for sleeping, but instead I was woken by a child. Not a small child, but a fully grown hairy male child of 19. He and his friend had decided 4am is the correct time to go in search of a Babybel. A Babybel? What??
I'm not sure why they needed to put music on so loud and open every drawer in the house to do this task, or why it required 2 of them to wait until 4am to do it, but it seems perfectly reasonable to them even this morning, when not under the influence of some cocktail with a name that means 'copulate in a crazy place and unusual fashion'. Of course, how stupid of me, had I known I'd have put the Babybels somewhere more obvious.......not. I'd have gone in there at 10pm and eaten the whole lot in front of them and left the empty bag on the table.

He was always the worst sleeper of any of mine, when he was 3 years old I'd go to bed and a little voice from his room would say 'please put the hall light back on', and then he'd be up at 5.30am - every single day until he was 14. He needs more sleep than that now though, which is why I'll be getting my revenge by waking him at 7am every morning for the next month...

Friday 22 February 2013

Bigjigs Toys ~ and why it's said you should never work with children ~ they're animals!

We saw the e-mail and Facebook posts from Bigjigs Toys asking for people to apply to join their Play Patrol, and crikey would we love to do that! The whole Bigjigs range and ethos is one that appeals, and whenever boy no.3 and boy no.4 read the catalogue, they have the same look that I have browsing my Brad Pitt calendar...

I decided I'd do a video, we've done loads, we know what we're doing. It'll be brilliant and concise and we can introduce ourselves and say how great we are at toy testing and giving opinions and they'll be dead impressed......

Erm....yeah. What I hadn't considered is that my boys are used to actually doing something when they're filmed, as opposed to just standing talking without props. As soon as my other half got the camera out they were running over with jigsaws and models.

They're small children, they couldn't stand stock still and talk for even 5 seconds without fidgeting - after 3 attempts we had to stop for 5 minutes to let boy no.4 recover from an injury sustained whilst jumping onto the table and falling off the back.

Boy no.4 is learning to count, so simply remembering one number to say is beyond him at the moment. The longer he thinks of '2', the more he needs to say '3' (or something completely different).

We had to put away the Orchard Toys Jungle Express jigsaw about 8 times, and if I'm wincing in the film, that's because I knelt on, and destroyed, a very important spaceship made out of part of the Lego Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Headquarters - a crime for which I was severely chastened. For at least 4 minutes I was mortified* that "you are not going to be allowed to come to my number 5 birthday party"......

(*secretly delighted at the idea)

It didn't quite match the plan I had in my head when we started, but it was hilarious, and what we've ended up with is actually much more 'us'.....I've posted it to Bigjigs Facebook page and we shall be keeping our fingers crossed that they are specifically looking for a blogging family who can't remember how old they are, can nod in iambic pentameter, and like bikes because they 'come with a helmet'.....

you never know...

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Red Nose Day Jelly Bath with Red Rose Mummy

I've finally succumbed. Not since 2000 have I actually helped organise anything for Comic Relief's Red Nose Day, but this year, egged on by IzziwizziKids, sponsored by Gelli Baff and joined by Red Rose Mummy Pippa, on Saturday 9th March I shall be taking a fully-dressed moment to enjoy the delight that is sitting in a paddling pool full of jelly.

I've not tried it before, but I can clearly see it's going to be gooey and messy and cold. My children think the same, and they really can't wait to throw jelly at me in the name of #goodwork. (I will get my own comic relief the next day on Mother's Day when I find myself completely unable to cook, clean or make my own coffee).

If you would like to sponsor us, then every £1 is really very welcome, and we will film every vital moment to post up here so that you can laugh and point and see just how cold Lancashire really is in early March*

*unless I can convince my other half that it's raining far too much and we need to move the event inside next to the radiator.......

If you would like to take part yourself then get your ideas together and register with Red Nose Day for your own sponsorship page, or even join Izziwizzi Playfest on Tuesday at 8.30pm on Twitter using the hashtag #Playfest, or Thursday 8.30pm on Facebook, and you too can get your hands on some Gelli Baff and Do Something Funny With Jelly!

Saturday 16 February 2013

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lego 79103 - Turtle Lair Attack

I have to admit to being really quite excited about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Lego sets. I used to watch with my little brother, and now I see it with my children - albeit an entirely different version!

There are 5 different Turtles Lego sets, ranging from £9.99 to £59.99. We chose set 79103 Turtle Lair Attack, which retails at £49.99 and has a recommended age range of 6-12.

Inside the box are 2 instruction booklets, 4 numbered bags of Lego and a sheet of stickers. The bags of Lego are opened progressively as you go through the build, and this makes it really easy to find the pieces you need.

Bag 1 provides all of the pieces you need to make the loose items around the lair - the big screen TV, workbenches, skateboard rack, training dummy, shelving, turtle catapult, skateboard ramp and Leonardo's skateboard. Bag 1 also contains the two 'bad guys' - a Foot Soldier and a Dark Ninja.

The bags numbered 2 and 3 have all the bits to make the basis of the turtle lair itself, and each bag took around 15-20 minutes to complete, giving an overall build time of just over an hour from start to finish, which is really good for a kit with 488 pieces, and reflects the lower age range than some other models. The last bag contains more of the detailing pieces and the 2 turtles figures Leonardo and Raphael, plus their Sensei Splinter (the rat).

There are loads of details and fun aspects to this build. On the floor level roof there is an opening manhole, a pole which you can move to make your turtle swing towards his enemy and a skate ramp. There is also a ladder down to the next level, which contains the pizza oven, a fantastic workbench with a crane and tools and a rotating skateboard rack. On the bottom level we have a set of shelves and a workbench with a vice, lamp and computer and 2 opening drawers. At the back is a collapsing wall, which can be 'blown up' using the dynamite supplied, and to the right a spiral staircase.

Alongside the bottom level of the 3 storey building is the rest of the lair itself, with a tree to climb, a training dummy who rotates on his stand, and behind him the weapons racks (there are tons of swords, knives and ninja stars) and a secret tunnel into the sewers.

One of the very obvious things about this Lego set is that it is a playset. It is intended for playing with and is built for accessibility and ease of play. It has loads of moving parts and loose items, and 5 minifigures which allows for a huge variety of imaginary play. Although the building isn't huge, all of the furniture is designed to come out and be played with really easily, yet it still takes up a really small area because the whole model has so much height. The recommended age range is 6-12, and I feel that a 6 year old could build this independently, although might start to wander a bit through bag 4 (definitely the most difficult) but even after bag 1 or bags 1 and 2, they would have something they could already play with.

My youngest are a fair bit younger than 6, but they really like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and they love Lego,  so it's been all I can do to keep them away from this set while I take photo's. I think it has a lot to offer to a wide age range and for a lot of different reasons. There is tons of play value in this set, it's really well engineered and there is the nostalgia for our own childhood. Personally I think it's almost worth buying just for the workbenches with the vice and the crane because they are so well though out!

You can buy Lego from almost anywhere that you can buy toys, and also at The Lego Shop Online. On this occasion we bought ours from Toys R Us.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Black Bananas

I hate waste, I really do. I think being super poor for periods of my life has taught me that just about everything has a value at some point, and to overlook that or disrespect it is wrong.

Waste food is my ultimate pet hate. Perfectly good food, that can feed people and keep them alive and has taken a huge amount of effort to grow and be harvested and prepared, and all the other million steps it takes........and then it's thrown in a bin. It's a tragedy. Not only is it thrown in a bin, but it has to be replaced because you have to eat something, so you have actually thrown your money into the bin. I try really hard to limit our waste. I try and be meticulous about using things in order, not buying too much and if it's getting on a bit I'll freeze things or do some baking rather than just throw food out if at all possible.When I have to put real food that's gone off into the compost I get the terrible guilt, and I feel like I should sneak out at night with it so that my neighbours don't 'tut' at me

So, armed with 4 black bananas (that I had the guilt about because I knew I'd overbought and they're about 25p each and no-one in my house will eat) I decided to do some baking. Somebody was smiling on me because this morning I saw this Banana Split Muffin Recipe on the A Mummy Too blog.

I knew my cakes wouldn't look as gorgeous and beautiful as hers, but I think they looked pretty darn good.

Of course this is half term, and we couldn't leave it there. I'm sadly lacking in posh piping bags, or an ability to use them, but I can melt chocolate and then add some icing sugar with a degree of skill, and boys no.1, 3 and 4 I left in charge of the rest....

It's a great recipe, they're delicious cakes and there aren't any left. Hopefully this means I wont have to cook more than 1400 pancakes for dessert tonight!

Sunday 10 February 2013

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese is one of my family's favourite foods - so I'm a popular Mummy today. Double win.....

Happy Chinese New Year to all who wish to celebrate it, especially you snakes....

Saturday 9 February 2013


I'm officially old now. It's not the grey hairs or the beard or the boobs I can just about tuck into my socks, oh no, it's even worse than that.....

I took delivery last weekend of my first pair of old lady reading glasses.....*sobs silently in a corner*

I guess I had realised that using the laptop was hard work in the evenings, but I thought I was just tired. The blurring and red rings round my eyes I assumed were just a by-product of having children. I've had glasses for watching TV and reading anything further away than I can fall since I was 16 (yeah, that massively sensitive and self-aware age. Thanks for that eyes, you were meant to be on my side). When he saw my face drop the Optician offered the helpful words, "it's okay, we expect your eyes to deteriorate after 40". Even if we forget the whole thing about the implication that 40 is past it, I'm only just 41 - I didn't think it would be that blooming quick!!

I fully expect to have the vision of a newborn by 45....

Wednesday 6 February 2013

The Big Police Car Puzzle by Orchard Toys

 It's always lovely when someone you like says they like you too, and so I was delighted to find that Orchard Toys were pleased with the reviews I did of some of their games, and then asked me and my youngest to review a brand new jigsaw for them. We already have a couple of Orchard Toys jigsaws, and know that they are made in the UK from the same 100% recycled board as the games, and that they are full of interesting things to look at and talk about. It was a little daunting trying to work out how a video review of a jigsaw would go, but we've given it our best shot!

The Big Police Car jigsaw puzzle ~ Age 3+

The Big Police Car jigsaw  retails at £9.75 and the suggested age range is 3+. It has 30 chunky pieces in really varied sizes. It teaches matching and observation skills, manual dexterity and encourages conversation and exploration about the Police Force, modes of transport and work roles (amongst others).

The suggested age range for this puzzle is 3+ and we think that is spot on. Boy no.4 is nearly 3 and he can't quite manage on his own, whereas boy no.3 is 4 years 4 months and is almost entirely confident, even (as you can see in the video) realising he has a whole section of the puzzle that can slot into another and trying to slide it across (this is in my opinion an advanced jigsawing skill). I love that the top and side edges of the puzzle have large swooping curves which make it far more of a challenge for a child who has learned that puzzles are usually regular and rectangular.

There was loads to talk about within the picture, and the boys led most of the chat as they put it together, talking about which vehicles they preferred, what each Police Officer might be doing and what they might do next. They have now completed the puzzle several times, and it still looks brand new, they still stand and stare at it and talk about it once it's complete, and they still want to do it again.

Boy no.3 says it's "great, but not my favourite because Creepy Castle is my favourite". Boy no.4 says it's "awesome". I say it's fantastic because it's huge so they can play with it together on the floor or table and working as a team they can complete it nicely. It's a definite thumbs up!

Orchard Toys are available direct from Orchard Toys, or if you prefer to shop offline you can find your nearest stockist on their website

We were given this jigsaw for the purposes of this review, but the views expressed are ours.

Sunday 3 February 2013

For a stranger

When you join a community you make a decision to be a part of those people's lives. You learn about them and get to know them and you don't get to decide which bits you take. You take it all. You're there for the laughs and the smiles, the funny tales and the witty banter, and you also have to be there to watch if it unravels, when things go wrong or when they fall apart. Sometimes you can hold out your hand and try to help, sometimes you can give the right advice, and sometimes you can only cry. When you step into someone's world you take the whole.

This is a post I've written for someone who doesn't know I exist. Someone I've never met or spoken to, but someone who has allowed us to have a look into her world, and her world has broken. This is also a post for anyone who ever lost their child, those I've met and those I'll never know. This is a post for my brother, who lost his child, and for my parents, who last year lost their son.

I wish you strength and calm and that which my brother never found. The ability to carry on.  x