Monday 29 September 2014

A 6th Birthday with Boxtrolls and Dragons and Barf

So, one of our younger children had their birthday at the weekend. It was always going to be hard and stressful, and we all knew it, although no-one said out loud. There were a lot of iffy tummies on Friday and Saturday - the atmosphere was more than a little tense. You simply can't escape the fact that his oldest sister should be there too, and we were all upset that she wasn't.

The day started well with a lie in until 9am for us, while a couple of the teenagers got up with the little ones, then croissants and chocolate brioche for breakfast.

4 year old hiding in wrapping paper
Wrapping paper is the best thing ever for 4 year old little brothers apparently.

Friday 26 September 2014

LEGO T1 Splitscreen Camper Van set 10220

On the day it was released we bought the Volkswagen T1 Camper Van set 10220 and it is a fabulous set. It is huge, it's too big for LEGO minifigures, but perfect for the old Technic people. With 1332 pieces and costing £79.99 it's only a mid-range model pricewise, yet the work and design devotion that's gone into this vehicle is astounding. As such it's an incredibly fiddly build, and the suggested age range is a mature 16+.

LEGO T1 Splitscreen Camper Van set 10220

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Splitscreen Campervan set 10220

The attention to detail is amazing. Right down to the petrol filler next to the rear air vents, the engine including alternator belt in the engine bay....

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Splitscreen Campervan set 10220 engine bay

The bench seat, super long gear stick and authentic dashboard with no flat areas...

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 dashboard and gearstick

The drop down table and 'rock and roll' bed which actually works better than they seem to in real life - when you've had a couple of beverages and you're shattered and there are 3 bags of clothes and some small children in the way....

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 table and chairs

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 drop down table and seating

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 rock and roll bed
LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review

And the 'pop top' roof, plus genuine 60's roof rack - only missing the vintage 'Coke' cool box...

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review roof rack and pop top

Not to mention the 'barn doors' with attached cupboards, and terrific curtains...

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review roof rack and pop top and barn doors

The rear wardrobe has a t-shirt hanging up which is visible through the window (spot on).

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review rear wardrobe with t-shirt

There are so many other details it would be ridiculous to carry on listing them.

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review interior

 LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review interior

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review interior

One of the most beautiful parts of the build though is the front of the van. The front windscreen glass opens outwards as a real Splitscreen van does, the wing mirror is perfectly and ridiculously small, and the swooping V is beautifully done.

LEGO T1  Volkswagen Split screen Campervan set 10220 review front of van

This is a model I never tire of looking at, and my children love it when we bring it down for them to have a play. There are so many moving and interesting parts, the design is absolutely fabulous. The Volkswagen T1 Camper Van offers exceptional value for money in my opinion, and is my all-time favourite LEGO model.

I could be biased though, I met my partner because we both had VW campers....

The LEGO T1 Splitscreen Camper Van set 10220 retails at £79.99 and is available from LEGO shops and at that price with free delivery and VIP points that add up for free LEGO, or you can buy it on ebay for more.

If that's beyond your price range or ability then I've also reviewed the LEGO City Camper 60057, which is a much smaller and more child-friendly model.

LEGO Camper Van set 60057 Age 5+

It'll come as no surprise to anyone who knows us that we now have 3 LEGO camper vans (as well as a real one). The larger Volkswagen Splitscreen LEGO model belongs to the grown ups, but the 2 smaller models are the children's.

LEGO Camper Van collection Campervan Motorhome review

Friends sent the children the 60057 set as a gift, and without any prompting our 4 1/2 year old opened it and built it entirely on his own. He was incredibly proud. This is the first time he's taken a set with instructions and built the model as suggested, rather than just making up something himself or using the picture on the box as a rough guide for his own creation.

Four year old building LEGO Camper Van set 60057 age 5+

So what is the camper van like? It's pretty cool actually. The model has a suggested age range of 5-12, costs £17.99 and has only 195 pieces. This makes it ideal for a younger builder. There are no overly fiddly bits, and it's a fairly straightforward build. The shape of the vehicle comes together pretty quickly, so it's easy to see where it's going.

Four year old building LEGO Camper Van set 60057 mid-build

The previous (now discontinued) LEGO City Camper Van model 7639 was much smaller and a lot less sophisticated. It opened down the middle, and while it was still very cool and we were very happy with it, you can see that play is somewhat limited. The opening sides meant it took up a lot of space and the 2 seats inside filled the rear interior.

LEGO City Camper Van Play Set model 7639

The current LEGO City Camper Van set 60057 is substantially bigger, and uses some of the different techniques that LEGO are regularly adding to builds nowadays, such as the hinged side and large windows and wall plates. The yellow surf board and red pushbike (not shown) are replaced by the red kayak, life jackets and paddles.

LEGO Camper Van model 60057 motorhome build

LEGO Camper Van model 60057 motorhome interior view front

The increase in size allows for a table and a downstairs double bed - pretty essential in campervans.  It also has a huge TV sticker. Our 4 year old misread the instructions and fixed this to the window initially.

LEGO Camper Van model 60057 campervan interior view rear of van

The increase in space also allows for the walkthrough to the front cab, you can then turn around the drivers seat as is possible with real campers, and the large roof bed (still only accessible from outside), plus additional roof storage.

LEGO Camper Van model 60057 campervan interior high bed removable roof

LEGO Camper Van model 60057 campervan removable roof section storage

Our 4 year old has grown up with little LEGO, so he's pretty good at it, and I think the age range of 5+ is right, he had no issues with the actual build. He doesn't quite understand how number plates work though, and although he can read numbers and recognise letters, he didn't think it was so important to have them the right way up....

LEGO City Camper Van model 60057 front windscreen view

...and why would anyone want to correct him when he's this proud....

Four year old with first LEGO model following instruction booklet

I think it's a great build, and for the money offers a play set/vehicle that's robust and really easy to play with. It's full of potential for storytelling and imaginative play, and if your 6 year old only had this one LEGO set, they'd still be able to play with it for hours.

Selection of LEGO camper van models motorhomes built from bricks

The front left Camper Van Play Set 7639 is a discontinued model.
The front right LEGO City Camper Van 60057 costs £17.99
The rear Volkswagen T1 Camper Van 10220 costs £79.99 and I've reviewed it here...

LEGO City Camper Van 60057 built by 4 year old

Thursday 25 September 2014

Dressing your salad with Oxo Good Grips and Filippo Berio

In July Oxo Kitchen Tools sent me 2 of this Summer's new Good Grips kitchen tools to try out. The Little Salad Dressing Shaker and the Herb Mincer really are everything you need to create and serve a multitude of different dressings.

Dressing a salad with Oxo Good Grips and Filippo Berio

To give me some inspiration I was also sent Filippo Berio Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil. Combined these 2 ingredients make a Balsamic Vinaigrette, which serves as a great base for all kinds of other ingredients.

1/4 Balsamic vinegar
3/4 Olive Oil

Season to taste with salt and black pepper

This will give you a perfectly acceptable dressing, but you can do so much more. Garlic, mustard and honey individually or in any combination will spruce up your Balsamic Vinaigrette, but I want to try my herb mincer to create an Italian style dressing that is perfect for salads, or for dipping bread.

Saturday 20 September 2014


I'm not meant to be at home right now. I should be in London. I should be at the MAD blog Awards, hobnobbing with the celebs and star bloggers, eating a very fancy meal in a 5 star hotel. Right about now I should be having my hair and make up done, before putting on a totally posh frock and going out there a Princess. I should be sat beside my friend Jen while she waits to see if she has won an award for My Mummy's Pennies. I should be having a night off, a night out, a stay in a hotel and some amazing company. A fun time. I chose not to go, I am not in the mood for trying to have fun. I hope that everyone has an awesome epic time and whoever got my ticket uses it well.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

LEGO Mixels Series 3 Review - Glurt 41519 and Wizwuz 41526

The LEGO Mixels Series 3 were released on September 1st and LEGO have sent us a couple to look at. As with previous series releases there are 9 Mixels in 3 tribes - this time the Wiztastics, Glorp Corp and Spikels.

LEGO Mixels Series 3 review - Glurt 41519 and Wizwuz 41526

LEGO Mixels Series 3 - Glurt 41519 Glorp Corp doglike

Glurt set 41519 is one of the Glorp Corp - gooey creatures who remind me of pre-school age kids - all snot and dirty hands. Glurt is very dog-like, with a big yapping mouth and little legs.

LEGO Mixels Series 3 - Glurt 41519 Glorp Corp doglike special elements

One of the best things about Mixels is the array of interesting elements in each bag, and these are no exception. The builds are quick and require a degree of skill, they're a little tricky for younger children because of the tiny parts, but excellent for promoting fine motor skills and teaching new ways to connect LEGO bricks, and fantastic to play with when built.

LEGO Mixels Series 3 - Glurt 41519 Glorp Corp doglike creature with goo

In this bag we also got a little extra. One of the Nixels - the 'bad guys'. 

LEGO Mixels Series 3 - Glurt 41519 and Nixel

Monday 15 September 2014


This isn't a post about Bootstraps, news which I'm sure will be welcome. This is a post about a company called World's Apart. They emailed me just a few days after Elspeth died, and offered me a nightlight to review.

They got my 'out-of-office' notice and I probably wouldn't have heard from them again, but my 4 and 5 year olds were having awful trouble sleeping. By fluke I saw the email and it was so timely that I replied asking if I could please take a nightlight and review it at some point in the future. At the time the idea of going shopping for lights was even more horrific than it is now, I couldn't have done it.

The PR replied and was incredibly lovely to me and said she'd just send me a light and a torch and she didn't want a review. She wanted to try and help. Here's my thank you...

Nothing is easy.

I had a conversation this morning with a close friend. It went something like this...

F-It's hard I guess, you want to do fun stuff but it can be hard?
Me-When I read my own typing it seems impossible. You can't imagine being happy. You don't want to be
F-No, exactly
Me-You feel guilty at the idea. And then you remember why you weren't happy. So you aren't happy. Everything normal feels different. Boiling the kettle is different
F-Of course
Me-Sitting here typing is different. I'm different
F-You have to find a new normal. Everything has changed
Me-But you don't want to. It feels like you are betraying her
F-You aren't.
Me-Thinking of switching on my laptop feels like I don't care. It's hard. It's really hard
F-Don't do it if you don't feel ready but, equally it may help. Remember that she loved the blog, and all the things she enjoyed through it too, she would want you to find a way to carry on I think

And I typed those words, and I listened to myself, and I re-read them, and I heard my partner yesterday telling me to get back to the blog, and I thought of the reviews I have here, half-written and sitting there, and the things they're written about - the sandpit my 4 year old can't wait to go in after school, however cold it is out there now. The lovely time we had with the little ones at Chill Factore, and the gorgeous books we've been reading.

It's very hard after what's happened to have any confidence in anything I do. I have hardly cooked, I feel everything will be tasteless and insipid.  I have no confidence over anything I do with our children, I worry I did things wrong and I worry we don't really know them at all. It's very hard being that person, and I imagine very hard being a friend to that person, because you can't really do anything to make it better.

Nothing is easy now. Nothing is the same. I will never be the same. But Elspeth liked my blog, she read it, she was impressed with my achievements. Life may not be the same, and actually, we don't want it to be, but I'd be doing my whole family a disservice if I didn't switch on my laptop and pull myself up by the Bootstraps.

A whole wall of sunflowers made by the Foundation children at our school.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Small Steps...

Picking up my blogging right now is really hard.

I don't want to have a blog full of the heartache that we're all feeling here at home, it's always been my happy place full of achievements and fun stuff. Even when my partner had Meningitis my blog was where I recorded each and every improvement. Right now it doesn't feel like we can ever have improvement, although logic tells me each and every step back to normal life is a step forward.

Our youngest child started school yesterday. He's 4, he is coping incredibly well on the face of it. He was excited for his first day and ran into school. He has stopped telling everyone we meet all of the details about what happened, which is a relief, but school are ready for it and ready to explain to other parents if their children come home with our son's 'news'.
He has sorted it out in his head. On advice from a Family Support Worker we let him go and see his sister in the chapel, and since then he has stopped being scared that she is still upstairs, and has accepted the permanence of her death.
He isn't sleeping well, so he's tired. He's scared of dark and shadows, so he won't go to the toilet alone or go upstairs without me, and he's only falling asleep with the light on. World's Apart very kindly sent us an amazing night light which is really big and bright, and sound activated, so when he wakes he only has to speak and he has light.
He's scared we'll die. If someone lies in bed late he asks if they've died. He's made me promise I won't get confused and kill myself.  I promise.

Our 5 year old moved over to year 1 and the big school yesterday. He had a good day, he was 'Star Of The Day', and it was meatballs for lunch. He's eating again now. He knows lots about France, and is still wearing his Cockade from the funeral last week. His class are going to study France this half term, maybe if he's up to it he'll sing them something from Les Miserables.
He misses nothing. He sees me go to check on the older children when they sleep in, and asks me if I checked to see if they are dead. I can't lie, so I just give him a hug.
He's going to sleep with the light on, but sleeping well. He has been given a Disney Cars torch that is motion activated, so he can have light at night when wakes. He uses it to check his brother, I know, I've seen him, but I didn't let on.
He's terrified he will die. He's scared he might eat some mud or too much toothpaste or anything else poisonous. He warns his brother whenever he feels he's doing something dangerous. Death is now something that doesn't only happen to the elderly or the very ill. He's realised so terribly young that life is fragile.

The teenagers are all coping in their own ways. They all know it's okay to be happy, smile, laugh. It's okay to watch comedy on TV or have fun with your friends. You can listen to music or play games. You can cry for a reason, cry for secret reason, and cry for no reason. It's all okay.
They're all having help from CAMHs for bereavement counselling. They all need to know it wasn't their fault, and they couldn't have prevented it. No-one can truly be inside someone else's head, we only see what they choose to share. This was true of Elspeth, and it is true now of our other children, and we're trying our best to make sure guilt and anger are not what they feel inside.

Both of our 16 year olds did exceptionally well in their GCSE's. Elspeth had 3 A*'s and 4 more A's and had 11 GCSE's in total. Jake has an A* and 4 more A's and 12 GCSE's in total. This is brilliant, and we're so proud of them. It means that Jake has secured his place at a Specialist Engineering College in the midlands, and will be leaving us, as was always the plan. I'm pleased he's still following his dream, although we'll miss him terribly, but have warned him he'll never be too far for a surprise visit, and he will be joining us alternate weekends and holidays.

The small steps will add up, I know that. It's such a long road ahead that I know we'll never reach the end, but maybe if we keep counting the small steps, we can see the progression more clearly.

First ever LEGO model all by himself, following the instructions x