Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Me & Mine #9

The end of September already?! This photo was taken on our recent trip to Cameron House, Loch Lomond. It's such a beautiful place to visit and it's always a fun visit as we spend the day with our very good friends, eating and drinking and relaxing.

This month I started college. It's been fun and hard. I'm only in college for a day and a half but it is tiring having to use my brain and sit through lectures, taking in lots of new information. It will be worth it in the long run though and I know when it is done, I'll be able to give our family an amazing life and know that I achieved something for myself. I'll also be able to say I'm doing a job that I love. How rewarding is that?

Husband has been working hard, as always, but he has also been getting to the gym more now that Miss C is in school and he doesn't have to collect her from nursery or stay in at night whilst I go out to work. He also has more time to catch up on his TV shows. I couldn't tell you which ones he's watching but they seem to feature gruesome beasties or Romans.

Z just amazes me every day and he has settled in to school life amazingly. I don't know why we were worried about moving him up a year because even his teacher says he fits right in, like he was always meant to be there. He announced that he wants to be a Doctor when he grows up and would like Santa to bring him a medical dictionary. And some LEGO too. So now I'm on the hunt for an appropriate medical book for a seven year old. Any suggestions?

Miss C has taken to school amazingly well too. She really likes her teacher and her classmates and she loves being able to see her friends at playtime especially her best friend, who is in a different class. The long days do make her tired though. She's loving horse riding, as always, and is really coming on at swimming lessons too.

dear beautiful

Monday, 29 September 2014

A Homework Award

Last week, Miss C came home with her first award; the homework award!

Miss C has started to learn to read with the Biff and Chip books at school. I'm not a huge fan of these books, as I've mentioned before, but Miss C loves them and she has been learning her stage 1 words since she started school.

She was so pleased to get her award, as were we. Daddy decided to get her a special treat for doing so well; a toy horse from Disney on Ice.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Week That Was #37

Last Sunday, we headed up to Loch Lomond to spend the day with our friends at Cameron House. We love it there and the weather was just glorious. We had lunch and then headed to the pool. The kids had a great time going down the slide and jumping in to the deep end of the pool. Husband and I took turns in the sauna and steam room. After our swim we headed back to the lodge and collected Z's golf clubs for a round of crazy golf. It was a really, really fun day.

On Monday, we were all off for the September weekend holiday. We got up and had breakfast and then headed off to the park with my friend's dog. We're looking after him whilst they are on holiday. We took a long walk around the park, through the forest and ended up climbing a steep hill when we met with a dead end. By the time we got home, we were all ready for a nap.

On Tuesday, it was back to school and college. I had classes on theory and the curriculum but I was only in until 1pm which was good. I came home, did my homework and had a quick up of coffee before heading out to collect the kids. We came home and did their homework, had dinner and took the neighbour's dog for a walk.

On Wednesday, I dropped the kids off at school and came home to do my college work. It was hard going and at lunch time I stopped to have lunch and catch up on Hollyoaks. I picked the kids up from school and we came home to do Z's homework. After dinner, the kids played outside but they were so tired, they were in bed for 6.30pm!

On Thursday, it was a miserable day! I took the kids to school then came home to do some more college work. After picking the kids up and having dinner, I took Z to the dentist to get one of his adult teeth checked as it is coming down in front of one of his wobbly baby teeth. The dentist assured Z and I that it was fine and to just keep wobbling the baby tooth. The kids took my neighbour's dog for a walk with Husband before bedtime.

On Friday, after a day of cleaning and housework at home, I picked the kids up from school and my hairdresser arrived to do my hair. Miss C also had her hair trimmed. After our pampering, we had pizza for tea and watched the Xfactor.

On Saturday, we took Z to karate and then came home for lunch. We were then off to watch Disney on Ice. We were so excited and we caught up with the lovely Susan and her gorgeous family. The show was amazing and our review will follow soon. After the show, we headed home and had Chinese for tea and watched the second night of boot camp on Xfactor.

365 Project 2014 Days 264 - 270

Day 264 - Ready for golf at Cameron House
Day 265 - A trip to the park as school was off
Day 266 - Hard at work on their homework
Day 267 - Walking to school
Day 268 - TV before bed
Day 269 - Yum yum
Day 270 - Waiting for Disney on Ice to start

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

My Sunday Photo / The Black and White Photo Project #12

I love finding fungi to photograph. They can be such amazing shapes and sizes.

I'm linking this photo up to PODcast Black and White Photo Project.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Fun at Loch Lomond #CountryKids

It was a beautiful day
On the day we headed to Loch Lomond
Our annual day trip to see friends
To enjoy the peaceful surroundings

To enjoy the beautiful scenery
To bask in the glorious sun
To look out over the tranquil Loch
To run free and enjoy outdoors

Searching for chestnuts
Saying hello to the geese
Playing a spot of crazy golf
Simply enjoying the peace

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 26 September 2014

Gold Stars Math - Review

Z loves Math. He loves learning in general but Math is his favourite subject. He is fascinated with numbers and loves fractions, multiplication, division, angles...you get the picture. I'm not a Math lover so Z must get his love for all that is Mathematical from his Dad, who is an engineer.

Parragon Books sent us a Math book for Z to complete during the Summer holidays. This book is from their Gold Star range and Z received a KS2 book aimed at age 9 - 11. The Gold Stars range starts from pre-school right up to KS2 and also includes workbooks for English, Phonics, Telling the Time and Spelling.

The book is really well set out, easy to read and follow and it is colourful to make it attractive to children and to keep them engaged.

Each page gives a simple explanation of how to complete the problems and handy tips too. Each exercise has a clear objective so you can easily see what your child is learning from the problem. I also loved the definition of any "Math terms" such as equivalents. I actually learnt a lot from reading through them; I'm terrible with Math!

The workbook also comes with a test book which has a test for each exercise your child has completed. I encouraged Z to complete each test at the end of his workbook exercise so it was fresh in his mind and helped reinforce what he has just learnt.

This isn't the first workbook we have had like this one but Z still enjoys completing them. To him, this is fun and if being on my college course has taught me anything so far, it's that children learn more when they are doing something fun or something they enjoy. Z found the book really easy to do so I guess I'm going to have to look out for books like these aimed at children starting secondary!

The Gold Stars range is available to buy from Amazon.

We received this book for the purposes of a review. The opinions expressed are my own. 

This Day Four Years Ago #FlashbackFriday

Here is a 16 month old Miss C.

This photo was taken exactly four years ago today. It was taken at the local country park whilst Z and his friend were exploring the castle.

Miss C was at the age where she was quite happy sitting in her buggy, watching everyone and everything...how I miss that stage!

mummy mishaps

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Can you Guess? Orchard Toys - Review

After trying out Cake Monster for Orchard Toys, we were looking forward to playing Can you Guess? as a family. If you have What a Performance! then this game is very similar and it is a lot of fun. 

Can you Guess? is an exciting game where players have to mime or make noises or do both from picture cards so the other players can guess what they are. The game is for ages 4 and over and for 3 to 4 players. This is the sort of game that I could see families playing together on Christmas Day. 

Inside the box you get:
  • 18 sound cards
  • 18 action cards
  • 10 performance cards
  • A spinner
  • 4 scoreboards
  • 24 golden star tokens

The eldest player starts by spinning the spinner and choosing the corresponding card for the picture they land on. This could be a sound card, an action card or a performance card. If the spinner lands on the question mark, the player can choose any one of the cards. If a player lands on a sound card, they have to make the noise and only the noise of the picture on the sound card. If they land on an action card, they have to act out the picture on the card, without using any sound. If the spinner lands on a performance card, the player can act out and sound the picture on the card. The other players have to guess what the picture is on the card and the person to get it correct first collects a golden star token. The winner is the person with the most golden star tokens after everyone has taken 6 turns.

We had so much fun playing this game that we played two games one after the other. It is very similar to What a Performance! however, the picture element in this game instead of the words in What a Performance! means that Miss C can join in without someone having to read her card for her so she knows what she has to do. 

Can you Guess? encourages social and interaction skills as well as observational skills. It also encourages children to think about what they have to act out and how they will do it or to think about what sound they need to make. It was really funny to see Miss C's interpretation of some of the things she had to act out. We were left pretty clueless on some!

The pieces in the game are well made and really bright and colourful. Can you Guess? is priced at £11.75 on the Orchard Toys website which I feel is a fair price and in-line with similar products on their website.

We'd really recommend Can you Guess? as a fun family game. I'll definitely be getting it out at Christmas time and I can see it being a fun game to play with just adults too!

We received this game for the purposes of a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Family #TheGallery

Any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

This is our family. Husband and I came together and started our family almost 12 years ago. After a few years, Z arrived and made our family of two a family of three. A few years later, Miss C came along and made our family complete. 

I love our family. We are all so close and that makes our time together so special and happy. Our home is filled with love, life and laughter. Of course we have moments where we want to hide from one another but mostly, there is just love and life and laughter.

Outside our family of four, we have an amazing group of friends, who I would be happy to call my family too. The kids have the amazing support of not just their Aunts and Uncles and Grans and Papas but from our friends, who are always there for them and us. For them, I am truly thankful. 

Relatives may link us by blood but it is those friends who truly define the word Family. 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cake Monster Orchard Toys - Review

As big fans of Orchard Toys, we were excited to receive two of their new games in the post to review. I'll be reviewing Can you Guess? shortly but Miss C wanted to play Cake Monster first.

Cake Monster is a fun counting and matching game. It is aimed at ages 3+ and for 2-4 players. As this game encourages counting to ten, I felt the game would be suitable up to the age of 5 however, an older sibling may enjoy playing with a younger sibling.

Inside the box you get:

  • 40 double sided cake shaped cards
  • 4 doubled side cake stand boards
  • A 3D Cake Monster (very easy to assemble!)
  • A spinner
  • A cake reference board 

There are two ways to play this game. 

In the first game, (Fill Your Cake Stand) players have to fill their empty cake stand with cakes with the number of toppings indicated on the spinner when they take their turn. The cake shaped cards are placed white side up. Players who aren't confident on identifying quantities can use the cake reference board to check the number of toppings on each cake. Players can only have one of each cake IE they can't have two cakes on their stand with five toppings. If a player finds a Monster Card then they have to feed that cake card to the Cake Monster and make lots of munching noises. The winner is the first person to fill up their cake stand.

Miss C had a lot of fun playing this game but wasn't impressed when she found a Monster Card. Miss C didn't need to use the card reference board as she was able to count the toppings on the cakes herself. 

The second game, (Feed the Monster) is a bingo game. Players use the cake stand with the pictures of cakes, find their cakes and place them on the stand. The Monster Cards are not used in this game. Using the spinner, players must feed the cake with corresponding number of toppings to the Cake Monster. When the players feed the cakes to the Cake Monster, they must make a munching sound. The winner is the first person to feed all their cakes to the Cake Monster.

Miss C really enjoyed Feed the Monster and it's a quick and easy game to play if you haven't got a lot of time. 

Each variation of the game encourages number recognition, awareness of quantities and counting skills. Memory and observational skills are also encouraged through remembering what numbers have been called in bingo or looking for the cake you need in Fill Your Cake Stand. Social skills are developed through turn taking and joining in with the munching sounds.

We really enjoyed playing Cake Monster. In terms of educational value, it is probably a bit young for Miss C however, the fun of playing the game is definitely right for her. 

Cake Monster costs £9.50 on the Orchard Toys website which is in line with similar games on the site. I can't ever find fault with the quality of the playing boards and pieces in Orchard Toys games so I definitely feel their prices reflect value for money considering how well made the games are. A perfect birthday or Christmas present for your child or as a present for a friend. 

We received Cake Monster for the purposes of a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Week That Was #36

Last Sunday, we all woke up after 9am! We must have needed the sleep. We got ready for horse riding and Husband and Z came to watch Miss C. She did so well and even attempted cantering! Of course, she had people beside her and pulling her horse along but she loved it and went three times. After lunch we relaxed before going to swimming lessons.

On Monday, it was back to school for the kids and back to college for me. I had classes on Children's Rights and Legislation, Children's Health and Working with Children. I found it easier to take in and I enjoyed all the tasks we had. Z and Miss C were playing when I got home. We received some new Orchard Toys games in the post, which we will be reviewing shortly, and the kids were excited to colour in the box they came in!

On Tuesday, I dropped the kids off at school and headed to college. Today it was more theory and curriculum lessons. After college, I headed in to town to pick up some Dollars for Z's best friend who is off to Florida next week. I went to Greggs for a sausage roll and a biscuit treat for the kids. I picked them up from school, really ready for a coffee and a sit down!

On Wednesday, I didn't have to go to college but I did have homework that took me pretty much all day to do. I picked the kids up after school and because it was a really nice day and they didn't have any homework, we went to the park. I told them to take off their school shoes and put their gym shoes on though! After the park, we went home for dinner and then played in the garden until bedtime.

On Thursday, it was an in-service day at school so the kids were off. I decided I'd take them out for lunch as Husband was in bed sleeping from his night shift. We went to one of my favourite Chinese restaurants and then headed to the park to meet friends. It was a lot of fun and we were very tired when we got home. After dinner, we watched some TV and then had a nice, warm bath to relax using some of the JOHNSON's Baby FIRST TOUCH All-in-one-Wash. It's fragrance-free and really gentle on the kids' skin so it's ideal for making a fun bubble bath without having to worry about it irritating their eczema. It's so gentle because it has been developed for Mums to use on their newborns without having to worry about what they can and can't use on their new baby's skin. There are lots of other products in the range including wipes, shampoo and moisturising lotion.

On Friday, the kids were off school for the September weekend. Z was going to his best friend's house for the day. They were off to the cinema to see Tarzan and then going to play badminton. Miss C and I had a house day. We played with her Palace Pets and watched Lady and the Tramp.

On Saturday, Z had karate in the morning. He was very tired after his day out yesterday. After lunch, we had a relaxing afternoon, playing a game of Can you Guess? which is a new game from Orchard Toys. It was a lot of fun. After dinner, we got snuggled up on the couch to watch Xfactor.

The First Canter

Miss C absolutely loves horse riding. I could never have imagined just how much she would enjoy horse riding lessons when she started them at the beginning of the year. She told us she wanted to go for awhile and we decided to take her, fully expecting her to freak out and want off as soon as the horse started moving. She didn't. She was beaming for the whole lesson.

She is really confident on her horse. She doesn't take any nonsense from him and tells him off if he pulls his head down. Her rising trot is really coming on. She still needs to hold on to the saddle to get her started but once she has her balance, she lets go and rises whilst holding her reins.

She is so brave on her horse. She wants to try new things all the time. Last weekend, she decided she wanted to canter. A canter is faster than a trot but not as fast as a gallop. But given Miss C's size, I'm pretty sure a canter would feel like a really fast thing for her.

Her teacher encourages Miss C to try new things. She doesn't say no because she's too small. She wants her to feel comfortable riding. There will be a time when Miss C comes off her horse; it happens to everyone. It's part of learning to ride. The key is getting her to a stage where she will get up, brush herself off and get back on the horse.

So last weekend, Miss C did her first canter. Of course, she had people beside her to help keep her on Jocky and another was pulling him along to get him in to canter. Jocky is a fast pony even at his grand age of 32 but Miss C isn't strong enough to get him in to canter or control him herself...yet.

We watched as they started to get Jocky running and in to canter and Miss C's face was a picture. She was loving it. I thought she'd hate it because it is very bouncy and if you haven't got the strength to really sit in to your saddle, it can be sore on your bits. She loved it so much, she asked to go again and again. Poor Jocky was knackered.

Here's a video of her lesson. She really is becoming quite the little rider.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

My Sunday Photo / The Black and White Photo Project #11

Eerie or peaceful?

I can't decide.

Linking this up to PODcast Black and White Photo Project.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

365 Project 2014 Days 257 - 263

Day 257 - A cuddle with Felix
Day 258 - Walking to school
Day 259 - Practising using her ruler
Day 260 - Fun at the park
Day 261 - Playing with Palace Pets at the park
Dayy 262 - Z waiting for his friend to arrive for a day out
Day 263 - Ready to blast off

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Park Adventures in Film #CountryKids

Taking a break from taking photos of our adventures in the park, I decided to film them on my phone. Photos are great for capturing moments in a second but film is great for capturing the build up, the moment and the aftermath.

We had such a fun day in the park a few weekends ago and this video just shows how adventurous the kids are, especially Miss C, who is growing in confidence day by day.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Me & You #9

This photo was taken by Z on my phone. We stopped to have a seat on a bench after a long walk around the park. I'm surprised how well he focused the photo and that he managed to avoid having one of his fingers in the photo too.

Now that I'm no longer working, it's great being able to spend the weekends together. When I used to work til 1pm or 2pm, by the time I got home, it was too late to do anything...apart from the one time we went on a spontaneous road trip to Edinburgh at 3 in the afternoon...that was a late one!

It's great knowing that we have our weekends free to do whatever we want. We're planning more trips out with the kids and more nights out as a couple with our friends.

dear beautiful

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Snail #FlashbackFriday

Last Flashback Friday, I showed you the photo of Z holding the "big fat" caterpillar we had found just outside our garden.

Z had clearly developed an urge to hold creepy crawlies after holding him because, a few weeks later, we found a big snail and Z was desperate to hold it.

He was very brave and the snail must have felt comfortable to still be out of his shell whilst on Z's hand.

I didn't fancy a shot myself...snails give me the heebie jeebies!

mummy mishaps

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Visiting Paris, France on a Budget

When we were younger, we travelled to France a lot. We stayed in the South of France with my Mum and Step Dad and my Dad took us camping to Berny Riviere with a trip to Disneyland Paris thrown in for good measure.

Last October we went to Disneyland Paris and had a great time with the kids. It would have been nice to get in to Paris itself and visit some of the famous attractions but we just didn't have time. We'd definitely like to go at some point, but with a big holiday next year, we would have to do it on a strict budget. Thankfully, Hotel Direct have some fantastic deals for booking a trip to visit Paris and there are some amazing attractions and places you can visit in France without spending a lot of money.

The main thing we'd love to see in Paris would be the Eiffel Tower. We could actually see the Eiffel Tower from our bus when we were leaving the airport and heading to Disneyland and it looked impressive even though it was pretty faraway. Up close, I imagine it to be pretty breathtaking and the views from the top must be spectacular. 

If anything rivals the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe would be it. This is the magnificent 1836 monument to Napoleon's 1805 victory at Austerlitz and it stands in the centre of the Étoile roundabout. There is a viewing platform some 280 steps up the arch where you can see dozens of avenues through the city centre. 

If you happen to be travelling to Paris this month, it's worth looking in to some of the free events and attractions. Heritage Days fall this weekend (19th and 20th September) and that means hundreds of museums and monuments will allow free access to the public. Usually you have to pay to enter so it's well worth taking advantage of this or planning your trip around this annual event. Places like Presidential Palace (Palais de l'Elysée), Senate Building (Palais du Luxembourg) and City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) are just a few of the places that you could visit.

Also in September, you can visit the Festival of Gardens. Gardens are a year round draw in Paris however, on 26th and 27th September, you can visit for free and enjoy plenty of outdoor live music including Jazz and Classical, whilst taking in some of the beautiful scenery. 

Another exciting thing that happens in Paris, which I'd never heard of, is on the first Sunday of the month, museums offer the public entry free of charge. This includes The Orsay (Musée d'Orsay), The Centre Pompidou and, a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without a visit to this one, The Louvre. This is the world's largest and most visited museum. There are over 35000 pieces of art and artifacts in The Louvre including Egyptians, Romans and, of course, The Mona Lisa. 

With so many free events and attractions, it definitely looks like a visit to Paris, France can be done on a budget. Of course, if you are in Paris, meeting Mickey Mouse himself is a must!

Have you ever been to Paris or any other area of France? What do you recommend seeing or doing?

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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

8am #TheGallery

8am on a week day morning
It's all about the rush
I'm running about like a lunatic
Trying to organise our stuff

There are lunches to be made
Breakfast to be had
Kids are chatting instead of eating
Are they trying to drive me mad?

Uniforms to be laid out
Kids to get dressed
A chance of a shower
By tooth brushing I'm stressed

Hair to be brushed
Put up and out the face
School jackets and school shoes on
Straps for us, no lace

Out the door we go
Two school bags neatly packed
It wouldn't be the school run
If I were a little more relaxed

8am on a weekend...
Hang on what is that?
Don't wake me before 9am
My weekend is to relax

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

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