Thursday, 30 July 2015

Make your Lunctime a Quicknic with Greggs

Isn't it about time that you created a bit of me-time for yourself this summer by treating yourself to a relaxing lunchtime treat? Well, Greggs think so, and are challenging us to take time out of our busy day to relax and enjoy a stress free lunch. Dubbed the 'Quicknic', a 'quick picnic' for one - whether it is al fresco or al desko - could potentially put us in a better frame of mind and add to our daily productivity. Enjoying lunch, instead of bolting it down between phone calls, checking emails and banging away at the keyboard of a laptop, may give us the chance to wind down, nourishing our bodies and minds, making us better able to cope with the stresses and strains of a hectic day.

Greggs, lunch

To test this theory, Greggs have provided me with lunches for a week, which I agreed to enjoy along with some much needed me-time. Greggs isn't all about the pies (although the vegetable pasty is a favourite of mine) they also have a range of salads and sandwiches, including their Balanced Choice items for a healthier option. Greggs also do fresh coffee or if you prefer a cold drink, they have a selection of chilled juices and soft drinks.

As a vegetarian, the range for me isn't as extensive, but there is still plenty to pick from, with some imaginative options for those of us who want more just a cheese sandwich!

The new Balanced Choice Mexican Five Bean Flatbread is a great way to spice up your lunchtime. The delicious flatbread is filled with mixed beans in a tasty tomato, chilli and coriander sauce, served alongside sliced red onions, jalapenos, fresh mixed peppers and finished with a light Monterey jack cheese with chilli. It's £2.50 and contains 328 Calories.

A lunchtime meal deal gives you a sandwich and a drink for just £3.00, so I you can pick one of the flatbreads, baguettes, rolls or sandwiches along with a flavoured spring water, soft drink or juice. It's a good value meal.

With a huge range of cakes to pick from, you can add a sweet treat to complete a lovely lunch. There are always some cake multi-packs on offer so you can grab a bargain.

Greggs, lunch

The Mexican Five Bean Flatbread is really good, packed with fresh, crisp vegetables, spicy chilli and jalapenos. It has a real kick to it and makes a great lunchtime meal, full of flavour! I am very impressed with Greggs for doing some a bold option for vegetarians.

Greggs, lunch

There is a nice cheese and tomato pasta salad, egg or cheese sandwiches, cheesy rolls, vegetable pasties and cheese and onion pasties as well as the Greggs Margherita pizza to provide variety at lunchtime for vegetarians. The prices are all really competitive, giving a good value lunch to treat yourself.

Getting a Greggs to take away and actually using a plate to serve it on, made lunchtime feel so much less hurried. Relaxing and enjoying my food certainly allowed me to unwind and appreciate the food I was eating. As someone who works from home, it is too easy to skip lunch or just grab a snack to eat whilst working on the laptop, so actually taking a half hour to myself was a real treat. The Quicknic is definitely a good way to reconnect with yourself and not lose yourself in a never ending stream of daily drudgery.

Enjoy a Greggs Quicknic and see whether taking some time out for lunch makes a positive difference to your day!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hardcore Gaming at PLAY it! #PLAYitManc


We visited PLAY it! at the Museum of Science and Industry on the opening day for a family gaming session. The exhibition was quite simply a gamer's paradise, providing a huge range of games and consoles from the past 30 years for some hands on gaming action.

The event room at the MOSI is divided into six zones:

Zone 1: Retro Gaming - retro to modern computer games and consoles
Zone 2: Manchester - including games programmed by Ocean Games and the 80s classroom
Zone 3: Rhythm - music and dance based gaming
Zone 4: Minecraft
Zone 5: Celebrations - film, TV and character based games
Zone 6: Lounge - multiplayer gaming

nintendo 64, gaming, playit

Favourite gaming franchises such as Sonic, Mario, Tomb Raider, Star Wars, Street Fighter and LEGO games are represented in all their glory on a range of consoles. It was really interesting to see the evolution of characters such as Lara Croft across the different formats. We remembered having several of the games and it was very nostalgic having a play.

The Minecraft area was a real hit with Freddy who spent the time learning how to play the game on the PC rather than on the PS3 that he has at home. He got lots of tips from the other kids in the Minecraft zone.

PC, Playit, Minecraft

I loved watching him concentrate so hard on mining, building, taming animals and blowing up his Minecraft world! Minecraft is such a phenomena, it was great to see it have its very own zone.

Minecraft, Playit

I introduced Kezia to some of my old favourites including Crash Bandicoot on the original Playstation. We also had a go at the Mega Drive, the Nintendo 64 and the SNES. There are plenty of consoles so we never had to wait for a go on anything. We just found a free spot and jumped in to try it. Although there was a lot of serious, hardcore gamers around, we never felt at all intimidated or embarassed by our lack of skill, in fact there were plenty of people willing to lend a hand or offer advice when we were obviously struggling due to our lack of gaming prowess.

gaming, Playit

Kezia and I had some fun at the selfie table, trying on Mario and Luigi hats. It was a bit of light relief from our attempts at gaming. and donning the iconic headgear definitely made us feel the part!

playit, nintendo

There is a cafe area selling drinks and snacks including some brilliant gaming cupcakes. The guy who served us told us the legendary story of when Atari tried to make an ET game after the release of the film, which was so rubbish that the whole lot was resigned to landfill. This became the stuff of urban legend until many years later when thousands of the games were unearthed when the land was being developed! The chocolate cupcakes played homage to this tale. Comfy seating allowed us to have a nice rest while we sampled a drink and one of the cakes.

pacman, minecraft, atari, cakes, playit

Seeing the range of games and consoles makes you realise just how far the gaming industry has come, from the old original video consoles such as the Spectrum and the Commodore, right up to the most modern, contemporary games. The advancements over the last thirty years really are quite mindblowing. When I had my first console, the Intellevision, back in 1979, I could never have imagined what my own kids would be playing in the future.

The nostalgia of seeing the Sega Master System and the Mega Drive made my day, bringing back many memories of a younger me playing for hours and hours. I used be quite good back in the day, but the advancements in technology saw my skills lag further and further behind. These days I leave it to the kids, but I enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

playit, gaming

With individual 90 minute sessions costing just £4 and full day passes £10, PLAY it! is a great opportunity to experience some blasts from the past as well as trying your hand at some modern gaming. Whether you are competitive and looking at taking on other seasoned gamers or if you are like me and looking for a nostalgic way to revisit your youth, it is well worth a visit.

Find out more and book at:

Dreaming of Route 66 with HomeSpace Direct

Once upon a time, my daughter Kezia had a bedroom that was pretty in pink with a pastel coloured floral bedspread strewn with cuddly toys and frilly cushions. Then, as if overnight, she breached the gates of teenage-dom, becoming edgier and cooler, discovering a new found love of punk rock bands, ripped jeans and the colour black. Suddenly her girlie bedroom no longer fitted her personality.

When our children reach an age where Disney princesses or cutesy cartoon characters fail to impress, it is good to know that there are alternative duvet designs available. The bed is the focal point of a bedroom, so cool and funky bed linen can create a room they are proud of: a place to relax, chill out and enjoy a good night's sleep.

In keeping with her current tastes, Kezia has been sent a brand new duvet from HomeSpace Direct's teenager's bedding range, featuring a vintage Route 66 design. The duvet cover and pillow cases are reversible with a star covered pattern on a distressed black background on the other side.

homespace direct, teens

The montage of US number plates is a photographic print giving a clear, sharp image. The Route 66 sign features on both the pillow cases and the duvet cover and the material is quality polycotton, which feels thick and strong.

Kezia loved the retro feel of her new duvet cover and the fact that she could reverse it for a completely new look was a definite plus. It is like getting two designs for the price of one. It looks perfect alongside her band and film posters bringing some classic Americana to her room.

route 66 duvet cover, reversible duvet, teens

HomeSpace Direct has a huge range of bedding suitable for teens and young adults with designs suited to all tastes. From Union Jacks to football teams to animals to camper vans - there is a big variety to choose from. Plus there are loads of children's character bedding for the younger kids.

Prices are really reasonable with Kezia's double duvet cover set priced at £15.99.  Delivery is a flat rate of £3.50 no matter how much you order.  HomeSpace Direct also sell curtains, cushions, rugs and bath linen.

Take a look at for all your home textile needs, from budget to luxury lines.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Join us for a Plasticine Softeez Twitter Party

Join us on Wednesday August 5th from 2-4pm for a Twitter party for new Plasticine Softeez.

Plasticine Softeez is a new product range coming soon from Flair, which is aimed at children aged 3-7 years old. New Plasticine Softeez has the stability of original Plasticine and never dries out, but is softer and easier to model with than the original. So is perfect for little hands!

We'll be putting it to the test and having some fun, while sharing our experiences over on Twitter with @UKMumstv and #PlasticineSofteez. There will be some great prizes to be won too!

ukmumstv, plasticine

To host the party, we have received a box of goodies including an under the sea set, a cupcake set and various tubs and samples of Plasticine Softeez so we can take part in a variety of fun activities. Every child will be taking home a goodie bag with their own Plasticine Softeez to take away and play with.

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson #bookreview

Katy Carr is the eldest of six children in her family and fills the role perfectly with her daring, bossy, funny, imaginative and sometimes outrageous personality. Katy loves nothing more than playing in the great outdoors: climbing trees, skateboarding, cycling or swinging. However, her life changes unexpectedly and dramatically in an instant, following a serious accident that leaves her with a spinal injury.

Jacqueline Wilson

As Katy tries to come to terms with her new life, we share her anger and frustration, but also see her resilience, grit and determination. She courageously battles on and manages to reinvent what it means to be Katy Carr and discovers that you can still fly, even when you can no longer walk.

The subject matter is mature, but handled in Wilson's usual sympathetic and understanding way, allowing readers to feel uplifted, even through the darkest moments. Although sad, the story is also empowering, showing readers that with courage and determination anything could be possible.

The story is a modern and contemporary reworking on the nineteenth century classic What Katy Did, a favourite of the author when she was a child. This new book has a message that is appropriate to today's audience, underpinning the importance of finding the strength and determination to overcome even the hardest of obstacles. A message that can be applied to a whole range of situations, and not just the situation that Katy found herself in.

We are big Jacqueline Wilson fans and this new title gives us yet another engaging young heroine that young girls can relate to, delivered to us through sensitive storytelling. Jacqueline Wilson has a style of writing that is a little old fashioned compared to some of the other YA authors that my children read, but it's comforting, reassuring and familiar, just like a favourite blanket. We always have a place for the latest Jacqueline Wilson book on our shelf.

Katy is out on 30th July 2015, published by Puffin, £12.99 in hardback. Also available as an e-book.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Little Prince #BookReview

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Every so often a book comes along that changes your life, and The Little Prince is exactly that. The children's book was originally written  and quirkily illustrated in 1942 by a French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It tells the story of a pilot who has crash landed in the Sahara Desert and meets a strange young boy who introduces himself as the Little Prince. The Little Prince tells him the story of how he grew up on a tiny asteroid before travelling across the universe from planet to planet before coming to earth.

The Little Prince's experiences, encounters and discoveries are retold with childish innocence, but they give us a profound, philisophical and thought provoking reflection on human nature. The book is rich in allegory, highlighting the strange behaviours and beliefs of mankind, told in a simple yet quite, extraordinary way.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince has met many characters on his travels such as a vain, petulant but beautiful rose, which he loves and cares for; a lonely, authority-obsessed king with no-one to rule over; the perpetual streetlamp lighter who spends all day doing his repetitive job; the business who endlessly counts the stars, which he claims to own and the railway switchman stuck in an endless cycle of comings and goings. The prince questions everything and his curious, mysterious reasoning is just so thought provoking that we recognise our own traits and foibles and question ourselves in return. The book is a journey of self-discovery wrapped up in a beautiful, innocent and touching short story. We come to realise that grown-ups are indeed really odd creatures and it is the things we seek with our heart that will bring us true contentment.

The Little Prince is the most translated book of fiction ever, available in 250 languages, and it is one of the top five best selling books ever. If you haven't discovered it already then check out the new translation by Gregory Norminton published by Alma Classics, which is £6.99 in paperback. It includes a section of extra material for young readers and features all the original artwork. The book is aimed at ages 7 - 11, but transcends age restrictions. It's my 19 year old daughter's favourite book and at 46 I love it too.

Unleash your inner Ninja with LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre this summer

From Saturday 1st to Monday 31st August, LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre in Manchester will be transformed into the world of Ninjago as visitors embark on an epic adventure to celebrate the release of LEGO Ninjago Airjitzu!

Fans can immerse themselves in the Ninjago adventures by building their own LEGO® Ninjago Mask, taking part in the LEGO® Ninjago Laser Maze Challenge, and using their Ninja skills to build a LEGO® Ninjago Airjitzu flyer before ascending the magnificent ‘Fly-High-Tower’ to practice their fierce flying skills.

Visitors can also enjoy the Ninjago takeover at MINILAND, where they can take part in an exciting character hunt and even have the chance to meet ‘Kai’, the Red Fire Ninja, who will be at LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre everyday throughout August at 11.00am, 1.00pm, 3.00pm and 5.00pm.

Ninjago, Airjitsu

We've been invited down to join in the Airjitsu fun, which Freddy is so excited about! He watches Ninjago on Netflix so will love the chance to take part in all these fun activities!

For more information and to buy tickets visit: 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Summer Outdoor Fun with Tobar

The summer holidays are a great opportunity to get the kids outside in the fresh air getting active and having fun. Tobar has a great range of classic and contemporary outdoor toys, which are perfect for the job, and Freddy received a selection to try out.

Tobar, space hopper, hula hoop

The Space Hopper is real retro classic from my own childhood, so I was thrilled to introduce Freddy to the iconic smiley faced, giant bouncy ball. It came with a pump so we could blow it up straight from the box and get Freddy bouncing around. It is big and bright with handles to grip on to. Bouncing on a Space Hopper is such a simple pleasure and so much fun. Freddy mastered the art of bouncing and even took to doing some extreme bouncing action by using his Space Hopper on the trampoline (thank goodness for the safety nets!)

The Slot Together Hula Hoop is a great idea. It comes in eight, slot together sections making it handy for storing away in the box. It also means you can adjust the size by removing sections. The pieces are colourful and easy to push together making a sturdy hula hoop. Freddy is a bit of an expert hula-hooper so he enjoyed spinning it around his middle and doing tricks with it. Using all 8 pieces made it a good size for him to use, with a 70cm diameter. I really like the design of this hula hoop. The cheap ones that we have bought before tend to lose their shape or break apart quite quickly as they are made from covered cardboard, whereas this one is made from solid plastic pieces so will last much longer. Storing a hula hoop can be a bit tricky, but once taken apart, this one fits into its box and can be put away or taken away on holiday easily.

The Soak 'n' Sling Frisbee is a small sized, soft frisbee that can be soaked in water and used in water fights. Kids can take aim and throw, while others try to duck out of the way of a soaking. Freddy enjoyed using it without the water to practice his throwing and catching skills. As it is soft and rubbery it is easier to catch than a regular frisbee and the small size makes it more manageable for little ones.

The Pogo Ball is a cross between a hopper and a pogo stick. The blow up hopper ball is attached to a foot platform with an optional clip on pogo handle, giving two ways to play. It offers a stable way to perform tricks and stunts while balanced on the foot platform and bouncing using the inflated ball. (Unfortunately, the Pogo Ball was not compatible with the foot pump we had so we have to get hold of a pump with a needle attachment to test this one out properly!)

Tobar are UK wholesalers of toys, gifts and novelties, so look out for these products in toy shops and on Amazon. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Freddy's 6th Birthday Minecraft Party

Freddy turned six on July 9th and although we celebrated his birthday with a pizza party complete with pinata, presents and family fun, we couldn't have his official birthday celebrations until July 18th. His big sister Megan was away in Bali and we needed her back in the UK in order to have a proper McDonald family do. An erupting Indonesian volcano almost threatened her return home in time for the party, but thankfully the ash cloud blew south and my girl was able to return to Manchester. Joe and Jade were able to come up for the weekend, and as Ella is home from uni I had a full set of children home under the same roof. Perfect.
party, birthday, Minecraft, Creeper

So on the 18th, we hosted a Minecraft themed party for my little lad. Almost all the home baked food was vegan including five different traybake cakes (coffee, strawberries & cream, iced vanilla, chocolate with vanilla frosting and chocolate & coconut) and two types of cookie (choc chip and oat, cranberry & sunflower seed). We also served up a veggie barbecue with an assortment of homemade salads and sides. I enjoy the challenge of making a party spread that all my guests can enjoy without worrying about what they are eating. I printed off some Minecraft food labels, banners and posters from the internet to decorate the room and we made plain green balloons and cups into Creepers using black tape. A grass green tablecloth and square green paper plates completed the Minecraft theme.

enderman pinata, party, family

Ian made an Enderman pinata, which was filled with sweets and toys that the kids thoroughly enjoyed hitting with a stick (the grown up kids joined in to with head butts, karate chops and drop kicks aimed at the very tough, extremely well made pinata!) until it gave up its load of goodies on to the grass.

There was plenty of fun and games and lots of laughter as my five kids, my sister and four of her children plus assorted partners, my mum and dad and my gorgeous little grandson Ted, enjoyed the much appreciated sunshine. For the first time ever Ted told us that he loved us...hearing "I yuv you Nana Wendy and Guitar Grandad" was heartwarmingly wonderful.


Freddy had a wonderful day with his siblings, cousins and his little nephew. The trampoline and sandpit were well used and we lost about six footballs into the next door neighbour's garden due to over zealous football and baseball games. I really enjoyed seeing everyone have a good time together. It was a lovely opportunity for my parents to get to see nine out of their thirteen grandchildren and one of their great grandchildren. Family time is particularly precious right now as my sister will be moving away shortly, meaning we won't be seeing her or her two little ones very often any more. We will miss them lots

siblings, family

It was a great day celebrating Freddy's special day (albeit a bit late). He had a lovely time and for me, my birthday party planning and birthday cake baking is finished until next time!

family, fun

Summer Essentials Review Round Up - Comfort, Boots Pharaceuticals and Sure Women

 Comfort Intense

Comfort Intense is a long lasting, ultra concentrated fabric conditioner, which comes in four vibrant, new fragrances: Fuchsia Passion, Fresh Sky, Ocean Pearl and Sunburst. Each small dose of Comfort Intense gives laundry a burst of freshness, which lasts from wash to wear. It also keeps clothing feeling soft and well conditioned.

We received two 38 wash bottles of Fuchsia Passion Comfort Intense to try out. The bottles are small, space saving and manageable, fitting into my kitchen cabinet easily (unlike those really big bottles of non-concentrated fabric softener, which I struggle to find a place for). The Comfort Intense is measured out into the lid of the bottle and a little really does go a long way. The floral, fruity scent is fragrant, fresh and pleasant, and lasts well on clothing. Laundry smells clean and just-washed even once it is dried and put away. It did a great job on our bedding.

The 38 wash bottle costs just £3.30, and a 64 wash bottle costs £4.89, available now in major supermarkets. You can find out more at

laundry, washing

Boots Pharmaceuticals Allergy Barrier Nasal Spray

With two hayfever sufferers in the family, this time of year is sometimes difficult, with lots of sneezing and runny eyes to contend with. New research from Boots Pharmaceuticals reveals that for the 18 million Brits who suffer from hayfever, 64% of them continue to suffer once the sun goes down as airborne pollen drops as the air cools. On a typical summer night, nighttime hayfever can cost sufferers an average of 72 minutes of sleep. This loss of sleep has been dubbed 'insneezia' - as  the insomnia-esque symptoms caused by itchy eyes and blocked noses affects their ability to get to sleep. This can lead to bad moods, tiredness and irritability.

There are some hacks that sufferers can use to help ease their symptoms during the day such as wearing sunglasses, eating spicy food, avoiding hanging washing up outside, and putting Vaseline under the nose. There are also lots of remedies on the market that relieve symptoms, such as anti-histamine medication, eye drops and nasal sprays.

We were sent a powder based nasal spray for Ian to test out, which acts as a barrier to allergens by creating a protective lining in the nasal passage to reduce the inhalation of the pollen that is responsible for hayfever. It protects against runny noses and sneezing, two of the symptoms that keep sufferers up at night. It is fast acting, working in just 3 minutes against airborne allergens. Each bottle, which costs £8.99, contains 200 sprays of the non-drowsy formula to bring fast relief day or night. Although Ian generally takes one a day tablets to relieve his hayfever symptoms, the fast working spray is proving another good weapon in his arsenal for fighting his seasonal sneezes. It is particularly good in the evenings, boosting his protection and calming his symptoms before bed time. The Nasal Spray is suitable for adults (including pregnant women) and children aged 18 months and over.

hayfever, allergy relief

Sure Compressed Shower Fresh and Cotton Dry with Motionsense technology

In the warmer months, things can get hot and sticky so staying fresh and protected is a big consideration for most of us. Sure have a new world first product on the market: Sure Compressed made with breakthrough Motionsense technology. It is an antiperspirant activated by movement meaning that the more you move, the more you are protected. Microcapsules burst with friction to release fragrance to keep you fresh, so whether you are going about your daily routine, at a festival or trying out a new exercise class this summer, it won't let you down.

The compressed format makes the cans smaller using less packaging, but are just as long lasting. They are a handy size to carry in your gym bag or to pop into your handbag. The two fragrances Shower Fresh and Cotton Dry are both light, fresh, feminine and clean smelling. They are great summer essentials for long lasting freshness and confidence all day, however active you are.

The Sure Compressed variants are available at leading retailers with an RRP of £3.29. I've tried them and am impressed at how well they worked - no sweaty armpits for me this summer!

deodorant, antiperspirant

Monday, 20 July 2015

Get Your Game Face On at PLAY it! Manchester July 25th - Aug 9th

I remember my first games console, the Intellivision that my dad surprised me with on Christmas Day 1979. I played Lock 'n' Chase until I completed all ten levels of the crazy, maze style game. I still remember the sense of accomplishment on completing it. In the late 80's a Sega Master System with the built in Alex Kidd game became my console of choice, quickly followed in the early 90's by the Sega Mega Drive complete with the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. This was my era! The 2D gaming platforms worked for me and I was the house champion at many of the games we owned, in particular the Lion King, which was our first ever official Disney video game. 

Since then, games have advanced to unrecognisable levels of incredible graphics, complex gameplay and 3D imagery. As our consoles became upgraded to the latest models, I found myself left behind and I conceded ownership of my gaming crown years ago. I've watched all five of my children grow up immersed in the technology of gaming and developing the instinctive skills necessary to be able to beat the end of level bosses and create their own virtual worlds. I'm in utter awe of what they can do. Gaming is a big part of life here Inside the Wendy House. From my eldest son and World of Warcraft expert Joe to my youngest Freddy, who is a massive Minecraft fan, we have enjoyed sharing the gaming accomplishments of all our children.

This summer, I am excited to be able to introduce my kids to some of the games that their mama used to play as PLAY it! comes to the MOSI Manchester, as part of their 'Imagine it, Make it, Move it' programme of events.  From July 25th to August 9th, visitors to the exhibition can get to play some of the most popular video games from the past 30 years, from Pong and Pac-Man to Minecraft and Halo, enter multiplayer competitions, take on  friends or family in collaborative games and play on consoles and gaming systems including Atari, Commodore, Spectrum, Megadrive, SNES, Nintendo 64, PC, PlayStation and Xbox. There are six themed zones with more than 120 consoles and games ready to test skills and give young visitors a taste of retro gaming, alongside the chance to try their hand at some more contemporary consoles.

Families can drop in for 90 minute sessions, whereas seasoned gamers can buy a full day pass or attend an adult-only evening session. PLAY it! is open to anyone with a passion for games. Individual day sessions start at just £4 while a family session is £12. All day passes are just £10. PLAY it! promises to be a fun and entertaining way to spend time with the family this summer holiday.

Find out more and book tickets at:


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Non-Fiction Books for Curious Kids - Collins Picture Atlas and The Amazing Human Body Detectives #review

Collins Picture Atlas

Children are naturally curious and love exploring and finding out amazing facts. This Collins Picture Atlas, designed and illustrated by Steve Evans, is a great way for little ones to find out about our planet, looking at the countries of the world and discovering facts about the people and places.

Colourful illustrations show animals, buildings and famous landmarks, with details just begging to be studied. Fun facts give an insight into the culture, the history and the lifestyle. The maps themselves are very simple, making it a great first atlas for children aged 4 - 8, helping them develop an interest and understanding of the continents and countries, without bogging them down in complicated jargon or unnecessary technical detail.

The Collins Picture Atlas is a book that will young children can dip in and out of or it can be used to look up where a country is or what a particular continent is like. The book is informative, imaginative and colourful, perfect for the age group it is designed for. It helps nurture an interest in the world and also encourages reading skills with the simple, informative text. A great addition to your child's bookshelf.

books, reading

The Picture Atlas is brought to life through an online interactive game, which can be found at where children can journey through different areas of the world, meeting different people and animals. The atlas can be ordered from this page (currently at 30% off!) 

Published by Collins in hardback for £8.99.

The Amazing Human Body Detectives
Facts, Myths and Quirks of the Body

Maggie Li has created a human anatomy guide with a difference that children will love. This cool and quirky book is packed with detailed illustrations and fun facts about how the body works. On the front cover is a magnifying glass, which allows children to study the funny little details hidden on each page, adding to the fun. 

The voyage of discovery takes on subjects such as how we grow, what our organs do and hoe eyes work. However, the section on poo was Freddy's favourite, especially as it had an informative stool chart to identify what your poo says about you!

I loved that the book explains quite complex facts in a simple, easy to understand way, with a smattering of humour and with the added fun provided by the magnifying glass. I was always fascinated by biology and know that I would have loved this book and being able to learn about skin, hair, bones, teeth, the immune system and other body bits in such an engaging way.

It is suitable for ages 5 and up and can be shared with a grown-up or explored independently. It's a great introduction for kids to understand the workings of their bodies.

biology, reading, books

Published by Pavilion Children's Books, £9.99 in hardback.

Find out more here:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Learning to Read with Collins Big Cats

Freddy is about to complete his second year of primary school, before moving into Class 2 in September. His time in Reception and Year 1 has seen him make huge amounts of progress, and he has just about scraped through his phonics screening (although he is still below the level that the government expects from our children when it comes to actual reading and writing). His journey towards learning to read and write has not been easy, but with a lot of extra input from both his school and from me at home, he has started to overcome many of the obstacles in his way. He is making good progress now, gaining in confidence and doing so much better. I hate the fact that he has had to be tested and labelled at age 5, but I know that my son is so much more than just a test result or an attainment level.

Helping him with his reading is important to me, not because of the Phonics Screening tests or because of the prospect of SATS tests in his future, but because reading opens up a whole world of wonder and discovery to children. Nurturing a love of books is a wonderful gift to help develop in children. Just because Freddy struggles, does not mean he shouldn't have access to the joy of reading. So I use as many resources as I can to keep him happily learning in a fun and relaxed manner. This strategy is helping him to learn in a natural way without causing him to resent or fear words and books.

Collins have a great range of resources for parents to use at home with their children. The Collins Big Cats Reading Lions reading books offer a series of stories and non-fiction books that children will enjoy. Freddy received a set of their reading books to try out.

The slip case contains six paperback books, three fiction and three non-fiction, each with lovely illustrations and engaging text, suitable for the child's reading level. Level 1 features simple, short sentences made up of words using specific phonemes and without tricky words. They are recommended for ages 4-5 years. Looking at them, I think Freddy could have handled Level 2, but I didn't want to put him off reading with anything too challenging at this stage.

phonics, literacy

Here is Freddy trying out his new books and giving his thoughts on the Collins Big Cats First Reading At Home books.


The box of six paperback books has an RRP of £24.00.

Find out more about the Collins educational resources available to support your child's learning at home at:

Friday, 10 July 2015

Scenterpiece - the stylish wax warming system from from Yankee Candle

We love the Yankee Candle brand. Their scented candles are always a welcome addition to our home, bringing an array of wonderful fragrances to suit any season or mood. At the moment, I am loving their tropical Coconut Bay fragrance - so summery!

The latest product from Yankee Candle that we are trying out is the Noah Scenterpiece, a stylish and easy to use meltcup warmer. It features an electrical, flameless heater that melts the wax meltcup, which is placed in an integral recessed heating dish. It comes with a 6' power cord, which plugs into the mains.

meltcup, wax warmer

The Noah design is a stylish statement piece, with an attractive rippled ceramic finish in black or grey. It is a clean, safe and efficient system for warming the scented wax and releasing the fragrance into the room. The Yankee Candle MeltCups come in a variety of scents. They are easy to manage, coming in heat resistant cups, allowing the meltcups to be changed quickly and easily without coming into contact with the hot wax.

Yankee Candle

The Noah Black Scenterpiece Warmer is £24.99 RRP and the Melt Cups are £4.99 each. The melt cups contain 24 hours of fragrance, which can be used and re-used until all used up. There is a variety of designs for the Scenterpiece Warmers to suit any decor in any home.

With twenty scents available, such as Lemon Lavender, Clean Cotton, Home Sweet Home and Pineapple Cilantro, you can switch the meltcups to create the perfect fragrance wardrobe for your home. From floral, to fruity to spicy, to fresh, there is a scent to suit your tastes. MeltCups are an easy way to mix and match your favourite fragrances.

Yankee Candle, Scenterpiece

Find the full range of Scenterpiece MeltCups and Warmers at

Thursday, 9 July 2015

How Freddy Trained His Dragon #NetflixStreamTeam

Dreamworks Dragons - Race to the Edge

To celebrate the launch of Dreamworks Dragons - Race to the Edge, Netflix have set the Stream Team bloggers a challenge so we can experience our own dragon adventure.  We have been sent our very own Toothless to see if we can train him as well as his trainer Hiccup can. So Freddy was given the job of being our head dragon trainer and of course, he watched some of the brand new Netflix show to get some inspiration on how to fulfill his challenge.


When it comes to training dragons you have to ensure they have plenty of fresh air and exercise to keep them feeling in clover!

How to train your dragon

Toothless went on a lot of adventures with his new trainer, including a visit to school for Show and Tell where he met the children of Class 1. He learned the importance of making friends and getting on with others...even when one of those others is the Armoured Dragon who he battles against!

How to train your dragon

The importance of learning to read and write is crucial when training dragons and Freddy helped Toothless learn his phonics. What a clever dragon!

how to train your dragon

Although Toothless has had some good training with Freddy, he can still be a bit of a cheeky dragon getting up to mischief! Sometimes his behaviour left a little to be desired, but a stern look from his trainer brought him back on the straight and narrow.

Toothless, how to train your dragon

After a hard day's training, it's time for bed.  A good night's sleep is important for any trainer and their dragon in training to keep them refreshed for the day ahead. After all the giggling had subsided, Freddy and Toothless would snuggle up in bed.  Sweet dreams boys!

how to train your dragon, toothless, dragon

You can catch the series of Dreamworks Dragons - Race to the Edge on Netflix now. It is a great series for kids. It is an adventure laden story about what happens before How To Train Your Dragon 2. Toothless and Hiccup explore the world beyond Berk, discovering ancient secrets and yet undiscovered dragons whilst evading the marauding dragon hunters. Great fun!

For Freddy - Now You are Six

I have a boy.
A loving boy.
A caring boy.
A boy that loves Minecraft, Harry Potter, video games, bubbles and swords.
A boy who loves singing and knows how to dance.
A boy who likes being a vegetarian because no animals die.
A boy with so much love in his heart for his family and friends.

I have a boy who says he doesn't like reading - but tries to read every word he sees.
A funny boy.
A clever boy.
A boy who doesn't run fast but won his skipping and egg and spoon races on sports day.
A boy who can hula hoop with three hoops!
A boy who can build tall towers - then gleefully smash them down.

I have a boy that has brought so much love, fun and laughter into our home.
A good boy.
A happy boy.
A boy who is a gift to his '40 something' mum and dad.
A boy that gives hugs, kisses, high fives and fist bumps.
A boy that tells silly Knock Knock jokes that make perfect sense to him.
A boy who loves Alton Towers, Trentham Gardens and Jurassic Golf at the garden centre.

I have a boy who loves play areas but is oh so scared of heights.
An extremely sensitive boy.
A deep thinking boy.
A boy who hates burping and obsesses about his health.
A boy who feels things so deeply.
A boy with so much empathy.
An old soul in a little boy.

I have a wonderful boy.
A beautiful boy.
Our perfect boy.

birthday, boy

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Green lentil and egg bake recipe

June Challenge #happyeggtastemakers

Lentils and eggs are a great combination, creating a healthy, iron rich and protein packed meal. Served with fresh veggies, it is a wholesome vegetarian dish that the whole family will enjoy.

You can use dried lentils and make the meal from scratch, but for a quick, easy and convenient midweek meal, use tinned green lentils.

vegetarian, recipe

(per 2 servings)

1 can of green lentils
1 finely chopped onion
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 finely sliced leek
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
1/2 vegetable stock melts pot
2 free range eggs


Heat oil in a pan and gently fry onion, leek and garlic until softened.
Mix in lentils, tomato puree, herbs and stock melt.
Cook for around 10 minutes until well combined.
Put into an ovenproof dish.
Make two hollows in the lentil mix and crack an egg into each.
Cover with foil and bake at 180 deg for about 20 minutes, until the eggs are set.


The Happy Egg Co is currently involved in a promotion with Kingswood offering free educational, outdoor school trips for children, by collecting codes from special promotional packs. Schools can collect codes for up to £1000 off an exciting activity day out. There's even a chance to win one for free!

Find out more at and collect codes from the back of promotional Happy Egg Co boxes.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Enjoy Drinking Water with Stur - the Liquid Water Enhancer

Love Water Naturally

Especially in the hot weather, it is so important for us all to keep ourselves hydrated. Although water is one of the best drinks for us, sometimes we want something with a bit more flavour and appeal. Many squashes and soft drinks are filled with nasty chemicals such as artificial flavours, colours and sweeteners. Others are packed with sugar, which is increasingly known to be something we should avoid. In an age where we are getting more conscious of what we should consume, our drink choices have been limited when looking for something natural and beneficial to our health.

Thankfully, there is a new product on the market to make drinking water far more pleasurable and even better for us. STUR Liquid Water Enhancer is all natural, GMO free, contains virtually zero calories, is naturally sweetened and also contains over 100% of our RDA of Vitamin C. It comes in a range of sophisticated flavours - coconut, fruit, tea and exotics.

Each handy 38ml size bottle contains enough for up to 30 servings. It is small enough to pop in a pocket, gym bag or handbag for adding to a glass or bottle of still or sparkling water when out and about to make a refreshing drink.

water, drinks, coconut water

I was sent some to try out from the coconut range: Coconut Water Original, Coconut + Pineapple and Coconut + Lime. Each is a concentrated squirt-in liquid made using creamy coconut and purified water with natural fruit flavours and stevia extract.

Stur, liquid water enhancer

The Coconut + Lime flavour is my favourite. The mild taste is wonderfully tropical with the taste of coconut and a hint of lime. The drink is naturally rich in electrolytes so is good for when exercising. It is natural tasting with the light flavour of coconut water, which I actually prefer to the real thing. I added it to both plain water and fizzy Sodastream water to make a lovely summery drink. It can also be added to cocktails.

drink, natural, coconut

At £2.99 a bottle it is a fraction of the cost of traditional coconut water drinks and is so much nicer and better for you than squash or pop. I'm glad I've discovered this brand, which ticks all my boxes for what I want out of a soft drink - natural, sugar free, artificial additive free and with a lovely, grown-up flavour.

Find out more about the Stur range and buy online at


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