Friday, 28 November 2014

Everybody Learns - Lexia Reading and Writing Workbooks

Lexia Reading and Writing workbooks are a part of a programme designed by primary and special needs teachers.  They make a progressive scheme of work based on the acquisition of phonic knowledge and are structured to provide repetition and revision of exercises to aid a child's learning. They include black and white line drawings that younger children can enjoy colouring in and the engaging tone of the books encourages children to learn.

I was sent a set of Lexia Reading and Writing Books for Young Children Levels 1-4.  Freddy is in Year One and remains a bit of a reluctant learner.  He has been hindered by his eye problems, and has been playing catch up since September but is at last making some progress.  So this set of workbooks is a perfect resource to use at home in order to help his progression.

literacy, ks1

The eight workbooks include pages dedicated to the learning of phonics, vocabulary and reading. Dotted letters allow little hands to trace letters using the correct formation before they go on to write lower and upper case letters independently.  Beginning with writing initial letters of CVC words, children build up to writing full words and then sentences. Children get to say, see and write the words and sentences, consolidating their knowledge and leading them towards being independent and confident readers and writers.

Lexia Reading and Writing Books for Young Children Levels 1-4

Freddy, although still not enthusiastic about learning to read and write, is enjoying having a chance to work through this comprehensive program that compliments what he learns at school.  It is reassuring for me as a parent to know I can help him at this important time, when he is struggling with the basics.

Freddy is bright and articulate but the penny is quite late in dropping when it comes to literacy! Knowing that he will be tested in year one, and that this result may affect how he is regarded academically in the future, makes me question the whole education system in how it fails to treat each child as an individual. I'm grateful that his school and his class teacher do what they can to give each child a more holistic education, but with policy being what it is, I feel that I have a responsibility to help my son do the best he can.  It's good to know that there are such comprehensive programmes on the market.

Lexia Reading and Writing Books for Young Children Levels 1-4

The eight pack of workbooks of 45-49 pages includes two books for each level, progressing to being able to write and spell two syllable words and read multi-page stories and do comprehension questions.

The books go alongside the Lexia Home Reading Course which is a subscription based reading program  for children.

The books are £24.99 for the set of eight books.  Find out more at

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ebody - Clean and Exfoliate the Natural Way

I am a big fan of the e-cloth brand, which uses the latest fibre technology to offer a great alternative to conventional, chemical based cleaning.  We already use e-cloth to deliver chemical free cleaning in our home: polishing windows, cleaning our TV, wiping down surfaces and mopping our floor.  We even use the e-cloth oven cleaning cloth to help keep our oven clean.

Now, we can also deep cleanse and exfoliate ourselves without the need for harsh chemical scrubs using the brand's ebody Spa Collection. This is great news for people with sensitive skin, allergies or for those of us trying to minimise the use of harsh chemical products in the home. Using micro-fibre technology, the cleansing fibres work with just a little face wash and water to create a rich lather, while cleansing pores and exfoliating the skin.  ebody also utilises micro-dry technology on a range of towels, which absorb four times the moisture of cotton at twice the speed. The ebody towel range is a perfect time saving addition to a beauty regime and ideal for sports use or travel.

I was sent a Face Cleansing Mitt and a Hair Turban to try out.

The ebody Face Cleansing Mitt has fine weave fibres that gently but effectively clean your face.  It can remove make-up, even mascara, without the need for harsh creams or lotions. Just add a little lather from a mild cleanser to create lots of fine bubbles that lift dirt and grime from the skin leaving it smooth and feeling clean without the need for specialist wipes, lotions or exfoliators.

The mitts cost £6.99 and are guaranteed for 300 washes meaning they will last for ages. They make your cleanser last for ages too, generating lots of lather from a small amount, making them cost effective in the long run.  

beauty, ecloth

The hair turban is a must have product as far as I'm concerned.  I swear by them as I have long, unruly hair that needs to be restrained after a shower!  The ebody Hair Turban is a really good size and is made from soft waffle-like material.  It fits securely on the head with a button up fastening.  It really does work fast, absorbing the dampness from the hair.  

It costs £12.99 but with the 300 wash guarantee it will last for years.  I think it is a great product that is comfy and secure to wear, and which dries the hair fast.

ecloth, beauty

All e-cloth products including the ebody range can be bought directly through the e-cloth website where delivery is free on orders over £10.

I think the ebody range would make brilliant stocking fillers for older kids and teens or could be used in a pamper hamper for a loved one.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Festive Fun and Prizes to be Won with #NickJrCraftmas

On Monday December 1st from 1pm to 3pm, I am taking part in a Nick Jr Craftmas party on Twitter with @UKMumsTV. There will be lots of fun to be had and we'll be sharing some cool Christmas craft and kid friendly food ideas. There will also be some lovely prizes to be won! 

I have received a fabulous box of exciting craft sets and games ready to be played with.  We'll be making Snowman Cupcakes and Chocolate Cornflake Christmas Puddings as part of the party tea. We'll also be playing games such as pin the nose on Rudolph and making our guests into toilet paper snowmen! Plus we'll be making Christmas cards, gifts and decorations.  You can find out what we get up to and hopefully get some inspiration for things to do with the kids over the festive season.

It promises to be an afternoon of festive fun and friendly chat and I hope you'll be able to join us over on Twitter!

Be sure to follow @wendymcd83  @ukmumstv @NickJrUK and #NickJrCraftmas.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Kurio Tab XL

When I was a child we had a 20" black and white TV that my parents rented.  Our phone, which was right in the middle of our living room, had a handset that was attached to the base with a curly wire which meant every phone call had to be made in front of the whole family who would be sitting down to watch Crossroads.  I had a portable record player for playing my Disney LPs and a battery powered radio cassette player to listen to the chart rundown on a Sunday evening.

Life was so very different back then.  We never even dreamt that within forty years technology would change so much.  We all wrongly thought there would be flying cars by the 21st century, but none of us anticipated the invention of the silicon chip and the birth of the internet.

Nowadays, our homes are filled with high tech gadgets and gizmos, designed to entertain us, educate us, connect us and make our lives easier.  Even pre-schoolers have their own smart watches!

Here 'Inside the Wendy House', we love our technology but if there is one bit of technology that has completely eluded us, it's a family friendly tablet.  We've just never all agreed on which one to buy, and no sooner do we think we've come to a decision, along comes a newer model, throwing our plans out of the window.  

When it comes to using a tablet, we all want different things. We'd want a kid-friendly, family tablet that is predominantly for educating and entertaining the kids, but would also satisfy all of our needs.

  • 5 year old Freddy loves playing games and watching his favourite cartoons. 
  • 12 year old Kizzy is a fan of YouTube watching make-up tutorials and the latest Zoella vlogs.  
  • I'm an avid blogger, photo taker and fan of social media (with a minor addiction to Plants vs Zombies!) 
  • Dad, Ian, is a technophile who loves all the highest spec gadgets and latest features - Quad Core Processors definitely grab his attention!  

A family friendly tablet would most definitely be fantastic for when we are out and about, on holiday, visiting grandparents or simply spending time at home.  It'd have to be perfect for both work and play!

Kurio is looking for families to try out their new lines and after taking a look at the products, I think I have discovered our perfect tablet the Kurio Tab XL! With ten inches of full colour screen, it's big and beautiful, packed with features that make it totally family friendly, including a camera, pre-loaded apps and e-reader.  You can surf the web, listen to music, read, draw, play games, watch films, record videos, take photos and more with its multimedia capabilities.  It appears to have everything covered, and it looks smart, user friendly and robust with its rubber bumper (in case it gets dropped!)


I love that you can set up different profiles for each family member making one gadget suitable for every individuals' needs.  You can ensure that the kids' experience is age appropriate and safe - and they can't accidentally delete all your apps or inadvertently spend your money online - while adults get full access to the unrestricted Android tablet.

There is built in Motion Technology for motion controlled gaming, which would definitely get Freddy up and moving. That is something I'd love to see in action, it sounds like a lot of fun and so innovative.  I've never seen anything like this in a tablet before, it really adds an extra dimension to its fun factor and playablity.

You can take a look at the kid friendly range of tablets and gadgets at

Get Your Christmas Craft On with Baker Ross

A rainy winter afternoon in the run up to Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to do some festive crafts with the children.  Baker Ross had sent us a selection of their Craft-It products including Christmas foam cards, sequin decorations, hand puppets, stickers, craft pens and ceramic owl trinket boxes, so we enjoyed a brilliant crafting session together.

Baker Ross, Christmas, crafts

It's lovely to get the kids crafting to make decorations, cards and little presents for loved ones. Freddy really enjoys getting creative with glue, paint and pens and to see the look of concentration on his face is simply wonderful!

Baker Ross, Christmas, crafts

What I love most about Baker Ross craft sets is that they contain everything you need to complete a project (sometimes you might need scissors or glue but all the necessary bits and bobs are included). They come with full instructions and the projects are pretty straightforward with impressive end results. Kids love making them and loved ones will enjoy being given a thoughtful, homemade gift.

I love the ceramic items that Baker Ross do, which can be decorated with acrylic paints or porcelain paint pens. They make lovely gifts.  We were sent some owl trinket boxes, which are really cute and ready to be decorated.  Freddy used shimmery paint pens to colour in his owl and did a great job making it look colourful.  At £4.48 for four owl trinket boxes and five packs of porcelain paint pens for £9.99, this is a lovely Christmas craft activities for children of all ages to enjoy. 

Baker Ross, Christmas, crafts

The Christmas Foam Card Kits contain three separate packs, each containing everything needed to create a gorgeous handmade card.  With foam sheets, ribbon, pre-cut foam stickers, lettering and googly eyes, kids can make designs featuring a snowman, Rupolph or Santa.  They are colourful and fun.  Freddy was able to make the cards virtually unaided and did a beautiful job creating them,  He just needed a little help with tying the ribbon and putting the letters in order to spell out Merry Christmas. He added some of Christmas pudding felt stickers (96 for £2.99) to add his own spin on the design. At just £1.99 for a three pack, they are excellent value.

Baker Ross, Christmas, crafts

The Christmas Sequin Decoration Kits make three Christmas decorations.  There is a Santa, a reindeer and a snowman, each with a sequinned, shiny, 3D tummy!  Each kit comes with pre-cut, self-adhesive foam pieces, a polystyrene body, sequins, plastic pins, ribbon and googly eyes.  It is very straightforward decorating the foam template with the foam stickers.  Then the sequins are pinned to the polystyrene body, which did make Freddy's fingers a little bit sore after a while, so I helped him!  The decorated body is then stuck onto the foam shape using glue.  The end result is lovely and Freddy was really proud of what he had made.  The kits are £3.99 for three, which again is excellent value.

Baker Ross, Christmas, crafts

The Christmas Hand Puppet Sewing kits include pre-cut felt templates, self-adhesive felt shapes, yarn, needles, googly eyes and instructions to make three hand puppets.  They are a great introduction to sewing, as the punched holes make it easy to stitch them up, if little ones can avoid tangling up the yarn!  The puppets are still a work in progress. They are £3.75 for 3.

The Baker Ross Craft-It products are perfect for a Christmas craft party or can be used to entertain your own children in the run up to Christmas.  They are great for making gifts, or indeed make lovely presents in their own right.  The prices are excellent, the quality is great and the range is extensive.

You can find out more and order craft sets through the Baker Ross website.  Whatever your event or whatever the season, they have craft sets that the kids will love alongside essentials for more experienced crafters to use on their own projects.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Shrink Design Jewellery

MyStyle Craft Design & Make Shrink Design Jewellery from Interplay is a craft activity that uses shrink plastic as a medium for making ultra trendy and edgy accessories. Seven pieces of jewellery can be created including angel wing earrings and a text necklace. The full colour instruction booklet teaches the techniques required, and there are enough of the materials to make your own additional pieces.

Shrink Design Jewellery

The technique you use to make the jewellery is quite simple.  You choose a design from the booklet and trace it onto the shrink plastic sheet, colour it in and cut it out. Using the hole punch, you make a hole which will be used to thread the charm onto the string or jump ring.  Once the charm is prepared, you pop it into the oven on a cardboard sheet at 160 degrees for just a couple of minutes until it shrinks down.  Once cooled down, you can use the charm to make jewellery using the other components included in the kit.

Shrink Design Jewellery

The finished charms were really cute and the colours concentrated to make them look very impressive.  The shrinking process makes them thick and sturdy and ideal to use on necklaces, bracelets and earrings.  Kizzy also made some of her own designs and created some of her own accessories including a beaded phone charm with my name on it!

My favourite thing that she created was a necklace inspired by Daryl Dixon of The Walking Dead fame.  It has a Zombie charm along with the angel wings that Daryl has on the back of his waistcoat, attached to a cord with jump rings.  I loved it. It looked really professional and very cool!

Shrink Design Jewellery, Daryl Dixon

The angel wings also featured on a pair of earrings that looked really stunning and unique.  There is an additional downloadable PDF, which has extra designs including cute cupcakes, ice creams, lettering and a moustache.

Shrink Design Jewellery

I was impressed at just how many pieces could be made using the shrink plastic sheets, clasps, beads, cord, rings and earring hooks. Kizzy was able to work independently and really enjoyed the creativity that this kit allowed her.

At £9.99 it is a great value set, which makes plenty of charms and finished jewellery pieces.  It is aimed for girls aged 8 and over and would be a lovely way for them to make handmade gifts for their friends this Christmas.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Festive Family Day Out at Cadbury World #ACadburyWorldXmas

Today we were lucky enough to be guests at Cadbury World for an exclusive blogger day, so we could experience all the festive fun that they have laid on for their Christmas Celebration weekends, which run until December 21st.  After an early start, we arrived at Cadbury World in the heart of Bourneville where we enjoyed a welcome drink before heading off to see Santa in his magical themed grotto.

The grotto was lovely with twinkling lights, woodland animals and Christmas tunes playing as we queued.  We were shown into the festively decorated log cabin, where Santa was sitting in his fabulous chair. Freddy had been looking forward to seeing Santa and happily told him what was on his Christmas list. (The Vtech Smart Watch is what he hopes to find under the tree this year!)  The children received small gifts and we had a family photo taken.  The visit to Santa is included in the admission price to Cadbury World, which I think is really good, and photos and photo gifts can be purchased if wanted.

Cadbury World

New to Cadbury World is the fantastic 4D Chocolate Adventure, a 3D film with added special effects. We absolutely loved it!  The film gave us the experience of diving into a lake of liquid chocolate, flying in a Creme Egg air ship and riding a chocolate Crunchie roller coaster. The favourite Cadbury characters from the TV ads, Freddo, Mr Cadbury's Parrot, Caramel Bunny and the drumming gorilla starred in the show.  The 3D was great and we were so tempted to reach out at the chocolate on the screen, just in case we could actually grab it.  The 4D cinema is a great new attraction zone and definitely worth a visit.  Listening to Freddy oohing, ahhing, giggling and laughing was brilliant. It was his first 4D cinema experience and he really enjoyed it.

Cadbury World

After lunch, the children met the Cadbury Chuckle Beans, who were dressed in Santa Suits, for a photo opportunity.  Freddy always enjoys meeting characters.  They really add a bit of magic to days out.

We loved the giant chocolate Christmas tree and the exploding chocolate filled cracker that decorated the main reception area in front of the cafe.  The Cadbury Cafe does a family meal deal where 4 regular drinks and 4 hot meals costs £24.95.

Cadbury World

We then headed to Pantoland to take our seats for the exclusive pantomime, Snow White and the Chuckle Beans.  The much loved tale was given a chocolatey twist as Snow White celebrated her birthday with her best friend Muddles and the handsome prince.  But the Evil Queen had a plan to ruin the day and make herself the fairest of them all by killing Snow White with a poisoned apple. The panto included a funny rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas that involved a 'brand new water pistol' instead of a 'partridge in a pear tree' which meant we all got squirted by Muddles after every verse.  It was lovely to see Freddy and the other kids all getting involved and joining in with the story.  They boo'd the queen, shouted hello to Muddles and yelled warnings to Snow White.  It was really enjoyable and was just the right length to avoid little ones getting fed up.  After the show we were lucky enough to meet the cast and have a photo taken.  A visit to the panto is included in the admission price.

Cadbury World

We were then free to enjoy the Cadbury World Tour.  There was plenty of festive flair with decorations, trees and  staff in costumes to ensure the Christmassy feeling continued as we made our way through each zone.

Cadbury World

The tour has so much to see and do and we learned all about the history of chocolate, how it is made and the story of Cadbury. Freddy loved all the hands on exhibits and interactive activities. He likes pressing buttons, turning knobs and pushing levers!  

Kizzy loved the fact that we were each given four full size bars of chocolate and a cup of melted chocolate in the Chocolate Making zone!  We saw a chocolate making demonstration, watched the artisans at work, had a look at the production line in action, had a green screen experience and saw nostalgic advertising campaigns from years gone by.

Cadbury World

The Cadabra ride was a big hit with Freddy who loved driving around the Chuckle Beans' hometown, in a Beanmobile, seeing all their little houses and discovering the magic of Cadbury. It's perfect for little people.

Cadbury World

At the end of the tour is the world's biggest Cadbury shop filled with their chocolates as well as exclusive gifts, toys, branded merchandise and unique handmade chocolate products (there were amazing chocolate teapots, stilettos and footballs!)  You can also buy specially made Christmas hampers packed with chocolatey goodies that looked amazing.  We enjoyed picking up a few gifts for the family and because we spent over £20 we received a free teddy bear, which was lovely.

Cadbury World

We had such a fabulous day and Freddy said it was "The Best Day Ever!"  Having the extra Christmas entertainment really makes it a special day out for families looking for some festive fun in the run up to Christmas.

If you want to visit, I'd recommend booking in advance because the attraction sold out of tickets on the door by lunchtime while we were there.  Cadbury World is very popular!  A family ticket is £48.80 (two adults and two children) and under 4s are free.  This includes a visit to Santa, a gift for each child and the Christmas pantomime.

Cadbury World

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Happy 81st Birthday to my Mum

"No gift to your mother can ever equal her gift to you - life."

mother, birthday
My beautiful mother

I am eternally grateful.
Thank you for being you.
I love you so much Mum. 


It's a Monthly Thing - Teen Parcel #amonthlything

Being a teenage girl isn't always easy - especially when it comes to periods.  Having three daughters, I've had to see them all suffer with varying degrees of monthly misery, and other than offering a hot water bottle, a hug and an Ibuprofen, there isn't much I felt I could do to make it any easier on them. However, I have discovered that there is a way that we can put a smile on our daughters' faces and help make their cycle a little nicer to deal with each month, with Teen Parcel.

girls, periods

Teen Parcel is a subscription service, which sends girls a lovely bundle of treats 3-5 days before their period is due.  With top brand pampering beauty goodies, a sweet treat, a relaxing drink and a supply of sanitary products, the Teen Parcel will make young girls feel a lot better about what they are going through.  The parcels are delivered straight to the door in a cute pink box, which fits through the letterbox.

Teen Parcel

Inside, you will find something 'for now', something 'for later' and something 'for you', all individually packaged in pink.  

teen parcel

The service allows you to pick which type of sanitary product is included so girls can choose between towels and tampons, and also select a favoured brand, such as Lil-lets, Always, Kotex or Tampax and pick the required absorbency.  Parcels are tailored to individual girls' needs.

Pink Parcel

The black drawstring bag, which contains five tampons, is great and allows girls to carry a supply of tampons in their school bag or handbag.  There are two boxes of extra packages of ten tampons that should be sufficient to last for the month. It is an efficient way to get sanitary products delivered direct to your door and saves young girls from having to purchase them in shops, which could prove embarrassing for them. 

Pink Parcel, beauty goodies

The beauty goodies are really amazing.  Kizzy was really excited by the Clean & Clear products, the lovely braided bracelet and the Binky London nail varnish.  She was really impressed with her 'period presents' as she called them!  It even included a sweet treat and a Teapigs chocolate teabag for some comfort. Every month, different pampering products from some major brands are included in the parcels. 

The Teen Parcels are a teen friendly version of the Pink Parcel subscription service for women.  They aim to take the fear out of what can be a scary time in a young girl's life, replacing it with something more positive.  Subscriptions can be taken out as gifts, and it really is a lovely thing for a young girl to receive, making this aspect of growing up much more appealing.

12 year old Kizzy said:

"Periods aren't the best things in the world and they aren't any fun.  Having a cute package delivered every month will definitely make things easier and worth the suffering!  I like that it gives you a month's supply of sanitary products so you never run out and the fact that you get some lovely gifts to cheer you up is great.  I was pleased that the Clean & Clear beauty products were included because they are beneficial to teenager's skin.  The parcels are really thoughtful and I'd be happy to receive one every month to make me feel special if I'm feeling a bit down about things. In fact I'm going to ask if I can subscribe to Teen Parcel right now!"

A Teen Parcel subscription is just £9.95 a month, which is excellent value for what is included.  The first package comes at a special offer price of just £5.95.  You are free to cancel at any time with no obligation. You can manage your account online, adjusting the dates to ensure the parcel arrives exactly when it is needed.

Buying a Teen Parcel subscription for a young girl really can help them get through a tough time in their lives. I think they are an excellent idea and seeing Kizzy enthuse about the contents has made me see just how appreciated  a parcel through the post will be every month.  They can help make periods less embarrassing and increase young girls' body confidence.  Kizzy said it made her feel special, which is exactly how young girls should be made to feel.

You can find out more and subscribe at:  You can also check out their blog for all things period related alongside beauty and health tips to keep you feeling your best.

Teen parcel

We were sent a box to review and I've been compensated for my time but all opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Star in your own TalkTalk Mix Off Music Video

TalkTalk’s Mix Off is a new, free app that creates amazing music videos, with you as the star! Create one of the best, and you could appear on TV!

TalkTalk are the proud sponsors of this year's X Factor and they are giving fans the chance to get close to the talent with their Mix Off app, by creating amazing music videos, which could appear during the show's ad breaks.

With funky effects and some of today's top tunes to choose from, you can go solo or perform with a friend and upload the video to the Mix Off gallery.

TalkTalk, X Factor

How it works:

Step 1: Select your track (choose from Fancy, Salute, Royals, Happy, Ghost and more) and video style (such as Kaleidoscope, Word Art or Street Art) and customise it with colour.

TalkTalk, X Factor

Step 2: Record your performance - sing along, dance like crazy, make funny faces and have fun for 12 seconds.  Lyrics show on screen o you know the words.

X Factor, Talktalk

Step 3: Mix it up by adding up to three other performances to your video.

There are some top tips on how to make a stand out video including using a plain white background, playing with camera angles and dressing up.  You can unleash your inner pop star and have a lot of fun with this app!

music video, TalkTalk, app

You can upload the finished videos to the gallery and you can watch other people's Mix Off videos. 

Find out more at, download the app at the App Store or Google Play or you can create online.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My Christmas Wishlist App

Many children enjoy writing wishlists to inform Santa which of the must have toys they most want to find under the tree for Christmas.  In the past, this may have involved an Argos catalogue, paper and a pencil, but nowadays the process is much more high tech with the launch of the Argos My Christmas Wishlist app.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

You simply download the free app from the App Store or from Google Play and you can begin.  The animated opening sequence features some fun characters and kids can pick a helper to guide them through the process.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

They can personalise their wishlist, by taking a happy, festive selfie, which then appears throughout the app.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

It is simple to browse through the best toys of the season, displayed as thumbnails, and pick the ones you want.  They are sorted by brand so if your child wants LEGO, Nerf or Playdoh, for example, they can click straight through to the relevant section.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

Children can get creative using the virtual pens and numbered stickers to decorate the list before emailing it off to Santa (aka Mum or Dad's inbox!) They can rate their preferences so you will know which toy is their favourite.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

The app is colourful, fun, kid friendly and interactive and parents can set a price limit and limit the number of gifts to avoid children picking too much or choosing toys that are too expensive.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

Once the letter is sent, the designated email recipient gets an email with a colourful copy of the wishlist, with links to the toys that have been chosen so you can click through and buy or reserve direct from Argos.

Argos Christmas Wishlist App

Freddy had a go at making his wishlist.  He really liked the app and chose the cute little helper Squidge to assist him.  I limited the price of the presents to £32 and restricted him to five gifts.  He picked four toys: a VTech DigiPet, a Nerf crossbow, a Leapfrog LeapBand and an Innotab game, before decorating his list and clicking the button to send it to Santa.  It was really simple and user friendly, and he enjoyed looking through all the toys in his price range.

This app is also a nice way to send wishlists to relatives who ask what the kids want for Christmas, plus it makes it easy for them to buy direct from the links in the email.


Big City Explorer - Book Review

Little ones aged 5 and over will be nurturing their future wanderlust as they read through the pages of this lovely non-fiction book by Maggie Li.  Featuring 28 great cities from around the world, each double paged spread is filled with fascinating facts including information on sights, food, sports, culture, landmarks and events.  It's an introduction to geography and allows little ones to dip in and out to find out about the world's greatest cities.

Children join the cute character Penguin as he travels through cities such as Istanbul, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Mocow, Madrid, Cairo and Amsterdam.  With very simple maps, lovely illustrations and bitesize chunks of amazing information, children will enjoy exploring the great cities of the world.

To add to the fun, little explorers can play with the real, removable working compass that is embedded into the hardback front cover. This is a great, educational book which will let imaginative children discover the world within its pages, and decide where they will visit when they grow up.

pavilion children's books

Big City Explorer is published by Pavilion Children's Books and is priced at £11.99.  It would make a great Christmas gift.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Manchester Christmas Markets

This weekend, we were among the record breaking 200,000 people who descended on Manchester city centre for the opening of the Christmas Markets.  With Ella being at university there, we parked up outside her halls of residence and walked into town.  The weather was perfect and we felt very festive as we approached the beautifully adorned, wooden stalls each selling their wares from around Europe.

The smell of mulled wine and various foods was enticing and we simply had to sample the Garlic Mushrooms and Garlic Potatoes from Provence, which were cooked in huge pans on the street and smelled so good.  It was nice to find some vegetarian friendly food among all the German sausages on offer, and the potatoes and mushrooms were absolutely delicious - so, so tasty!

The children had their first ever macaroons, hand made by the French people running the stall. Freddy loved them but at £9 a bag they will only ever be an occasional treat!  He also had a white chocolate covered apple, which we bought from a very happy Bavarian man selling various fruits on sticks that had been dipped in chocolate and decorated. They looked really pretty.

The markets have a real international flavour and a vibrant atmosphere. There were so many cool things on display from jewellery to wooden ornaments to traditional nutcrackers to Christmas decorations alongside all the food stalls and pop up bars.  It was so busy and positively bustling, which is always good to see. Ella's boyfriend is working on one of the stalls at the markets selling Lemax Christmas Collectables. We popped across to say hello.  They were doing a roaring trade and selling their stuff off much cheaper than I've seen it in the garden centres. Nice to see some well priced stalls at the markets!  It was also good to see that the pop-up bars had a returnable deposit policy on their mugs, glasses and cups, as part of an environmentally friendly initiative. 

With a visit to the Arndale Centre included in our day out, we really enjoyed spending the day in Manchester.  Freddy coped really well with the crowds and the long walk around all the sites.  My little boy is definitely growing up and getting more able to deal with situations outside of his comfort zone, which is really pleasing.

Afterwards we popped in to see Megan, who couldn't join us at the markets because she'd had friends rounds after a big night out.  We bought some vegan take out food from Eighth Day to make up for her missing the garlic potatoes! I love being able to visit my grown up kids and having two living in the same city is such a bonus.    

Christmas, markets, manchester

The Manchester Christmas Markets are open everyday until December 21st.

Be Safe Be Seen this Winter

The Co-Operative Funeralcare will be helping thousands of children to stay safe on the streets now that the clocks have gone back, by providing high visibility reflective 'Be Safe Be Seen' badges to children through primary schools and youth groups around the country. Over the past 5 years 160,000 badges have been distributed to youngsters helping to make them more visible to drivers, especially as it gets darker in the evenings. Popping a badge on to a coat or onto the strap of a rucksack really makes a difference to the child's visibility and makes sure that they are seen.

road safety

In addition to the badges, road safety lessons and assemblies (prepared in conjunction with Brake the road safety charity) have been delivered to school children aged 3-7, as a part of the Be Safe Be Seen campaign.  It's an excellent way to raise awareness about road safety and reminds us to all to be extra vigilant.  The safety of our children is a prime concern for everyone.

Over 2000 children under the age of 16 are killed or seriously injured on our roads every year* with pedestrians making up over a half of those killed and two thirds of those seriously injured.  In the winter months when evenings get dark earlier, young pedestrians are at their most vulnerable, but there are precautions that can be taken to keep them safe.

Here are some simple steps to teach children how to stay safe when out and about this winter:

  • Wear high visibility clothing or accessories (like the Be Safe Be Seen badges from The Co-Operative Funeralcare) to make yourself more visible to drivers.
  • Look out for hidden entrances or driveways when crossing pavements.
  • Make sure you walk on the side of pavements away from the traffic.
  • When crossing the road always choose a safe place and time to cross. It’s always safer to cross at a pedestrian or patrolled crossing.
  • Avoid crossing between parked cars as drivers won’t be able to see you until it’s possibly too late.
  • It’s important to stop at the curb, look both ways and listen to traffic before crossing. 
  • Pedestrian crossings can still be dangerous if care is not taken. You should wait on the pavement until all the traffic from both directions has stopped. 
  • Islands are often provided in the middle of the road, and you should treat each half as a separate crossing.
  • Avoid playing near busy roads as you may forget your surroundings and become unaware of the dangers on the road.
Here is a video from The Co-Operative Funeralcare Be Safe Be Seen campaign about road safety. It's vital that our children are reminded of the importance of taking care on the streets so we can help keep them safe.


Parents can contact their local Co-Operative Funeralcare branch to order the high visibility badges for children's schools or find out more online at

road safety

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* Figure taken from the Child Accident Prevention Trust report 2011

Friday, 14 November 2014

Warm Spice Persil Washing Up Liquid for Christmas

Just because it's Christmas, it does not mean that the household chores get to stop.  Pots, pans and plates still need washing-up!  It's nice to know, however, that with a bottle of limited edition Warm Spice Persil Washing Liquid, doing the dirty dishes will not dampen your Christmas spirit.

washing -up

With notes of ground cinnamon, hints of cloves and the scent of citrus, the Warm Spice washing up liquid adds a festive twist to doing the Christmas dishes. With its warming fragrance and rich red colour, it is perfect for this time of year.

Not only is it Christmassy, it is also really effective at removing stubborn grease and dried on food, leaving crockery clean and bright, adding some extra sparkle to the festive season!

The 500ml bottle is available from  all major supermarkets for just £1.00.


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