Wednesday, 17 December 2014

How many Santa's is too many Santa's?

Now, I love Christmas as much as the next person and a visit to a Santa's Grotto is on most parent's to-do list during the month of December. But without sounding a bit 'bah-humbug', just how many times does a child need to visit Santa!?

We live in a very small town/large village and even here, if (big IF) my children were to visit each Santa's grotto/party that is on offer in the place we live, they would see the big man himself over 10 times! I manage to tactfully avoid most of them - not because I don't want to support the particular group or charity that is providing the Santa experience, just because more than a couple of times is too many!

They also vary in, let's say, authenticity. One particular Santa is pretty good and sees the children in two different grottos. He cleverly remembers them by name (small town syndrome!) so that he can check if they have been keeping their promises of bring well-behaved, tidying their bedroom, etc, etc. 

My children have known for a couple of years that the Santa that we visit in our town are actually Santa's helpers. They cottoned on pretty quickly that they look slightly different at each visit and so the truth was told! Father Christmas does exist and lives happily in Lapland with assistants employed all over the world to help collect messages to send to Santa and distribute presents to the children.

Although... they do believe the Santa at Portmeirion Village is the REAL one, namely for 2 reasons - he has a real beard and can speak Welsh! Our first language at home is English but my children are taught through the medium of Welsh and so are fluent Welsh speakers, so only the real Santa would know that they could speak Welsh, right? That's a good enough reason for me!

This year, we didn't manage to visit the Christmas markets at Portmeirion, but if you are ever near there on the first weekend in December, it's well worth a visit!

So anyway, when you're planning your December fun and festivities, take care not to have a 'Santa Overload'! It can be more magical keeping somethings under wraps...



Monday, 3 November 2014

'Shell Shock' by Neil Blower - Book Review

I don't often review books as I think it's hard to do the book justice without giving anything away! For this book, I make an exception!

The author is the son of an old friend who I recently caught up with after about 16 years with only Facebook contact! Both of our lives have changed in this time and it was lovely to see her again, have a good chat and a coffee! I just need to make sure that the gap isn't so long next time!

So anyway, onto the book! I read all sorts of genre of literature and will give anything a go. I knew that Neil had written a book and had seen coverage of his story on breakfast TV a couple of years ago.

Basically, in the book he tells the story of life after war through the eyes of an army veteran. There's no holding back and it shocked me in parts as he tells the story of living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes, I think I live in a bubble where bad things don't happen up people I know but horrific things DO sadly happen all of the time. 

I'm not ashamed to say that the book made me cry and I'm pretty certain that it will do to you too. If you do one thing this Remembrance Sunday, please take time to just even think about our troops; those at war, those who sadly have not returned and those who have returned and are still suffering.

Please give it a read as it really is written from the heart. As I was kindly given a copy of 'Shell Shock', I have donated the cover price to Combat Stress. You can buy your own copy here with £1 from each copy sold going to this very worthy charity. 

Neil has written a second book, so keep an eye out for it - it's definitely on my Christmas list! There's also a third one on the go.... watch this space!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dog Treats Vs Poison: A Pet Health Infographic

We love our dog Lucy and for most of my life, had a dog at home - a cuddle on demand and she doesn't argue back! BLISS!


But we're always really careful about what treats we give her. Here's a handy infographic from Vet-Medic with some simple do's and don'ts!


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Great Gizmos - Sensory Toys


Play and Learn with PlanToys 

Just in time for starting the Christmas lists, the eco-friendly wooden toy range PlanToys is pushing the boundaries with educational toys to make them more interactive and fun as well as flexible and responsive to children’s needs and circumstances.

The Adaptive Toys series from Plan is the latest wave of toys that is entirely dedicated to children with special needs. This highly original collection of learning toys caters for three groups of children with special needs which are cerebral palsy, autism and the visually impaired. There are lots on offer but here is just a snapshot of this great developmental toy range;


The Build-A-Robot is a complete learning experience for kids! The wooden robot includes four interchangeable heads that feature an array of emotions including happy, sad, cross and surprised for children to learn. He can also sit and stand as his chunky legs and arms are moveable to imitate a human being.











For problem solving there is the Vehicle Puzzle that encourages children to match the correct driver to their vehicle, whilst also learning how to shape sort. Each puzzle tile features a colourful background to help solve the game and all tiles interlink together to form a large floor piece. The puzzle includes a helicopter, space rocket, car and submarine for added play value.

To help develop fine motor skills, the Beehives game allows children to match the correct bee to its corresponding colour hive using the wooden pincers included. There are six brightly coloured hives that each have their own miniature bee, complete with stripes and wings. This game also helps reinforce colour recognition and counting.

 For children who are visually impaired, there is a Braille Duo that helps children learn the alphabet and number sequences. The Braille Numbers set enables kids to count to 10 with the wooden tile set that is beautifully engraved with large numbers and the corresponding Braille cells. The reverse side also contains leaf illustrations with the correct number of leaves on to help children count. The 26-piece Braille Alphabet features both the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet and matching Braille symbol, to help each child learn their letters.


These really do look like great toys, whether your child has special needs or not, sadly my children are now above the target age range however I have a younger niece and another one (niece/nephew!) on the way, so I'm sure they will creep onto the Christmas list somewhere!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

How easy is it to be safe online?

Actually how easy is it to stay safe online? I think I'm pretty up to date with all things secure - I never click the 'save payment details for future use' check box which is offered on so many websites nowadays and I make sure all my anti-virus software is up to date. But maybe I could do more....


Choice Loans have just launched a new interactive infographic that outlines every type of fraud, and 16 different things you can do right now to prevent being a victim of identify fraud or money theft online.

Did you know that £450.4m of credit card fraud was committed in 2013 alone according to Financial Fraud Action UK and there were  221,000 cases of Identity Fraud in the UK last year - also there was the recent iCloud hack!

Have a look at the handy guide here > http://bit.ly/identifyfraud to make sure that you are staying as safe as you can be!


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Magical museums & great galleries!

Did you know that Henry VIII enjoyed a kick-about with his mates, back when football was a game of ‘beastly fury and extreme violence’? Or that with a quick rummage around your kitchen cupboards, under the guidance of museum scientists, you’ll find all you need to make an erupting volcano? Did you know there’s a huge stuffed walrus with its own Twitter account living in a museum in London?


Show Me, set to become the ‘go to’ website for children and young people looking to discover and learn about the weird and wonderful world of museums, galleries and archives across the UK, has just launched this September. The site showcases a fascinating range of stories, artworks, objects, games, films, apps and days out listings to inspire and ignite young imaginations.

The online 'exhibits' are most certainly based around the questions that children ask, for example you can find out about the top ten dead thing in museums(!) and how to make a Roman shield. There's everything from things to make, fact sheets and online games to help to educate your child whilst having fun at the same time!
 
Show Me is excited to be working in partnership with the Bafta-winning Culture Street team who specialise in making short films and interactives for and with children and young people. Culture Street brings a selection of the collection objects featured on Show Me to life in a brand new series of short films about collection objects chosen by children on museum visits. The children take viewers with them around the museum, asking curators the questions we’d all like to ask.

Show Me is also a guide to the best family-friendly museums across the UK, featuring information on the latest events and exhibitions for family days out.

www.Show.Me.Uk will feature:
  • Hundreds of museum games and learning resources 
  • Zoomable, high quality pictures of collection objects from a range of museums 
  • Culture Street’s films and interactives on key collection objects
  • Make & Do guides – from volcanoes to Roman togas and wartime carrot fudge
  • Behind-the-scenes info and stories from the world of museums
  • What’s on guide – venue & listings info on family-friendly UK museums and galleries
  • Homework help for kids and supporting resources for teachers.
Find Culture Street’s films and interactives on www.culturestreet.org.uk as well as on Show Me.

Show Me is edited by Anra Kennedy, Content and Partnership Director at Culture24 and a trustee of both campaigning charity Kids in Museums – www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk - and GEM, the Group for Education in Museums – www.gem.org.uk.

Anra Kennedy says, “It’s so exciting to be opening up museum and gallery collections to a new generation of children and young people on Show Me. There are so many wonderful stories and treasures in museums and galleries but they’re very difficult to find online, especially for kids and their time-pressed parents and teachers. The site will keep growing and developing with more collections, games, stories, museums and listings being added all the time, I’m hoping checking out what’s new on Show Me will become a habit for many children and young people.”

Annie Devitt, Head of Learning at the National Media Museum who worked with Culture Street on the films around their collection says, "We were given a brilliant opportunity to work with Culture Street and their young filmmakers to uncover some of our hidden collection objects. They have managed to bring the history and science behind our treasures to a much wider audience."

Show Me is also supported by Arts Council England.

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums, Arts Council England, said: “The Arts Council is pleased to be supporting Show Me, an initiative that promotes museum collections in an original, relevant and engaging manner. Stories are at the heart of every good museum and Show Me will help to bring collections to life for a wide audience.”

To explore museum content for children and young people why not visit www.show.me.uk and www.culturestreet.org.uk?


Friday, 26 September 2014

Perfect eggs!

Running a B&B means that we are self-confessed experts at cooking eggs.... of all types! We're lucky that we have a super-duper hot plate to fry our eggs on but not everyone has that luxury!

Lark and Larks have put together this great guide to cooking the perfect egg... what do you think?


What's your favourite way to cook eggs? For me, it's poached all the way!