Reading with The BFG

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Munchkin is an avid reader.

He brings a book home from school every day; he’ll read to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen, he’ll read to me whilst I’m cooking dinner, he reads in bed. He can’t get enough.

We are members of our local library – and over the summer we have taken part in the summer reading challenge. As libraries are celebrating 100 years since Roald Dahl was born, it is called ‘The Big Friendly Read’. Children receive a little pack that contains a reading log and need to read at least six books.

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Then as they read and return books they are rewarded with scratch and sniff cards, a book mark, goofy glasses and finally, on completion of book 6, a certificate.

We have been reading the ‘BFG’ together. And today I found Munchkin on my bed, eagerly reading on without me.

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It is such a wonderful story; Roald Dahl tackles some dark topics with his usual brand of magical words – and with the help of Quentin Blake’s beautiful illustrations, manages to paint very powerful mental images. Beginning with Sophie (an orphan) being snatched from her bed, the BFG’s crazy diet, a meeting with the Queen and ending with acting on a grand plan. Ultimately it is a story of hope and good triumphing when people work together. And it’s enthralling!

The book contains a BFG quiz and you can learn how to draw the BFG. The book also  features a new cover to coincides with the release of the new major motion film.

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Once we finish the book together, we will definitely be heading to the cinema to watch!

Cheat and cheerful

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Big news!

I have a new job. An amazing new job. A permanent, all singing, all dancing new job. No more supply. No more 4 hour commute. A job that I have always wanted. And I cannot wait to start.

But one thing that I’m very aware of is how little time there will be for preparing meals. And if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that family meals are very important in our house.

I’m thinking that slow cooker meals will be an easy way to ensure we sit down to a proper meal every night. I am going to invest in liners for the slow cooker which means that I can spend Sunday afternoon prepping dinners, pop them into the bags and into the freezer, grabbing them each morning. This will also mean that the slow cooker will need little more than a rinse too!

We recently trialled slow cooker vegetarian fajitas which went down a storm! All I did was slice up peppers and onions, throw them into the slow cooker with some Quorn chicken style pieces, crushed garlic, homemade fajita mix and a tin of chopped tomatoes. I left it on low for 6 hours then served in flour tortillas with natural yogurt (in place of sour cream), sliced chillies and some grated cheese.

As for breakfast – well I have a complete winner that means our boys will be heading out with something warming over the winter! Everyone loves a certain fast food breakfast, but it’s not the kindest to the health or the pocket so welcome to my version which has a pocket friendly price tag, it’s low in fat takes less than three minutes to make…

All you need is one Quorn sausage pattie, an egg and a wholemeal muffin.

Simply split the muffin and toast then microwave the pattie for 90 seconds. You’ll need to leave it to stand for a minute so lightly grease a cup, crack an egg into it and lightly break the yolk (yolks explode in the microwave), add a light sprinkle of cheese then microwave for a minute, in 20 seconds bursts just to prevent the egg expanding. Then enjoy…

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If you have any quick and easy – cheat and cheerful – recipes, please do tell me

Looking Good

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Eyes.

Essential.

But, as with everything else in life, you take them for granted.

I’ve recently had to start wearing glasses. I think it’s due to my fibromyalgia. Muscle weakness seems to be a running theme and some days they are really poor and I’m wearing my glasses constantly – whereas I can also find myself not reaching for my glasses for weeks at a time.

Bizarre!

But earlier this week, I woke with slightly blurred vision. Kinda like I had got moisturiser in them. It didn’t clear throughout the day which was slightly annoying as I work in a school and need to be able to see clearly. And I had the start of a headache.

The following day I had colourful hues around any text that I was trying to read and my head was beginning to hurt more.

By Thursday I had a grey patch in my field of vision. It was like I’d looked at a bright light and then looked away. And my headache wasn’t getting any better.

When I left work I popped into the optician. They examined my eyes then asked me lots of questions about my coordination, whether I vomited with the headaches and whether I had any loss of balance. The optician spoke to my GP and told me that I had an emergency appointment with the ophthalmologist the following day, at the hospital.

To be honest, all I was worried about was being off work (I have THE best job) and what tests they would do. The idea that someone would want to touch my eyeball made me feel squeamish – but Mr six was really worried and decided he was going to meet me at the hospital.

So…

I ended up having a lengthy field test and was sent to see a consultant who asked lots more questions then squirted some yellow liquid in my eyes, which made me jump. Then she told me it was anaesthetic. She shone a light in my eyes, apparently tou and finally said everything was fine.

Mr six asked her why I had been rushed in and she said that there was a bulge on my optic nerve and with other symptoms, the optician was worried about a possible brain tumour – but that the bulge is down to my fibromyalgia and nothing to worry about as it will rectify itself.

Again, I feel incredibly lucky to have been taken care of by our wonderful NHS

Kinetic Sand Build – Crash ‘Em Cars

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When I first heard about kinetic sand, I was intrigued. It’s a play sand that holds its shape and never dries out, as it is 2% silica oil. So when Spin Master invited us to review a ‘Build’ play set I was really keen to try it out.

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The idea for this is that you race and crash the cars which then fall apart – before you rebuild them. The Crash ‘Em Cars set comes with everything you need; moulds, ramps, a track and crucially, two bags of kinetic sand.

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It was really simple to set up; the box opens out to form the track and I constructed the ramps (folded the printed card and secured with tabs)

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then set about building the race cars…

I was pretty nervous as I’m not the most artistic or creative person, but my first attempt was a success given that it’s so straightforward. You simply fill each mould with sand, shake out the shape and add it to the car… Once I showed Munchkin how to do it, he had a whale of a time and was happily creating his own vehicles.

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As you can see, Munchkin decided to mix the colours rather than stick to red or blue. I love this look and you’re only limited by your own imagination.

The boys had a lovely afternoon, outside in the sunshine playing with this set

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and if laughter equates to success, then I just know that this will be flying off the shelves!

This Kinetic Sand kit retails for around £14.99 and you can find out more about Spin Master and their amazing range of products on their website!

Pocket Microscope from Interplay

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When I was younger, in primary school, I saved up my pocket money and bought a microscope. It sat on my desk, the little mirror positioned so as to reflect the sun and provide a light source. I got books from the library and looked at fibres.

But now it’s all so much easier! And cost effective…

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This Pocket Microscope from Interplay does exactly what it says: it fits in a pocket.

It comes with ready made slides of different fibres and insects parts, blank slides for you to make up yourself, specimen pots, labels and tweezers as well as a wonderful booklet containing instructions on how to use the microscope and observation activities for you – or your young budding biologist – to investigate.

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To get started, you simply need to insert batteries and you’re off.

Munchkin really enjoyed using this – not least because it’s small enough for him to handle, yet with 30 x magnification it is powerful enough to show him a whole new world!

We used the pre-made slides first so that Munchkin could get used to the microscope and how he needed to use it and then we made a slide of our own using membrane from an onion. It was one of the first things I did as a child, so simple and you can see the cells clearly (although my photo isn’t as clear as the view we had).

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Given that this is priced at just £9.99, I think it is great value for money. It is a fantastic way to introduce children to science without costing the earth and convenient to pop into your pocket for spontaneous trips out.

Instant flower press

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When I was younger, I loved to press flowers.

My mum showed me how to select colourful flowers and carefully arrange them between blotting paper before nestling them in a pile of heavy books. But the problem was waiting. I am impatient. And the idea that a successful press could take 6 weeks was torture.

So when Interplay sent me the Instant Flower Press, I was eager to see if it lived up to the hype.

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The Instant Flower Press is from the ‘My Living World’ range, which if you’ve read my blog over the last 12 months, you’ll be aware of how much I love this range! Introducing children to nature by firing up their imagination and learning in the very best way, by having fun.

The flower press comprises of a plastic press, two hinge pins, 4 thick felt pads, 2 cotton pads and instruction booklet.

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I started by selecting some flowers from our garden. We have plenty of forget-me-nots in the borders so I picked some, arranged them between the cotton pads and felt pads, closed the press and microwaved (with half a cup of water, as advised) for 20 seconds.

The dried flowers were particularly delicate as they were so small, so I moved on to violets. SUCCESS!

I even managed to press a poppy. It took longer than 20 seconds, but as it explains in the booklet, larger flowers will take longer. And as you become more experienced, you’ll know which flowers will need a few blasts in the microwave and which will be done quicker.

As for the results, with just a sheet of black card from our crafting box, some glue and an old pesto jar, I’ve made a couple of pretty bookmarks, a card and a jar for paperclips.

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It really is so simple to use and to create beautiful items – the only limit would be your imagination. The Instant Flower Press would make a fabulous present for children and adults alike and is available from Interplay and other good retailers for £9.99

*DISCLAIMER – we were kindly sent this product for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are my own*

Diamond Dust by label m

I am not really a hoarder of beauty products. I know what I like and tend to stick to them. But occasionally something new comes along and catches my eye.

And recently I have definitely had my head turned by the new Diamond Dust range by ‘label m’.

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Featuring a shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, I was keen to find out more…

“The new luxury Diamond Dust range featuring the exclusive Micro-Diamond complex – a unique blend of hair perfecting ingredients and real diamonds to reveal sumptuous body, silkiness and intense radiance.”

The range uses 5 indulgent ingredients: black and white Diamond Dust particles, champagne, white rose petal oil and pearls. They claim to remove the build up from the hair and scalp and transform the hair’s condition. Paraben and sulphate free, it is gentle to hair and scalp.

Sounds intriguing, right?

I absolutely love the packaging. It’s so understated with it’s black and gold colour scheme. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Well, washing!

The shampoo is thick and creamy. It produced a luxurious lather that smelled of rose – I was worried that I would struggle to rinse it, but I was wrong. It rinsed clear in no time, leaving my hair clean – but not squeaky.

I turned to the conditioner. Thick and sparkly, it had the same fragrance as the shampoo. Once applied, I combed through with a fine tooth comb. This is something I do at every wash to help distribute the conditioner – but it also helps eliminate knots and it’s good practice as I work in primary schools(!) – before rinsing. Our shower isn’t the best and I always finish rinsing with a jug but the water ran clear quickly.

Once out of the shower and dry, I layered on the moisturiser. The fragrance is the same indulgent rose scent as the hair care – leaving skin silky and with a delicate shimmer.

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You can see how my hair looked after I dried it – and what I thought.

*DISCLAIMER – I was kindly sent these products for the purpose of this review, but all opinions are my own*

Rheumi with a view

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The last year has been a catalogue of illness for me. Well, not just the last year, but the last 12 months have been quite a bit harder…

I’ve been incredibly fatigued for a couple of years. Not just “I’ve got 4 children” tired. I mean EXHAUSTED; some days I couldn’t have got off the sofa if a £50 note had blown through. And I wouldn’t have cared less.

My endometriosis has been problematic. As has my IBS. I had pleurisy, then bronchitis the following winter. And I just didn’t feel as if I had recovered from it, I never felt ‘well’ after that.

My joints hurt. My skin was tender to the touch. My muscles were heavy and felt like they were full of lactic acid. My fingers and toes swelled, they were tingly and sometimes numb.I had sores in my nose. I had headaches. I was forgetful and found it hard to concentrate. And it really got me down.

I went to see my GP who ran some tests. He was able to rule out Lupus but wasn’t sure what was going on so referred my to see a rheumatologist.

And I waited. And waited.

Finally, yesterday I had my appointment. The Dr and nurse were amazing. They asked lots of questions and gave me a thorough examination. Then gave me a diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia.

They gave me lots of fabulous advice about managing the condition and managing my expectations. I was given some strong painkillers too which will help me sleep through the night. It was such a positive experience, knowing that I wasn’t making this up, that it really is something.

I also have some nerve damage to my arms and there’s an operation I can have on both elbows to have the nerve moved to help lessen the tingling and numbness, but I am not rushing in to that.

After my consultation, I had lots more blood tests to check for muscle disease and other things and I booked a physio appointment with a rheumatology specialised physiotherapist.

When we left, we decided to have lunch so we bought picnic food and drove to one of our favourite places to eat.

So this is me. A rheumi with a view. A very positive view.

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I’m in heaven

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My husband tells me that I am a stationery addict.

And I think he’s right.

I am so happy when I can browse the stationery aisles whilst we’re out.

Oh and I do love a new notebook *guilty look*.

So when Pen Heaven contacted me, I could not have been happier. I have reviewed Pen Heaven previously and I was so happy.

This time, I decided to go for something a little different. Obviously, a fountain pen is a must for me – so I chose another Lamy Al-Star as I love the style so much. I decided to go for the Special Edition Charged Green as it looked so zingy and spring like. To compliment this, I also chose a leather pen case from the new Laurige range, in a coordinating shade of lime green.

I absolutely love receiving a parcel from Pen Heaven – the gift wrapping is so beautiful and if your order is for a present, it’s a really lovely touch.

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The pen case is a wonderful vibrant green, which makes locating it at the bottom of a cluttered bag so much easier, it will also protect your pen from scuffs and scratches. And Pen Heaven kindly embossed it with my initials. It will fit 1 pen with a length of 140mm.

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The pen is, as with all Lamy Al-Star, good value for money at just £20.90. It has a fantastically smooth writing style thanks to the stainless steel nib. The barrel is ergonomically designed so has a comfortable grip. Pen Heaven also surprised me by engraving my blog name on the lid, a service that they offer for £7.00

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*DISCLAIMER – I was kindly sent these items for the purpose of my review, but all opinions are my own*

Facing the day

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Over the last few years, my skin has become rather sensitive.

Initially my skin started feeling rather hot and tingly when I was using the moisturiser that I always had, but as time went on, certain products caused burning and swelling.

It’s been tough finding toiletries that work – yet don’t irritate my skin, so I thought I would share with you a few of my trusted favourites:

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Coconut oil face scrub

This is something that I make. Well, I say make, I simply mix in a little granulated sugar in with room temperature coconut oil. I love this. I know that it doesn’t contain any scary ingredients and I can make it more – or less – ‘scrubby’ depending on how much sugar I add. To use it I just splash my face with warm water, put a little of the scrub on my face and using a gentle, circular motion, rub before washing off with a face cloth. Take care not to be too rough as the sugar can be a little abrasive. My nose and under my chin really benefit from this and it leaves my skin so soft and glowing.

Micellar water

There are plenty of brands on the market – but the Garnier was the first I tried and I find it so effective. It is as gentle as water but removes my mascara with ease.

Clarins Instant eye make-up remover

I tend to use waterproof mascara during hay fever season as I do rub my eyes, even when I take my medication, and this removes it all.

Clarins Hydraquench moisturiser

I have incredibly thirsty skin. It’s never dry and flaky, but it does really soak up moisturiser. This is so lovely and the fragrance is mild. I sometimes use the Hydraquench serum too when my skin is in need of a little TLC.

Last week, however, I discovered these gems from Superdrug:

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Both from the Naturally Radiant range, they claim to awaken skin’s natural glow. They have left my face so smooth – and using a serum on a daily basis has really started to iron out some of my wrinkles. The moisturiser has a slight light reflecting aspect too which leaves me looking slightly less tired. And it’s incredibly competitively priced.

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