Friday, October 10, 2014

Spot A Lot Animal Escape - Book Review

We are loving the latest book that we have received as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Scheme. Spot A Lot Animal Escape is a brand new picture book by Steve Smallman and Nicola Slater. It is a story in which the animals have escapers from the zoo and the reader has to find them on the following pages of the book.

It offers many things on many levels. First, there is the animal that has escaped. Each double page spread has a different animal to find.

Also, on each page there is a tortoise that you need to find,

and then other animals to look for too.

It includes number, 1 giraffe, 2 elephants, 3 gazelles and so on. It contains some simple rhymes, and nice descriptive language -"4 gibbons, long and slim, swinging by the jungle gym".

It has also introduced some new vocabulary, such as the "soaring dog" who has jumped on the trampoline.

There are so many things to look for that the book can keep you entertained for ages, and you can look at it again and again and notice new things in the images each time.

This is an excellent book to look at together. Its too stimulating for a night time book, but a great one to share during the day - we have read it at breakfast several times now.

Spot A Lot is so new that it's not even available for sale yet - but it is coming very soon to both The Book Depository and Amazon and will make an excellent stocking filler.

 Disclaimer: This book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Growing out my grey

At what age do you think it is appropriate to accept your grey hair?

I have been going grey since I was about 16. It became quite noticeable when I was in my mid twenties, and after a few people suggested I dye it, I finally did. I have been trapped in the cycle of dying my hair ever since, at first by using home dyes, and then when my hair started to suffer, by going to the hairdresser - or the 'grey line police' as one friend calls them.

I've been wondering about when to stop. At what point in my life should I accept the fact that I am grey? And how to grow grey? A work colleague from Darwin shaved hers off for charity and then embraced the grey when it grew back. I liked that idea. But now I have short hair anyway no one will be interested in sponsoring me - I should have done it when I had it cut last time.

There have been a few things that have been stopping me from embracing the grey up until now. Firstly for BB's sake. I live in a town where there a lot of young mums. I tend to be the same age as the grandparents of BB's peers, and sometimes older. I was worried about how people might respond to him for having such an old mum. Perhaps he would get called names at school.

There was also the whole issue of TTC. Could I really be a white haired pregnant lady? I got enough stick last time about being a 'geriatric pregnancy' and I was only 39 with brown hair. Being 43 with white hair would certainly make me stand out in the labour ward.

But we are planning to leave this town, BB is not going to school yet, and I think I have just about accepted that there won't be another attempt at TTC, so my reasons not to embrace the grey are becoming irrelevant.

Reasons to go for it are the money I would save every six weeks from having it dyed, the time I would save sitting in the chair waiting, the need for child care while I do such, the horrible grey line that appears in my parting,  and the damage it does to my hair.

Also, I feel kind of ready to step into that phase of my life in a way that I didn't before.

The only thing I am still concerned about is that I will look like a zebra. My grey is very uneven. At the front of my head I have no grey hairs at all, my hair is naturally really dark, almost black. On the top and sides it is almost white. My hairdresser tells me that the back is mostly dark too. I could end up looking like I have tried some strange two tone stripy look. But I guess I won't know unless I try.

My roots on the top of my head - nearly all white

My roots on the front of my head - all black

So the next question is how to do this without looking like a complete idiot in the interim. I have already had my hair cut really short so that should help - it shouldn't take too long to grow it out. I have also thought about using a semi-permanent dye for a few weeks until all my permanent dye has grown out, and then I can stop. It's also winter and I have a great collection of woolly hats!

My next hair appointment is booked on my 43rd birthday. I think I am going call and cancel the dye. My gift to myself will be to embrace the grey and all that goes with it. I hope that includes maturity, wisdom, and self assurance - and maybe an affinity with zebras!

If anyone out there has any tips or tricks to share on growing grey, I'd love to hear them!

Design and Drill Power Tool Workshop - Review

On the day of the haircut, we got home to find that our latest toy from Learning Resources had arrived. It is a Design and Drill Tool set, which is a self contained box filled with lots of different colour bolts, some special fun bolts, two battery operated tools (a drill and a screwdriver), and also a manual screwdriver and spanner.

We quickly unpacked it and installed batteries in both power tools. BB soon got the idea of how it works and straight away picked up the booklet with examples of pictures that you can make and tried to copy. He needs help with this though, he can copy the shape but doesn't always get it the right distance from the edge, meaning when he gets to another part it won't fit on the board. He's getting the idea of counting the rows now though.

Also, having made a few examples, he has started making his own designs - they are usually a steam train - though I do need him to tell me what it is.

There are lots of great things about this resource. It is great for developing creativity and fine motor skills. There is also counting, colours, design. Having both a drill and a screwdriver means that it can be a good toy to work on with a friend, and both people can have a power tool. There is also a hand held screw driver so a third person could even join in, or when the batteries go there is still a way to play.

On the batteries, I anticipated that they would wear down really quickly. Indeed the main reason I have taken so long to write the review is that I was waiting to see how long they lasted. We haven't played with it non stop by any means, but it has had a fair amount of use and I still haven't changed the batteries which is great news. The other thing that I really love about it is that it is all self contained, coming with its own easy to carry and store tool box case. This means that its a good toy to take with us when we got to visit my Nan.

The only downside is that you have to take all the bolts out of the board before you put it away. This might not be a downside at all, it teaches you to put things away properly - but at the moment it's mostly Mum that does that!

It is a great resource though, like everything else we have had from Learning Resources it is a very well made and robust toy. I would definitely recommend it.

You can buy the item direct from the Learning Resources website, or from Amazon. There is also a cheaper option where the tool box is not included, for those people watching their budget.

Disclaimer: This resource was sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review. This review is however 100% my own honest thoughts and opinions and I have not been paid to write this!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Moving house?

You may remember that toward the end of last year/ beginning of this year I started to talk about moving house. My plan back then was to move into the city which we travel to frequently for swimming and my work, so that BB had more things accessible to him, so that it was easier for DD to visit us, and where we still wouldn't be too far from my family. That all fell apart when I couldn't find a place within that city that I'd rather live, and my five year anniversary of being back in the UK was up. Why was I looking for another house here? Wouldn't I would rather be in Australia?

Well, I seem to have come full circle on that now. DD and PP are going to purchase in the UK, so the chances of them going to Australia are even smaller than they were before. My family are here and BB does love having them around. The exchange rate to go back to Australia really isn't in my favour at the moment. A couple of months ago I wrote a list of things I would like for us to have in our lives.  Moving to the city would have more to offer for me too. Plus I have finally found an area within said city that I think I would actually love to live. It is adjacent to a huge country park and everything is accessible by footpaths or bike trails with no need to go on a road. It's close to major roads leading to DD's place, my parents', and my sister's house - plus easy access by road and rail to other parts of the country. I even found a house that I like that I can afford (and another one that I fell in love with, which isn't practical or affordable but hey).  So my house is now on the market. What happens next is in the hands of a potential buyer for here.

Its hard, because this house has so much of me in it. I renovated it completely, converted the garage, made it function for exactly how our life works. I have solar panels to keep the bills down, a downstairs office, a laundry. I haven't found anywhere as good, but then I don't suppose I would - this house is designed for me. Other houses are designed for other people. Its location that's important though, right? And I can make the changes again as and when I can afford them. I keep humming and haaing and contemplating taking mine off the market and staying here, because I do like the house so much. Reality is though, that if I had thought for a moment when I bought this place that I might end up staying in the UK long term, I wouldn't have bought here! We do need to go somewhere else at some point - so lets see what happens.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Lego Movie

For a while now I have been thinking that establishing a regular family movie night would be a great idea, so when I was offered the chance to get a free copy of The Lego Movie from, in exchange for writing about it, I jumped at the chance to get this thing started.

The first thing I noticed is that it is HARD to watch a movie. Two reasons for that really. One is BB, and the other is me. BB interrupted a lot, wanting things to eat, drink, can you play this, do this, etc etc. And as for me, it seems I really don't have the attention span to watch a whole movie these days. There was even a time when BB was looking at the iPad and I was looking at something on my phone too. What are we like? Oh yes, we are supposed to be watching a movie!

It was a good exercise though, were were bad at it, we needed rules. Movie night needs to be planned. We need prepared TV snacks, iPads and phones must be banned, we have sit down and just watch. We needed to practice that. After several failed attempts we finally got it right tonight and sat down and watched the whole movie from start to finish. It was good. We must make a habit of this!

As for The Lego Movie, we LOVE it. It has now played all the way through about five times. I have watched bits here and there, and then finally managed the whole thing from start to finish tonight. BB has seen it more than me. He loves it too. He talks about the 'Lego Man' a lot and has told me he wishes I was a Wyldstyle Lady! Well I guess when you think about it, it combines all his favourite things  - there is lego, building sites, machines, and trains, so he is bound to be more than happy!

I was concerned at first that it was a bit violent for a U. BB is only 3 and he certainly hasn't seen this much fighting before. I have desensitised as it has gone on though - perhaps I was over sensitive to begin with - they are not real people - there is no blood. BB certainly wasn't bothered by it - he was a bit scared in the scenes where the 'Lego Man' is falling, but the fighting didn't bother him at all. It is a very funny movie too, entertaining on a number of levels, with some excellent social and human observations and some brilliant one liners  (one of my faves was "rest in pieces"). It's a perfect family movie, with something for everyone.

For those who haven't seen it, the central character who BB calls the Lego man is actually called Emmet Brickowowski. He is just an ordinary guy. He works on a construction site, and lives a lonely life, keeping him self going with a combinations of delusion and self help books. Many of us will find aspects of his character that we identify with in the opening scenes. Emmet sees Wylsdstyle (a woman he finds very attractive) on the building site after hours, and goes to investigate. He falls down a hole, and finds himself compelled to touch the 'Piece of Resistance'. He is then captured by the 'Bad Cop' and rescued by Wyldestyle, who believes him to be the prophesised 'Special'.

The story unfolds from here and I won't give away any more - watch the movie - you will like it.

To add another level, it turns out that the whole story is actually being played out by a real life small boy who is 'just playing' with his Dad's lego set in the basement. "You know the rules, this isn't a toy!"

In addition to all this, there is a definite feel good message that comes through - something along the lines of the only thing anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be, only you can be you and do what you do, build what you build, make whatever weird thing comes into your head, contribute, and together we can... 

The theme song, Everything is Awesome is a great feel good song too. It does get stuck in your head, but there are worse things to be singing!

In summary, I loved this movie and so did BB. I am really happy that it is the first movie in our family DVD collection and look forward to adding more. I also hope we get better at putting life, iPads, phones and other stuff aside and sitting down and enjoying a good movie on a regular basis.

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