Summer with Gold Stars #SummerwithGoldStars

You may remember that I went to BritMums Live back in June and one of the companies I was really interested in meeting up with was Parragon.  I’ve loved reading reviews of their books from other bloggers and was interested to see what they had to show us. Well they set us a challenge – the Summer with Gold Stars challenge!

Summer with Gold Stars

Parragon have a range of Gold Stars work books suitable for children aged 3-11 years, working with pre-school through to Key Stage 2 learning aids.  Monkey starts school next week (next week!!! – I will remain calm) so I was eager to get a better understanding of the Summer with Gold Stars challenge.

We were given a Gold Star book – Ready for School, aimed at children aged between 3-5 years and asked to complete a page a day for 30 days.  Monkey has been somewhat reluctant with regards to writing, so I was hoping that this challenge might help.

Summer with Gold Stars

Of course what I should have realised that the lure of getting a gold star sticker for every completed page would get my son sitting down and cracking on!

He has loved Summer with Gold Stars challenge.  I’ve found it quite emotional actually. Monkey has been trying to write letters, he’s written numbers.  He’s had a go, yes, he’s got frustrated at times but he’s come back for more.

The idea behind the challenge is to keep children engaged with learning during the summer holidays.  Monkey, as with everything works at his own pace.  He has friends who are writing all sorts of things, we haven’t managed his name in full yet.  But I know he will get there, and the fact that he has loved sitting down with this book, has thrilled me.  It’s a massive step forward for us.

There are 123 challenge pages in our book, varying from letter forming challenges, number recognition and shape sorting.  There are also more complex pages – being able to write words, so this is a book we can spend time with.  We can pick it up and complete other pages over the months to come.  We’ve gone through some of these pages, with me just explaining them.  He has already started working with phonics in his Nursery class, so is aware of quite a few of the letter sounds now.

I’ve noticed this series of books in our local Sainsburys and I can thoroughly recommend them.  I like the idea of short little exercises, great for someone like Monkey.  He can concentrate for a few minutes and then move on to something else.

Our Summer with Gold Stars 30 days challenge took us a little longer than planned as we were both ill last week.  But earlier this week he completed his 30 pages and will continue to gain more gold stars as he takes this book on his school journey.

Priced at £7.99 I’m really pleased we were asked to take part in the Summer with Gold Stars challenge.  I’m so pleased with my little star.

disclaimer:  we were provided with the book shown in order to complete this challenge

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The Alphabet Photography Project P is for Parents #alphabetphoto

Week 16 of PODcast‘s linky The Alphabet Photography Project. Monkey promptly passed on his germs last week, so I apologise for lack of commenting. We are off for a couple of days so I’ll try better this week when we get back. My The Alphabet Photography Project P is for Parents.

The Alphabet Photography Project P is for Parents

I don’t think you have any idea how hard it is to be a parent until you become one yourself.  I had a very difficult relationship with my parents when I was a teenager, especially with my Mum.  My parents were rather strict, we moved from Surrey to Oxfordshire when I was 14.  It wasn’t ideal for me and it caused a lot of issues and conflict resulting in me being asked told to leave home just after I turned 18.

It was probably another 10 years before we really talked through the issues from both sides.  It was upsetting for all of us, but we survived the experience.  We hadn’t been good as a family about talking, really talking.  We could do small talk for England, but anything more was strictly off-limits.  There was no discussion about anything, which really didn’t sit well with a headstrong, hormone fuelled daughter.

With my parents moving to Spain 10 years ago, we really did talk, about everything. Death, funeral arrangements, decluttering, family history, you name it, we have talked about it in detail.  They moved and then had to deal with the break up of my first marriage via phone calls.  They were brilliant.  I had no money.  Dad bought me a flight ticket and off I went for some much-needed ‘space’. I promptly arrived and developed Chicken Pox, so there were my parents nurse-maiding a very poorly 39-year-old daughter.  Yes, a parents job is never done.

As an adult I could understand my parents reasoning for a lot of what they did; even if I couldn’t agree.  But it wasn’t until I had Monkey that I truly understood what being a parent meant and how it felt.  I know I broke my parents hearts on a number of occasions with my actions in those teenage days.

You become a parent thinking you will do things differently; but then you realise that different doesn’t necessarily mean right; and almost certainly won’t be accepted as right by your children as they grow up.  I hope that Monkey and I will be better communicators but I’m sure we’ll have our fair share of disagreements in the years ahead.

But for my parents, they put up with a lot from me but have been there to pick up the pieces so many times.  I spent so much time dwelling on the parts of my childhood that weren’t so great, but now I really just concentrate on the good things, the times we spent laughing.  I love them both dearly, and would give anything to have them 15 minutes up the motorway right now.

The Alphabet Photography Project P is for Parents

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WASGIJ Studio Tour – a review

WASGIJ Studio Tour

You may remember that I was introduced to the world of WASGIJ recently and became an instant convert.  I was thrilled when Jumbo Games asked if I’d like to review their new WASGIJ Studio Tour jigsaw puzzle.

WASGIJ Studio Tour

With the last WASGIJ jigsaw puzzle I tried, you were making a picture of the future from the Destiny series. With the WASGIJ Studio Tour you are making a picture of what the crowd can see as the latest release in the Original series.  It’s a really different way of tackling a jigsaw puzzle and I’ve enjoyed the new challenge.

One thing to note with the WASGIJ Studio Tour is that it’s a 1500 piece puzzle.  I soon realised that my puzzle storage board is designed for 1000 piece puzzles.  So a quick rearrangement of my office dining table and I was off!

WASGIJ Studio Tour

The WASGIJ Studio Tour is based on the opening of a new tourist attraction – The Wasgij Studios.  The fans are crammed on an open top bus and are walking around Wasgij Towers.

As the puzzler, you are left to assemble the scene.  I personally put the puzzle lid to one side and start from scratch.  It means moving sections of puzzle around as the picture emerges but it’s great seeing it appear.  Even Brewster got in on the action!

WASGIJ Studio Tour

So last week, with a poorly Monkey having some sofa time, I cracked on with my latest WASGIJ puzzle and really enjoyed putting it all together.

These are great puzzles and this one has an RRP of £14.99 and can be found in numerous retailers including Argos, The Entertainer and Amazon.

For more information on the range why not visit the WASGIJ website.

disclaimer:  we were sent this item in exchange for an honest review


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Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush – a giveaway

Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush You may remember that we reviewed the great new Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush recently.  It’s been such a big hit here, Monkey loves it and I love the fact that for £6.99 I get a toothbrush that will last him the whole year. Rockabilly Kids ToothbrushThe Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush comes with 3 replacement heads, it can wobble but it will always stand up by itself.  It looks a bit like an electric toothbrush, making Monkey feel all grown up.

The range of  6 character toothbrushes are aimed at children aged between 3-7 years of age.  They are available from Boots, Ocado and JoJo Maman Bebe.

For more information on the Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush just visit their website.

I’m really please to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to win the Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush – Cowboy Clint.  Just complete the Gleam form for your chance to win – good luck!Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush


Terms and conditions:

(Please note that all entries will be checked against comments for validation).

Only the first step of this form is mandatory, all other steps are optional. Only one entry per person is allowed.

This giveaway is for UK residents only.

Once a winner is randomly picked, I will check if the winner has done what was requested and I will contact them, if they do not reply within one week, the prize will be allocated to another person.

The giveaway will close on 22nd September 2014 at midnight.

Rockabilly Kids Toothbrush Cowboy Clint

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The B&W Photography Project Week 7 #bwphotoproject

My The B&W Photography Project Week 7 with PODCast comes from Bucklebury Farm Park.

The B&W Photography Project Week 7I’m presuming it’s a hot air balloon canopy?  But it’s being used as a shelter in the woods in the farm.  We had a wonderful time there with my oldest friend; Monkey’s godmother and her daughter.

When I was looking through my photos I was going to use the colour photo as My Sunday Photo for the week, but then I thought, uum, I wonder what it will look like in black and white.  You really get the feel of the clouds, the silky material.  I quite like it.


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Silent Sunday My Sunday Photo 240814

Silent Sunday My Sunday Photo 240814

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Project 365 Week 34

Joining in with TheBoyAndMe and her linky 365 Project  A Photo A Day, Every Day, For A Year!  Project 365 – Week 34 Days 229-235.

Sunday 17th August - Day 229

Project 365 Week 34

We’d been invited to Lollibop by Thomas & Friends.  I’d heard good reports and was hoping Monkey would enjoy it, especially as Andy Day (hero-worship) was going to be there.  There were a number of high points, but I just love this photo.  We were in the Thomas tent with Rusty and Dusty, The Fat Controllers helpers.  I think you can see how much they made Monkey laugh, it was lovely.

Monday 18th August – Day 230

Project 365 Week 34

We met Monkey’s godmother and her daughter at Bucklebury Farm Park.  We had a lovely day, even with torrential downpours.  Any regular readers of my blog will be as amazed by this photo as I was by the reality.  My super timid, doesn’t do anything other than swings, son!  Well he proved us wrong today!

Tuesday 19th August – Day 231

Project 365 Week 34

We had an awful night, Monkey was violently sick a number of times, and neither of us got much sleep.  Today was a sofa day for him and a time for me to catch up with my latest WASGIJ – Brewster decided to lend a hand.

Wednesday 20th August – Day 232

Project 365 Week 34

Monkey had stopped being sick, and was a bit brighter, but not right.  We cancelled a trip to see our Special Sheba as I didn’t want her to catch anything.  A day at home just being together.

Thursday 21st August – Day 233

Project 365 Week 34

So it would appear that Monkey likes to share his germs.  Daddy P had felt poorly on Wednesday night so hadn’t gone into work.  Just as well, as I started throwing up after breakfast and felt really unwell for the rest of the day.  I left the boys downstairs and retreated to bed.  Brewster decided I needed watching over.

Friday 22nd August – Day 234

Project 365 Week 34

Both still not feeling ourselves today.  Cancelled an NCT meet up at Blenheim Palace that we’d arranged months ago. A day of marmite on toast all round.  Hopefully another full night’s sleep will see us both better and ready for an action packed bank holiday weekend.

Saturday 23rd August – Day 235

Project 365 Week 34

It was so nice to feel human again after a pretty rubbish week for both of us.  We met up with Redpeffer and her family for the day at Cotswold Farm Park.  We had a great time, with a few mini meltdowns thrown in for good measure.  Show me a perfect child …. I love this photo of Monkey and Iona’s son using magnifying glasses to identify pond creatures :)


TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky


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Having fun at CBeebies Land part 2 #CountryKids

Having fun at CBeebies LandAfter a fun-filled morning a couple of weeks ago with the CBeebies Magazine team, we were free to explore Alton Towers and CBeebies Land for the afternoon.  We came out of the Alton Towers Hotel and it was pouring with rain.  A quick dash to the car and we put our waterproofs on. Nothing was going to stop us having fun at CBeebies Land.

The first excitement for Monkey was catching the monorail from the hotel area to the entrance of Alton Towers.  Monkey had been a bit uncertain at the event in the morning, but he was getting more excited by the minute at the prospect of visiting CBeebies Land.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

We’d been given some food vouchers, so we had a quick sandwich and a drink for lunch. Whilst we were eating the rain stopped – yippee!  Monkey was eager to get going, he wanted to be having fun at CBeebies Land.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

I knew exactly where Monkey would head to – yes, no surprise, Postman Pat Parcel Post.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

The rides have an electronic indicator telling you the queuing time as you enter each ride, with the weather as it was, the park was fairly quiet and we were in for a 25 minute wait.  I didn’t time it, but it didn’t feel as if we actually waited that long.  Whilst we were queuing there were activities to keep the children amused – a great idea.


We were at the front of the queue before Monkey had any chance to feel bored (phew) and he couldn’t wait to sit inside Postman Pat’s van – it was wonderful for me to see. This is the child who doesn’t really do rides, actually running to get on a ride. CBeebies Land is absolutely perfect for him.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

The ride is interactive, you get asked lots of questions as you go round and the driver needs to press the right button to answer questions.  Monkey loved it.

Having fun at CBeebies Land Having fun at CBeebies Land

It was easy to see that we would be revisiting this ride throughout the day, so Monkey could say hello to all the characters he loves from Greendale.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

The CBeebies Land part of Alton Towers is small enough for little ones to easily walk from one area to another.  Monkey had already spotted Nina’s Space Lab when we were queuing for the Postman Pat ride.  He was off again.

Having fun at CBeebies LandMonkey was fascinated with the pipes outside, turn the handwheels and watch the smoke appear.

Having fun at CBeebies Land Having fun at CBeebies Land

Inside Nina’s Science Lab are lots of interactive areas to test the senses – very clever.

Having fun at CBeebies Land Having fun at CBeebies Land

Look who we spotted when we went back outside!  I had one very happy Monkey.

Having fun at CBeebies Land

Where next Monkey?

Having fun at CBeebies Land part 2

Tree Fu Tom Mummy!  So off we went to explore the Tree Fu Tom play area.

Having fun at CBeebies Land part 2

We nearly went to see Mr Bloom’s Nursery, but he changed his mind.  We avoided the Justin’s House Pie-O-Matic Factory (indoor softplay) it was very busy/noisy and not something Monkey enjoys.  Then we headed to the Big Fun Show Time area for an adventure with Mike the Knight.

The Mike the Knight show was really good, Monkey loved every second of it.  There are also Mike the Knight activities around the Fun Time area, along with toilets and a drinks kiosk.  If we’d had more time we’d have definitely returned to see a different show.

The sun was now out – wellies, waterproofs off and suncream and sunhat on.  Time to try out the Tree Top Adventure.  A nice gentle monorail ride on a CBeebies Bug.  It was another hit and Monkey loved being able to look down at the rides he’d already been on.

When we came off that ride we walked through the Sensory Garden, Monkey enjoyed the special mirrors in this area.  We then queued up for the In the Night Garden boat ride, the queue was small and again there were activities to keep the children amused as ITNG characters were up to.

We decided that as the sun was out, we deserved an ice cream and that we’d leave CBeebies Land and find the Sea Life exhibit.  Monkey loves Sea Life and we weren’t disappointed by this one either.  It’s obviously much smaller than the norm, but still gave us lots to look at.

Having fun at CBeebies Land part 2

We headed back to CBeebies Land for another go on the Postman Pat ride before we decided to head home.  We’d had a wonderful day, and we have some Tesco Days Out Vouchers that I’d already exchanged for CBeebies Land tickets, so we’ll be back with Daddy P soon!

Having fun at CBeebies Land

disclaimer:  we were given free tickets to Cbeebies Land as part of the #CBeebiesMagKidsGoFree event, my comments are my own honest opinions

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave

Two weeks ago saw us heading down to London with a very excited Monkey.  It may have been pouring down with rain but nothing was going to dampen his spirits.  We were off to the premiere of Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave.

Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave

It was going to be Monkey’s second trip to a cinema, and a premiere was a new experience for all of us.  We couldn’t persuade Monkey to stand with Thomas on our way into the cinema in Leicester Square – he was in too much of a hurry.

Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave

Once inside we were treated to some entertainment before being taken into the screening of Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave.

So how was the film?  Monkey was hooked from the start and didn’t move a muscle the whole way through it.  This may well have been helped by the introduction of some new Steamies – Marion the Steam Shovel – Digger Mummy!, Gerald AKA Gator who has a sloping water tank, Timothy and a new Crane called Reg who works in the Scrapyard.

Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave finds Thomas working in the Clay Pits, he is warned to be careful as a storm is approaching and the rain can make the cliffs unstable. Thomas survives a narrow escape thanks to Bill and Ben but he’s sure he spotted giant footprints in the cliffs above him.  A landslide means he can’t go back to check things out in more detail.

Marion the chatterbox Steam Shovel is sent to clear the track, she was a big hit with Monkey.  A steamie who digs and loves talking about digging, a train after Monkey’s heart.

When Thomas tells Percy about his sighting, his friend worries that there is a monster on the Island of Sodor.  We follow the friends as Percy becomes very scared of going out in the dark, runs from the new engine Gator, thinking he is a monster.

James is a naughty friend and teases Percy about being scared of the monster. Percy realised that Gator is actually a friend, not a foe, and Gator helps him overcome his fear to become a brave little engine.

We all enjoyed Thomas & Friends Tale of the Brave – and you can catch the trailer here.

The film is showing in Vue cinema’s from today, 22nd August through to 28th August. Then Thomas & Friends™: Tale of the Brave will be released on DVD on 1st September, it will be available in all good retailers with an RRP of £12.99.

If you’d like to find out more about the film Tale of the Brave, and the new characters, then pop over to  the Thomas & Friends website.

We can thoroughly recommend it and I’m sure the DVD will be making its way here shortly.

disclaimer:  we were given free tickets to the premiere and a wonderful goodie bag each, in exchange for an honest review of this release.

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Van Gogh Sunflowers #MiniMasterpiece

I’m a big fan of the work of Vincent Van Gogh in general and my parents have a print of Sunflowers in their living room in Spain.  They grow these wonderful flowers in Southern Spain, I’ve just never managed to time a visit to coincide with seeing fields of these golden blooms.  We have an annual sunflower growing contest here, so Monkey has grown to love them too.  When the team at Galt asked us if we’d like to take part in this months #MiniMasterpiece challenge, as soon as I saw it was for Van Gogh Sunflowers – we were in.

We received some lovely art materials and a template of the original Van Gogh Sunflowers and then it was over to Monkey to have some fun.  Last Saturday we were having a home morning, perfect timing to get creative.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

I thought the Finger Paints would be straight out and chaos would reign.  But no! Monkey was really quite organised and knew what he wanted.  We went through the wonderful Art Jar and found all sorts of paper, baubles, pipe cleaners and glue.  He asked me to cut him out some triangles and he set to work scrunching up some crepe paper. Then I sat back and watched my little artist at work, recreating Van Gogh Sunflowers.

Given an idea of what he wants to create Monkey is really becoming quite focussed.  I was really impressed by his concentration.  He knew exactly what he wanted his #MiniMasterpiece to look like and I could just enjoy watching him.

So this is Monkey’s take on Van Gogh Sunflowers …..  Our entry in the Galt #MiniMasterpiece competition for August.  Not bad for a little boy who will be 5 in December.

Van Gogh Sunflowers

He really enjoyed the whole process.  I’d printed off a couple of the templates in case we had a disaster.  He grabbed the second sheet and was off again. The second picture will be going to a friend who has had the worst possible week.  Monkey knows that her and her family are very sad and he wanted to make them smile. His idea; a lovely one.

Van Gogh Sunflowersdisclaimer:  we were sent the art supplies shown in order for us to take part in this competition



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