Boswell & Co Oxford

Considering how close we live to Oxford, we really are rather infrequent visitors to our famous county city.  Any excursions have normally involved driving along the A34 to the Park and Ride which may or may not be clogged up with traffic.  Towards the end of last year a new Park and Ride service was started from Bicester and when I was asked if I’d like to explore all that Boswell & Co Oxford has to offer it seemed like the perfect time to for try out this new bus service too.

The bus takes around half hour and costs £5.20 for an adult return ticket, parking is free and the buses run pretty much every 15 minutes.  A stress free way of getting into the city and a great way to start off my trip to Boswell & Co Oxford.  Iona from Redpeffer was staying with me and joined me on the trip, she hadn’t been to Oxford for 20 odd years, so was able to relive her student days too.

Boswell & Co Oxford

The Park and Ride buses stop almost immediately outside Boswell & Co, which has been a landmark on the streets of Oxford since 1738 and is still a fully independent family run department store. The store has been in its current location on Broad Street since 1929.

It reminded me very much of a similar store that I often visited in Farnham as a child with my Mum.  A real tardis of a shop, with new delights around every corner and floor. Boswell & Co has a feeling of the way shopping used to be, lots of staff around to help, interesting displays and a cosy feel to the place.  But don’t take that to mean it’s stuck in the past, it really isn’t.  It made such a refreshing change to walk into a department store with something different to offer.

Soap selections

The Beauty department covers perfumes, make up etc but also has the most delightful display of Bomb Cosmetics soaps, available at affordable prices.

Miss Tangleberry Soap bar

I thought they’d make lovely gifts and for £2.49 a slice, a real bargain too.  I was also taken by the handbags in the Accessories department, you know me!  Along with handbags, there were a good selection of rucksacks, umbrellas and travel bags.

Boswell & Co Handbag

Iona was busy checking out the variety of pen knives for presents and we both marvelled over the board game selections.  I can’t wait until Monkey is old enough to play and enjoy Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride at Boswell & Co

The Cooking and Dining department is a real Aladdin’s cave, offering everything you could possibly need.  I was very close to buying some great cat themed oven gloves with silicon mitts.  May have to go back for those.

I’ve been wanting to update our bedding for a while and found a great Newport Creek Kingsize Duvet set for £34.99 in the Home Goods department which I thought was rather reasonably priced.  The colours and pattern would work well with my bedroom, so that was me sold.

King size Duvet Set

Now as a parent to a 6 year old, I spend a lot of time looking at toys and I have to say, that both Iona and I were blown away by the Toy department in Boswell & Co Oxford.  In fact the Lego section is particularly impressive and we were spoilt for choice.  After considerable deliberation I decided on a Lego Creator set for Monkey with options to build a Dragon, Snake and Scorpion.  The set was available for £12.99, and there were a number of other sets on special offer.

31032 Lego Creator Set

The staff were attentive, and available.  So often you walk into large shops these days and struggle to find anyone to help or serve.

Once we’d made our purchases we decided that it really would be rude not to try out the recently opened 1738 Tea Room & Cafe.

Boswells Tea Room

The Tea Room offers waitress service in a bright, uncluttered area and provides a great opportunity to relax and unwind.  We were there mid morning, and the selection of cakes on display were truly calling this cakeoholic.  I settled on a slice of Salted Caramel cake and Iona chose the cheesecake, both were served with Cappuccino and Hot Chocolate. The cakes were devine and I know I’ll be taking Daddy P along one Sunday soon.

Coffee and Cake at Boswells Tea Room

Although we didn’t get to try out the lunchtime menu I did notice that children’s sandwiches are available.  I really liked the feeling of space within the Tea Room, which can be especially important when you are accompanied by children.  Monkey and I are planning a trip to Oxford for half term, and the 1738 Tea Room will make an excellent lunch time choice for us.

For shop opening times and menu options, visit the Boswells & Co Oxford website, you can also order online if needed.  If you are looking for a present, and something a little different then it’s certainly worth popping in for a bit of inspiration at affordable prices.

disclaimer:  I was given a gift voucher to spend in store in exchange for an honest review.

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Hedgehugs Hopping Hot

Oh Mummy, it’s a new Hedgehugs book!  This was Monkey’s response when we received the new Hedgehugs Hopping Hot hot off the press a few weeks back. Published 2 weeks ago by Maverick Arts Publishing, this is the third installment of the Hedgehugs picture book series written by Lucy Tapper and Steve Wilson.

Hedgehugs Hopping Hot

We’ve been a fan of the last two Hedgehugs books featuring Horace and Hattie, so were looking forward to catching up on their latest adventure.  In this book the friends are playing all sorts of games.  On one rather hot summers day they want to play a hopping game with their friend the grasshopper, but it just too hot to be playing in the glare of the sun.

Hedgehugs Hopping Hot

Hattie and Horace look for somewhere where they can stay cool and still enjoy their hopping game.  They tried to be like frogs in the pond, and woodlice under stones.  But it was just no good for hopping.

The friends tried high and low to find a suitable place to hop, somewhere that would keep them warm.  They’d forgotten that they had a secret weapon – their prickles.  I won’t ruin the end of the story, but it’s rather cute. Hedgehugs Hopping Hot is another hit in this house.

Priced at £6.99 I’ve included my Amazon Affiliate link below for your reference.

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

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Love letters from my son

It’s no secret that getting Monkey to read and write has been a struggle.  It’s been at the bottom of his list of priorities; building train tracks is way more important, obviously. Since starting in Year One I can see real progress on the reading front.  He’s gone up two reading bands in a term, and when he’s bothered, he can read well.  He loves phonics and although his preference is always for me to read to him, I can see that we are making headway, its coming, it’s there.  Writing has been a whole other battle.  It’s been hard work to get Monkey to even write his name at times, whenever homework has come home that involved writing rather than drawing or making something, it’s honestly filled me with dread. We’ve gone for the ‘less is more’ approach, and even that has caused a lot of tantrums, tears and heartache.  I certainly never envisaged receiving love letters from my son.  In fact, receiving any sort of letter from him seemed like a distant dream, very far away on the horizon.

Love letters from my son

But all of a sudden so many things seem to be falling into place for this 6 year old.  The games which started off as journeys to hell and back have become something he actually seems to enjoy.  I know!  Hold the front page.  He came running out of class on Friday, Mummy, Mummy, I got 6 out of 6.  I always want to do that, or get 7, 8 or even 9. Wow Monkey, that’s great news, and a really good attitude to have.  Of course the Friday spelling test has involved Monkey practicing his words at home every day.  With games, magnetic letters and actual writing.  He’s actually started to volunteer working on his spelling lists at the breakfast table.  I’m not going to discourage that any time soon.

Spellings and writing go hand in hand. Monkey has a long way to go with his letter formation, he starts a lot of his letters in the wrong place.  I think that’s quite common and probably being a leftie adds to the confusion.  I can’t remember how I tackled it all when I was his age, I have a feeling I was much keener than Monkey to practice! But having maintained the backwards tick all my life, which for a leftie is totally natural, I can understand the leftie logic of finishing a letter where most others would start it.  But, obviously we need to work on his letters or he will have all sorts of problems when he starts trying to join them up!

But for now, just seeing him writing, willingly and practicing his spellings has been a revelation.  Little signs have been written and stuck to his bedroom door, his actually written more than just his name in some birthday cards recently, he’s got a way to go, but it’s a start.

learning to write

Something rather wonderful happened on Wednesday last week.  Monkey had come home from school and was drawing round mine and Daddy P’s hands and then writing out in numbers how big he thought they were.  Then he disappeared up to his bedroom with his pad and pencil.  I thought he was making more signs for his railway or drawing round something else he wanted to measure.  Wrong, so wrong.

He’d been busy and I was to receive love letters from my son. He walked into the kitchen, Mummy, I’ve written something for you.

Mum I lov yoo – this may not seem like that big a deal, but for us it’s quite wonderful, to be presented with another little note, just made the moment extra special.

I lov bof ov yoo and the best Mum and Dad – so it’s not perfect, but the thought behind it is, and right now that’s all that matters to me.  Monkey went off and wrote something without being asked or prompted.  It came from the heart, his heart, he wrote it and to me that’s flipping magical.

I won’t lie, I’m envious when friends tell me about how well their children are writing, how their child has written a story book to go with a home work task, when I’ve struggled to get Monkey to write 5 words.  Bringing home Swampy’s diary to fill in a few weeks ago felt more like a punishment than a reward, but maybe the dreaded spelling lists are giving Monkey the confidence to write more at home.  I always leave his pencil-case open on the kitchen table, with paper close at hand, so as and when the feeling takes him he can put pen to paper.  Maybe, just maybe I’ll get more love letters from my son in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m happy with what I have.



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Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine

Monkey is a huge fan of Andy Day, from before we met him on tour a few years ago.  We regularly watch Andy’s Wild Adventures and Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures (we even have the entire set on DVD) on CBeebies. So we were both super excited to hear that there is a brand new Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine launching today!

Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine

Not only is this new magazine based on Andy’s Wild Adventures and Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures but it will also feature the forthcoming Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures series too (starts on 15th February at 4.30pm on CBeebies).  Any dinosaur and animal lover is going to be as thrilled as my 6 year old Monkey to receive this magazine.

Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine

Filled with games, stories, fact and figures and lots of activities, children meet all sorts of animals along the way.  Aimed at children aged 3-6 years, this first edition of Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine comes complete with a T-Rex grabber and 5 mini dinosaurs, lots of stickers, colouring pages and an explorers kit to make.

We’ve been meeting lots of creatures, facing dangers and solving problems along the way. Packed with puzzles, stickers and stories, Monkey’s been learning about various dinosaurs, tigers and undersea creatures like hammerhead sharks and octopus. It’s actually the only dinosaur magazine created in collaboration with the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

He’s loved looking through the magazine after school this week and we’ll be working our way through the activities in the weeks ahead.

Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine

So grab your Gizmo, Hat and Backpack and pick up the first issue of Andy’s Amazing Adventures magazine today, priced at £2.75 from retailers nationwide.

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




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Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit

I’m sure Monkey is not alone with being fascinated with dinosaurs.  I know I’ve mentioned his obsession before on the blog.  Over the last few years we’ve developed his understanding of these prehistoric beasts through museum visits, books, games and DVD’s.  He quite enjoys craft activities and was eager to try the Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit from Interplay UK when it arrived recently.

Interplay Wood Worx

Interplay UK provide a range of the Wood Worx kits – children aged 5 years and over can make anything from a Picture Frame or Jewellery Stand, to a Robot or Jet Fighter. The Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit comes with 23 wooden pieces, glue, paints and a double ended brush, stickers and easy to follow instructions.

Wood Worx T-Rex

The instruction leaflet is really easy for children to follow as it’s a pictorial guide.  A 6 year old Monkey managed to construct the T-Rex with me just holding things in place for him.

I was so impressed with Monkey, he really took heed of the instructions and took his time to complete the first stage of this kit.  I have to say, that that little tube of glue is more than enough for the job in hand.  Monkey was generous with the amount he used and there was still some left over.

Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit

We left the glue to set for a couple of hours before he started painting his new pet.  The brush is double ended, with brushes suitable for detailing as well as the main painting.  I’d got in my head that Monkey’s T-Rex would be mainly green, but no, my son had other ideas and set to work with a flurry of activity.

As with the glue, the paint pots are deceiving, and there is more than enough paint for any budding Picasso to create their masterpiece.  The Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit would be fine just as it is with paint if that’s what your child wanted.  But it does come with a sticker set so you can add eyes, teeth, arms and mouth to the moving jaws – roar!

Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit

It was great to watch Monkey designing his dinosaur and completing this kit.  He did all the hard work himself and he was so thrilled with the results.

Wood Worx T-Rex Dinosaur kit

This has been our first experience of the Wood Worx sets from Interplay UK, and for £9.99 I’m really impressed with the quality of the pieces and the ease of build. You can buy this and other sets in the series on the Interplay UK website.

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

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Moodles presents Happy – giveaway

Are you a bit of a doodle fanatic?  A budding artist maybe?  Then I might have just the thing for you today, as I’m giving away a copy of the new Parragon Books Moodles presents Happy.08

Moodles presents Happy

Moodles presents Happy gives the doodler free roam as you scroll through the 113 pages of this paperback book.

Moodles presents Happy

Whether you want to draw your own Valentines Day roses, or a wonderful self-portrait, Moodles presents Happy has something to get you started.

Perhaps you are dreaming of your summer holidays – present or one for the future.  Monkey would definitely draw a picture from Stowe Gardens here.

Moodles presents Happy

For your chance to win a copy of Moodles presents Happy please complete the Gleam form below.  Good luck!


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 6th March 2016 at midnight.

Moodles presents Happy

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The B&W Photography Project Week 81

The B&W Photography Project Week 81 and this week it’s all about looking up.  We’re lucky enough to live pretty close to Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire and the manor house is stunning.  You really do have to keep looking up to admire the intricate stonework, the details are just beautiful.

Chimneys at Waddesdon Manor in Black and White


 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg

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Silent Sunday My Sunday Photo 070216

I do love stonework in case you hadn’t guessed.  Sometimes there are details that are calling out to be photographed.

Stone Face at Waddesdon Manor Silent Sunday My Sunday Photo 070216


I wonder what he’s shouting out?  Or may be he is yawning?  What do you think?


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Project 366 2016 Week 5

Catching up with family and friends with a trip to Birmingham and Oxford, another visit from the tooth fairy and lots of fun and games in between! Project 366 2016 Week 5 Day 31-37 with The Boy and Me.

Sunday 31st January – Day 31

Project 366 2016 Week 5

We headed up to Birmingham for the day.  My niece N, is in her first year at Birmingham University so we went to see where she’s living. We’d also arranged to catch up with the Redpeffer gang and followed them across the city to Thinktank.  Monkey loved it and it soon became clear that all of us sticking together wasn’t going to happen.  It was lovely to have some quality time with my niece and for the cousins to chat away.

Daddy P learned that one of his relatives had passed away this morning.  A lovely old lady, and one of the last links to his Mum.

Monday 1st February – Day 32

Project 366 2016 Week 5

I dropped this cheeky Monkey off at school, got in the car and headed off to pick my youngest niece C up, before heading to the new Banbury Gateway retail park for some retail therapy.  It was lovely to catch up with her news, she’s been running her own blog for a few months now and has just gone self hosted.  I’m very proud of her and it’s so lovely to watch her confidence grow in all areas of her life.

Monkey had started learning about the Chinese New Year and was full of facts when he came out of school.  Looks like he’s going to enjoy this week.

Tuesday 2nd February – Day 33

Project 366 2016 Week 5

It’s was rather an exciting morning here today.  Monkey was busy brushing his teeth after breakfast when he shouted out – Mummy, I’ve hurt my tooth.  I went running, thinking he’d somehow cracked a tooth, but no, wobbler number 2 was there hanging, literally. Right Monkey, I think you need to try to pull that out, because it is never going to last a day at school.  A few wiggles of his tongue and out it popped.  So less than 2 weeks after her first visit, the tooth fairy will be back tonight!

Monkey tried spring rolls and some Chinese chicken at school today as part of this week’s topic and he’s gone up a band in his reading.  So proud of him, as it’s a hard slog at times.

Wednesday 3rd February – Day 34

Project 366 2016 Week 5

Jado Chi was cancelled so I caught up with the boring jobs, like the weekly shop, and some housework.  Monkey’s been fully immersed in learning about Chinese New Year and came out of school full of news about making lanterns, flags and fans.  His homework for next week is to make a creature out of construction pieces.  We decided to use some plastic fused beads we had left from our Baker Ross set, he drew a picture and then we made his creature together. He was rather pleased with the result.

Thursday 4th February – Day 35

Project 366 2016 Week 5

Iona from Redpeffer has come to stay overnight with us, so whilst Monkey was at school we had a good natter and put the words to rights.  Once we’d picked Monkey up from school he entertained us with his small world play before he headed off to bed.

Friday 5th February – Day 36

Project 366 2016 Week 5

We walked Monkey to school and then Iona and I tried the new Park and Ride from Bicester to Oxford.  I had a review to do for the Boswells department store and then we walked around part of the city, admiring the architecture. I’ve always wanted to climb Carfax Tower and for £2.50 each on a quiet day it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Iona headed home and I picked Monkey up from school – 6/6 for his spellings and he was so proud of himself.  Mummy I always want to try to get them all right.  That’s a great attitude to have Monkey.  He then proceeded to write Daddy P and I a couple of lovely notes.  Yes, my son, writing of his own free will, and more than just his name.  It’s been quite a week

Saturday 6th February – Day 37

Project 366 2016 Week 5

Today has been a home day, it’s been raining all day, and we had lots of things planned to keep us busy.  Monkey had been sent a Wood Worx set to review and he was totally absorbed in completing the task, even if our dinosaur has the strangest camouflage known to man.  Then it was on to finger and potato printing, jigsaw building and fun with Lego. Sometimes it’s just lovely to have quiet time together at home.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

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Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor

Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor

Knowing we would be indoors all day on Sunday at a museum, Monkey and I were both in need of some fresh air last Saturday.  We were somewhat relieved to see the rain clouds pass and blue skies emerge Saturday morning, so we packed up the car and headed out for some fun with sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor.  Not totally believing that the fine weather would hold, we wore our waterproof gear and although the sun was shining it was still bitterly cold.

Waddesdon Manor drive

Monkey loves catching the shuttle bus from the car park up to the house, and he was even happier when he only had to share the journey with one other family.  It certainly was a rare sight to have this view to ourselves first thing in the morning.

We’re regular visitors to Waddesdon Manor, so Monkey knows his way around well.  This way Mummy, I want to see the birds.

Waddesdon Manor

He was off and eager to see if the light installations from Christmas were still in situ.  The tents had all been packed away. We visited the trees where Monkey and his Redpeffer friend had made a ‘camp fire’ last Autumn and imagined what the view will look like again in a few months time when the leaves are back on the branches.

Trees at Waddesdon Manor

The birds in the lovely Aviary were hiding from the cold, and as the various statues and fountains around the grounds are still covered, protecting them from the frosts, Monkey made the most of looking at the fountain, sheltered in the Aviary area.

Aviary Fountain at Waddesdon Manor

It wasn’t long until he was off again, this way Mummy, running on ahead, taking the lead.

Waddesdon Manor

One of the many things we love about Waddesdon Manor is it’s so easy to walk around, and the house is at the heart of everything.  I can remember the first time I visited with Daddy P when I first met him, I was blown away by the majesty of the building, to me it’s just magical, and I never tire of seeing it.  Monkey is just the same, to him it’s a fairytale castle.

Waddesdon Manor house

If you ever get the chance to visit this National Trust managed property on the edge of Buckinghamshire you won’t be disappointed.  The one thing I say to friends and family we take to look around, is to make sure they look up.  The detailing on the chimneys and towers at Waddesdon Manor is just beautiful.  If you don’t look up, you really do miss a treat.

We decided we’d head down to the Stables complex for a much-needed warm drink and a piece of cake.  After all we needed to celebrate Monkey losing his first tooth and full marks in his spelling test right?

Cake at Stables Waddesdon Manor

Once we’d warmed up and enjoyed our cakes, it was time for a trip along the nature trail and for Monkey to find some sticks.

Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor

We weren’t overly hopeful of finding any bugs, but just to be out in the fresh air on a bright January day was enough for us.

Puddles at Waddesdon Manor

Stick in hand, it was time for some muddy puddle action, they are just too tempting not to splash through aren’t they.

Running around Waddesdon Manor

There were stepping-stones to navigate and balancing to perfect.

Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor

We did call on the bug hotels but no-one was home, we’ll be back to say hello another day.

Spotting little dashes of colour here and there, the hope of warmer Spring days ahead and that the natural world is starting to wake up after a long slumber.

Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor certainly put a smile on Monkey’s face as we wandered around the grounds.

Sticks and cake at Waddesdon Manor

The nature trail goes round in a loop from the Stables complex, which is next to the outdoor play area.  Time for some more adventures.

We’d had a lovely few hours out in the fresh air, having an adventure in one of our favourite haunts, with a cake treat to add to the excitement.  We did also notice that down in the Stables complex there are now weekend activity sessions running for children priced at £2 per child, which we might try out on a future visit.

It makes so much difference getting outside at this time of year, even if it’s only for a few hours.  Where have you been exploring lately?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



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