Tuesday 31 August 2010

Toucan, Toucan't - A book Review from Top That Publishing

Once again, a huge thank you to the lovely people at Top That Publishing for sending me this delightful book to read with Ruby and review here.

Today I am reviewing 'Toucan Toucan't', a book for 3 - 5 year olds written by Peter Francis-Browne and illustrated by Rita Gianetti. 

Each page of the book explodes with colourful pictures of this pair of friendly-faced birds, as they explore together those tasks that can be done together, and those that can only be done alone.

Toucan Tango.  Toucan't share a potty.

The clever word-play and sometimes tongue-twisting style of writing make it a light-hearted and fun read.

There is very little text, so it is an ideal 'quick read' when time is short, however, Ruby enjoyed looking at this book on her own too, and laughing at the pictures.

It has a delightful ending too, which made us smile.

"But, whatever happens, toucan be friends forever".

This book is available from http://www.topthatpublishing.com/ at £5.39.

This product was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of reviewing.

Winner announced - Little Scholastics Puppet Book

I've had great fun running my first ever blog giveaway, and would like to thank all the entrants for participating.  I'll be running more giveaways soon, so stay subscribed to the blog to find out first.

The winner of the puppet book, drawn at random was..........

Elaine from Little Sheep Learning. Congratulations Elaine, please DM me @missielizzieb with your address so I can get your prize sent out to you.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Am I / Aren't I?

Two and a half years ago, whilst laying on the bed in theatre after four and a half days of contractions and finally an emergency C-section, I distinctly remember saying to the midwife:-

"I know people probably say this to you all the time, but I REALLY REALLY mean this : You will NEVER EVER see me in here again!"

I absolutely meant it too. Well, my opinion has mellowed slightly, and I'm now in the not just yet camp when it comes to having a second baby.

The pressure is mounting however. A couple of months ago it seemed everyone I knew was pregnant. All of my ante-natal group have either just had, or are currently pregnant with their 2nd babies.

It seems that once you have one child, the world and his wife feel at liberty to offer their opinion about when number two should come along, and come out with annoyingly ridiculous statements like "you're not getting any younger you know" or "the clock's ticking".

Me and the Mr have had the discussions - both firmly sitting on opposite sides of the fence. I have now told him that I want to get married before having our second so that's shut him up for a while.

This past week or so, I have been feeling decidedly sick. Not actually being sick, just feeling very queasy, and having to move around very slowly for fear of throwing up. At the weekend, I had some very odd springey pains in my tummy (a bit like ovulation, but more painful). Simon looked like a cheshire cat when I told him this, and kept harping on about a not-too-careful-incident a few weeks back.

I shrugged this off. No, I couldn't be.

A few days ago, I was passing my local second-hand furniture shop. Outside was a lovely wooden rocking chair. Out of nowhere, into my head popped an image of me sitting in it, rocking gently and cradling a tiny baby. Without even acknowledging this thought, and before I knew it, I'd paid for the chair and was carrying it triumphantly home.

Well, without going into too much detail, today I discover I most definately am NOT pregnant. How do I feel about this? Oddly, a strange mix of relief and disappointment, which has only confused me further.

I do however, have a rather nice new chair x

Monday 23 August 2010

The Magic Balloon - a book review

I was thrilled to be sent two lovely children's books from Top That Publishing recently. The first I shall review is a book called 'The Magic Balloon' by Oakley Graham and illustrated by Dan Crisp. 

When I opened the parcel, the book was upside down and the first thing I noticed about this hardback book was the telltale plastic cover with minuscule little screw which hide secret little batteries - usually to power really irritating electronic tunes.
I offered up a little prayer when I turned it over and saw that far from being a musical book, this actually had a 'magic' colour-changing light (hooray, nice and quiet!)

My daughter is 2 and a half. She loves books and she especially loves books with gimmicks or gizmos so this one was seized from the parcel.

The balloon illuminates when you open the page, and glows rather serenely, changing colour from red to green, blue, yellow, white then pink. It turns off automatically once the book has been left shut for a few minutes (although Ruby hasn't quite grasped this yet, and keeps flinging open the pages exclaiming "its still on Mummy!")

The book tells of Will, and little boy and inventor who develops the world's first magical balloon. It is fashioned from smelly socks and pants (these words always get a laugh from Ruby), and he sets off on his adventure to see the world. As we turn the pages, we're whisked to far-off lands and glimpse other countries and cultures.

The book is recommended for children aged 3 and over. Some of the language is a little advanced for my daughter, but the story is told in rhyme and she loves the sing-song rhythm of poems even if she doesn't fully understand all the words! It did give lots of opportunity for further discussion, explaining about other countries and where certain animals come from, so I see this as a positive.

The only negative point I would raise is the Americanisms (or should I say Canadianisms). The story begins in Montreal where Will lives, and I noticed use of the word 'vacation' which needed explaining to a British toddler.  It can't be substituted as it would spoil the rhyme. Equally, use of the word 'frock' rather than 'dress' is for poetic purposes, and perhaps not thought out fully for the readership.

On the whole, we really liked this book. The detailed illustrations by Dan Crisp provide lots of material for talking around the story, and resulted in lots of discussion - Ruby particularly liked the first page showing Will's workshop and all the different tools.

This is also a great book to read at bedtime. The softly glowing light sets a nice ambiance, and the gentle sing-song of the story is perfect for winding down time.

The book costs £8.09 from  http://www.topthatpublishing.com/

I shall be reviewing my second book from Top That Publishing soon, so please check back again.

This product was provided to me free of charge for the purpose of reviewing.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Going slightly Potty - Things I have learnt whilst losing the nappies

Finally that time is upon me. The dreaded potty training. We are only a few weeks in, and it's fair to say we have had some interesting accidents, but I'm reasonably confident I can return my daughter to pre-school in September in her new Lola knickers.
 We are using both the toilet and the potty. We have a great training seat which we use when upstairs and will be coming into its own when she's able to give me enough notice to get from the living room to the bathroom.


This is what I have learnt so far:

  • A surprising amount of wee can be held in such a small bladder
  • I am nowhere near as fit as I thought I was. Running up and down the stairs in response to my daughter's need to pee is killing my thighs
  • Carpets/Rugs and potty training do not mix. It is tiled or laminate flooring all the way
  • It is impossible to empty a poo from the potty to the toilet without resulting in either a) splashback or b) pan skids
  • Walking around semi-naked most of the time has brought with it a new-found interest in previously hidden body bits. It has also resulted in more frequent usage of her rather curious made-up names for said body parts - a girls bits are forever to be known as a 'fu-fu' in our household. Thankfully as I have a daughter, I don't have to deal with the boys dangly bits, otherwise known as a 'Do-doff' or a 'Fluffley'!
  • My daughter has a much bonier bottom than I realised. After spending 2 years ensconced in the padding of a nappy, a bony bare bottom sat on my lap at story-time is a truly uncomfortable experience - and often a painful one when she plonks herself down on my c-section scar - ouch!
  • Being newly able to see the 'fruits of her labour' means daughter now takes a keen interest in her digestive system, pointing out various components of yesterday's meals in her potty
  • I have a weaker stomach than is sometimes necessary


This I have learned so far. I am sure there is more to come.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Its not perverse - I love Converse

No, I don't have a freaky shoe fetish. I will however, admit to a twenty year love affair with my beloved Converse All Stars - not the same pair you understand, I have replaced them over the years!

Back in the day, when I was a teenage goth, I spurned the casuals and their flagrant wearing of pastel colours and sportswear.  For me, the rules were clear : clothes had to be black, jewellery had to be silver, hair had to be dyed; crimped and/or backcombed and the only acceptable footwear other than DMs were black Converse baseball boots.

Black Converse £36.99 from Cloggs

I would wrestle on the bed, squeezing myself into drainpipe black jeans that Russell Brand would be proud of, lace up my All Stars, paint my nails black and head off into the night to drink snakebite & black and shoe-gaze to The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Times have changed now. I've grown up. I no longer sit in my darkened bedroom listening to The Cure, I've gone off Robert Smith, and I have embraced the world of colour.

Thankfully, Converse produce a whole spectrum of shades so I can continue my passion. I have several coloured pairs (plus of course a faithful pair of black ones) and I change my All Stars to match my mood (some might even say to match my furniture)

If you're looking for Converse shoes, Cloggs offer a huge range in their online shop, including some adorable kids ones. They offer fantastic service and great value for money. You can find them here http://www.cloggs.co.uk/icat/brdftwrconverse/

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Old MacDonald had a...book giveaway Ee I Ee I O

We love nursery rhymes in our house. When my daughter was newborn, I was amazed at how so many songs came flooding back to me. They must have been stored away in my subconscious from when I was a child, just waiting for me to become a mummy!

I was a bit annoyed to learn that my daughter's pre-school has taught her to sing "Twinkle, twinkle chocolate bar...", but on the whole nursery rhymes are great - from bonding with your new baby, settling them to sleep and more recently keeping her occupied on car journeys (how many verses of Old MacDonald can you sing before going slightly crazy?)

Anyway, you lucky lucky people, on the theme of nursery rhymes I have a gorgeous finger puppet book from Little Scholastic to give away to one lucky blog subscriber. We have lots of these from the series, and I read them to Ruby from when she was very tiny. The cute puppets and familiar nursery rhymes are a great way to read and play with your little one. Suitable from birth to around 2 years.

Lets be clear. I do not work for Scholastic, I am not receiving brown envelope payments from them, nor are they sending me lots of freebies (not that I am averse to bribery and corruption!!). The prize I am giving away is my own (it is new, sealed and unused). No, I am simply a satisfied customer, and as such am very happy to recommend them.

If you are not lucky enough to win this book, then it can be purchased from the Early Learning Centre (£7.99).  Alternatively for more info on the books, and others in the series ('Five in the bed','This little piggy' and a great counting puppet book) see  http://www5.scholastic.co.uk/zone/book_hand-puppets.htm (£6.99)

It is also well worth checking out their Little Scholastic site for tips and downloads on reading with little ones http://www.scholastic.com/littlescholastic/

So, read on to find out how you can win this great little book. It would make a brilliant gift for a new baby, a first Christmas or birthday present.

How do I enter:

1. Follow/subscribe to my blog - you'll hear about more giveaways coming soon
2. Leave a comment in the section below telling me what your favourite nursery rhyme is
3. Check back after the closing date of 30th August - winner will be announced on 31st August

Additionally, you can get a second entry by tweeting about this competition : "Check out @missielizzieb 's blog giveaway. Enter to win a kid's hand puppet book from Little Scholastic http://tinyurl.com/38huh3o" . Please leave a separate comment below to say you have done so, and leave your twitter name.


Sorry, open to UK only.
Winner will be picked at random.
You must be a follower of my blog to win - so please make. sure you have followed all the steps.
If you leave a twitter name, I will tweet you if you win, otherwise it will be the winner's responsibility to check and claim their prize within 7 days.
Good luck!

Saturday 14 August 2010

Dogs don't do ballet - a review

This charming picture book published by Simon & Schuster has quickly become a firm favourite with my 2 year old daughter. It is frequently requested as a bed-time read, has traveled on many journeys with us and been read by lots of family members, bringing much joy and laughter to both Ruby and the reader.

Dogs Don't Do Ballet Book

From the very first page, the text elicits squeals of delight and peels of laughter:

"My dog is not like other dogs.
He doesn't do dog stuff like weeing on lampposts, scratching his fleas or drinking out of toilet."

The sketch-style, quirky illustrations by Sara Ogilvie appeal to me, being reminiscent of some of my own childhood cartoons like Willo the Wisp. 

The story is one of triumph over adversity, of believing in oneself and of not giving up on your dreams.

My daughter is not a 'girly-girl' and she certainly is not interested in ballet lessons, but this book has struck a chord. Helped by the fact that the little girl character is nameless, the young listener can imagine themselves as the central character, and that the plucky little dog is theirs.

A delightful book, that will long be a favourite in this house, Ruby already knows the story inside out and can recite it to herself.

This is the first  picture book written by Anna Kemp, but I for one hope she will write many more.

Published by Simon & Schuster and available from book shops nationwide. 

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Llamas and the Air Ambulance - part II

We attend a lovely, if surreal party at our friends Jo and Martyn's house (the main purpose of our trip). What is great is that the couple have embraced the local community, rather than isolating themselves from it as the previous owners of their property had done.

The invited guests consisted of a local chap whose car Jo had written off on a previous visit (all accepted graciously with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders); the neighbouring farmer and his wife with whom they'd had a lengthy boundary dispute; the local butcher who supplied the most fabulous steak for the BBQ; and Yves - a 50-something year old guy, who lives with his 90-odd year old mother, and, I suspect has never ventured out of the village.  Yves had rather too much wine and thoroughly enjoyed himself.  I'd never been to a house party before and seen an almost totally toothless middle-aged man gyrating on the floor to 'The Eye of the Tiger' - but then I guess I've never lived!

Returning the next day, for a quite afternoon round the pool, we try desperately to disguise our envy as our friends Martyn and Jo show us around their new holiday home. It's tastefully furnished and kitted out by the french branch of Habitat online (who knew!). With it's stunning azure blue pool nestled into the reclaimed stones from an ancient ruin they also purchased.

Enjoying a cold glass of wine in the kitchen, Martyn's usually monosyllabic teenage daughter rushes in, jabbing her thumb in the general direction of the driveway and announces "there's some people". By this, she of course means French people, so we all look to Jo as the only decent french speaker amongst us.  She saunters out to greet them with a hearty 'Bonjour!' expecting some distant neighbours.

When we join her however, we find a wild-eyed Finnish man, desperately asking for use of a phone. A female member of his walking party has collapsed and is now lying at the start of the mountain pass, foaming at the mouth. Not good.  There follows a mad flap as everyone checks to see if they can get a signal on their mobile phone and eventually one is found. However, nobody knows the french equivalent of '999'. Luckily, I'd had a helpful text ping in on touchdown in France, welcoming me to the french network and advising that I was to ring '112' in the event of an emergency.

After discussing with the 'pompier' it was decreed that the injured party needed the air ambulance. Being in a very remote location, Jo tried to describe our exact wherabouts, and somewhat ingeniously explained in the manner of a posh Matt Lucas 'we have the only swimming pool in the village'.

This of course left Martyn quietly struggling with his own internal battle about whether to cover the pool and therefore obliterate the only aerial landmark, or leave it and risk his pool being filled with debris from the updraft. He of course realised that in the grand scheme of things, a bit of dust in the pool could be remedied.

So we waited, and waited. After about 30 minutes we heard the approaching helicopter. We all ran about like lunatics waving our arms to attract their attention. I threw a bright red Dora the Explora towel poncho to Jo as she clambered over the fence in her swimming costume (I have watched the Railway Children you know), and she frantically tried to pull it over her head. Realising it wouldn't fit, she called Martin for something to cover herself up with. Stiffling my hysterics, I had to point out it was meant to attract the pilot's attention, not to cover her cleavage!

The helicopter skilfully landed on a tiny patch of level ground and dispatched its crew. 10 minutes later they returned with the woman strapped to a stretcher, loaded her on and off they went.

And it was all over.  Left with the certainty we would never find out the outcome for this poor girl, we wished her well, and prayed she had good travel insurance.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Llamas and the Air Ambulance

Last week we went on our first flight with our 2 1/2 year old daughter, Ruby. I am pleased to say she handled the whole experience far better than mummy, who is terrified of flying!

We flew to Carcassonne in the South of France, the trip arranged to visit some friends who have recently bought a property there. Coming into land, we passed acres and acres of glorious yellow sunflower fields and vineyards. The 2 hour drive from there took us to the foothills of the Pyrenees and eventually after a treacherous drive up a virtually single-track road with a sheer drop on one side and a deep gully on the other, we arrived in the small town of Massat.

Our friends had arranged for us to stay in a gite nearby owned by a couple with a penchant for odd animals. Through our earlier email conversation we knew that part of the menagerie included 3 llamas. We should have realised from the photo the owner sent of her llamas that this was going to be an interesting stay - "look," I said to my daughter keen to show her the picture of the llamas on the screen, "um, maybe not" as I quickly pressed the close button. Not sure my daughter fully believed me when I said they were just having a cuddle!

I often wondered that the attraction is in keeping Llamas. You seem to see them quite regularly in this country in random fields. I mean, they're cute, but what's the point? I can understand keeping chickens or cows - at least they provide a product. I get keeping pets like cats and dog which you can have in the house as part of the family, but Llamas?

Marianne, the owner explained to me her lifelong passion for these creatures. Having watched a documentary years ago, she'd learnt that just like dolphins, these animals seem to have a special affinity with people, especially children, and more specifically children with special needs. This fascinated me, and on my return home I have done further reading on the subject. If you'd like to learn more, this site gives a particularly good overview of animal assisted therapy http://www.legacyllamas.com/llama_therapy.htm

So, Ruby was quite taken with the Llamas. But there was more. Much more. They also had 2 sheep, 7 cats, 3 cockerels, about a dozen hens, 2 Indian Walking ducks (my particular favourites) and a pond full of Koi Carp.

Marianne has 2 gites for rent and if you love animals then this is a wonderful place to stay. The little gite has recently been renovated and refurbished and is suitable for a couple (with a baby at a squeeze!), and the larger gite has plenty of room, 2 large double bedrooms but is a bit more basic and rough around the edges.

More than anything on this holiday, I enjoyed the company and hospitality of the gite owners. They had wonderful tales to tell, shared their considerable knowledge of the area and history of their home and welcomed us into their little bit of paradise. More importantly they were incredibly kind and helpful when Ruby was sick, not batting an eyelid at the mounds of washing we had to hand over, and finding a pharmacist for us.

If you are interested in finding out more about their gites, please do get in touch with me.

So, that's enough rambling for now. In true cliff-hanger style (bad pun intended), please drop by again soon to find out how the mountain rescue helicopter made its way into our holiday.

Monday 9 August 2010

Dipping my toe in

So I've finally plucked up the courage to start writing my blog. To get me in the swing of it and in true high school fashion, my first post is 'what I did on my holidays'. Not very original I realise, but I hope my ever so slightly surreal trip will be at least mildly entertaining to you.

I've also discovered, that after spending so much time writing in 140 characters, this is like opening the floodgates, so apologies for the long posts.

I'd really love some feedback from you all. I greatly enjoy reading blogs, and it makes me feel like I 'know' some of the people I communicate with on Twitter and Facebook a little better. I hope after reading this you'll feel the same way.