Stories for Life with Penguin Books.

Books make the best Christmas presents – and within those books there may be stories for life. I know there are books which have stuck with me to this day, having made a lasting impression when I was young. We received a parcel from Penguin Books with three books inside.

We love Books - Penguin, Stories for Life, presents

The challenge was to get the three books and wrap them, and give them to someone who would also love them.

I have a bookworm here at home – a seven year old bookworm. She’s fed daily on a dose of books which she seems to devour with little or no fuss. Fruit and vegetables come as an optional extra. So getting three new books and keeping them away from her was a task in itself.

Today is the 5th December, which is a special day in mainland Europe. They give a present for Saint Nicholas Day. So I’ve let H open one of these presents early. I decided that Clare Balding’s debut book ‘The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop’ would be a fun read. H loves horse riding and has had a couple of goes this year. I like that it sounds like a fun story with the horse being the main focus, and getting him to actually gallop.

Penguin, Puffin, Stories for Life

We also got a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Double Down. I know my nephew loves that series, so that will be one for him. I suspect there may be tears as H has recently declared a love of the Wimpy Kid books. The story is about a mum worried about her boy – Greg Heffley. She worries his brain is turning to mush from watching too many video games. So Greg has a plan to convince his mum that he’s actually a creative soul which he hopes will get his mum off his back.

There is also a Zoe Sugg book – aka Zoella. I have heard of this young lady, though as H isn’t quite in her age range she hasn’t made it into this house. My cousin’s eldest daughter is thirteen and I think this could be a good one for her. Girl Online – Going Solo is about a girl called Penny. Penny makes friends with Posey, and it looks like there’s a charming Scottish boy called Callum in there too. It sounds like a fun teen read anyway – so it’s all ready for her!

If I was to buy a book which was much-loved as I was growing up, then I know what it is. I was OBSESSED by The Famous Five. This was especially due to the 1970s tv series (which I now own on DVD). I think the tv series couldn’t actually adapt the first book as it had a different copyright holder. They touched on it for their first production. I had all the books, and they were all the 1970s TV series covers. But then I grew up. The books were given away… and only one was kept. But I kept it with me – it moved from house to house through the years and is still with me now. Given how H treats my Harry Potter books, she has not yet inherited it – maybe when she’s a bit older. You can quite clearly see the number 1 in the top right hand corner, so I’ve already defaced it a bit in my younger days – and there are scribbles at the back too. It is well-loved!

Five on a Treasure Island Stories for Life

Ah, The Famous Five. A world which existed full of adventures, buried treasure, caravans, circuses, wrecks, Kirrin Island. Of friendship and being there for each other. Family too. I love that the books are available with new covers by well known artists. We’ve now got her the Box Set for Christmas – The Book People did a good deal. I think we may have to sell the older copies to make some space! H has recently moved on to Malory Towers, and I’m certain I still have all those books hidden away at my mum’s. At this rate she’ll end up owning them before I can find my copies!

H loves reading, and I love that stories I read when I was younger are still in print and loved by my daughter. Maybe her books will in turn be passed on to her children when she’s older?

You can’t beat the gift of reading – these are all stories for life.

H gets trendy with BooHoo Kids

I’m the sort of person who wears jeans and t-shirts on a daily basis, which in turn has passed on to H. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but at the same time she’s seven. She’s discovering her own style and – oh – she’s tall too. So our age seven girl tends to wear clothes for age 9-10. BooHoo Kids recently launched and offered us the chance to order up to £35 worth of clothes from their website.

BooHoo Kids offer a really good range of clothes. I wanted to make sure H had something which would be worn plenty of times and would also be good for special occasions. With her being so tall she can get away with skinny jeans, so we ordered her a black pair. To go with it, BooHoo Kids have a fabulous red sweatshirt with a big black love heart on it. It looks pretty good and is still our jeans and t-shirts style.

Boohoo kids star skater dress

When you’re seven you’re getting invites to parties which might be a bit more party-like than just games (like, say, when you were six, right?) so H chose a skater dress with a star pattern on it. I think she looks fabulous in it too! It’s just the right length.

The black jeans and red sweatshirt were perfect for mufti day at school – warm for outside and unique enough for inside that she wouldn’t lose it (unlike most of her school jumpers this term). She was also nice and warm on Bonfire Night! The jeans were long too – important when your child is tall.

Boohoo kids heart sweatshirt and skinny jeans

I found that BooHoo Kids sizes could have come in a bit too small for H. She’s 137cm, and that’s pretty much anything age 9-10. I would recommend going on height rather than anything else. The waist of her jeans isn’t adjustable, although that isn’t a problem.

I like how they’re easily washable and hard wearing too. They keep their quality and I love how the slogans available on the t-shirts are the kind of things H would say. If we’d had double the money to spend she would have wanted even more!

Ordering from BooHoo Kids was easy. I ended up doing it in my browser (they have an app too), the clothes arrived in a few days.

We were given a £35 budget to order clothes from BooHoo Kids, all opinions are our own. You can find their clothes here

Butternut Squash Risotto with Bright Horizons

Now that the nights are getting darker and colder (and wetter) we’re having more time indoors as a family. Now H is seven she’s doing more around the house which is great – including cooking. After a bit of deliberation we decided to make a Butternut Squash Risotto from the Bright Horizons Cookbook.
butternut squash risotto recipe

Butternut squash risotto is pretty straightforward to make too.

Ingredients :
300g Butternut squash
20ml Vegetable oil
200g White onion
2 Garlic cloves
400g Risotto rice
1l water
400g Haricot beans
100g Fresh spinach
10g Fresh parsley

Instructions :
Set the oven to 200c/400f/Gas mark 6

h ready to make butternut squash risotto

Peel, deseed and dice the butternut squash. Coat it in half of the vegetable oil and lay onto a baking tray. Roast for approx 30 minutes until the pieces are soft.

add garlic to butternut squash risotto

Chop up the onion and crush the garlic. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic, sautéing until soft.

Add the risotto rice and mix well so it is coated in the oil. Pour in a third of the water (we added a stock cube to it) and bring the mixture to simmer. Cook until the liquid has absorbed.

add beans to butternut squash risotto

Keep adding water, a little at a time. Add the beans too (one tin should be the right amount). Keep cooking until the water is absorbed. Keep adding water until it has all been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

chop parsley for butternut squash risotto

Chop up the parsley. Stir in the roasted butternut squash, and add spinach and half of the parsley. Mix until the spinach has wilted.

add butternut squash to butternut squash risotto

Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top before serving.

We also added some Knorr Aromat All Purpose Seasoning right at the end.

butternut squash risotto

This recipe is taken from the Bright Horizons Family Cookbook, which has several family recipes which are suitable for younger ones to join in with too. H enjoyed taking charge, with Shaun making sure she didn’t do anything daft. (at one point she said “Mummy! Touch this pan to check how hot it is” – sigh)

The Butternut Squash risotto was excellent too – nice and filling and a great winter warmer. H was happy as she did loads to make it and I was happy as I didn’t have to make it!

We were sent a copy of the Family Cookbook from Bright Horizons, and a Doodle Apron for H to wear. You can find more family recipes from Bright Horizons here.


Miffy Tulips Now Growing in Holland

Dutch tulip breeders have recently produced a variety of tulip to represent Miffy. We were sent some Miffy Tulips to plant.
miffy tulips, nijntje tulipa

Miffy Tulips are a lovely deep red colour. They were produced to match the red shade of Miffy’s dress. Miffy of course, is from Dick Bruna’s much loved bunny storybooks from over the last 60 years.

The cultivation process started back in 2001, and they’re hoping to be on sale in 2017/2018. That’s fifteen years of cultivation!!

This year there are only 2,500 Miffy bulbs in existence. You’ll find most of them in the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. It opens from the 23rd March to 21st May 2017. You’ll see them growing on their walk of fame, as well as the Miffy Garden located in the park.

Panda preparing the soil for the miffy bulbs

There are also some Miffy tulips growing in Carshalton as we received some! H planted them this weekend, it needs to happen in November. Our biggest fear is that the local squirrels will try and dig them up (I will be so cross if they do). We’re going to get some mesh to put over the top of our plant pot, so that should prevent them from doing it. This will still allow the bulbs to grow.

the miffy tulips are ready to be planted


The planting instructions are pretty straightforward. Get rid of weeds, and make sure your soil is turned over.

Place each bulb around 5cm apart, and then dig them down deep around another 10cm.

Cover them with soil and then give them a water. Then you just have to wait for them to grow.

Around March time you should start to see some Miffy tulips!

Miffy tulips being watered

They look pretty awesome and I can’t wait for a bit of colour once this coldness is over and spring begins.

We’ll be reporting back on the Miffy Tulips progress – we’re really looking forward to seeing them.

Miffy Mums

Wild Fangs Reptile Party – A Fun Birthday Party

H had her seventh birthday party in October. It was a Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts party so Faik from Wild Fangs came to our house with five of his reptiles.

Faik from Wild Fangs
Faik from Wild Fangs

Wild Fangs is a business based in North London. When I emailed to make the booking Faik was quick to reply, and let us know what availability he had. He wasn’t able to do the date we already had booked, so we brought the party forward a week.

Booking with Faik was easy. His website has loads of information, including which reptiles he has. Because of the Harry Potter theme we wanted to try and have as many which might cross over into the stories.  We paid a deposit to confirm the booking, with the balance due on the day. Once we had paid the deposit he emailed us over an invoice to confirm the booking.

We were in contact when necessary which was reassuring. 24 hours beforehand Wild Fangs confirmed which animals would be coming along.

We had five reptiles in total, and they complemented the party theme well.

Tiny the African Bull Frog with Wild Fangs
Tiny the African Bull Frog with Wild Fangs

Tiny the African Bull Frog

A blurry Sebastian the Corn Snake from Wild Fangs
A blurry Sebastian the Corn Snake from Wild Fangs

Sebastian the Corn Snake

Gizmo the Ferret's Obstacle Course with Wild Fangs
Gizmo the Ferret’s Obstacle Course with Wild Fangs

Gizmo the Ferret

Faik from Wild Fang introducing the kids to Derek the Bearded Dragon
Faik from Wild Fang introducing the kids to Derek the Bearded Dragon

Derek the Bearded Dragon

Milo the Giant Millipede from Wild Fangs
Milo the Giant Millipede from Wild Fangs

Milo the Giant Millipede

We had the party in our front room which we cleared out pretty well, so there was plenty of space. Fitting 17 children in our room (plus adults) worked. Faik was great at getting the kids to be quiet when he needed them to listen.

Stroking Tiny the African Bullfrog with Wild Fangs
Stroking Tiny the African Bullfrog with Wild Fangs

Faik told us all about each creature and took questions from the kids – and no question was too silly. Yes, we got the ‘does he poo?’ one early on. That’s the thing – a good reptile handler is ready to answer all kinds of questions. The children all felt quite involved.

Meeting Derek the Bearded Dragon with Wild Fangs
Meeting Derek the Bearded Dragon with Wild Fangs

As H was the party girl she got to touch all the animals. Most of the other children got a chance too if they wanted to. They were all told how to sit if they weren’t sure, and that it was okay if they changed their minds. By the end of the party we had an obstacle course set up in our front room for Gizmo the ferret!

H enjoyed feeding Derek the Bearded Dragon. Her friends also got to have a go.

H feeding Derek the Bearded Dragon with Wild Fangs
H feeding Derek the Bearded Dragon with Wild Fangs

Afterwards one of H’s friends sent a thank you letter. We’ve never had a thank you letter for being invited to a party! I need to take a photo and send it on to Faik, a letter like that shows the child had a brilliant time.

I would definitely recommend Wild Fangs for reptile parties. H had a brilliant time as did her friends.

Dressing Up at School

I hate it so much. Those dreaded dressing up at school days. You know the ones. Previously we’d get a little bit of notice… like, maybe three days. Since H moved to Junior School we’ve had a little more. But still, they exist.

So you do your best to make something of them. Somehow, I had the foresight to buy something which has been extremely useful so far. The only problem with any dressing up days at school is you don’t know what is likely to happen in subsequent years.

So what exactly is that useful thing? Why, a simple white oversized adult t-shirt. I sewed some ribbon around the middle as a tie, and happened to have plenty of felt around for logos.

So far, we’re on our third dressing up day at school, and it is about to be used again.

The first time was for a day when the kids needed to go in dressed as a knight. I cut out and sewed on a simple felt crest to the front of the t-shirt. Add a knight’s chain mail head thing (we bought at an English Heritage place) and H felt knight enough.

Knights Day dressing up at school

The second time was for a pirate day. The crest was removed and I cut a green skull and crossbones, which was sewed in its place. I also made a little waistcoat from a reusable shopping bag, with matching tie.

Pirate Day dressing up at school

Given I got a CSE 4 in needlework at school, this kind of thing isn’t one of my strongest skills. But it works, and it’s fine for a day.

This week at school we have a Greek day. Well this is now easy. I’ve removed the pirate crest, and H will wear the simple plain white t-shirt, with purple ribbon tie, and some leggings.

Ancient Greece Day dressing up at school

I’m now getting confident and rubbing my hands with glee at what school are going to throw at us next. I suspect it might be Year 4 when it comes out again, possibly a Roman day.  Dressing up at school doesn’t feel quite so painful any more!

An adult white t-shirt (this one is medium) is great – cut off the sleeves and you have enough room to put warmer garments on underneath if it’s cold too. It cost me £3 from Matalan.

Remember, Remember

Some people think us Brits are a bit weird.  On the 5th November every year we go a bit crazy, watching many firework displays around the country. Shaun certainly thought it was a bit odd when he first arrived in the UK, but then again he also found pantomimes a bit odd too, so he had a lot to learn.

Anyway, the 5th November fell on a weekend for the first time in ages, and we decided not to visit our local display but to stand nearby and watch.

I had my camera at the ready, and this was my best shot. It isn’t brilliant as it’s so shaky, but I quite like it.

Fireworks at Carshalton Ponds

Next year I might take a tripod.. or just invest in something that can steady my hands a bit.

After the display we headed to a friends house and had food, wine, chat and fun – so much fun that we didn’t realise it was 10.30pm when it was. Time flies when you’re having fun.

The kids also had a firework display and sparklers. I love taking photos of sparklers when they’re moving. Next time I’ll get the kids to stand in line and do a letter each… that’d be interesting.

Sparklers on Bonfire Night

After a busy week with Halloween to Bonfire Night, I’m looking forward to a quieter one – although we’re now getting into Christmas, and preparing things there – mainly our Christmas Fair at school. Phew!

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music DVD Review

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music is out on DVD, and is available now. It tells the story of the Von Trapp family, who I’m sure most people are familiar with thanks to The Sound of Music.

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music DVD Cover

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music tells the story of the Von Trapp Family. This time it is from the perspective of eldest daughter Agathe.

You live your life, and your stepmother writes a book about it. The book becomes a film in Germany, which in turn leads to a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. Oh and it’s the most successful musical of all time. The only problem is, you feel like the actual story everyone knows isn’t your story. You feel like your father is a different person. Any problems you had with your stepmother were completely washed over.

You’re not happy.

Agathe Von Trapp, whose life story became The Sound of Music, wrote her own book which is now a movie. This time it’s The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music.

Don’t expect songs and dance and the sights of Salzburg. This is a far more accurate tale of the Von Trapp family story, but will still feel familiar.

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music Captain and Maria

Agathe is the second eldest Von Trapp child; the eldest was Rupert as the film swapped the sibling order.  The movie starts where you see how close the Von Trapp Family are, and how loving they all are to each other. When their mother dies, Agathe looks after the children. They struggle, so Captain Von Trapp gets help – which is where Maria enters the story.

Following in Julie Andrews’ footsteps is an enormous task. But this time Maria is a part of the story, not the main focus. This is Agathe’s story, growing up in Austria. We see her lose her love of singing when her mother dies, vowing to never sing again, which lasts for many years. We see Austria being taken over by the Nazi’s. There are no mountain escapes here, as the Von Trapp family stayed in Salzburg for a while once the Anschluss happened.

We find out Captain Von Trapp loses his money when helping out a friend (relating to the Wall Street Crash), and they’re all left with nothing. We meet Agathe’s resistance fighter best friend Sigi that she has known since childhood. We see Agathe and Sigi make friends with the famous soprano Lotte Lehmann and how the Von Trapp Family begin singing together, paving the way for their journey to America.

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music Von Trapps Singing

As a fan of The Sound of Music, to see the story from this perspective was interesting. I haven’t read Agathe Von Trapp’s book, but did know a lot of the story having read most of Maria Von Trapp’s books. I will be ordering Agathe’s book now!

I would recommend The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music to anyone who wants to know the real story. There are still some changes – Agathe is still the eldest in this film – it shows why the Von Trapp family left Salzburg and Austria. Oh, and what they left behind too.

I haven’t mentioned the actors yet! Matthew McFadyen is a good Captain Von Trapp, Eliza Bennett plays young Agathe – I thought she was pretty good too. Maria is played by Yvonne Catterfield, a German actress who does a fine job.

The Von Trapp Family A Life of Music is released today, 31st October 2016. It is rated 12. H watched it with us and was fine – the scenes which could be troublesome refer to violence. You can buy the DVD from Amazon (affiliate link) and all good retailers.

We were sent the DVD to review. 

Half Term Fun With The Trolls Merchandise

It’s half term and H has been busy, as have we. There’s a film that I’m sure you’ve all had flashbacks to, and seen the posters. When we were in France in August we spotted them too – Les Trolls – or rather, The Trolls here.

The Trolls are those dolls that were popular back in the 90’s, though they date back to the 1950’s! Oh, and now there’s the film with tons more merchandise on offer.

The Trolls Poppy Wig

We received a Poppy Wig and a Hug Time bracelet – something we didn’t get until we saw the film. See, the Trolls are happy little beings, and every hour it’s…. HUG TIME! They have little wristbands they wear which light up around each other. Oh, and they sing a lot and hug each other lots too. The leader of The Trolls is Poppy, a princess. Her dad is King of the Trolls.

If you’re aware of that catchy little ditty that Justin Timberlake sings, ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ features in the film. There are also several other happy pop classics (even The Gorillaz are in there).

Which leads me to how H reacted to the wig and bracelet, and a spot of Mr Timberlake. After our Frubes post, she was feeling confident with her dance moves, so did a few more.

The Trolls, H's moves

We found the Poppy Wig was just a tiny bit too small – I managed to tuck H’s hair into a hairband which got it to fit. I’d say if your child has a large head circumference it may be an issue. (H was always in the higher percentiles for this!) The Hug Time wristband fits fine though – and it only makes sense once you’ve seen the film.

On saying that, she sat with her Poppy wig and flicked on the bracelet, announcing “HUG TIME!” and what with her being my bestest girl, I obliged with hugs.  It would have been nice if the bracelet had done a bit more but H was happy with it.

The Trolls Hug Time Bracelet

The Poppy wig does have that classic style of The Trolls, although we had to work ours a bit – but I think it does suit H!

You can buy the Poppy Wig for £12.99 and the Trolls Hug Time bracelet for £9.99 from Argos.

We received both to review. All opinions are our own. 

FrubesMoves with Frubes

Frubes have partnered with the Angry Birds Movie. They have created a squawksome dance off between the Angry Birds and the pigs. We received some vouchers for H to show off her FrubesMoves too.

FrubesMoves – a simple verb which you won’t find in the dictionary is something H has been doing a spot of lately.

Frubes Frubesmoves collage

H used to do Street Dance at her last school and still shows off her moves from time to time. I encouraged her to grab some Frubes and do a few poses. This is the result…

H’s FrubesMoves came to her straight away, what with her having had some Street Dance lessons. She hasn’t done them for a couple of terms now. I always wondered with her extra long legs if she would make a better ballerina! With the poses involved, Street Dance and FrubesMoves come together well.

Frubes Frubesmoves collage

I like that she’s doing her dancing to all my old eighties classics! Even if I have no idea of the names of her moves…

I like Frubes. They’re the UK’s largest portable yoghurt brand. They’re available in Strawberry, Red Berry, Peach and Banana flavour. They also contain Vitamin D and calcium for strong bones.

I like to keep them nice and cold (as they’re perfect for a packed lunch) by freezing them. Then just pop them in the packed lunch the night before. By lunchtime they’re still nice and chilly and ready to eat.


Frubes is running an on-pack promotion until 31st October. You can win a chance to go to the Bahamas for six nights on holiday which is pretty excellent. You can also win Angry Birds Movie merchandise every week. H likes that each Frube is a different Angry Birds character.

What better excuse to try and win some prizes, get some delicious Frubes yoghurt snacks AND practice some dance moves at the same time?

We were sent vouchers to buy three packs of Frubes to take part in this challenge. This post is an entry for BritMums’ #FrubesMoves Linky Challenge, sponsored by Frubes.