26 Jul

The Hueys in None the Number by Oliver Jeffers

Two things – we LOVE Oliver Jeffers books, and we LOVE The Hueys series too. H likes them as her grandad in Australia is nicknamed Huey, so while the story is nothing to do with him, it’s a memory, an association. The newest book The Hueys in None the Number is a slight change to the usual story.

The Hueys in None the Number

The Hueys in None the Number is a Counting Adventure by Oliver Jeffers, the third in the Hueys series from Harper-Collins Kids.

‘the thing about the Hueys was that they loved numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3…. Wait! Is ‘none’ a number?’

Which is the basis for this story. See, we are all taught the numbers starting from 1, but when it comes to ‘none’, what exactly is it? It’s a counting conundrum, that’s what!

In true Oliver Jeffers fashion, The Hueys in None the Number is something you work out for yourself – and at the end of the book there’s a little bit on what ‘none’ actually is. In the meantime, throughout the book there’s plenty of examples of what numbers are – ‘but when you take them all away…. you get NONE.’ There is less story for this one, but it provokes a lot of thinking which I think is a good thing now H is reading fluently at school.

The Hueys in None the Number

H enjoys reading this one – another she’ll happily take away and read in her head. I asked if I could read it to her, and she said she’d prefer if I read it in my head! Fair enough. I’ve caught her a few times reading it, and have now asked the question ‘is ‘none’ a number?’

She says no. I think we’ll be reading the book together again, and the discussion will probably continue into the night! It’s a good discussion point – especially as she’s doing a lot more thinking with numeracy as she heads into Year 1.

The Hueys in None the Number is available now from all good booksellers.

We were sent our copy for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own and honest. The link is an affiliate one.

21 Jul

Elmer is 25 Years Old

Did you know the patchwork elephant Elmer is 25 years old? We didn’t realise – in fact, truth be told I didn’t realise the Elmer books were available in longer form! Fortunately Andersen Press sent us a copy of Elmer and Elmer and the Monster, a new title in the series.

Elmer is 25 – and a firm favourite in our house – we have a lot of the books (and a toy) but in the hardback baby editions - so I was pleased to find the books are available for older readers too – especially when they do the reading themselves. (We already own David McKee’s ‘Not Now Bernard‘ – a favourite of ours) So when two books arrive in the post they’re promptly whisked away and read by my four and three quarter year old, who then refuses to tell me what they’re about afterwards, just saying “they’re good”!

Elmer is 25 Reading

So I asked her what the books were about. We know the original Elmer story, where he gets tired of being different and disguises himself as a grey elephant – until he realises he can’t change himself. The book has a lovely story behind it – about not changing how we are and accepting the way we are – and this version is a book H reads a lot. On her own. Without me. (which is so different to our baby books!)

Elmer is 25

Elmer and the Monster is a brand new Elmer story. When Elmer and his friends hear a loud roar in the jungle they are convinced it’s a monster. Elmer is the only one brave enough to see what it could be. So what is it then? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Elmer is 25 Monster

Again, H took the book away, giggling in the corner as she read to herself, which was lovely. Both books are regularly read now – there’s a good mixture of pictures and words which are great for her reading level (Turquoise) – and as she heads into Year 1 at school I know these books will remain favourites – with David McKee’s illustrations so bright and colourful they’re visually appealing.

Elmer (in paperback) currently retails for £6.99
Elmer and the Monster (in hardback) currently retails for £11.99

So Elmer is 25 and to celebrate the anniversary, there are activities all through the summer – Andersen Press are making available a limited signed version of the first Elmer book. There will be new Elmer products available at UK retail. Greenwich Park has an Elmer bench as part of National Literacy Trusts ‘Books About Town’ project. Look out for more at Andersen Press’s website.

Both books were sent to us for the purpose of review – all opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links. 

20 Jul

Fancy Winning a Higgidy Picnic?

Higgidy picnic pack

We’ve got a fabulous giveaway with Higgidy – and oh how we love our Higgidy pies – do you fancy winning a picnic bag with some coupons which can be redeemed against Higgidy picnic essentials? Then read on for more!

Higgidy logo


What could be better than a picnic in the park on a summer’s day? To celebrate picnic season Higgidy are giving you a chance to win a special picnic bag filled with coupons that can be redeemed against picnic essentials such as Higgidy’s sausage roll range! To be in with a chance, just enter your details below.

Higgidy, maker of award-winning pies and quiches, have launched a range of three mouth-watering sausage roll recipes just in time for picnic season. Packaged in picnic basket open-style box, Higgidy’s sausage roll range comes in three flavours: Herby Pork & Pancetta, Roasted Tomato & Pork, and Feta & Red Pepper. They can be enjoyed hot or cold and make perfect picnic food.

Higgidy picnic pack

If you aren’t successful this time, there is still a chance to win instantly by playing ‘Catch a Quiche’ at catchaquiche.higgidy.co.uk. Prizes include quiches, salad, yoghurt, crisps, fruit snacks and ginger beer and high scorers can also win a Higgidy Picnic Pack!

I’ve been playing Catch A Quiche and it isn’t easy. You can have five turns a day as well, so there’s no excuse to not give it a go.

Giveaway Rules – This Giveaway ends on the 1st August 2014. Please respond ASAP if you’re the winner so I can pass your information on to Higgidy’s PR company to arrange delivery – and good luck!

If you are having trouble seeing the whole widget please use this link which will take you to it directly.
Win a Higgidy Picnic

20 Jul

Puffing A Wey at Dapdune Wharf

Puffing A Wey is an annual event held at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford. It is a joint event between the National Trust and the Steam Boat Association (SBA) to showcase their boats.

Puffing A Wey 2014

Puffing A Wey was on last weekend - and Saturday 12th July was the day to get involved. Put it in the diary for next year, as if it ends up a gloriously sunny day it’s the perfect day to get a free ride in a steam boat up the River Wey.

I was surprised it wasn’t busier – Dapdune Wharf is really close to the centre of Guildford, though once you’re there you wouldn’t think so. It’s a pity that Shalford Mill which is also on the River Wey isn’t open for the day, as we’d have gone along there as well – though realistically we probably didn’t have time.

Dapdune Wharf is an area of great historical significance to Guildford and Surrey in general. The Wey was one of the first British rivers to be made navigable, opening to barge traffic in 1653. It links Guildford to Weybridge, where it meets the Thames, moving onwards to London. Also, it’s over 350 years old – enough to blow a small person’s mind when you tell them.

Puffing A Wey 2014

Dapdune also has a surviving barge ‘Reliance’ which Shaun and H spent time exploring (it’s quite low and I didn’t want to risk it with my back!), plus you can also see where the huge Wey barges were built.

Puffing A Wey brings steam boats from around the UK to Guildford – and while the National Trust has a boat which does 40 minute rides down the River Wey (charge £3 per person), the steam boats offered rides for free. We were lucky to get a ride on the handmade boat, the St Aurelia and experienced a fabulous 30 minute ride towards Guildford, then to the other side of the railway bridge at Dapdune Wharf. Not all boats offer rides, it is entirely the boat owner’s discretion. We didn’t have to wait for long either. It felt so peaceful gently chugging along the river (and you’re close to the water, for my deep water phobia I managed quite well!).

Puffing A Wey 2014

It was a really enjoyable day – H loved going on the boat, and we had a good safety chat beforehand in case anything went wrong (it didn’t, but you need to be prepared). Be aware there are no lifejackets, so you are doing it entirely at your own risk. Having said that, we were safe, the rivers weren’t busy, though boats sometimes had to wait for other boats to clear the mooring areas when dropping off passengers.

There were kids activities which kept H entertained – and they were suitable for all ages. Add a nice National Trust cafe with good value food, and decent facilities (and a good sized picnic area), and it was a pretty good day out – what started as a day we thought might be interesting ended being a day which was absolutely marvellous! I’m definitely keeping an eye out for next year’s event anyway.

Dapdune Wharf Lock Model

My highlight of the day apart from the boat ride, was a model of a lock – H has been reading about towpaths in a story at school and I’d tried to explain them, but badly. Having a lock with water in which explains everything clearly made it fascinating for H. I think a trip to Teddington may be on the cards one day soon.

The River Wey and Godalming Navigations and Dapdune Wharf can be found here. I’m going to predict next years event will be July 2015, and would highly recommend. The Steam Boat Association can be found here.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

20 Jul

Chocolate Soreen Flapjack

As we’ve previously said on here, we’re big Soreen lovers in this house. Now school is almost up and packed lunches will be made for Holiday Club for H, I know we’ll be buying a lot more.

There’s one thing though. Soreen and I haven’t worked together creatively enough. (I do realise I need to instigate this, as Soreen is just a mere humble malt loaf whereas I am someone who makes and bakes things when I feel like it)

Fortunately, when the mood takes me there are often handy videos which make it seem like the kind of thing that anyone can do – and this one is no exception!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present a video for Chocolate Soreen Flapjack!

I’ve found Chocolate Soreen in my local Sainsburys and Tesco, but not the Local type stores unfortunately. As soon as I get some, Chocolate Soreen Flapjack is on the menu, oh yes indeedy.

For more Soreen recipes, head over here.

11 Jul

School Uniform – End of Year Report

Clarks Breamy Dream

We’re coming to the end of H’s first year of school, so I thought it was the right time to go through our School Uniform experiences, and what we’ve found has lasted through the year – and what hasn’t.


I remember last year in a month or so’s time hitting the stores, trying to find somewhere that stocked school uniform – most shops stopped for the summer. The good thing is that right now a lot of places will be having sales – M&S often do a good one, and it’s where I picked up a lot of H’s school uniform.

My biggest mistake was to buy school uniform in her actual size as she tends to go up a size after Christmas, so I ended up buying two sets in her first year – I should have just gone bigger initially.

M&S’s quality was great – I bought two packs of polo shirts (two in a pack – why don’t they do five packs?) and they washed well and didn’t lose their shape. Actually, my biggest initial concern was that H didn’t know how to do up buttons, but that didn’t take long to master.


As well as that I got one summer dress as we were heading into the colder months but could wear them up to the end of Autumn half term. The dress has been worn a few times in Summer term this year, although it’s quite short now – so buy big for summer clothes! We’ve since bought another dress in Matalan in a size 6 which should last a year. Matalan have a great selection of school uniform at a good price too.

I bought two pairs of trousers and two skirts from M&S in size 4, which lasted until H grew but lasted well – many tumbles in the playground and no holes in the trousers are always a good sign. When she grew I kept with M&S for the trousers but switched to Sainsburys for the skirts which were cheaper and are good quality too.


I also bought a Next school skirt in size 4 which is still being worn – we’ve often found H grows out of Next clothes first but this one has lasted and isn’t too short.

Shoes were the next concern, as you want to buy a pair that lasts. Our Clarks pair lasted until this Summer half term when H’s feet had grown a size and she really needed a new pair. Unfortunately they didn’t have the same kind in, so we got a similar pair with a patent leather toecap on it, which is wearing away a little a month or two in which is disappointing. If they get her old shoes back in we’ll definitely go back to them (and I might buy another pair a size up). PE shoes were £2.50 in Sainsburys, and have lasted well.

clarks dance step infant shoes

Jumpers and cardigans were official school uniform ones, however we did have some plain in case I didn’t wash them in time, which were kindly passed on to us by Sharon at I Heart Motherhood – they are from Aldi and are going strong, wash well and haven’t faded.

Legwear is the final thing to mention – I bought loads of pairs of ankle socks, but when the weather got warmer H wasn’t used to exposing her legs, so ended up buying some knee length socks from Next – £4.50 for three pairs and they’ve stayed white too! Tights were an interesting purchase. I bought some nice H&M ones that cost a fair bit, but when she fell over the holes made them unrepairable (even with my poor needlework skills). Eventually I bought a seven pack in Sainsburys which stayed intact for her worst fall (blood and everything) so I’m pleased with that – five pairs are still in the packaging too, and I bought age 6 for the length (H is 120cm).

We’ve had tumbles and falls, climbing and playing, tripping and skipping, scootering and possibly Didicars (don’t quote me on that, it’s some kind of car I don’t get to see) and overall everything we’ve bought has survived. But there’s one thing which nothing seems to fix at all. We have tried so many ways to make it stop, but it doesn’t – the dreaded white board marker pen marks on everything. The day someone designs school uniform which doesn’t hold those blasted pen marks on them will be the day I spend all my money and stop cursing the pens!

So the final grade for school uniform? Let’s base them on the Early Years Foundation Scores, shall we?

M&S. I’d say is easily a Exceeding 3. They’re slightly more expensive but so far have lasted. I’ve had no repairs to make to anything.

Next. Ends the year an Exceeding 3 due to not being too small despite me ordering a 4. The skirt was around £6 and has lasted which is all I ever ask of anything.

Aldi. Started the year as an Emerging 1 and ending as an Exceeding 3 - due to the lasting quality and the price (had we bought it).

Clarks. Tricky one this one – for the first pair of shoes I’d say an Exceeding 3, but for the second pair an Emerging 1, going down a little. I can only hope they bring back the original shoes.

Sainsburys. For the skirts and tights we’ve bought, I’d say an Exceeding 3 – good quality, no repairs and surprisingly good. My local Sainsburys didn’t have much for clothes and the Wandsworth branch was being refitted so I couldn’t buy there initially, but the tights impressed me the most for being so hardy. I was impressed that our local one had a list of the colours for all the local schools so you know what to buy.

Matalan. Because the dress is so new I feel we can’t grade it over the year, so it’s an Expected 2, and it’s just time which will lead to a conclusion.

10 Jul

Dear Parents of Summer Babies,

I’m sending you a little letter on here to reassure you about school, especially since H started in Reception last September.

I’m pretty sure she’s the youngest in Reception, a late August baby.

From the moment she was born, we were told things like “oh, she’ll struggle at school but at least she’ll get weighting” and “oh dear, a young one” – like her future was already set out. (btw, weighting doesn’t exist any more)

Fortunately, her future is decided entirely by her; with guidance and support along the way from Shaun and I as parents, plus her teachers at school.

Yesterday we had her first report, and happily she’s ahead of most targets and is doing well. So parents of summer babies, don’t fret. Go with your child’s lead. H loves reading – she always has. The minute words stopped becoming individual phonics sounds and she was able to decode them, there was no turning back.

When we found out that her numeracy could do with some work we signed up to Eggy Numbers, the Reading Eggs numeracy app to support her learning through simple games. Actually, in reception the most they’re expected to do is recognise numbers up to 20 so this is ideal. I can highly recommend all the Eggy Numbers games anyway, as well as the Eggy Alphabet ones.

Let your child find their way. H loves creating things and doing pictures, arty things as well as music, yet that was her lowest score. Score. Sounds wrong when you’ve Reception-age children. But that’s how it is. Her work isn’t bad, it’s the expected level, but that gives us something to work on for next year – she’s already said she’d like to learn the recorder and the violin.

She might not be the best at everything, but I don’t want her to be the best. I want her to do HER best, and that’s all I can ask of her. She’s done me proud this year, and I know Year 1 will be a challenge as it’s getting into proper school work, but she’ll manage. If not, we’ll deal with it.

My main point though, it’s not a braggy “oo look my daughter has done well” post – it’s a “don’t listen to people who tell you your child won’t do well because of when they are born” – I spent almost three terms fretting she wouldn’t keep up thanks to the way I’d been programmed to think, and actually she’s done marvellously.

So yes, that’s all really. You’ll panic, we all do. Your child will get there, it isn’t too bad. Honestly. This time next year hopefully you’ll be breathing normally again too.

me x

09 Jul

Win a Family Ticket to see The Octonauts Live!

Fancy winning a family ticket to see the Octonauts live? 

The Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure is based on the popular CBeebies’ TV show, Octonauts, and opens at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford, on Thursday 16 October, touring into 2015.

Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure

In Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure the entire crew of the Octonauts, led by intrepid explorer Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso, embark on an exciting new underwater quest and visit amazing underwater worlds full of adventure, with surprises around every corner.

This action-packed interactive show features new music (from BAFTA-award winning composer Mani Svavarsson) and all the Octonauts live on stage for the very first time. Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure is produced by live children’s show supremos Fiery Light (joint venture by Fiery Angel and Limelight Productions), the team also behind the recent tours of the three successful Peppa Pig stage shows.

Their most recent – Peppa Pig’s Big Splash – is currently on tour. It has broken box office records for a pre-school show and will return to the West End for fifth consecutive Christmas season at the Criterion Theatre this year.

Other Fiery Light productions include the recent tour of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, LazyTown Live! and Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Director/adapter Richard Lewis said: ‘Octonauts is all about adventure and exploration which offers up a whole host of possibilities in a live environment. From the colourful characters and fantasticunderwater setting to the amazing octopod where the Octonauts live, there’s great scope for a really unique, interactive theatre experience. We can’t wait to take fans on an adventure like never before.’

For tour information please go to www.octonautslive.co.uk

The prize is one family ticket for up to four members. Please note, this is subject to availablility, and travel isn’t included. Ends on the 23rd July 2014. Good Luck!

*if you are having problems entering, you can see the Widget via the Mum Friendly Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/MumFriendlyPage/app_152351391599356 or direct in your browserOctonauts Live Family Ticket

28 Jun

Our Top Travel Budgeting Tips

Caxton FX are asking for Parent Bloggers top budgeting tips when travelling, and given we’re about to have a huge journey across the other side of the world soon (and have done it before with H) I think we may have a few – so here goes…

1. Book a hotel if you’re travelling in wintertime and snow is forecast. When we went to Australia in 2010, South London saw a huge amount of snow – our train to Gatwick was delayed and ultimately the flight took off without us. We missed check-in and even though we got to Gatwick eventually, we were too late - even though our plane was delayed. It was an evening flight (8pm) and had I booked a day room in a hotel and headed up there earlier in the morning we would have been fine. Worth bearing in mind if you’re flying long-haul and bad weather is forecast. We couldn’t get a hotel room once we were there, or get a cab home so fortunately stayed with friends for two days until flights resumed.

2. Take the bus if you can! We live in Carshalton where the X26 bus stops – going from Croydon to Heathrow in an hour and a half. Sure, you have to lug your cases to the bus stop and from there, but when your travel costs can be paid on your Oyster cards (as London buses no longer accept cash), it’s a very cheap option. The X26 runs every 30 minutes as well and covers all the terminals. The downside, you’re on the bus with lots of suitcases and bags.

3. Freecycle is good for buggies or strollers. We didn’t want to take our Maclaren with us in case it got damaged, as we knew it would be kept in the hold. We were able to get a stroller (minus a footrest) so it didn’t matter if it broke in transit – most Airports provide strollers for little legs that can’t keep up. It didn’t break in transit anyway, so it meant we had a buggy with us the whole time.

free stroller dubai

4. Try to book things in advance. This time in Australia we’re planning on a trip to Sydney. If we book flights enough in advance from Perth we should get a good deal. This means we need to be organised and know what we’re doing, which of course is another matter altogether..!

5. Car Seats. Check the law in the country you’re travelling to. Most UK car seats are no longer legal in Australia, so see if you can rent a car seat when you arrive. This law can vary from country to country, but don’t get caught out!

6. When you have a mother in law who is crafty and pays for everything when you’re not looking, you try to find ways to spend your money. Get a prepaid Currency Card and load it up with cash, and distract her at the appropriate moment… ;-)

7. Check the exchange rate when you’re buying in-store - I’ve been caught out before now and bought them overseas, to find that they’re cheaper in the UK. Download a good currency converter for your phone so you can check what you’re spending on the go – I spent £35 in Pumpkin Patch on a bag, for it to go on sale in the UK for £20. (sob!) If you’re anything like me, keeping on top of exchange rate calculation is quite a task – so find a reliable app. Mainly for the point when your husband says “can’t you work it out?” as he’s had enough of being asked!

8. Overseas phone tariffs. This is a tricky one. Often we just change networks and know we’ll be charged, relying instead on Wifi connections for our iPods. We’ve then had £80 phone bills for calls and texts, so make sure you overestimate what you’re going to use when you’re there. BUT! Even if you buy for overseas, don’t get caught out like we did – one call from Singapore cost us a lot as we’d only planned for Australia. Overestimate your data usage too so you don’t get hit with hefty fines. Shaun gets charged £5 for each chunk of data he goes over in the UK, so imagine that overseas – ouch!

9. Take an address book. Pen and paper rarely fail you, unlike a digital gadget which could get damaged in transit, or just wiped! Needing contact information from people you’re visiting, and having to wait for them to reply could be the difference between a cheap flight and a much more expensive one! Make a note of email addresses and mobile phone numbers too.

10. When booking your flights, find a site which will search across a range of dates. We found a site which gave us the best prices on the dates we want to fly, saving us a lot of money – £500 in fact.

This is our entry for the CaxtonFX giveaway to win a prepaid Currency Card

26 Jun

Loving my Salad Zinger

I recently bought a Salad Zinger on Amazon. I’d first come across them late last year when visiting the Science Museum and wished I’d bought one there and then. Now Summer is here and we’re eating lots of salads thanks to our Sarah Raven salad, so I splashed out!

Salad Zinger mint and lemon dressing

The Salad Zinger is very easy and straightforward to use, with several salad dressing suggestions included. I decided to go for the Lemon and Mint dressing as we grow our own mint, and I do like it in a salad.

You need (1) -

One Salad Zinger
Half a cup of fresh mint
One lemon
A cup of Olive Oil

You carefully take apart the salad zinger, remove the rind from the lemon and chop into cubes. Put into the grind cup and watch out for the blades as they’re sharp. (2)

Now, Shaun and I disagree on this next bit – I like my mint leaves solid, he’d prefer them chopped. I placed them onto the top of the grind cup, once the lid was safely on. (3)

To mix up the lemon simply screw the top of the Salad Zinger to the grind cup. The motion means the blades turn, mixing up the lemon (in this case). (4)

Finally, remove the top of the Salad Zinger and add the olive oil and salt. (5)

Give it a really good shake – don’t forget to put the stopper on the bottle though!

Leave to infuse for around half an hour – more than enough time to pick some salad leaves and get them washed and spinned. (6)

The verdict? It was good, so much nicer than shop-bought and didn’t take long to make. We’re going to get adventurous, as I can see a Caesar Salad recipe – hopefully we can make a vegetarian version. You’re not limited to salad dressings – dipping sauces, marinades or flavoured oils are easy to make too.

You can buy a Salad Zinger for around £25. They’re dishwasher friendly (top shelf) though Zing Anything recommend handwashing to maintain longevity of the product.

The Salad Zinger had a good seal on it, keeping it leak-proof as well. So far we’re impressed. So much so I’m going to be buying an Aqua Zinger as they look pretty special too!

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