Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn

Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn is the second book in the series. We reviewed the first book Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond a while ago.

Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn
Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn is the second book in the Sherlock series. The books are written from the perspective of John Watson’s diary, following him and Sherlock Holmes through school and any mysteries or cases they need to solve.

In this book, they go to Baker Street Academy, where the caretaker says he spotted a ghost. They try to solve the mystery, which involves finding out what the curse is and working out what was happening. Was it a ghost or not? Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have to find out.

The book has plenty of pictures and is laid out in a comic strip style, which is fun to read. H really enjoyed it, she says it felt like it made the story fun to follow and got her thinking about the plot and things that were going on a bit more than if it was a straightforward story.

There are also journal entries, letters, newspaper clippings and a detective dossier. Essentially it is Dr Watson’s casebook in junior form – ideal for younger readers who need an introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson and of course Martha Hudson.

It gets yet another thumbs up in this house!

Sherlock and the Baker Street Curse by Sam Hearn is published by Scholastic. It is suitable for age 8+ and is available now from all good bookstores. You can also buy it online here – but please support your local bookstores if you can.

We were sent this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own. Thank you to Scholastic for sending us a copy!

Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie

It has been a while since we’ve done a book review and H has had her head firmly stuck into all of my Harry Potter books! We have a new book to read and review, so here’s H’s opinion about Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie.

Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie is a cyber thriller for children age 12+. Knowing how well H does with her reading, I knew it would be okay – and it was. She really enjoyed reading the book, but don’t take my word for it, this is what she had to say.

Cyberhawks versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie

“It was a good book, my only problem is that it wasn’t long enough!” she tells me. So I’m wondering what makes it a good book.
“It’s an enjoyable read! The story was exciting and I couldn’t put the book down”. Sounds fair.

So what is the story about?
“Cyberhawks are a group of three friends, the Stormtroopers are an organisation for brain damaged children. The Cyberhawks are Ty, Kess and Corey. One day Ty receives an email written in code. Luckily he knows about computers and Ty cracks the code. He finds out that terrorists are going to attack the London Underground and it will be the worst attack the world has known.”

So what do the Cyberhawks do about it and do they tell anyone?
“Nobody listened to them, so they had to do it all themselves. I’m not going to say any more as I don’t want to give away the plot!”

H hopes there will be more books in the series as she really enjoyed reading it.

Cyberhawks Versus Stormtroopers by Mark Logie is available now from all good booksellers – order a copy here! (affiliate link). Mark Logie has a YouTube channel with songs that inspired the book here.

We were sent this book for the purpose of review, all opinions are our own.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District

This October we stayed in Cumbria, in the Yorkshire Dales. We booked a lovely AirBnb place which was situated close enough to the Lake District we could get to most places within an hour. While I knew she had lived in the Lake District, I had no idea how much Beatrix Potter and the Lake District were linked.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District are so closely linked, with plenty of places to visit. Around the age of sixteen she visited the Lake District, staying at Wray Castle. As she started to make money from her Peter Rabbit books she bought land. She wanted to make sure the Lake District remained unspoilt and stayed the way she knew it. Often she would buy land with the National Trust, and on her death gave it all to them fully. This is the Lake District as we know it today.

Around Windermere are several National Trust car parks. We made our first stop at Fell Foot Park; situated at the bottom of the lake going towards Windermere itself. Windermere is so long you can’t see from end to end and Fell Foot Park is a good place to stop and wander around. There’s also an outdoor children’s play area which H enjoyed.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top from the outside

Mid-way up Windermere is Hill Top, the first house Beatrix Potter bought. She lived here before she married, afterwards as a writing retreat. She had bought farmland up the road and eventually lived with her husband there.

Hill Top is decorated in the style it would have been when Beatrix lived there. Changes have been made to the house, but in a good way. There is still a lot there from her time living there – it’s somewhere that comes alive in her books. Window ledges appear in some illustrations, and you can picture Beatrix sitting creating in that very room.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

The dolls house on show within the house dates back to the 1800s though isn’t the one featured in The Tale of Two Bad Mice. Inside you can see wonderful decorations and furnishings if you have a peep through the windows. Now I’m curious, do those furnishings date back to the time of the book?

The National Trust describe Hill Top as a house for someone who ‘never grew up’ (Beatrix’s own words). Brought up in isolation with her brother Bertram, Beatrix sought solace in art and nature.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - Hill Top

Around the grounds of Hill Top are Beatrix’s gardens – it feels like a house you would hide away from the world, yet still be very close to. You can see her vegetable garden as well as the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddleduck tried to hide her eggs.

Outside Hill Top in Near Sawrey itself are houses which feature in the books, and indeed the area around the Stones Lane junction has several shops which feature in her books. Peter Rabbit by the red post box? It’s just around the corner from Hill Top.

Beatrix Potter and the Lake District - red post box by Hill Top

Entry is free for National Trust members. On arrival you get a map of the grounds with a timed entry slot for the house, where you’re free to wander around.

Up the road is Hawkshead which is worth a wander in its own right. You need to park up (paid, think it was about £4ish for two hours) and walk to the centre of the town. You will arrive at an office where you get your tickets for a few doors down where there’s a Beatrix Potter exhibition and more interactive things to do.

The office in question used to house the solicitor’s office where William Heelis, her future husband, worked. Low wooden ceilings and a really interesting exhibition ‘The Right Sort Of Woman‘ were yet another fascinating insight. There was also an original Peter Rabbit letter that she had written on show.

The exhibition features contributions from workers – for example, Beatrix never paid the men for their work, always their wives.

Beatrix set up local health care, making sure there was a doctor in the area, fully paid for by her so that locals had access to medical care. She sounded like a great employer and one who seemed in touch with what her workers needed.

The exhibition is coming to an end, so don’t miss out.

Wray Castle
Moving away slightly from Beatrix Potter, up the road is Wray Castle. It’s not a traditional castle, more a Victorian gothic mansion, but nonetheless it’s a great place to visit with lots of child-friendly things to do inside. There’s also a Beatrix Potter exhibition, ‘The Women of Wray Castle‘ which also features Margaret Dawson.

Beatrix and her family came to stay at Wray Castle one summer when she was sixteen. Maybe this is what made her love for the Lake District grow?

While at Wray, Beatrix drew lots of images of mushrooms growing there, making a name for herself in the mycology field. As she was female, her views and opinions were rejected. These days her work has been revisited and has been acknowledged as having great value.

Wray Castle Outdoor Play Area

If you’re looking for somewhere for your child to burn off some energy, Wray Castle is that place. As well as the inside of the castle, there is a big natural play area outside.

Close to Hawkshead and Hill Top is Esthwaite Water, another inspiration for Beatrix Potter’s books. It’s an unspoilt area where yet more of the books featured.

Tarn Hows is also nearby, a large man-made Tarn which has wonderful views, though was somewhere we didn’t have the time to visit.

View from Wray Castle looking towards Windermere

I think we need to go back – three days wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to!

Country Kids

Things to do in the Lake District

Last week it was half term, and we did our traditional northern break, this time visiting the Lake District. Here are some things to do in the Lake District. I will do individual posts for the places we visited, mainly as if I did a huge post it would take forever to read….

coniston water - things to do in the lake district

Things to do in the Lake District – Southern Lakes

Around Windermere 
Beatrix Potter’s house – Hill Top (National Trust)
Esthwaite Water (to do)
Tarn Hows (National Trust) (to do)
Fell Foot Park (National Trust)
Hawkshead – Beatrix Potter Exhibition (National Trust)
Wray Castle (National Trust)
Townend (National Trust)
Drive down Holbeck Lane after Townend for great views of Windermere

Around Coniston
Visit Coniston
Go to their Coniston Honest Shop
Take in the views by the lake

Things to do in the Lake District – Northern Lakes

Around Derwentwater
Go on a boat trip around the lake.
Lodore Falls
Visit Keswick
Visit the Cumberland Pencil Museum

Around Ullswater
Enjoy a drive along most of the lake with spectacular views.
Visit Penrith for your regular supermarkets
Go around the lake on a Victorian Ullswater Steamer (to do)

This is by no means a definitive list, just some of the things we looked at, some which we ran out of time to do and some of which we will do in the future. We visited a lot of the lakes which was good – though maybe a bit less driving and more walking would be better.

However, whatever you want from the Lake District, you’ll probably find. National Trust membership is essential too. I had no idea that Beatrix Potter bought land in Cumbria so it would remain unspoilt – and donated it to the National Trust when she died.

There’s a lot to see and learn about, and over the next few weeks I’ll be adding top tips for things to do in the Lake District. I’ll add links as I do them.

Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop

Fake News is everywhere, but do you know how to spot it? We visited a Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop to find out what it’s all about.

The Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop is an educational trip for KS2 & KS3 children. As the title suggests, it’s a workshop which goes through stories showing how to spot ‘fake news’.

Suitable for classes of up to 30 children, it is held within a room at Madame Tussauds which can also be used as a lunch space before or after the workshop. There are two workshops a day at 11.00 and 2.30.

Across the Merlin attractions, places like SeaLife or places like Chessington Zoo have obvious educational elements. So what does the Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop involve?

H, Kim and Kanye at Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop

You read a (fake) news article which you analyse and break down. Does the news have an official source quoting it? Is there an expert who has offered advice? What is the source of the story? As an adult I often have trouble knowing which articles are real and which are spoofs beyond the obvious ones. As we said on the night, the real headlines are starting to sound like spoof pages – how is someone H’s age (9) going to work it all out?

This workshop helps give you the tools to work it out. There are so many aspects of news – it isn’t just our newspapers these days. Everyone has a part to play if they’re active and have an opinion in some way that they want to share.

Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop - The Differences

The second part of the workshop had several members of staff holding words which are relevant to places which share news. From blogging, vlogging and more, there was a lot to talk about. It was an eye opener for H, she’s asked a lot of questions about this blog since. I’ve been able to reassure her that I don’t break the news on here!

Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop, learning about fake news

After that we had to think of our own fake news story in groups, with four or five different stories that we read out and discussed.

Madame Tussauds Fake News Goalkeepers Flossing

See the photo for ours – a scurrilous rumour that Hugo Lloris had taken up flossing in goal recently, and that the craze was spreading amongst Premiership goalkeepers, particularly during penalties. That’ll be the Fortnite flossing, not the dental kind. Hashtag #goalkeepersflossing

We read our article and everyone had to spot how it was fake, and base it on what we learned. Reading it back, it was obviously fake and quite often it’s difficult to tell if the story is real or not – especially as the real world media seems to be turning into the Daily Mash every other day.

Information about Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop can be found here.

Of course, you can’t visit Madame Tussauds without seeing some of the waxworks. As we were the only people there it was quite eerie at times; the waxworks looked so real!

Madame Tussauds various

Here’s a selection of the shots H went for. Being nine she didn’t know everyone, but said “ooooh! I want a selfie – who is this?” when spotting Kim and Kanye. Of course she got a Harry and Meghan shot too. The icing on the cake was when we found Henry VIII – her homework that weekend was to write a fact file. It was accompanied with a photo!

Madame Tussauds various

We attended the Madame Tussauds Fake News Workshop and got to wander around Madame Tussauds, all opinions are our own. 

Changing Schools – Well That Happened Quickly

So it became, that yesterday was H’s last day at the school with classmates she has been with since nursery. Things are moving quickly, much quicker than I thought they would and we’re having to deal with changing schools.

Changing schools isn’t a quick process overall. We’re changing boroughs, so once we knew we were going to move, got the paperwork in place. Croydon borough have an in-year transfer which was straightforward to fill out. We got H’s old head teacher to approve our application, emailed it over and that was that.

Nothing could be done in the meantime as schools went on holiday – which meant lots of waiting and wondering what would happen. As it was, Croydon did some general waiting list tidying and we were told where our position on the list would be a few weeks later.

At that point she was third on the list for our preferred school. Once we sent over confirmation of our new address she moved to first in the list.

So we knew a place was imminent, but that would depend on someone leaving the school and that’s impossible to gauge.

 

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I settled into a routine with a 25 minute a day drive home from her old school, hoping for change. Shaun lost two and a half hours of his day driving her into school on days when he worked from home. Not ideal.

On Wednesday the call came. There’s a space. I may have jumped around excitedly, asked a billion questions and made viewing appointments; we couldn’t go during the holidays for obvious reasons – there was nobody there!

That was that. We decided to switch quickly though this gives very little time for goodbyes. A new start, a new school. New school uniform too, though most of her old uniform is fine.

So now we have a weekend buying new school uniform. Our new school uses the Tesco embroidery service so I’ve ordered. We’ll get other bits so we can get through the next couple of weeks until our order arrives.

My trusty Stamptastic pad is ready for more labelling too – my review is five years old and we’re still going strong.

Emotionally, H was shocked. I had brought up changing schools several times in conversation to get her used to talking about it. This is the reality now – she has left her old friends behind, but thanks to mobile phones and emails they can stay in touch.

The new school looks amazing too – we finally have a school with a playing field, rather than an inner-London playground. We’ll all miss the old school a lot, while looking forward to new adventures as we move forwards.

 

The Old House, Eight Years

I found these two images of our old house. I didn’t realise how similar they are. The oldest of a young (old) family moving into a space which would become their home.

old house 2010

A baby H not quite crawling, nowhere near walking, but getting the hang of it. Having this huge space to move around in and working it all out. When we moved from our old place, she could reach to grab things. When we moved to the old place she had to work out how to move further.

It started as a happy place. We had ups and downs, but it was our home.

In the old house our floor seemed to be a shelving unit.. with piles of things left everywhere.

Old House 2018

The keys are back with the letting agents. We’re waiting for our deposit to be returned.

The reason we’ve rented for so long was the lack of affordable houses near us. Our only option was Shared Ownership although there was nothing locally.  Local developments which had houses earmarked as affordable seemed to switch to the riskier Help to Buy option. With only 21 years before we (potentially) retire, it isn’t an option for us.

With Shared Ownership there is no holding deposit. This house is ours. Nobody is going to sell it and force us out. Nobody is going to insist we keep everything neutral and to the landlady’s taste. It’s ours.

There’s one major difference in the two photos. The radiator. We had central heating installed after our carbon monoxide leak.

It’s now our responsibility to get our gas boiler checked every year – not someone else’s to forget about. Gas Safety Week 2018 is in a couple of weeks.

That chapter is closed now we’re out of the old house. The old, painful memories aren’t there every day any more.

Buying a Shared Ownership Property – Insurance

moving house, our new living room, insurance

Insurance for insurance, and more insurance for that insurance. Oh, and by the way, would you like to write your will? That’s what this last month has felt like. 

Insurance is one of those things which is making me SO cross right now. There are so many things which need insuring; things we’ve never had to think about before. 

The plus side is by buying a Shared Ownership property the housing association takes care of the buildings insurance. Though as I’ve found out, if a tile falls off your new build roof, you can spend anything up to two days wondering when someone is going to let you know what’s going on. It’s slightly better than renting. 

The down side is the things you have to insure. We changed address on our contents insurance and were charged an additional £20 fee. I’d love to know how they can justify that charge – surely it’s just pressing a button?

Then again when we rented we’d be charged a £50 annual fee for paperwork. The letting agents occasionally remembered to send us a copy once we had signed it too.

We’ve got car insurance covered. Well, apart from the fact that our policy we had went up way too high, so we re-did it via Compare the Market and got a price similar to the one we originally did. There’s no logic there… at all. 

We have life cover dating back to 2003 which was a jolly sensible thing to do. The majority of our cover costs us next to nothing each month, whereas to top it up to our mortgage amount costs us almost double the original amount. Because it’s through the same company we get a small monthly discount too which is handy. 

I’m thinking ahead. While I feel like my job is safe, who knows what is going to happen after Brexit. So I need to make sure our mortgage payments are covered – so there’s another type of insurance that looks after that. 

Our solicitor cheekily mentioned us making a will. I’ve seen that Macmillan are offering free wills for the month of August, so if we can get our act together quickly enough, hopefully we can do it, otherwise I’ll be on the lookout for the next time we can. 

Can I have a month off all this grown up stuff please? 

Your House Move – There’s a Lot to Think About.

A house move is said to be one of the most stressful things you can go through. I think I managed to forget this fact.

It took well over a week thanks to having far too much stuff, though we’re in now! Things are slowly making their way into the place they’ll belong.

It is stressful, exciting, tiring, exhausting and so much more. Insomnia reared its ugly head again, reminding me what it was like to have too much going on in your head.

I’ll do a bigger post very soon, but being a practically minded kind of person, it’s important to get things in place before you move, such as insurance.

In 2003 we took out Life Insurance. Because of this existing policy, our new cover didn’t need to be quite as high, plus we got a discount. This is fortunate, as a 2003 premium is way better than a 2018 one.

Because of my age our overall mortgage term has reduced to 21 years, rather than the standard 25. Fortunately there’s plenty of choice out there which cover older people, so it wasn’t difficult to find what we needed.

Now we’re having to look into our contents insurance. Our premiums have jumped, possibly due to this postcode being a new build. The bonus is that we’re in Shared Ownership so don’t have to take out buildings insurance – our housing association covers that.

The next things we’re looking at are policies which protect our mortgage payments should we lose our jobs. We also need to make a will. I believe November is the month to do that. I feel quite grown up about the whole thing, while still in a bubble about it all happening. It happened so quickly…

The main thing is we now own part of a house, nobody is going to put it up for sale and we can stay here as long as we want to without the fear of something going wrong.

If something does go wrong, our insurance has to cover it. I think that’s a fairly simple way of looking at things? After all, if this is the place we spend the rest of our lives, it makes sense to have everything looked after so we can just live here rather than worry about everything.

When it came to the house move itself, we saved quite a lot of money doing it ourselves. We hired a van for three days, which cost us around £90. A few days later we hired a smaller van to take the rest of our belongings to the local civic amenity site at around £30.

I used the Anyvan service to have two men move our largest things which ended up being our two settees and our bed which cost around £130.

I think next time I consider a house move I’ll pay someone else to do the packing, though there was a lot of KonMari-ing and some severe Swedish Death Cleaning going on. But our shelves are looking a lot better now, and we have books that bring us joy.

There are also still shelves in the hallway, but hey, they might be gone in a week…

Then there’s the property we left. Our contract says we have to make sure everything is clean and how we found it. Shaun has done a lot of painting and we’ve borrowed next door’s Vax machine which should do the trick. If not, there’s always the chance to hire a Rug Doctor.

I’ll be glad when this is all over. Moving house is not my idea of fun, and especially not over the summer holidays! I’d much rather have a holiday instead – especially with this weather we’ve had.

Rabbitgoo No-Glue Window Film Stickers

Rabbitgoo no-glue window film stickers are my latest find. They provide privacy to our house where we haven’t got around to buying curtains. 

Rabbitgoo window stickers for privacy

Rabbitgoo is a simple, easy solution to privacy at home. Got windows which look out onto the road, and you’re not quite ready to buy curtains or blinds just yet? How about a simple plastic film which you cut to size and stick to your windows?

It really is that simple. My neighbour at our last house had some on her windows and recommended Rabbitgoo. 

Rabbitgoo is easy to apply as well. Cut the film to size first of all, and I’d also recommend peeling a section as it can be tricky. Simply clean your window surface, add soapy water and stick on the film. A squeegee is handy for getting rid of bubbles too. It can be peeled and re-stuck easily. 

The soapy water holds the film in place nice and securely too. We’re a week in and other than spotting a few bubbles here and there, it has done exactly what we need it to. 

The good news is there are several types of Rabbitgoo designs and Amazon has them all for sale. Each tube is around the £10 mark. We have enough I could do our windows again too.

I like that it gives us a bit of privacy through the day. With us being in a new build area, there are often people driving around looking at the different houses. 

rabbitgoo window stickers rainbow patterns

There are a lot of designs available with varying levels of privacy. I like the design I chose as when the sun comes through the windows it creates several little rainbows on our kitchen tops and floor. 

We’ve already had a lot of comments from friends about how good it looks as well!