Friday, 29 July 2016

Friday Frivolity: Camping

Friday Frivolity

Camping. It's something I should love. My dad tried his best; every year we'd pile into the car to go and pitch the tent for good clean air and outdoor fun. And every year I complained about the insects, and the damp, and the general outdoorsyness of the whole experience...

Google found me a few memes which summed up my childhood camping views:







Thursday, 28 July 2016

What I've Won in July

What I've Won This Month

This month has been a bit quieter - but still very successful!

 49" LG TV from Bargain Booze.
☆ Copy of The Cranks Bible vegetarian cookbook from Amuse Your Bouche.
Some awesome handmade decorative paper flowers from Bespoke Gifts by MrsJ.
 What Is Sound Healing? by Lyz Cooper.
 Mini Coca Cola football from Tesco.
 £10 Amazon voucher and a copy of The Fireman by Joe Hill from RRW Magazine. I won the flash fiction competition. :)



Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Review: Messy Me Splashmat

Messy Me Splashmat Review

We've been putting the Messy Me splashmat through its paces - here's our review!

Messy Me Splashmat Review

About Messy Me


Messy Me is a lovely family owned business based in Farnham. Established in 2012, they pride themselves on creating stylish products for mess - or, more specifically, for containing mess! Your little terrors can be as much as they like on Messy Me oilcloth. It's all going to be easy wipe afterwards.

The product range has grown steadily and now includes lots of infant must haves, from highchair covers and cushions, to tunic bibs and aprons. Even better is the fact that they all come with free UK delivery.

Marianna tests out a Messy Mat

About The Messy Mat


I didn't realise quite how messy a weaning baby can be until Marianna decided she wanted to start feeding herself. So, of course, the dining room is the one room in the downstairs of the house that has carpet. (It was like that when we moved in...) This meant that when I was asked which Messy Me product I would most like to review, it was a bit of a no-brainer.

The Messy Me splashmats are 90 x 120cms, made of hard wearing oilcloth with wipeable hems, and can even be machine washed at 30ยบ C. In short, they couldn't be more perfect for sticking under a highchair during mealtimes. Priced at £24, the mats come in a star pattern in four different colours - classic navy, olive grey, dusty rose, and teal blue - or a really pretty vintage floral design.

Messy Me splashmat in teal blue

Our Messy Me Experience


We went for the teal blue star design - the colour is gorgeous. The quality is great too; Messy Me sources their oilcloth from Denmark with the hemming and finishing done in the UK. It's a really good size, with plenty of material around the highchair at dinner time, and the material itself is sturdy yet supple. Marianna is happy to sit on it, even with bare legs, which says it all really!

I love that the mat is so easy to clean. For today's photos we set the mat up in our hallway which, technically, is all wipe clean but in practice is an exercise in sloshing mess from one bit of the floor to another. With the mat I can just pick up the whole lot and sort it out over the kitchen sink. Much easier.

Messy Me Mat

Marianna had great fun mixing up some flour, icing sugar, and milk - and I had a great time just wiping it off and being done with the whole thing. :) I love that it's something we can use again and again, even as Marianna gets older. Right now we're using it for messy play and as a highchair mat, but it's a good size for using at a table for craft projects too.

To find out more - or to get your own mat - check out the Messy Me website. You can also connect with them on social media via Facebook and Twitter.



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Friday, 22 July 2016

Friday Frivolity: Childhood

Friday Frivolity

This week we're talking about childhood. I decided to go down the 'when I was a kid' route because, seriously, kids today just don't know they're born...



I'm sure Marianna will just roll her eyes at all of this and repost something like this on whatever social media network is 'hip'...





Thursday, 21 July 2016

NCC Home Learning

Child Psychology with NCC Home Learning


I'm really excited to be starting a new project with NCC Home Learning, one of the leading resources for distance learning courses.

About NCC


Established over 15 years ago, NCC offer over 350 home learning courses on everything from specialised career focused training to general interest study. Many of these are accredited courses, ranging from QCF to A-level, and most also offer tutor support. To help fund your study, NCC offer a variety of payment plans with initial deposits as low as £35.


NCC and Me


Not so long ago, I posted my 30 before 30 bucket list; one of the items was to gain a new qualification. When I found out NCC were looking for bloggers to try out their courses, I wasted no time in applying.

The only difficulty was choosing what course to study. I knew I wanted to learn something new - but how new? Something I already had a working knowledge of, or something which would make me a complete beginner? I was told I could choose any online course from the PI section, containing courses developed by NCC.

I drew up a shortlist of those which looked particularly interesting, and eventually settled on something which would benefit me at home, at work, and in my blogging.


Child Psychology Diploma


Although I have a child and write a (nominally) parenting blog, I can't say that I'm an expert on young children. I mean, I was one, once, but I don't remember much about it. My professional life was all about teenagers and, even as a primary school governor, it's more about how the adults are supporting children, rather than what makes the youngsters themselves tick.

I want to know more though.

The course description really clinched the deal: If you find children's behaviour fascinating and would like to gain more insight into their intricate minds and emotions, then this Child Psychology course will appeal to you. The ABC Level 3 Child Psychology course will give you the skills needed to help children reach their full potential and become happy and balanced adults. ...[It] will help to give you a much clearer understanding of the importance of play in a child’s life, how they think and feel and how they develop in terms of language and social interaction.

I have twelve months to complete the course, and can't wait to get started. I'll be posting about my progress along the way so, for now, just wish me luck! :)


If you're interested in home learning, check out the NCC website - there is 25% off all courses in July. You can also connect with NCC on social media via Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.



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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Random Acts of Unkindness, and What I Read In June

What I've Read This Month

Random Acts of Unkindness Book Tour

Aiden Pearce has gone missing, and his mother is certain she knows who is responsible. The only problem is that nobody wants to listen to her.

So far, so expected, but what makes this tale different is that Aiden's mother is a police officer. DS Jan Pearce is sick of being told her boy has just run away, and when her enquiries uncover a case that seems to mirror her own situation, she finds plenty more than she was bargaining for.

This is a really fast paced read, with enough twists and turns to keep you page turning. It's dark in places too, really dark, but there is nothing gratuitous. The violence is low key, and even the bad language is kept to a minimum. It simply isn't needed; the sense of grim despair, the horror of what one human being can do to another comes through clearly enough without it.

The character development is very well done, and while I wasn't sure about the first person narrative initially, my concerns were soon put to rest. I raced through the book, unable to put it down, and am already looking forward to the next installment in the series!

I highly recommend to fans of thriller and / or crime fiction. You can get it on Amazon for £2.92 (Kindle) or £8.99 (paperback). Or, you can also check out the first chapter for free!


Photograph of author, Jaqueline Ward
About the Author

Jacqueline Ward writes short stories, novels and screenplays. She has been writing seriously since 2007 and has had short stories published in anthologies and magazines. Her novel SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016, the same year Jacqueline won Kindle Scout.

Jacqueline is a Chartered psychologist who specializes in narrative psychology, gaining a PhD in narrative and storytelling in 2007. She lives in Oldham, near Manchester, with her partner and their dog.

You can connect with Jacqueline on FacebookGoodreads, Twitter, and her website, www.jacquelineward.co.uk.

Random Acts of Unkindness Book Tour Schedule

The other books I've read this month:


FAMOUS COMPOSERS STICKER BOOKFAMOUS COMPOSERS STICKER BOOK by Anthony Marks.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. A fab introduction to famous composers, with plenty of trivia to spark the imagination. The sticker element is a great idea for enthusing children who might not otherwise be inclined to read about the topic.

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Henry the Hula Hooping Hippo (Henry and Friends, #1)Henry the Hula Hooping Hippo by Kelly Robinson-Key.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2016. Super cute little rhyming story about a hippo who loves to dance! You can find out more about the series and download this one for free at the author's blog.

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The Yellow WallpaperThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction, 1892. This classic short story is played on my mind for a long time after reading - knowing how many women really lived through similar treatment only makes it creepier.

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Famous Crimes the World Forgot: Ten Vintage True Crime Stories Rescued from ObscurityFamous Crimes the World Forgot: Ten Vintage True Crime Stories Rescued from Obscurity by Jason Lucky Morrow.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2014. I loved this little collection of obscure crime, especially as there was only one case I had read about before. Well researched, and well worth reading.

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Who Killed Little Johnny Gill?: A Victorian True Crime Murder MysteryWho Killed Little Johnny Gill?: A Victorian True Crime Murder Mystery by Kathryn McMaster.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. I had read a short account of this case in the past, and it had made a big impact on me. Reading this opened up so many new questions about the case, and some of the mysteries surrounding it - as well as magnifying just how tragic this little boy's muder was. Compelling, but heart wrenching.

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The Murder of Bessie SheppardThe Murder of Bessie Sheppard by David Marshall.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2015. Really interesting read, not just for the case itself, but also for the story of how the author first discovered and then started to research it. I'm not sure I'm convinced by the conclusions, but it was an enjoyable read all the same!

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Beautiful For EverBeautiful For Ever by Helen Rappaport.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2010. Fascinating account of the nineteenth century cosmetics trade, and those who came into contact with it. One of the most enjoyable history books I've read in years!

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Twitter for Journalists, Authors and BloggersTwitter for Journalists, Authors and Bloggers by Joanne Mallon.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. If you're new to Twitter, this is the guide you need! It's engaging, clear, and comprehensive, with step by step explanations on everything from how to tweet to what kind of reaction you can expect from different types of content. Even as a seasoned Twitter user, I found a lot to take away from this book - reassurance that my Twitter strategy isn't completely made up off the cuff, and a few new tips and tricks to try out on my own account.

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The Magic Basket (Amy and the Feelings Basket)The Magic Basket by Debbie K.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2013. Lovely introduction to the series. The magical elements make this story great fun, and perfect as a bedtime story. I've written about this and 'Brave Beats the Bullies' in more detail in THIS blog post.

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Brave Beats the Bullies (Amy and the Feelings Basket)Brave Beats the Bullies by Debbie K.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fiction, 2013. I was really impressed with how well the concept of the feelings basket worked to unpack the emotions surrounding being bullied. At the end of the book there are discussion prompts and blank pages for children to write down their answers or draw pictures. I really like this aspect; not only does it provide a fab way to start potentially difficult conversations, it could also serve as the beginning of a wider series of activities around the problem.

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Hitting Theblack WallHitting The Black Wall by Paul Scott-Bates.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-Fiction, 2016. Some really evocative writing here; a few of the angrier pieces in particular felt like it could be an outpouring of my own experiences with depression. These poems, interspersed with lighter moments (e.g. Drink) and poetry which conjures up an entire story in a few carefully chosen words, make this collection well worth checking out.

2016 release from Wallace Publishing, you can pick up a copy of your own on Amazon for £5.99 in paperback or £3.99 on Kindle. You can find out more about the author on Facebook, Twitter, and their blog, hiapoetry.

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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Cabin Crew Sindy

Air Hostess Sindy

While her CV can't rival Barbie's, Sindy has done her fair share of jobs. Here are her many stints as cabin crew...

British Airways

☆ Air Hostess. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ High Fly and Play. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Sindy had her first stint as an air hostess in 1966, looking very smart in her BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) uniform. The outfit remained available throughout the 1960s, and was joined in 1969 by Sindy's 'High Fly and Play' pack - a BOAC uniform plus a doll dressed in 'Weekender'.

☆ British Airways Sindy. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Produced by Vivid Imaginations, this doll was a limited edition of 10,000 and wore a replica of the Paul Costello winter uniform introduced in 1993.

British Airways Sindy Doll 2005

 British Airways Sindy. (Box Front. Box Back.)

New Moons produced their own BA Sindy in c. 2003, wearing the then new Julien Macdonald cabin crew uniform.

In 2007 Pedigree collaborated with British Airways on a retro range of dolls, showcasing cabin crew uniforms of yesteryear. These dolls originally retailed for £12 each.

☆ 1950s Blonde. (Box FrontBox Back.)
☆ 1950s Brunette. (Box FrontBox Back.)
☆ 1960s Blonde. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ 1960s Brunette. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ 1960s BOAC Dress Blonde. (Box Front and Back.)
☆ 1960s BOAC Dress Brunette. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ 1970s BEA Blonde. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ 1970s BEA Brunette. (Box Front. Box Back.)

British Airways Sindy Dolls
image found via ebay.

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KLM Sindy
image found via ebay.

 KLM.

Available aboard international KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines - flights in 1980. The outfit is almost identical to the one used for the Fleur KLM dolls in the late 1970s.

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Martinair Sindy
Flickr embed - the two later dolls, just missing their red berets.

 Martinair (1974). For more info on this doll, check out the Petra Dolls website.
 Martinair (1975). More info HERE.
 Martinair. (c. 1976).

Martinair is a Dutch airline which was founded in 1958. In the 1970s they sold Sindy stewardess dolls provided by the Otto Simon Company who issued Sindy in the Netherlands under license from Pedigree - before branching out alone and launching Fleur.

There were three issues; the first is very rare as the cabin crew uniform was updated in 1975. The second used a gauntlet body, and the third a Fleur body and different Sindy head.

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 Monarch. (Box Front. Box Back.)
 Monarch. (Box Front. Box Back.)

The packaging changed slightly to reflect Monarch's rebrand in 2008.

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☆ MyTravel. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Sindy doll for My Travel Airways, an airline which was integrated into Thomas Cook Airlines in 2008.

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XL.com Sindy Doll

XL.com. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Sindy doll for the budget airline XL Airways UK, which ceased operations back in September 2008.

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Virgin Atlantic Sindy Doll

☆ Virgin Atlantic. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Vivid Imaginations doll, available from Woolworths (£7.99) and Virgin Atlantic's inflight catalogue (£7.50) from September 2nd, 2002. In a press release Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented: "We are very pleased to introduce the Virgin Cabin Crew Sindy to our range of inflight retail products. I am sure Virgin Sindy will be a huge hit with the kids travelling with Virgin Atlantic and maybe spark their imagination to consider working for Virgin Atlantic in years to come!"

Sam Rowe, Inflight Services Retail Business Manager for Virgin Atlantic, commented: "The Virgin Atlantic Sindy has been carefully designed and developed to emanate the smart style and well groomed appearance of the Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew that work hard each day to offer excellent standards of service to passengers. “We drew on the expertise of our Creative, Marketing and Inflight Services departments to make sure that the uniform, hair and appearance was in line with that of Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew."

Lin Sherlock, the Senior Buyer for Girls` Toys at Woolworths said: "Woolworths is the leading High Street toys retailer and Sindy is one of our most popular dolls. We are delighted that Sindy is pursuing a career as a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member and are convinced that she will be flying high this autumn!"

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Sindy Air Hostess 1991Sindy Air Hostess 1993

☆ Air Hostess. (Box Front. Box Back.)
☆ Air Hostess. (Box Front. Box Back.)

Hasbro introduced an air hostess outfit in 1991 as part of their career 'options' series. They updated it in 1993, before dropping the range.

☆ Greek Air Hostess Sindy. (Box Front. Box Back.)

This is apparently Hasbro era, and the outfit looks like the '93 air hostess uniform to my eyes.







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