Family - Adventure, featured

Who will win the ultimate Halloween challenge?

Let’s get two seasonal heavy weights to go head to head for the ultimate Halloween battle … Pumpkins vs. Apples.

Challenge one: Halloween lanterns

 

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I grew up in Scotland where we carved our Halloween lanterns out of turnips, not pumpkins. Just to confuse things further, turnips are what the English (I now live down south) insist on calling swedes. Confused? Me too. If I do my groceries online I always end up with either 1 tiny swede/ turnip, or enough to feed a herd of cows. My dad, a farmer, considered turnips only fit for two things – cattle fodder (lucky cows, I love turnip) and Halloween lanterns.

I do like the lumpy shape of turnip lanterns, but they are way harder to carve, whilst the pumpkin arrives helpfully already hollowed out. One nil to the pumpkin.

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Challenge Two: the sweetness test

There’s only one way to do this properly. Pumpkin Pie vs. Toffee Apples. Turnip is not going to score highly in this category, unless you’re a cow of course. Both of these were a disaster. I’d share the recipes, but you wouldn’t thank me. My pumpkin pie (shop bought pastry and a tin of pumpkin puree) was pretty grim, and the toffee didn’t set on my apples, but in terms of a sweet, sticky, gooey mess, the toffee apples got the kids vote.

Does anyone actually know how to get the toffee to set all hard and shiny like when you buy them in a shop?

One all.

Challenge Three: other family activities

I’ve utterly failed to come up with any other fun activities involving pumpkins – any suggestions welcome! But who remembers bobbing for apples as a kid? Why did we think shoving our heads in a bucket of icy water was fun? I’m sure our parents thought it was HILARIOUS. Tried to get my kids to give it a go … “muuuuuuum, no waaaaay.”

That’s a no score draw.

But making apple juice is a great family activity. We are lucky enough to have a few apple trees in our garden. We bought a press a few years ago and make enough apple juice to freeze. Top tip – half a teaspoon of ascorbic acid powder in the bottle stops it going brown.

Apples just nudging ahead here.

So who wins the seasonal challenge?

It’s really no contest when you’ve seen the Trumpkin …

gDmiQb4(image from Reddit.com) 

Books, Family - Adventure, featured

Isolation Junction: a harrowing tale of abuse and survival

I normally blog about kids books and family activities, but domestic abuse is a topic that I feel I need to cover as it’s sadly part of the family reality for too many people. The author, Jennifer Gilmour, is very active in campaigning against domestic abuse. If you’ve been affected or would like to get involved, you can find her through the hashtag #isolationjunction.

block the road

Although fictionalised, Isolation Junction is a very personal story and the first edition was full of raw emotion. This is the only time I’ve ever sought out a second edition of a book to read, but the topic is so important I wanted to see what had changed. This updated edition has been smoothed out and polished but, despite having read it before, it hasn’t lost its power and still made me cry.

The main changes are that it’s now chronological and all in third person, so it’s much easier to follow. It also fills in several gaps and is a stronger narrative as a result. It should be compulsory reading.

Well done to both the author and editor (the fabulous Emma Mitchell from Creating Perfection, who also edited Eternal Seas for me). I gave the first edition a 5* rating so this has to be a 6*.

Synopsis:

IJ - NEW COVER Isolation Junction

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

 She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. But through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business. 

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t will she be able to do it? Will Tim help her? And will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

Based on true events.

 

About the author:

 IJ - Jennifer Gilmour

Born in the North East, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children.  In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write this first novel. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  

Links:

Website; www.jennifergilmour.com

Facebook; www.facebook.com/isolationjunctionbook 

Twitter; www.twitter.com/JenLGilmour 

Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/authorjennifergilmour/

 

Books, Family - Adventure, featured

The most helpful guide to an amazingly tidy kids room

If you’re like me, half term is over and the house is in utter chaos.

Not that long ago, everyone was Kon-Mari-ing their houses and folding socks into sushi rolls and checking if their frying pans sparked joy. I had to try it. My review of Marie Kondo’s book is below, and I gave it five stars, but that was before I tried it with the kids ….

Me: Can we throw out this broken Kinder egg toy?

Teenage DS (with just a hint of sarcasm): No. It sparks joy.

Me: What about this puzzle with a missing piece?

DS: No. I once did that puzzle when I was three. It brings back happy memories.

Me: What can I throw out?

DS: I don’t like this sock. (Waggles foot). It feels crunchy.

Me: Have you tried washing it?

For this type of challenge, you need a no-nonsense system. Less zen maybe, but something that works. I’m a big fan of Jules and her approach to decluttering. So I’ll hand over to her …

It’s Child’s Play:  A Nervous Parent’s Ten-Point Guide to Decluttering Kids Bedrooms

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Can’t put off decluttering your child’s bedroom any longer?

Daunted by the inevitable crying, door slamming and shrieks of “That’s so unfair!”   – and that’s just from your partner?

Take heart!  My ten-point guide takes you from start to finish – without breaking up your happy home or losing your mind in the process.

Point One: Kids Stuff Gets Old Quickly

Children outgrown stuff at warp speed.

Clothes they wore last year are now only fit for Teddy, while the toy they couldn’t live without six months ago lies forgotten under the bed.

It quickly adds up.  So, you need to get clear of what is and isn’t relevant to their lives now.

Anything that isn’t is out of the door.

Point Two: One Room/Many functions

Children bedrooms are often mini “homes within a home”.

One, possibly small or shared, space may need to offer a sleeping area, a quiet place to study, room to play, storage for clothes, toys and books, and somewhere to entertain their friends.

It’s a big ask. Make it easier by checking if anything – sports equipment for example – be stored elsewhere.

Point Three:  Involve Your Child

It may seem easier to “just do it yourself” – a bit like cleaning out the hamster cage.

But get your child onboard and you are more likely to see lasting results.

Older children especially won’t appreciate you sending their stuff to the charity shop.

Plus, you’ll be teaching them an important life skill.

Point Four:  What’s Your Problem?

Understanding the problem is halfway to finding a solution. So get clear from the start.

Had your child moved on from their Barbie phase – but their room is still full of tiny pink outfits?

Is their bookshelf filled with books they’ve outgrown, while the latest Harry Potter sits on the floor?

Do school days get off to a grumpy start with a game of Hunt the Homework?

Point Five:  What Are (Your Childs) Goals?

Emphasising what they will gain, rather than what you lose, can make a massive difference to attitude. What do they really want?

A peaceful place to curl up and read?

Hosting sleepovers without having to lie their brother trashed their room?

Or having the floor space to set up their Scalextric?

The aim is for a room filled with stuff that is in current use, that allows them to use the room how they wish.

Point Six: Pre-sort.  Do This On Your Own!

Start by sorting all their stuff into “like-with-like” – books, clothes, Barbies, cars, lego, whatever.  Don’t squander precious time or good humour doing this with your child.

If you and your child have already decided they have outgrown Stickle Bricks, My Little Pony or pony books (See Point Four) put these to one side to take to the charity shop.  No need for further discussion!

Point Seven:  It’s Decision Time!  Do This With Your Child

Deciding what makes the “keep” pile can be an emotional minefield.  Dodge meltdowns over whether Mr Potato Head stays or goes with a pre-agreed set of criteria.

Working one pre-sorted category (ie board games) at a time, ask:

  • Have you played with/read/used it in the last six months?
  • Does it fit?
  • Is it in usable condition?
  • Does it have sentimental value? (Panda, I’m looking at you)
  • How much can you fit in the cupboard/on the shelf? Choose your favourites. (And no, they can’t all be your favourite.)

Point Eight:  A Place For Everything…

You will now be left with things that your child plays with, wears or read, and it’s time to put it all away.

A place for everything and everything in its place might be Old Skool, but it’s got a lot of wear in it yet. So find a home for each category of stuff that you sorted and decluttered

Stuff should be stored at a child height.  If they need a pogo stick to reach it, it will end up on the floor.

Point Nine: Containers And Labels

By now you are probably sick of the whole project.  But if you can muster strength to store stuff in tubs or use dividers in drawers, this will really pay off.

It also creates a natural limit to how many little plastic gifts from Birthday Bags your child can keep without making you the bad guy.

For maximum benefit, stick on some big clear labels. Picture labels are good for young children, maybe they could draw their own?

Point Ten:  Keep It Going!

Result! You and your offspring are beaming with pride at the state of the room, with your child convinced it was their idea all along.

But if you don’t want to be back to square one by Bonfire Night try these tips

Implement a daily “pick up”.  Ten minutes with a timer – race each other – will keep things from unravelling 

Put regular mini “declutter dates” in the diary, three or four times a year.  If you do it regularly, it won’t be a massive chore.

And finally, parents – lead by example!  It’s the only way.    

 

Thanks Jules! I told you she’s good. I’ve recommended her Facebook group before but here it is again make me clutter free

So here’s my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo.

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Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo challenges everything we have been taught since childhood about tidying. She believes that “little and often” doesn’t work. Her method is simple: a thorough discarding must be done first, in a very particular order. Only then can you look at storage solutions.

Although she admits to be obsessive about tidying, her self-depreciating style and quirky anecdotes make this an easy and enjoyable read.

There are very few references to feng shui in the book, but an underlying influence is visible. Once finished, your wardrobe will have the dark colours on the left, and the lighter fabrics on the right. This is not negotiable under her method. She can even make your socks happy – apparently they don’t like being rolled up into balls – they like to relax in sushi style rolls.

Particularly helpful are her techniques for discarding items that we would normally struggle to part with – gifts for example. If you accept that the purpose of a gift was to be given, then under her approach it has fulfilled its purpose, so you can let it go without guilt.

Similarly, an unworn but beautiful pink sweater has served its purpose of teaching me that pink is not my colour, so I can let it go.

One criticism is that everything discarded is thrown out – an acknowledgement of recycling options would be more environmentally friendly.

This is the decluttering equivalent of a diet plan book. With over three million copies sold, and huge facebook fan groups, for many people (including me, apart from the rolled up socks) it clearly works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, featured

A festive must-read for 2018

Is it allowed to post a Christmas read before you do a Halloween post? I love a festive read and, although I’m still in full-on Spooky mode, the blurb for No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley was irresistible. I simply couldn’t miss out on the blog tour. So if you’ll forgive me, here we go …

Firstly, the “magical Christmas” wasn’t too saccharine with the intriguing “what went wrong that Christmas when Sarah was a child” and the bah-humbug holiday resort. In a way, it was tinged with an awareness of what can be a difficult time for many people/ families, although I’m not sure this was a conscious decision from the author or just a result of the plot.

The characters are warm and engaging. I haven’t read any other books by the author so although I gather some of them are in other books, it certainly doesn’t impact on this as a stand-alone book.

It made me laugh out loud (during my son’s music lesson, much to his embarrassment). And the guy from The Mentalist (even if we all have to google his name) … well … yes!

It’s a quick read, partly because it’s light, but mostly because I couldn’t put it down. Yup, this is a 1am-prop-your-eyes-open-with-matchsticks book.

Enjoy!

BLURB: No One Cancels Christmas

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…

 

About the Author

ZaraStoneley authorpic

Born in a small village in Staffordshire, I wanted to be a female James Herriot, a spy, or an author when I grew up. After many years, and many different jobs, my dream of writing a bestseller came true.

I write about friendship, dreams, love, and happy ever afters, and hope that my tales make you cry a little, laugh a lot, and occasionally say ‘ahhh’.

I now live in a Cheshire village with my family, a lively cockapoo called Harry, and a very bossy (and slightly evil) cat called Saffron.

Where you can find her-

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/

 

Purchase Links

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/No-One-Cancels-Christmas-romantic-ebook/dp/B07CWTVJGD

Amazon UShttps://www.amazon.com/no-one-cancels-christmas-romantic-ebook/dp/B07CWTVJGD

 

As for my Halloween post … you’ll have to wait.

 

 

Books, Family - Adventure, featured

Eternal Seas book tour and an ILLUSTRATION COMPETITION

It’s been a very busy few weeks. Eternal Seas published on 28th September and went on tour straight away!

I’d like to thank all these amazing independent bloggers for reviewing the book, as well as sharing extracts, and allowing me to take over their sites for a chat. They all comment on the action-packed adventure, strong and likeable characters, family values, writing style …. I cried many times when reading these reviews, it’s a very emotional moment when you release your baby into the world, and the feeling when people love it is totally overwhelming. So I’ll let you explore the links, and in no particular order here they are …

https://acatabookandacupoftea.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/blog-tour-eternal-seas/

https://obcminireviewers.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/blogtour-review-eternalseas-by-lexi_rees-rararesources/

http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/2018/09/eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-book-tour.html

https://oddsocksandlollipops.co.uk/childrens-book-reviews/eternal-seas/

https://thesecretworldofabookbloggerblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/29/eternal-seas-lexi-rees/

http://cancersuckscouk.ipage.com/blogtour-extract-eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-rararesources-lexi_rees-giveaways/

https://lacyace.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-review-adventure-magic/

Blog Tour: Eternal Seas by Lexi Rees {Guest Post}

http://madonreading.blogspot.com/2018/09/review-eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees.html

https://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/btr-eternal-seas/

http://themidnightreview.co.uk/wp/?p=192

https://booksforboysweb.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/1879/https://whisperingstories.com/eternal-seas-lexi-rees-book-review/?platform=hootsuite

https://maitaylor567291325.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/bizarre-honeymoon-thanks-to-the-most-unusual-gate-crasher/

https://maitaylor567291325.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/eternal-seas-lexi-rees/

https://jessbookishlife.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/eternal-seas-review/

https://bookwormforkids.blogspot.com/2018/10/sneak-peek-and-authors-thoughts-eternal.html?spref=tw

http://catandmousereading.blogspot.com/2018/10/eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-blog-tour.html

https://jessicarachow.wordpress.com/2018/10/03/blog-tour-eternal-seas-lexi-rees/

https://writingwithwolves.co.uk/2018/10/04/blog-tour-review-giveaways-eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees/

#BlogTour Eternal Seas by Lexi Rees @lexi_rees @rararesources

http://raereads1.blogspot.com/2018/10/eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-lexirees.html

https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/blogtour-eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees/

https://chrikarublog.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/author-interview-lexi-rees/

https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/2018/10/blog-tour-eternal-seas.html

https://chrikarublog.wordpress.com/2018/10/06/book-review-eternal-seas/

https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/06/blogtour-bookreview-for-eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees-lexi_rees-rararesources-eternalseas/

https://beereaderbooks.wordpress.com/2018/10/06/eternal-seas-by-lexi-rees/

https://jennifergilmour.com/eternal-seas-review-lexi_rees-rararesources/

http://www.juliathum.co.uk/notebooks/eternal-seas

https://norwayellesea.blogspot.com/2018/10/new-release-spotlight-review-eternal.html

 

CHILDREN’S ART COMPETITION : DON’T MISS THE CHANCE TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE SEQUEL

Would your children like to see their illustrations published in a book?
  • Six lucky winners will have their illustrations printed in the sequel to Eternal Seas
  • Winners and runners up will also have their drawings featured on www.lexirees.co.uk and on social media
Drawings must be in black and white, and can be in any of the following categories
  • Finn and Aria sailing
  • Aria flying up in the sky
  • a cat
  • mountain ponies
  • a snow eagle
  • a demon-goddess
Don’t worry if you’re not Picasso – that’s not what I’m looking for! Here is an original illustration of Aria with her dreamcatcher from Eternal Seas which I did with my son. I’m not a professional artist, I just love drawing. Have a go! I look forward to seeing your entries.
Aria with Dreamcatcher
Please see detailed terms for entry requirements
  • Open to children aged 13 or under
  • You can enter as many categories as you like
  • Winners will be chosen by Lexi Rees
  • Children’s name and age will be published together with their illustration. Parents/ guardians must confirm they are happy with this when they enter. Other information (e.g email address) will not be shared.
  • No purchase necessary
  • Closing date 31/1/19
  • Entries must be scanned or photographed in high resolution and emailed to lexireads@hotmail.com. The winners may need to post originals if the images are not high enough quality for printing. Postage costs will be covered in this case.
  • Full entry details can be found on www.lexirees.co.uk