Four fab lockdown family photo ideas

If you know me, you’ll know I’m very chatty on Twitter, but actually I’m loving Instagram at the moment because the images are so cheerful and uplifting. My attempts don’t always work out Insta-worthy, so I was chatting to photographer Nina Mucalov and have invited her to share her tips … I’m going to start with idea 3.

Looking for a fun 15 minute activity with your kids this long weekend?  

Try an at-home lockdown photoshoot 📸  No need to tidy anything, just pick a spot next to a big window, grab a laundry basket to clear any mess, then call your kids over.  

HERE ARE 4 IDEAS I’VE USED WITH MY OWN KIDS DURING LOCKDOWN


1. Reading
Are books a big part of your life? Grab some favourite titles and capture your kids reading on their own or ask your partner to take one of you reading with them.  

2. A favourite game
Are your kids into lego, chase, or hide-and-seek? My little one never tires of hiding under the covers (and she especially loves it when I hide with her!)   


3. Upside Down
This is a sure way to capture genuine smiles and laughter. Get them to go upside down on the sofa or on the bed or ask your partner to hold them upside down.  It always results in giggles.   


4. Age Profile
Take a photo of each child on their own and ask them to list their favourite things.  Then use an online program – Canva is great (and free!) to create an Age Profile.  You’ll love looking back on these as your children grow and their tastes change.  

If you like these (how could you not!) do check out her other pictures over here …

www.ninamucalov.com

Instagram: @ninamucalov

Beyond origami Yoda

You’ll know I love a bit of crafting, but other than Christmas cards, I’ve never got into paper crafts. Lockdown has, however, started one of my friends into ridiculously intricate paper cutting, and we have a tin stuffed with about ten thousand origami Yoda’s (if you haven’t seen the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger, the instructions are at the end of each book in the series – highly recommended). Anyway, I spotted the cutest sloth paper animal kit on social media so I invited Sam White to talk to us about her kits. Over to her …

There are many reasons why so many people are turning to crafting these days. Above the usual stresses of modern life, now being stuck indoors has certainly added a different kind of pressure and overwhelm for parents. I do feel your pain … At the end of the day, just being mum, it really can be exhausting, and just leave us feeling stir crazy. The modern mum is a busy one, however you can’t continue to be everything to everyone, eventually it will catch up with you! What I’ve learned recently, is that I need to take time for myself, to rejuvenate, to make sure I am not lost while trying to hold everything together. 

How to achieve this eluded me for a while, and then, at the end of last year, I decided to try something completely new, that was just for me, and I tried my hand at crafting. I bought an animal crafting kit from Flamingo Paperie and very soon, I literally had this eureka moment, when I realised, I absolutely love this!!! Not only was I learning a new skill, but I realised I was able, even as a beginner, to create something that not only looked good, but made me feel good! The whole process was so relaxing. I’d achieved something I didn’t know I could … crafting with Flamingo Paperie really has brought something fantastic into my life.

If you’re looking for different things to do, to keep everyone entertained, why not while away a few hours with some paper crafting? I mean who doesn’t love sloths and unicorns…  right!? Everything you need to create your own three-D animal model is included in the kit – all the templates, high adhesion craft glue, sticks for craft glue application, scissors and a scoring tool to create those crisp folds too. Just look at the proud “parents” of these completed craft animals…

Here is a short, speeded up, video of Emily and Joe creating one of the latest craft models, the Koala… they make it look so easy!

You can see product information for the full range, and buy online, at http://www.flamingopaperie.co.uk/web/samwhite/area/craft-kits/

Can children create with Flamingo Paperie’s Animal Crafting Kits?

 Absolutely yes! The kits are aimed at children aged 12+ and adults, however with help from parents a younger child can get involved too.

How long does a kit take to complete?

Kits have varying timescales for completion, but you can expect crafting fun to last 3-18 hours depending on the kit purchased.

How much are the 3D craft Kits from Flamingo Paperie?

They start from £15, including everything you’ll need, even a pair of scissors! You won’t need to find any fancy or expensive tools to help you complete a kit – everything’s in the box.

SPECIAL OFFER

Free postage over £30, and, even better, when you join the Customer Club, you receive a freebie with your first online order. Www.flamingopaperie.co.uk/web/samwhite/area/customer_club/

Have fun,

Sam x

Follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/samwhitephoenixtrader

A great audiobook for Dora The Explorer fans

I’ve been listening to The Handmaid’s Tale on my recent dog walks, but I fancied something lighter on this rather grey, gloomy, morning. Cue Daisy May’s Daydream Adventure. This was a random choice – I hadn’t listened to a sample (and I’m fussy about narrators), so I had no preconceptions, but it’s a goodie. The narrator is really crisp and clear with just the right combination of pace and enthusiasm for the pre-school listener. Chapter lengths and the overall length are just right too. The author’s BBC CBeebies Radio background is very evident.

If we weren’t in lockdown I’d recommend it for a car journey! There are good messages about pollution, but they’re not rammed down your throat in a preachy way.

Overall, if your kids like Dora the Explorer, they’ll love Daisy May.

Blurb

Eight-year-old Daisy May is the writer and star of her very own TV show, Daisy May’s Daydream Parade, which broadcasts live and exclusively in her imagination. 

​In the latest episode, Daisy May finds herself on a desert island where she discovers a map that leads to buried treasure, but what appears to be a simple quest to find riches soon turns into a roller-coaster ride as evil pirates, grumpy gorillas, and a fire breathing dragon stand in her way. However, when travelling across polluted ocean waters and trash covered beaches, Daisy May soon realises that the hunt for treasure can wait – there’s a much bigger issue in need of urgent attention. 

​Written by Arran Francis, multiple series creator for BBC CBeebies Radio, Daisy May’s Daydream Parade audiobooks show how 8-year-old Daisy May confronts her real life problems in the stories she writes as she floats off into her daydream adventures.

An African adventure for lockdown travellers

I think we’re all craving travel at the moment, even a trip to the shops makes me quite excited, while my annual trip to the Scottish Highlands is looking unlikely, and ditto any sailing this year. If you’ve followed my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve devoured the first two of Roxana Valea’s “Polo Diaries” series (and am about to start the third). These are fiction but based heavily on her life, so I couldn’t resist a purely non-fiction account of her African adventure, Through Dust and Dreams. And I wasn’t disappointed. I absolutely love her writing – you can see the journalism training in her engaging, pacey style – there’s not a dull moment in this. Splash an Amarula into your coffee and find a comfy spot in the sunshine, you won’t want to put it down.

Author bio

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

Lockdown Jingle Bells

The arrival of a shiny new Zara Stoneley usually kicks off my festive season. Since we’re in lockdown, I thought a dash of Zara would be just the ticket.

Every other book by this author has been a flat out 5 stars but I had more mixed views on this one. The writing style is as smooth as ever, but the plot is predictable from page one, without even a hint of a twist. I’m also sure I’ve seen a movie with an identical storyline, although I can’t recall for the life of me what it was called and that’s really bugging me now! I also never quite bought into Rosie’s totally clueless dating skills. That said, it was a lovely easy lockdown read and whiled away a few hours in the sunshine and, since that’s exactly what I was looking for, I’m happy. And I can’t wait for her next festive read. I’ve just had a thought – what if there isn’t one this year? I might forget to put the Christmas decorations up!

Blurb

After breaking up with her childhood sweetheart, clueless dater Rosie has found herself in a boyfriend-drought. So when she finally swipes right on a guy who seems interested, she can’t wait to meet up IRL.

Until she’s left standing alone. In a bar. Ghosted.

Enter Noah. Confident, funny … and a serial first dater. Offering to give Rosie a crash course in seduction, this could be just what she needs. Until her matchmaker turns out to be the best date she’s ever had – and Rosie wonders if she wants the fake dates to be the real ones after all …

Author bio

Zara Stoneley is the USA Today bestselling author of ‘The Wedding Date’. She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a lively cockapoo called Harry, and a very bossy (and slightly evil) cat called Saffron.

Born in a small village in the UK, Zara wanted to be a female James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. After many (many) years, and many different jobs, her dream of writing a bestseller came true. She now writes about friendship, dreams, love, and happy ever afters, and hopes that her tales make you laugh a lot, cry a little, and occasionally say ‘ahhh’.

Zara’s bestselling novels include ‘Four Christmases and a Secret’, ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘No One Cancels Christmas’, ‘The Wedding Date’, ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’.

A fresh take on magic school

If you thought every possible magic school angle had been taken, think again! No boarding school here – pupils arrive via their regular secondary school every morning. Now it does draw on Harry Potter in other ways with this entire first book basically being the sorting hat chapter (which just happens to be one of my favourite bits), and I spotted one of Hagrid’s famous lines – “Shouldn’t have said that” – but the world is distinct and I absolutely loved it.

This is a really short book – perfect for chapter book readers (I’d say 6-9, although Amazon seems to have it classified as 10-14 which I’d disagree with) or reluctant readers who would struggle to tackle Harry Potter.

It’s going to be a series, but I gather the other books can be read in any order as long as you start with this one so the world building is done. I love that this allows the readers to jump straight to their favourite characters and houses.

The other books are simply subtitled in a reading scheme style that will make it easy for the younger fans e.g. “Phoebe makes a mess” and “Maisy takes a tumble”.

Can’t wait to read more.

About the author

Normally I’d share a photo of the author, but she’s very camera shy, so I have nothing! Here’s one of her characters instead …

One last thing I have to add, the dedication is terribly sad – my heart goes out to the author and her family.

Votes for Women

I shared this interview with Jill Atkins, author of Votes for Women, an amazing narrative non-fiction for ages 9+, with my newsletter a while ago, but with so many of us homeschooling now, I though it would be helpful to share again.

Jill is in my local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) group and, as a prolific author with more than 100 books published, I confess I’m a little in awe of her (make that a lot!). Anyway, she’s super lovely and I’m going to hand over the pen to her now …..

One of my latest books is called ‘Votes for Women’. It’s for young people aged anywhere between 9 and adult and it tells the story of Rose, and her cousin Freddie, both born in 1900, who are aged 12 when Rose’s story begins. The book is partly narrative, part diary, with letters, postcards and a telegram. 

When I was asked by an editor at Hodder to write this book I was really excited and delighted because women’s suffrage has always interested me and is dear to my heart. We have a lot to thank many people for, because their campaigning eventually gave women a vote. I strongly believe that all people should vote in elections because it took a long time and a tremendous effort to achieve the right to do so.

To write this book, I had to get the facts right because, although it is a work of fiction, it is based on things that really happened just over 100 years ago. So I needed to research carefully. I bought books, borrowed from the library and found information on the internet. I also needed to know about daily life at that time. For example, what were telephones like in those days? What would a twelve year old wear? What kind of education did girls have? Did they have equal opportunities to boys? 

I had heard of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters who led the ‘Suffragette’ movement, but I needed to know more about them and the others who strove for the vote with them. They held marches and meetings, but also performed acts of vandalism like setting fire to pillar boxes and they went to prison for it. Rose’s sister is for this movement.

What I didn’t know was that other people (mainly women – ‘Suffragists’) had been working peacefully for the same cause for about 50 years. Rose’s Granny was a ‘Suffragist’.

Then I imagined I was twelve years old in 1912 and wrote her story, through her eyes: what she witnessed and experienced; how she felt; what conclusions she came to about the rights and wrongs of the different groups of people. I hope you’d love to read ‘Votes for Women’ and learn about how women got to vote.

This isn’t the first historical fiction I’ve written: The Great Fire of London is about a boy waking up as the first warning shouts are heard in the streets of London; Sophie’s Secret War is the diary of a girl experiencing the German occupation of northern France in the Second World War; Royal Nursemaid is about a girl who becomes the nursemaid to Queen Victoria’s children in the mid 1800s.

I’ve also written early reading books and books for young teens. One of the teen books is called ‘A Brightness out of the Blue’. This is a modern-day story, based on the story of Cinderella with a twist.

I began writing for children when I was a teacher and I thought there weren’t enough good books for children in my class you read, but I’ve always written and told stories. In fact, I used to make up stories for my two little brothers when they were in the bath!

I’ve always loved reading. I read a lot now – children’s, teens and adult books – and as a child I used to read by torchlight under the bedclothes after my parents had switched off my light! Reading can take you places. Enjoy!

Thanks Jill. Now, my newsletter readers will know that I always make authors visiting us share a picture of them as a child, the more cringeworthy the better – but this is a gorgeous pic – where is the pudding bowl haircut? The orange cords? I’m so disappointed haha!

Take care everyone and stay safe.